Exceeding all expectations, Arjun Erigaisi destroyed World No. 4 Alireza Firouzja 3-0 to set up a clash with Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals of the Airthings Masters online rapid chess tournament on Monday.
Carlsen, too, needed just three games to get past Russian Alexey Sarana 2.5-0.5. Arjun won the first and third games with black pieces in 32 and 40 moves respectively. In between, with white pieces, Arjun nailed Firouzja in 53 moves.
Overall, Arjun did not miss opportunities to punish his famed rival whose ill-timed aggression backfired. In the second game, he blundered a knight and resigned immediately.
D. Gukesh, the other Indian in Division 1, was not so lucky. Favourite Hikaru Nakamura won the first two games and drew the third to push Gukesh to the losers’ bracket.
In the semifinals, Nakamura plays Wesley So, a lucky 2.5-1.5 winner over Azerbaijan’s Rauf Mamedov.
The winner of the losers’ bracket faces the winner of the knockout leg in the Grand Final that decides the title.
In the 16-man Division 2, Raunak Sadhwani lost 1.5-2.5 to China’s Yu Yangyi and Fabiano Caruana dismissed Diptayan Ghosh 2.5-0.5.
In the 32-player Division 3, R. Praggnanandhaa and V. Pranav set up their quarter-final clash after winning two matches each.
Praggnanandhaa defeated Iran’s Amin Tabatabaei and FIDE’s Mikhail Antipov while Pranav got the better of Nikolas Theodorou (Greece) and Gadir Guseinov (Azerbaijan).
P. Iniyan, the third Indian in Division 3, lost to Aleksandr Leanderman (USA) 0.5-1.5 in the first round to slip into the losers’ bracket.