Alireza Firouzja pulled off a potentially career-defining win today as he bundled world number 6 Wesley So out of the Aimchess US Rapid.
The teen hotshot showed nerves of steel as he clinched victory in a tense blitz tiebreaker after So had launched a fierce comeback to get back into the match.
It was a day of high drama in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event as So won an improbable two must-win games in a row to draw level with the youngster.
But Firouzja held on against one of the undoubted big beasts of the series to set up a mouth-watering semi with Russia’s Vladislav Artemiev tomorrow. World Champion Magnus Carlsen, meanwhile, takes on Levon Aronian.
Firouzja said the tiebreaker was “crazy” as So roared back at him before the youngster finally prevailed.
Carlsen, the overall Tour leader, was in ominous form yet again as he crushed Poland’s World Cup winnner Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
The champ did have a bizarre moment of madness in the opening game, however, as he offered up a pawn for free.
But in true Carlsen-style the Norwegian recovered strongly from the blunder and broke through to turn it into a win.
Carlsen went on to take the match 2.5-0.5, putting Duda to bed with a clinical win in the third match. Duda, it seemed, never had a chance.
Carlsen said: “I had a fairly decent day today. In general I have been outplaying him. Generally my level of play has been very decent.”
Looking towards his next match, the champ said Aronian has improved his rapid play markedly over the course of the Tour and has become “formidable”.
And so Aronian showed. His win over the dangerous Azerbaijan’s number 1 Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov was just as commanding as Carlsen’s.
After a 3-1 win yesterday, Aronian polished off Mamedyarov in three games with a much smoother 2-1 victory.
The Armenian FTX Crypto Cup winner said it was an “emotional battle” and he needed a rest after before taking on Carlsen.
The closest match in the quarters was the encounter between Artemiev and the Cuban-American Leinier Dominguez.
After a 2-2 draw yesterday, Artemiev finally broke through in Game 3 and then turned around an epic final game in which pushed hard.
Dominguez, who was the big surprise from the prelims, was out.
The result also had wider implications as it meant Artemiev leapfrogs the Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the overall standings and has booked himself a place in the $300,000 end-of-season Tour Final.
Tomorrow’s semi-final matches start at 17:00 CEST. All games will be played in the chess24.com playzone.
Coverage with full commentary is available on www.championschesstour.com or www.chess24.com.