Dutch destroyer Jorden Van Foreest came close to beating top seed Wesley So in the start to the knockouts that came full of fire.
The 22-year-old threw everything at his American opponent and inflicted a crushing 19-move win over him in Game 2.
But it was not enough to take the lead as the super-solid So hit back and then kept Van Foreest at bay in the final game – just – to escape Day 1 with a 2-2 draw.
Van Foreest and So will go into battle again with everything resting on a one-match shootout and tiebreaks if necessary.
So said afterwards: “It was really a very bad day for me, or maybe Jorden just played really very well.”
In the other quarters, Armenia’s Levon Aronian wrestled the advantage from Azerbaijan’s Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov with a classy 2.5-0.5 win with a game to spare.
Aronian must now be considered the hot favourite to progress tomorrow.
Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le won two games to take the first match against 18-year-old hotshot Alireza Firouzja. The youngster will fire back tomorrow.
Liem said he was better prepared for the Tour after coming into this event “fresh and ready for the fight”.
The match between speed demon Hikaru Nakamura and Vladislav Artemiev, the runner up in the Goldmoney Asian Rapid, ended in four draws.
Nakamura had a big chance to get a win in Game 3 but missed it. They resume with everything resting on a simple shootout today.