The battle to be crowned the king of online chess got off to a stunning start today as American star Hikaru Nakamura took an early lead against World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
The dream final, which closes the $1 million Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, sees the two titans of the online game go head-to-head in a best-of-seven sets decider.
Nakamura, the only player so far to have knocked Carlsen out of a leg on his own signature tour, brought his A-game on the opening day as he pulled off a high class 2.5-1.5 win.
The American appeared in full control throughout as he won game 2 to go ahead and then with scored draws in games 3 and 4 to end the day 1-0 up in sets.
Carlsen, whose tight semi-final finished a day later than Nakamura’s, just never got going and, in fact, it could have been even worse for the Norwegian world number one.
Game 3 was a big save for Carlsen as he escaped with a draw. In the fourth, Carlsen threatened but Nakamura kept him under control.
Nakamura said: “It was a tough match. When I won the second game I figured at the very least I would get to tiebreaks.
“The results seems smooth but the way the third game went messed up the whole rhythm because I was close to winning at a couple of points in that game and when I didn’t win that game it was a big swing of emotions.
“But for the most part, I thought I played well and even in the fourth game, when it was pretty bad, I always thought there would be chances of a draw.”
Carlsen and Nakamura have a long-standing rivalry. In 2010 they duked it out all night over 40 games in a private grudge match in Moscow.
Three years later Nakamura appeared to put noses out of joint when he likened Carlsen to Sauron from Lord of the Rings.
For many years Nakamura failed to beat Carlsen in an over the board classical match before eventually breaking the spell at the 30th attempt in 2016.
The event carries a total $300,000 prize pot and is the climax of Carlsen’s $1 million signature tour, the richest and most prestigious online chess event ever.