World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen took control of his Opera Euro Rapid quarter-final with a dominating display on Tuesday.
The Norwegian’s form has been patchy of late but he turned it up a notch against Russian dangerman Daniil Dubov on Day 1 of the first knockout stage.
Carlsen won the opener then, after a draw in the second, turned the screw on Dubov again to win the opening set with a game to spare.
Dubov has troubled Carlsen several times in the last few months and knocked out the champ at the same stage of the Airthings Masters. But this time, the world number 1 was too strong.
In his interview after, Carlsen said: “Certainly this was not an ideal pairing for me considering what happened last time. But every tournament is a new one so I thought I just need to focus on playing well.”
Carlsen now goes into Wednesday’s quarter-final climax with a one-set advantage and hot-favourite to make it to the $100,000 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event semis.
Carlsen added: “It’s not going to be easy tomorrow. Regardless of what happened today, tomorrow will be tough.”
While Carlsen won his first game, the other three quarter-final ties started with cagey draws.
However, in the second round, the results came in. Wesley So suffered a devastating blunder and fell behind against Polish hope Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
So’s mistake turned a winning position around and the Skilling Open champ resigned soon after leaving 22-year-old Duda 1.5-0.5 ahead.
Duda’s lead didn’t last long as World Fischer-Random Champion So hit back immediately to level the tie. The American then struck again in the final game to take a 1-0 lead into Day 2.
The Frenchman Maxime-Vachier-Lagrave also scored a sparkling win in the second game to take the lead against Levon Aronian.
It sent the set to a critical final game. Aronian seemed in control but with his clock running down the Armenian made a mistake and MVL steered the game to safety. It was the draw MVL needed to win Day 1.
In the match between Teimour Radjabov and Anish Giri, the tournament’s form horses, it took until the third game for the fireworks to start.
Radjabov – who was unbeaten with 15 consecutive draws – took the lead leaving Giri in a must-win situation going into the final game.
Giri dug deep and pulled the set back from the brink by winning the fourth to finish the day 2-2.
The quarters reach their climax on Wednesday from 17:00 CET. Dubov, Duda and Aronian must launch comebacks to progress to the semis.