Magnus Carlsen led early on before Wesley So roared back as the first day of a tense Opera Euro Rapid final ended all-square.
The pair now go into Sunday’s decider lined-up for a final-set shootout for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event’s title.
It was a slow start yet Game 1 eventually sparked into life when Carlsen, with the White pieces, made a small mistake.
It left So with the winning chances and he went for it. So got so close, but not close enough as Carlsen held on for the draw.
Game 2 started with the Fried Liver – a super-sharp opening dangerous for both sides, and it was the champ who found himself on the wrong end of it.
But with victory in his sights, So blundered and in just one move the game turned around. Carlsen made no mistake to convert. It was a painful missed opportunity for So, but a thrilling game to watch.
The right decision?
Game 3 was a totally different affair. It lasted only 60 seconds as both players steered it to a super-quick draw.
For Carlsen, now 2-1 up with one to play, the strategy appeared to make sense and he said after at that point he was “knackered”.
For So, however, it was a more risky idea as taking the draw meant gambling the set on winning the last game with the White pieces.
But it worked. Near the end, with Carlsen needing just a draw, the game exploded into life as So created a stunning checkmate threat. It was devasting and Carlsen had to resign.
So, speaking from his home in Minnetonka, USA, said he was “thrilled to win on-demand with the White pieces” and rescue the set.
Carlsen had missed the chance to be in the driving seat in the final, but was still happy with sharing the first set.
He said: “I’m fairly happy with a draw today so I will just try and push a little bit harder tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s grand finale starts at 17:00.