Magnus Carlsen is the world’s first bitcoin chess champion after overcoming Wesley So in a thrilling FTX Crypto Cup final.
The Norwegian takes home the $60,000 first prize plus a 0.6 bitcoin bonus offered by tournament sponsor FTX.
It is the largest prize pot ever offered in an elite online chess event.
After the see-saw match ended with Carlsen punching the air in delight, the champ said: “It’s pretty sick! I came back five times when I needed it, and I also lost twice.
“It’s absolutely insane. I am just so happy to have pulled through. It’s a massive, massive relief.”
Carlsen also stretches his lead at the top of the $1.5 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour table and avenges two defeats to So in finals this season.
'It's absolutely insane'
Carlsen had to dig deep to triumph over the US star as the record-breaking final went down to an incredibly tense “Armageddon” play-off.
Nothing could separate the pair after two four-game rapid matches spread over two days both finished 2-2.
But the reigning World Champion finally broke through when the pressure ramped up in with the quicker time control. When victory finally came, the relief showed.
So has emerged as Carlsen’s most dangerous foe in the Tour, beating him in the Skilling Open and the Opera Euro Rapid events.
A hat-trick of final wins against the champ seemed unthinkable and, sure enough, it proved one step too far.
In the opener in the rapid section Carlsen played a model game that showed off all his legendary crushing strengths. The Norwegian simply didn’t give So a chance.
So, the World Champion at Fischer-Random chess, had to resign and Carlsen was finally ahead.
However, So wasn’t beat yet and Carlsen’s lead didn’t last long. It all went wrong for the champ in Game 2 as So calmly turned the screw on Carlsen to strike back immediately.
Down to the wire
The third was a unbalanced thriller that could have gone either way – but it ended in a fighting draw by repetition.
Game 4 was completely different – a quick draw as both players drew breath before going into the blitz playoff.
It started with incredible drama as Carlsen fell into a trap set by So and lost his queen. Carlsen was furious with himself and then had to resign.
The champion was left needing to win with the black pieces to take it to an Armageddon tiebreaker. Carlsen changed his shirt to be more comfortable, and it worked.
Carlsen showed all his passion and punched the air shouting “come on” as So lost.
Everything then rested on the Armageddon game with Carlsen with White and 5 minutes on the clock needing to win and So with Black having a minute less but only needing a draw.
Carlsen won as So ran out of time in a losing position. With a huge release of energy, Carlsen punched the air again as his opponent resigned.
So said afterwards: “I’d like to thank Magnus, I think he is the fully deserved winner as I think he played the best.”
In the match between the losing semi-finalists for third-place, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Teimour Radjabov 2.5-1.5.
After a drab encounter that saw four straight draws yesterday, Nepo and Radjabov played fighting chess today. It was Nepo who the secured $25,000 and 0.25 bitcoin prize for finishing third.
The FTX Crypto Cup is leg 6 of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, organised by the Play Magnus Group. All games are played in the new chess24.com play zone.
The next event is a Regular tournament that carries a $100,000 prize pot. It will run from June 26 to July 4.
There are two more after that before the Tour Finals in September starting on September 25.