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BitCoin has become the poster child for an innovative new data-mining financial market, and it doesn’t come as a shock to discover this would make an ideal fit for the equally innovative and financially savvy Play Magnus Group, with the sixth leg of their $1.5m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour being sponsored by a leading cryptocurrency exchange that comes replete with a record online prize fund, not to mention a portion of it being set in bitcoin before a pawn is moved.

The star-studded FTX Crypto Cup, the richest and most prestigious event so far of the Tour, will run 23 to 31 May with a record $320,000 prize fund that also includes $100,000 in bitcoin – the novelty here being that during the bitcoin tournament, chess fans will not just be able to track the 64 square fluctuations of their favourite stars, but also the prize pool currently being fought over in real-time!

The elite-level lineup is headed by Magnus Carlsen and includes Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Teimour Radjabov, Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alireza Firouzja, Daniil Dubov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ding Liren, Peter Svidler, Alexander Grischuk and Alan Pichot.

The crypto link-up was clearly seen as a match made in heaven for current Tour leader and brainchild Magnus Carlsen, with the Norwegian commenting: “As a big sports fan and NBA enthusiast, I was thrilled to learn that FTX is continuing its move into sports by partnering with the Champions Chess Tour.

“The Tour has been extremely exciting both as a competitor and a fan, and I feel a renewed sense of motivation now that we’ve found a partner in FTX that shares our common goal to grow chess and the Tour.”

Andreas Thome, CEO of Play Magnus Group, added: “We are thrilled to announce that FTX is partnering with the Tour to bring the communities of chess fans and crypto enthusiasts together in celebration of these two fast-growing industries. We look forward to bringing first-of-its-kind crypto-themed activations for chess and sports to our Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and broadcasts.”

Apart from the record prize fund on offer, the winner of the FTX Crypto Cup will also be guaranteed a spot in the Final of the Tour that will be held in San Francisco in September.

The FTX Crypto Cup starts at 16:00 BST (11:00 EST | 08:00 PST) on Sunday May 23, with three days of all-play-all rounds followed by a knock-out among the top eight. It is free and live to watch, with grandmaster and computer commentaries on Chess24.com, Twitch, YouTube, and linear TV. The knockout stages will also be screened on Eurosport.

