Grandmaster Wesley So turned back Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, 2.5-1.5, in the first of their two-game semifinal showdown in the FTX Crypto Cup of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Saturday, May 29.
After drawing the first three games, the world Fischer-Random titlist and two-time United States champion went out swimming to gain the 1-0 edge.
So, 27, will have a chance to finish off the Russian if he could pull off at least a tie in their second and last four-game matchup on Sunday, May 30.
“I will try to score 2-2 tomorrow, try to draw the games. But it’s easier said than done and I expect Ian to come out with guns blazing,” said So in an interview with the tournament’s official website.
If he succeeds, So will shoot for a third title in the tour after reigning supreme in the Skilling Open in November last year and the Opera Euro Rapid in February.
It would also regain So the overall tour lead he lost to world classical titlist Magnus Carlsen after the Norwegian ruled the New in Chess Classic early this month.
And So’s cause could also be helped if Carlsen fails to make the finals after being in danger of being eliminated by Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov following a 2-2 standoff.
Carlsen was leading, 2-1, before Radjabov sprung back to life with a life-saving win to force the deadlock.