World Champion Magnus Carlsen hit top gear to knock Hikaru Nakamura out of the FTX Crypto Cup in a tense end to the quarterfinals.
The Norwegian upped his intensity and displayed incredible speed and precision as he overcame his big rival in a thrilling last-gasp tiebreak.
Carlsen, the Tour leader, said after that he was “very satisifed” and felt his opponent has a tendency to become a bit nervous when ahead early.
“I was hoping that was going to happen today as well,” Carlsen said.
He added: “Thanks to Hikaru as well for making it a great match – it’s always a pleasure to play these matches against him and they are never boring!”
Carlsen will now face Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radajbov in the last four of the super-strong Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event.
Three Americans had made it into the quarterfinals of the world’s first crypto chess event that carries a record $220,000 prize pot plus 2.8 bitcoin bonus.
But after two days of gruelling chess, only one US star made it through.
That is reigning US champ Wesley So, winner of two Tour events, who steamrollered the French No. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
So only needed a draw after winning yesterday’s match and scored the win and two draws he needed to book his place in the semis. He will now advance with real confidence.
In the big match between Carlsen and Nakamura, the two titans of online rapid chess, it was the American who made the fast start.
Nakamura put in a dominant performance in the first game which left Carlsen shaking his head as he was forced to resign.
Yet, in the next game, Carlsen hit back immediately to leave Nakamura shaking his head and resigning.
Carlsen had wrestled control of a chaotic game and made Nakamura pay. It was 1-1 at the halfway point.
In the third, Carlsen took a risk by playing the Orangutan – an opening rarely played at the top level and with which he almost beat Anish Giri during the prelim stage.
It was an almighty gamble and it quickly backfired as Carlsen was left on the defensive.
Nakamura had winning chances but failed to make them tell and the game ended in a draw.
After a series of exhilarating games in this tie, neither player could find a win in the final game so two days of rapid chess went to blitz tiebreaks.
Carlsen finally found a killer idea to crash through in the first of two blitz games to decide the tie.
Facing the inevitable, Nakamura blundered and immediately resigned. One-nil to Carlsen and Nakamura was now in a win-on-demand situation.
The second game, however, was even more one-sided as Nakamura collapsed. Carlsen was through and his big rival bowed out.
After going ahead yesterday, Teimour Radjabov shut up shop against the Dutchman Giri in the second match today.
The Airthings Masters champion has been extremely hard to beat and took no chances in this match.
Radjabov forced the four draws to seal his place in the semis to finish the quarterfinals unbeaten.
Giri, who has been in such good form in recent weeks, just could not get the breakthrough.
In the last quarterfinal to finish, former world title challenger Fabiano Caruana was left to rue several missed chances as today’s match ended 2-2 after four tense draws.
Caruana’s hopes of reaching the last four in his first Tour event ended when the new world title challenger, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, beat him in a blitz playoff.
The two-day semifinals will start tomorrow at 17:00 CEST. All games are played in tournament host chess24.com’s new online chess playzone.