Wesley So kept his title bid alive as he smashed Russian Alexey Sarana, 2-0, in the losers’ quarterfinals of the Airthings Masters of the Champions Chess Tour Wednesday, Feb. 8.
The Cavite-born American did not leave anything to chance and went for the kill on both their two games with the first ending up in a 52-move win of a Queen’s Gambit Declined and the second in a 43-move triumph of a Nimzo-Indian: Rubinstein to complete the rout.
It set the former world Fischer-Random king and two-time United States champion up against Indian Arjun Erigaisi, who eliminated compatriot Dommaraju Gukesh, 1.5-.5.
A victory for So against Erigaisi would arrange him a duel with fellow American Hikaru Nakamura, who yielded to reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen in the winner’s showdown that was decided by the Armageddon tiebreak.
The winner in that matchup will then advance to the Grand Finals against Carlsen in the revamped tournament staking $30,000.
Interestingly, it was Nakamura who kicked So down to the losers’ bracket following their winners’ semifinal duel that was also decided by Armageddon.