Grandmaster Wesley So moved on the cusp of the Opera Euro Rapid finals after taking down fellow Champions Chess Tour leg winner Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, 2.5.-1.5, in the first of the two-match semifinals on Friday (Manila time).
So scored a pivotal victory in the third of the four-game opening match with the Rossolimo Attack variation of the Sicilian Defence as the Cavite-born woodpusher inched closer to the finals of the $100,000 (over P4.8 million) online rapid chess tournament.
The 27-year-old GM, who switched allegiance to the US Chess Federation in 2014, got off to a strong start with the same assault but Radjabov was able to equalize in the second game.
After winning the third game, So managed to force a draw with the Black pieces for the lead in the semifinals.
The reigning World Fischer Random Chess champion only needs at least a 2-2 draw in the second four-game match on Saturday (Manila time) to arrange a possible championship duel against defending world classical, rapid and blitz champion Magnus Carlsen.
Carlsen, who is still on the hunt for his first title in the $1.5 million (over P72 million) Tour, crushed French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 2.5-0.5, to open his semifinal campaign.
So ruled the Skilling Open–the first leg of the Tour–by beating Carlsen in the blitz tiebreak, 1.5-0.5, on the Norwegian’s 30th birthday last November 30.
The reigning US Chess king, however, failed to get past the quarterfinals of the Airthings Master, the second leg, which was won by Radjabov against Levon Aronian of Armenia.