A nail-biting end to the Goldmoney Asian Rapid’s prelim stage saw old-hand Levon Aronian dominate as an almighty scramble for places unfolded below him.
The 38-year-old rolled back the years as he dominated his younger opponents to finish on 10.5/15.
It meant Aronian had won a prelim stage on the $1.6 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour for the first time.
Below Aronian, however, it was musical chairs in the final moments as the top eight qualifying places were decided.
First, 17-year-old Arjun Erigaisi – by far the lowest-rated player in the field – sprung an incredible surprise by making the knockouts on his Tour debut.
Erigaisi drew a round 15 match with birthday boy Anish Giri that meant both sailed through.
Then, in a blockbuster match with Indian wonderkid Gukesh D, the Pole Jan-Krzyszstof Duda put in a late surge to secure his seat with a dramatic win.
That result had big implications for the leaderboard and meant heartbreak for both Gukesh and 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja, who was looking on. Both crashed out by the narrowest of margins.
Gukesh, the youngest in the field, had fought tooth and nail to win a place in the last eight but it was not to be.
Asked how the tournament has gone for him, Erigaisi said: “It has panned out quite well!”
Giri, who turned 27, said after: “I managed to qualify and I helped a friend in need, so it’s all good!”
While Erigaisi and Giri sneaked in, Aronian posted his best performance in the prelims of a Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event.
Playing from Paris, Aronian said afterwards: “I was basically trying to stay safe and take my chances, and it worked.
“I feel good and I feel I can even score more. But I was very relaxed.”
In another surprise, the Russian Vladislav Artemiev continued his stunning form to finish clear second with 10/15 and set up a quarter-final clash with Giri.
China’s Ding Liren also marked his return to form with a place in the quarters and will face Duda.
One of the games of the day saw Gukesh pose serious questions for Carlsen in their Round 13 clash.
The 15-year-old looked to have a decisive advantage but allowed allowed the champ back into the game.
Gukesh, seen as potential future challenger for Carlsen’s crown, was left fighting to save a draw.
He managed it, but looked bitterly disappointed and aware he faced an uphill task. Gukesh did, however, show he belongs at this level.
Carlsen, meanwhile, ended the day with a win that took him to fourth – but he was far from happy with his performance and the fact his position sets up a quarter-final against Wesley So.
Asked why he seemed unhappy, Carlsen said: “Well, have you seen the pairings?”
Carlsen added: “It’s not ideal, but that’s the way it is… In general I’m extremely unhappy with the way I played today.”
The Goldmoney Asian Rapid is broadcast live on Norwegian TV station TV 2 and streamed with commentary in several languages on chess24’s YouTube and Twitch channels.
Highlights will also be available in 60 countries on the Eurosport app.
Play begins tomorrow at 13:00 CEST. All games will be played on the chess24.com playzone.