Norwegian Magnus Carlsen racked up his seventh straight rapid game win to snatch the sole lead at the half-way point of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals in San Francisco.
The World chess champion put on another sparkling display in Round 4 of 7 as he thrashed Dutch No.1 Anish Giri 3-0 to march on towards victory in the USD1.6 million Tour’s end-of-season hybrid event.
Meanwhile, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Carlsen’s biggest rival in this tournament and throughout the 2022 Tour, lost a catastrophic match to Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le that puts a huge hole in his hopes.
Duda and Liem played out two long draws before Liem broke through to win in 46 moves in the third. On screen, Duda looked devastated. Liem then turned the screw with 29…e5! in the fourth to win 3-1.
He climbs to third position with seven points, behind Carlsen on 12/15 and Duda on 9.
Carlsen’s opening game saw him play the now rare at the top level French Defence. It was a risk and quickly the newly-installed 2022 Tour Champion found himself in what he thought was a losing position.
Carlsen admitted after: “I’d just missed his a4 move in the opening – after that I think I’m pretty busted!”
Giri didn’t spot the chance to blow open the champion’s centre, though. The Dutchman sacrificed a bishop but it didn’t work and Carlsen took over. A wild game ended with Carlsen in front.
Game 2 went worse for Giri. The Dutchman collapsed in the middlegame as he allowed Carlsen to active his bishop pair. Carlsen pinned Giri’s rook and the game ended in short order. It was Carlsen’s sixth rapid win in a row.
Elsewhere, Indian teen Arjun Erigaisi got off the mark with three points and USD7,500 as he beat Azerbaijan’s No.1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Erigaisi had gone 11 games without a win in the event, but broke that run in the second and went on take the fourth too for a 3-1 score.
Finally, the US star Wesley So won his second match in a row with a 2.5-1.5 victory over Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. Both players, who were expected to challenge at the top, have failed to live up to expectations in this event so far.
With three rounds to go, Carlsen remains the hot favourite. Yet he still has to play Duda on the final day.