World champion Magnus Carlsen and United States king Wesley So try to remain 1-2 in the overall standings when they compete in the star-studded FTX Crypto Cup of the Champions Chess Tour (CCT) starting on Sunday, May 23 (Monday, May 24, Philippine time).
Carlsen ruled the New In Chess Classic early this month to topple So, the Skilling Open and Opera Euro Rapid winner, in the points as well as total earnings after five legs of the 10-event CCT.
Both Carlsen and So have advanced to the playoff stages of the earlier tournaments but will encounter tougher opposition this time as all the top 10 in standard play, including world No. 2 but Tour first-timer Fabiano Caruana, are in the roster of the $320,000 (P15.36 million) event.
The original total purse was $220,000 but $100,000 to be paid in cryptocurrency was added to sweeten the pot.
Also entered are world No. 3 Ding Liren, No. 4 Ian Nepomniachtchi, No. 5 Levon Aronian, No. 6 Anish Giri, No. 7 Alexander Grischuk, No. 8 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, No. 9 So, and No. 10 Teimour Radjabov.
Nepomniachtchi will be challenging Carlsen for the world title this year while Radjabov and Giri have topped the Airthings Masters and Carlsen Invitational, respectively.
Completing the cast are world No. 12 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, No. 13 Alireza Firouzja, No. 18 Hikaru Nakamura, No. 27 Peter Svidler, No. 28 Daniil Dubov, and Argentine Alan Pichot, the only one outside of the top 100 with an Elo of 2630.
Touted as the speed demon, Nakamura is the world’s highest-rated blitz player (2900), followed by Carlsen (2886), Vachier-Lagrave (2822), and So (2816).
Nakamura, a five-time US champion with over a million followers on his Twitch channel, is ranked No. 4 in rapid, behind Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave, and Ding.
So, who is shouldering the cash prizes of the ongoing second conference of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines bearing his name, is expected to make the quarterfinals anew with Carlsen, Nakamura, Giri, and Nepomniachtchi.
Only the top eight will qualify for the playoffs. – Rappler.com