GM Anish Giri – GM Baadur Jobava
MrDodgy Invitational 2.0 | Final (3)
Petrov’s Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 The final of the MrDodgy Invitational 2.0 – and just who wouldn’t want to play for the honour of a picture of a sturdy man on a horse in the Swedish countryside rather than a big cryptocurrency payday? – all but turned into a Battle of the Petrov, with Giri’s 4-0 whitewash proving the decisive factor in the Dutchman’s 7-3 victory to claim his second MDI title. 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Nbd2 Nxd2 9.Bxd2 Bg4 10.c3 0-0 11.h3 Bh5 12.g3 An accommodating little move, the idea being to play Kg2 to break the pin on the queen and knight. 12…Re8 13.Kg2 a6 14.Qc2 Bg6 15.Rae1 The natural move in such build-up positions, but equally worthy was 15.Bf5 followed by Rae1. 15…Qd7 16.Bf4 Giri’s play is all geared towards dominating the vital e5 square – if he can boss e5, then Jobava faces a tough job securing equality. 16…Bd6 17.Bxd6 Qxd6 18.h4 Bxd3 19.Qxd3 h6 20.h5 As in the first game that we featured in our previous column, Giri’s gaining of space on the kingside proves to be Jobava’s downfall, as once again the Georgian No.1 has the oxygen systematically sucked out of his position. 20…Qf6 21.Nh4 Qg5 22.Qf3 Re6?! Once again, a tough position for Jobava to defend, but this looks wrong as it creates further structural weaknesses. Better was keeping things solid for now with 22…Rad8 and having White deciding how to release the tension on the e-file; and note that if White plays Nf5 then Black has the perfect counter with …Ne7. 23.Rxe6 fxe6 24.Ng6! Giri has successfully “won” the battle for control of the vital e5-square – and from herein, Jobava is left with a struggle to defend his position as Giri masterfully and strategically outplays his opponent. 24…Ne7 25.Nxe7+ Qxe7 26.Re1 Threatening Qxd5. 26…Qd6 27.Qg4 Re8 28.Re5 Re7 Jobava’s real forte is counterpunching rather than a cramped and awkward defence involving …Kf8-e8-d7. I would have thought he would have been more at home with the spirited alternative of 28…c5!? 29.Qe2 Kf8 30.Qe3 Ke8 31.b3 Also a good option was the more direct 31.f4 with the idea of following up with Qf3-g4; but either way, Giri si the one having all the “fun” in the position, as he grinds his opponent down with a Carlsen-like grind. 31…Kd7 32.c4 c6 33.c5 Qb8 34.b4 Qe8 35.a4 It’s all one-way traffic from Giri as he pushes for more real estate – and Jobava just has to sit tight to wait to see how the Dutchman makes his break. 35…Rf7 36.g4 It’s the slow grind from Giri, looking to stop …Rf5 rather than going for the direct plan of 36.b5 – but in many ways, Giri’s slow torture approach is more sadistic. 36…Rf6 37.Kg3 g5!? Jobava’s only realistic chance that avoids being slowly squeezed to death. 38.hxg6 If not this, then …Rf4 and …Qf7 offers good practical saving chances with the double attack on the f- and d-pawns. 38…Qxg6 39.Qb3! With b5 threatened, something now has to give as Jobava finds himself being stretched on both sides of the board, as Giri ruthlessly exploits all the resulting weaknesses to the full. 39…Qf7 40.f3 Kc7 41.Kg2 Both kings are avoiding what could well be a winning and saving tempo checks on the b- and f-files. 41…Rg6 42.Qe3 Giri is playing with his opponent in much the same way as a cat will play with a captured mouse before the kill – but there was nothing wrong with cutting straight to the chase with 42.b5! axb5 43.axb5 Kc8 (Otherwise bxc6 and Qb6+ will prove deadly.) 44.bxc6 bxc6 45.Qa4 Qb7 46.Re3! Qb2+ 47.Kh3 Qb5 48.Qa8+ Kc7 49.Re1! and Black can’t avoid the queen and rook combining with lethal force, e.g., 49…Qb8 50.Qa2! Rf6 51.Kg2 and the only way to stop Rb1 is 51…Rf8 that loses to 52.Rxe6 etc. 42…Kd7 43.Rh5 Rf6? Under relentless pressure from Giri, Jobava finally cracks under the strain – but even after the better defence of 43…Qg7 44.Qe5! Qxe5 45.Rxe5 the R+P endgame is clearly winning for White, the simple plan being Kg3 followed by f4 etc. 44.Rxh6 Qg7 45.Rxf6 Qxf6 46.Kg3 Qg6 47.Qf4! [see diagram] Giri’s queen soon creeps into the heart of his opponent’s position via d6, picking up some loose pawns in the process, while his own king is protected from the checks. 47…Qb1 48.Qf7+ Kc8 49.Qf8+ Kc7 50.Qd6+ Kc8 51.Qf8+ Kc7 52.Qd6+ Kc8 53.Qxe6+ Kb8 54.Qe5+ Ka7 55.g5! There’s no need to worry about the queenside pawns falling off, as the g-pawn quickly runs up the board. The rest of the game now is just a formality. 55…Qxb4 56.g6 Qxa4 57.g7 Qd1 58.Qg5 Qg1+ 59.Kf4 Qxd4+ 60.Kf5 Giri’s king runs up the board for the protection from the checks behind Jobava’s own pawns! 60…Qd3+ 61.Ke6 Qe2+ 62.Kd7 d4 63.g8Q d3 64.Q5d8 1-0 There’s no need to worry about your opponent’s running d-pawn when you have an extra queen on the board for the forced mating attack! So Jobava resigns.

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