Grandmaster Wesley So drew all his last five matches to finish third in the preliminaries and clinch a quarterfinal berth in the Opera Euro Rapid of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Monday.
Well-perched at joint second after the first 10 rounds, the 27-year-old opted to play it safe and split the point with Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, American Hikaru Nakamura, Indian Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Azeri Teimour Radjabov and Chinese world No. 3 Ding Liren in finishing solo third with nine points.
World champion Magnus Carlsen and Dutch Anish Giri ended up tied for first with 9.5 points each, but Carlsen took the top seeding after the tiebreak.
So, the reigning world Fischer Random and United States champion, took the No. 3 seed where he is set to battle Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland, who finished at No. 6 with eight points.
It will be the third straight quarters appearance for So, who won the opening leg in the Skillings Open in December last year and made it that far in the second leg in the Airthings Masters a month ago.
The other quarterfinalists were Armenian Levon Aronian (8.5 points), French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (8.5), Radjabov (8) and Russiamn Daniil Dubov (7.5), who took the eighth and last spot by bumping off the more illustrious Nakamura via superior tiebreak.
Carlsen faces off with No. 8 Dubov, No. 4 Aronian tackles No. 5 Vachier-Lagrave and No. 2 Giri battles Radjabov.
So is heavily favored to beat Duda following his 16-10 quarters triumph over the Polish player in the Speed Chess Championship in November last year.