World Champion Magnus Carlsen brought his A-game today to crush Levon Aronian in just three games and take a firm grip on their quarter-final tie.
The Norwegian needs just a draw in tomorrow’s second set to book a place in the last four of his own tournament, the $220,000 Magnus Carlsen Invitational.
Aronian, meanwhile, has to launch a monumental comeback to overturn Carlsen’s lead and stand any chance of progressing.
The champ simply looked unstoppable as he moved almost effortlessly into a 2-0 lead before settling for a draw that won the set by 2.5 to 0.5.
Carlsen even found time to tuck into some Chinese noodles while playing as Aronian was barely given a chance to fight back.
Carlsen said afterward: “I don’t expect it to be quite as comfortable as this tomorrow, but obviously it’s a great start.”
It was a brutal day of chess overall as eight decisive games were played in the quarter-finals before Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finally shared a point with a Round 3 draw.
Brutal day of chess
But fans hoping for a tight match between Wesley So, the American leading Meltwater Champions Chess Tour overall, and the youngster Alireza Firouzja may have been disappointed.
Like Carlsen, So simply overpowered his opponent by winning the first two games and then securing a draw in the third.
Firouzja, the teenager tipped to take Carlsen’s crown one day, has a mountain to climb tomorrow.
The two other quarter-final match-ups were much tighter affairs.
Dutch No.1 Anish Giri and French No.1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave traded blows before heading into a final game that could have decided the set.
However, both players settled for a quick draw to leave the set 2-2 and send the tie into a one-day shootout tomorrow.
The match between Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi and American speed chess specialist Hikaru Nakamura also went into a final game decider – but this one had an unexpected final twist.
Both Nepo and Nakamura battled hard for an advantage in a see-saw game before the players agreed to a draw leaving the set level at 2-2.
Yet the Russian was left kicking himself when, according to the computer analysis, it was revealed he had a winning move but he just didn’t see it.
Nepo said afterward “it happens”, it was “really annoying” and “disappointing to say the least”.
The four quarter-final matches will finish tomorrow with the winners progressing to the semis.