A plague of mosquitoes invaded Ian Nepomniachtchi’s playing space in a bizarre end to the first match of his first FTX Crypto Cup semifinal.
The newly-installed world title challenger went down 2.5-1.5 to the American Wesley So after the blood-sucking pests flew in during the crucial final game.
Nepo was seen on camera visibly distracted by the insects as he tried to catch them. High-pitched buzzing was also picked up by his microphone.
Nepo said: “In the last game didn’t care about winning the game at all I just didn’t want to get eaten by mosquitoes! This was incredible, I have never seen such a big amount in one place!”
Nepo was playing inside somewhere in the Russian countryside for this tie and added: “I swear I have never had more annoying playing conditions than this.”
Nepo and So had played out three consecutive draws and appeared to be heading for another before the midges intervened.
The Russian then appeared to blunder and So sunk his teeth in to take full advantage of his opponent’s distress. The American, who said he wasn’t aware of what was happening, stays unbeaten in the tournament.
Nepo gave a wry smile when the match finished and blamed the intrusion for losing the final game.
The 30-year-old also joked that he may have to wear a uniform and a mask when the match resumes tomorrow.
Asked what his strategy for the second match will be, So joked: “Hopefully the mosquitoes will help me again.”
In the other semi, super-solid Teimour Radjabov kept alive the dream of knocking Magnus Carlsen out with a dramatic last-gasp leveller.
The Airthings Masters winner entered the last game of the day needing a win to level the score against Norway’s World Champion.
Carlsen had broken through in crushing style in third after two cagey draws in the opening games.
But when it mattered most Radjabov came out all guns blazing to dominate game 4 before resigned. It means the match was tied 2-2 and everything rests on tomorrow’s encounter.
Radjabov said afterwards: “I’m super happy about beating Magnus, it’s really nice.”
A frustrated Carlsen’s only comment was: “He blundered and he played well. Thank you and see you tomorrow.”
The FTX Crypto Cup is an innovative online chess tournament that features a record prize pot of $220,000 in cash and 2.18 bitcoin.
It is leg 6 of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, organised by the Play Magnus Group. All games are played in the new chess24.com play zone.
Everything now hangs on tomorrow’s final semifinal match.
If nothing can separate the players after that concludes, the ties will be decided in play-offs.