World Champ Magnus Carlsen took first blood against Tour nemesis Wesley So in a vicious first day of the Goldmoney Asian Rapid quarters.
The Norwegian came out on top in a thrilling four-game match between the two biggest dogs on the $1.6 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
Carlsen now needs just a draw in tomorrow’s second match to go through to the semis of leg seven of the Tour.
But having beaten Carlsen twice in finals already this season, two-time US champ So is sure to roar back.
Carlsen vs So has been the blue-ribbon match so far in the year-long series of online events, and this one got off to a suitably dramatic start.
First, Carlsen made a huge mistake then – inexplicably – the machine-like So blundered too to hand the champ an opening-round win.
The drama continued in game 2 as Tour leader Carlsen simply imploded to hand the initiative back to the American.
Momentum then swung again as a wild game in the third gave Carlsen a 2-1 lead.
'It's huge for me'
With So now in a must-win situation, Carlsen shut up shop and steered the fourth to a draw which leaves him 1-0 up in matches overnight.
Carlsen said: “It’s huge for me. It’s the first time, except a third-place match, that I’ve managed to win the first match so it’s massive.”
Meanwhile, the QF between old-hand Levon Aronian and the event’s 17-year-old surprise package Arjun Erigaisi was exploding.
The youngster, the lowest rated player in the tournament, had escaped with a draw in the first game against the unbeaten Aronian who dominated the prelims.
But in game 2 Erigaisi unleashed a vicious attack to inflict Aronian’s first defeat in 16 games and take seemingly control of the tie.
It then turned around in game 3 as Aronian, who has been in stunning form in this tournament, used all his creative genius to hit straight back with a win.
The match eventually fizzled out to a 2-2 draw after the final game ended peacefully with a three-fold repetition. It was, however, a hugely-impressive showing by Erigaisi against the world number 5.
Erigaisi said afterward: “I’m pretty happy, but I hope to do better tomorrow.”
Asked what it’s like playing the teenager, Aronian said: “He’s brave, so it’s good to play somebody who’s not just sitting back and trying to make a draw.”
He added: “I’ll try to press in the openings, and see how it goes.”
The clash between Vladislav Artemiev and Anish Giri was also on fire as the Russian ran riot to end the first mini-match early.
Artemiev, the 2019 European Champion, scored three straight wins to blow Dutch number 1 Giri off the board.
Artemiev said after: “I’m not such a bad player in rapid and blitz so it’s not such a big surprise that I can make a score like this.”
The speedster now just needs to draw the second match tomorrow to go through to the semis.
Giri, who revealed he had a Covid-19 vaccination yesterday, said: “There’s one side-effect that they haven’t mentioned, that you play horrible chess!”
By comparison the final quarter-final match, between China’s Ding Liren and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, was a tight affair.
The pair played three draws in a row before Duda appeared to take control of the final game – and the match.
But with less than a minute left on his clock, the Pole let the win slip and took a draw by repetition. It leaves the tie level and hanging on a one-day shootout tomorrow.
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.