Magnus Carlsen secured top seed status in the New In Chess Classic knockout stage on the day he found out who will challenge his world title.
The World Champion showed he means business in the $100,000 event with a cool and calm display that stretched his unbeaten run to 15 games.
It came immediately after the Russian rival Ian Nepomniachtchi secured his right to take on Carlsen in November’s World Chess Championship match.
Nepomniachtchi beat a field of eight, including several Meltwater Champions Chess Tour regulars, to triumph in the FIDE Candidates tournament.
Back in the New In Chess Classic, Carlsen started the day by wheeling into the Meltwater offices in Oslo on a push-bike.
He arrived just a minute before the start of play but then he sat down and reeled off two wins and three draws to finish on 10.5/15. It was easily enough for safe passage into the knockout stage starting tomorrow.
Carlsen remarked after: “I’m starting to perfect the art of getting the first seed without too much hassle.”
Also safely into the quarter-finals are two big threats in the American pair Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So plus fan favourite Levon Aronian.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also sailed in the quarters. He is a super-strong player but has yet to make an impact on the Tour so far having competed in just one event.
Teimour Radjabov, the Airthings Masters champion, was the last to qualify. He avoided crashing out with a final round draw against Vidit Gujrathi.
Alireza Firouzja, the 17-year-old tipped as a future world champion, scored 8.5/15 to go through as did Vietnam’s former World Blitz Champ Liem Quang Le. Both will be names to look out for in the quarters.
The other super-talented teenager in the field, India’s Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, battled hard but could not make it through.
Pragg had Carlsen sweating in Round 12 but couldn’t force the win. The result all but ended his chance of progressing but it was still an impressive debut for the youngster who qualified from the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour.
Norway’s number 2 and 3 Aryan Tari and Johan-Sebastian Christiansen both crashed out but both can take comfort from their performances.
The day was dogged by a series of quick games when players both combined to steer the game towards a draw by repetition and take a half-point each.
The safety-first practise to conserve energy in a long tournament is controversial but not against the rules.
Commentating on the action for chess24.com, Grandmaster David Howell said: “This is disappointing! It’s really testing our patience now. It is slightly disrespectful to our viewers.”
But if some of the games were too short, England’s Gawain Jones and Leinier Dominguez of the US played out the longest game yet on the tour.
The pair slugged it out for 80 minutes in Round 12 and ended with a draw. Neither made the cut.
With the field down to eight, the quarter-finals start tomorrow at 19:00 CEST and is broadcast live on chess24.com.