Ice cool Magnus Carlsen needed a final game win to save his match against Hikaru Nakamura as the FTX Crypto Cup quarterfinals exploded into action today.
The World Champion had been on the brink of losing the first of two matches against his big rival but roared back to win on demand.
It levelled the match 2-2 meaning the tie is all square going into the decisive Meltwater Champions Chess Tour match tomorrow.
Carlsen and Nakamura had traded blows in a see-saw match that saw the player with the white pieces winning all four games.
Nakamura won the first before Carlsen hit back and then Nakamura “crushed” Carlsen in the third. The champ admitted he got “crushed” in that game.
Carlsen, who only just scraped into the knockout stage, joked afterward: “I am not enjoying it [the tournament] at all! I constantly have to win on-demand!”
In the other matches, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi dominated Fabiano Caruana in the battle of the new world title challenger versus the last world title challenger. He could not win it though.
Nepo, who is due to face Carlsen for the chess crown in November, won the first game then secured two draws to be on the brink of beating Caruana.
But the 2018 challenger held firm to win in the final game and level the match 2-2. It was a huge relief for Caruana while Nepo showed his obvious frustration.
Wesley So, America’s other star left in the event, stayed unbeaten in the prelims after 12 draws in 15 games.
But So sprung into life in the knockouts with back-to-back wins in a row to polish off Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 3-1.
MVL will now have to win tomorrow’s match to stand a chance of going through in play-offs.
Anish Giri’s match with Teimour Radjabov was a tighter affair with three draws in a row before a decisive final game.
Radjabov had missed an open goal in his second game, letting the Dutchman off the hook when he had a glorious position.
But Radjabov made no mistake in the fourth as he broke through to take the match 2.5-1.5.