The $200,000 Airthings Masters is set for a thrilling conclusion tomorrow after Azeri star Teimour Radjabov edged a tight Day 1 to lead overnight.
Radjabov put in a rock-solid performance against Armenia’s top star Levon Aronian that paid dividends in the last game of the set.
Aronian appeared to over-extend himself when pressing for the win and faltered.
It followed three tight draws in which Radjabov, a former World Cup winner, kept in-form Aronian’s imaginative attacking play at bay.
Both players had shown off their deep preparation for the final in games 1 and 2 with Aronian playing a new move in the first and pushing hardest in the second.
But the tension was released in the last game as Radjabov took advantage of a slight inaccuracy from Aronian to force a win.
Radjabov said afterward: “It tough, it was a tough match. All of these games are very tense.”
He added: “I have my strategy which still works, but let’s see if it works to the very end.”
A deflated Aronian said he was “upset” following the loss.
In the third-place play-off, Daniil Dubov stormed into a 2-0 lead before Maxime Vachier-Lagrave hit back twice to level the score 2-2 overnight.
Both Meltwater Champions Chess Tour matches will be decided tomorrow with a second set and tiebreaks if needed.
Day 2 of the Airthings Masters final, organised by the Play Magnus Group, starts at 15:00 CET tomorrow. If the scores are locked at 1-1, tiebreaks will be played to decide who wins.