Magnus Carlsen cranked up the gears to move smoothly into the lead in the New In Chess Classic on Sunday.
The World Champion said he felt “comfortable” as he stretched his unbeaten run in the $100,000 online event to 10 games.
Breathing down Carlsen’s neck are long-time rival Hikaru Nakamura, who is also 10 unbeaten, and Iranian wonderkid Alireza Firouzja.
Nakamura showed he is right back in form and nearly broke through against Carlsen in the final round of the day. Firouzja, meanwhile, got himself into the mix by closing the day with two wins.
Carlsen eventually finished on 7/10 – half a point ahead of US star Nakamura and Firouzja.
The champ scored three draws along the way and beat fellow Norwegian Aryan Tari and Gawain Jones, England’s first representative on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
Carlsen’s win over Jones had the unintended consequence of humiliation for English Grandmaster David Howell.
As a result of losing a bet, Howell was forced to commentate on the next round wearing a Teletubbies outfit. International Master Jovanka Houska also had to don a penguin outfit.
Carlsen is now nearly home and dry for the tournament’s knockout stage which starts on Tuesday and said his best is yet to come.
Carlsen stays cool
After Round 9, Carlsen said: “In general the score is good. I feel like if I had played at the very top of my game, maybe could’ve won a couple more, but I think am in the lead so I am obviously am happy about how it’s going.”
Carlsen overtook Azerbaijan’s Airthings Masters champion Teimour Radjabov.
Radjabov recorded four draws and a single loss to teen star Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. Yet after a strong first day, he is still in touch a point behind Carlsen.
Having impressed yesterday with 3/5, Pragg had a tougher time on Day 2.
The youngster lost his first two before saving an unlikely Round 8 draw against fellow countryman Vidit Gujrathi.
That sparked him into life and Pragg then took down Radjabov before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Tari.
Norway’s 2017 World Junior Champ claimed three victims and goes into tomorrow with a fighting chance of making it to the knockouts.
However, yesterday’s whipping boy Johan-Sebastian Christiansen is already out. He did rally today though.
The 21-year-old picked up three much-needed draws – including a solid outing against Carlsen.
Christiansen had shown his spirit beforehand by saying he was going for his fellow Norwegian’s neck.
You can view all the games in full on chess24.com here.
With the first 10 rounds of the three-day prelim stage completed, play will resume tomorrow at 19:00 CEST.
The field will be halved with eight going out and eight going forward to the knockout stage.