The final four in the $150,000 chess24 Legends of Chess event got underway with World Champion Magnus Carlsen in frightening form.
Having won nine matches on the trot in the preliminary stages, the Norwegian picked up where he left off by taking a swift first set lead in his semi-finals.
Carlsen rattled off a 2.5-0.5 win against eight-time Russian champ Peter Svidler and just needs another match to reach the final.
Carlsen, who earlier this week likened his play to the misfiring Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, was typically harsh on himself afterward.
“I think the games were of a sort of dubious quality,” he said.
Asked what when he is satisfied with his performance, Carlsen said: “I always aim for more, that’s my take-away.”
In the other semi, the Svidler’s fellow Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi and the Dutchman Anish Giri got their semi-finals off to a marathon start – but it also ended quickly.
The pair, who finished second and third in the preliminary stages behind Carlsen, played out a 131-move draw in the opening game.
In the second, the in-form Nepomniachtchi – hoping to avenge his loss to Giri in the Chessable Masters tournament – went ahead with a win.
Nepomniachtchi then finished off the set 2.5-0.5 with a game to spare as Giri crumbled in a worse position and under time pressure.
Like Svidler, Giri now needs to win tomorrow to take the contest to a third set or face elimination.
The final four stage is a best-of-three sets contest with the third set being played on Sunday if needed.
The event, the fifth leg of the $1 million Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, runs until August 5 and will carry a $150,000 prize fund.
The winner will scoop a top prize of $45,000 and the last of the coveted spots in the tour’s Grand Final in August.