World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen will look to win his second straight Champions Chess Tour event – and a fair amount of Bitcoin – when the online FTX Crypto Cup begins on Sunday.

FTX Crypto Cup odds
Sixteen grandmasters will compete for cash and Bitcoin in the FTX Crypto Cup, beginning on May 23, 2021. (Image: Champions Chess Tour)

The FTX Crypto Cup features a prize pool of $220,000 in cash, as well as 2.1825 Bitcoin.

Crypto Crash Rips Into Prize Fund

That amount equated to another $100,000 in prize money when the tour announced the sponsor for the upcoming event. But Bitcoin tends to be just a bit volatile, meaning it remains anyone’s guess how much the additional cryptocurrency prizes will be worth by the time the tournament ends on May 31.

Cryptocurrency prices have plunged over the past week, and thus so has the FTX Crypto Cup prize pool. That Bitcoin was worth just over $80,000 as of Saturday morning.

In any case, the tournament will still boast one of the largest prize pools in online chess history. Fittingly, it also features one of the strongest fields ever seen for a Champions Chess Tour event.

Carlsen leads the pack, but he’ll be joined by every member of the world’s top 10 players. That includes Ian Nepomniachtchi, who will compete for Carlsen’s world championship later this year. The Crypto Cup will feature the first game between the champion and his challenger since Nepomniachtchi won the Candidates Tournament, as the two will at least meet in the preliminary round-robin.

FTX Crypto Cup Odds (via Unibet)
Magnus Carlsen: +150 Hikaru Nakamura: +700
Wesley So: +700 Levon Aronian: +900
Anish Giri: +900 Ian Nepomniachtchi: +1200
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: +1700 Alireza Firouzja: +2000
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov: +2500 Teimour Radjabov: +2500
Fabiano Caruana: +3000 Daniil Dubov: +3000
Ding Liren: +3000 Alexander Grischuk: +5000
Peter Svidler: +6000 Alan Pichot: +50000

Carlsen enters the FTX Crypto Cup as the +150 favorite to win the title, according to online sportsbook Unibet. He’s followed by two of the strongest online speed chess players in the world, Americans Hikaru Nakamura (+700) and Wesley So (+700).

FTX Crypto Cup Offers Free Pass to Tour Final

The tour hasn’t announced how they will divvy up the prize pool, in part due to the uncertain value of the Bitcoin on offer. But there are implications for the tournament that go far beyond money.

The FTX Crypto Cup is the third and final major of the Champions Chess Tour season. The winner will automatically qualify for the tour final this fall. While there are three “regular” tournaments before the final, this event presents the last chance to automatically qualify, as well as the last opportunity to earn double points for the critical tour standings.

Not ever player is aiming to become tour champion, however. Argentinian grandmaster Alan Pichot will take his second shot at a Champions Chess Tour event. He scored just 2.5 points out of 15 games in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational earlier this year. But fans voted for the 22-year-old to get another chance against the world’s elite.

“It’s hard to imagine playing this. Beating one or two would be epic,” Pichot told “You saw how this is. Anything can happen here.”

The 16 players will compete in a full round-robin over three days beginning on Sunday. The top eight players will then advance to the knockout stages, where they will play two-day matches. The FTX Crypto Cup final will end on May 31.

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