Wesley So stretched his incredible unbeaten run to 29 games as he set up a blockbuster FTX Crypto Cup finale against Magnus Carlsen.
The two pacesetters in this season’s $1.5 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, both eased into the final with smooth semifinal wins.
The FTX Crypto Cup will be decided in a one-day shootout after Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So shared the spoils on day one.
Following a below-par performance – that still produced a brilliant mating attack – Carlsen, the reigning World Champion, revealed he was hampered during the first match of the final by illness. Carlsen’s discomfort didn’t stop him from ending US star So’s unbeaten streak of 29 games in this Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event.
But So, who also said he has had problems sleeping, hit back in the third to level the first match and a swift draw in the fourth ended it 2-2.
Carlsen and So will resume today to fight it out for $60,000 in cash and the value of 2.18 bitcoin.
In a brief interview afterwards, Carlsen said: “I don’t feel good today – hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow!”
The final is a re-run of two previous finals on the Tour – the Skilling Open and the Opera Euro Rapid.
So won both of those and is going for an previously unthinkable hat-trick of wins over Carlsen in finals.
In the third-place play-off, nothing could separate Ian Nepomniachtchi and Teimour Radjabov as the two losing semi-finalists played out four consecutive draws. They will resume as well tomorrow in a one-set showdown for Tour points.
Carlsen, Norway’s World Champion, scored an opening-game win and then after two draws he finished with a flourish to knock out Teimour Radjabov. After a tense 2-2 draw yesterday, it was a dominant 3-1 win for Carlsen.
The champ said he was “very satisfied” to go through to the final of the super-strong event that carries a prize pot of $220,000 and 2.18 bitcoin.
In the other semi, So had the advantage overnight after the drama that saw Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi attacked by mosquitos in his playing space.
The American needed only to repel the insect-hit Nepo over four games. But as Nepo became increasingly-desperate, So broke through to score a match-winner in the third. Nepo, the man attacked by mosquitoes, had been swatted aside like an annoying insect.
Had he won it would have set up an fascinating final of the new world title challenger against the reigning king of chess. But it was not to be. Instead, it is Carlsen, the Tour leader, against the man who has beaten him already in two finals.
Can Carlsen turn the trend around, or will Wesley show his dominance?
Nepo tweeted after: “Great performance from Wesley, impeccable calculation today, congrats on reaching the finals!”
After his win, So said: “I’m very happy to be back in the finals. I’m very pleased and hopefully I have enough energy.”
The FTX Crypto Cup is leg 6 of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, organised by the Play Magnus Group. All games are played in the new chess24.com play zone.
The final of the Tour’s third Major starts at 17:00 CEST and runs over two days. Two matches will be played with play-offs and an Armageddon tiebreaker if needed.
Nepo and Radjabov will also battle it out for the third place.
Report on prelims: Carlsen barely gets to the FTX Crypto Cup knockout stage
Report of the quarterfinals: Carlsen – Radjabov and So – Nepomniachtchi are the semis at the FTX Crypto Cup