FTX Crypto Cup SF Day 1: So wins the first set against Nepomniachtchi
It is true that Wesley So has made a lot of draws in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour FTX Crypto Cup but they paid off so far. So won the last game of the first set and gained advantage over Nepomniachtchi. The new world championship challenger now must win the second set to keep his Final hopes alive. Carlsen beat Radjabov in the third game after making two draws and Radjabov leveled the score immediately by winning the fourth game. All top four finishers in the Prelims stage got eliminated in the Quarter-Finals. Who will advance to the Finals? Second set of the Semi-Finals starts tonight from 8:30 p.m. IST.
Carlsen and Radjabov did not hold back any punches
Wesley So won the first set as Nepomniachtchi was forced to make to a choice between saving himself from the mosquito attack or save the game. He chose to live to the fight another day. Now he must win the second set to force tie-breaks. After making two draws Carlsen won the third game but Radjabov was not planning to give up yet, he immediately won the must-win fourth game to tie the first set 2-2.
So - Nepomniachtchi: 2.5-1.5
The first game was an interesting encounter.
So - Nepomniachtchi, Game 1
The reason behind 23...Bxd4 is quite obvious that black wants gain control of the light squares and create some chances along the c6-h1 diagonal. White recaptured with 24.Bxd4 Qb5 and now the game continued with 25.Kg1 Bc6 26.Qe2 which allowed black to create a strong battery with 26...Qd5. White could have gone with 26.Qe5 which would have made sure black cannot do the battery anymore. It seems to be a conscious choice than a miss.
The game continued with 31...Qf5+ 32.Qd3 Qxd3+ 33.Kxd3 gxf6. The other option was to take directly with 31...Qxf6 which is double edged. The game eventually ended up in a draw as white was forced to go for perpetual checks to avoid pawn promotion.
Second game was slightly wild but short 19-move draw. The score is level at 1-1. Third game was a well contested draw but Nepomniachtchi got a slight chance in the final moments of the endgame.
So - Nepomniachtchi, Game 3
54...f5+ could have led to something interesting with 55.Kf4 Kf6 and now black has a firm control of the position. The game continued with 54...Re3+ 55.Kd4 Ra3 and soon black gave up the knight for a pawn leading to a draw. Score remained tied at 1.5-1.5, heading into the final game of the first set.
Fourth game started well for Nepomniachtchi. He reached to a bishop vs. knight endgame with a pawn down.
Nepomniachtchi - So, Game 4
Black has a very nice idea in the above diagram. Can you find it? The game continued with 48...Nf6+ and black eventually won the game in another 20 moves when the bishop got trapped. Thus So won the first set 2.5-1.5
Nepomniachtchi was well prepared against the mosquito attack at the place where he was playing from but eventually the deadly ones cost him the last game of the first set as he admitted after the game.
Carlsen - Radjabov: 2-2
First game was a tepid draw but the second game was a solid draw.
Radjabov - Carlsen, Game 2
White could have gone with 29.Rc1 g6 30.Na5. It's not much but an active option. The game continued with 29.Nc5 which leads to a draw after 29...Bxc5 30.Rxd5 Rxd5 31.bxc5 Rxc5. The score remained tied at 1-1.
Radjabov did not play actively when he had the chance in the third game. It allowed the world champion to gain a tangible advantage which he converted into a full point without any difficulty.
Carlsen - Radjabov, Game 3
Instead of 23...Be8 black needed to play actively with 23...dxe5 24.fxe5 followed by 24...Nxb2. Now both 25.Rxc8+ or e6 leads to less complicated positions for black. Soon white gained a pawn and eventually won the game. Carlsen took 2-1 lead.
Carlsen's bold play early on in the game did not pay off as Radjabov gained a huge upper hand.
Radjabov - Carlsen, Game 4
17...Qd6 certainly did not help black's cause as white developed its last piece with 18.Be2 and after 18...f5 white could have simply forced the rook exchange with 19.Rd4. The game went on with 19.Nd4 which is also good and black's queenside rook and bishop still cost some valuable tempi. Radjabov won the game convincingly to level the second set 2-2.
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