R. Praggnanandhaa made a dream start to his campaign in the $40,000 Challengers Chess Tour Finals by blanking Russian talent Volodar Murzin 3-0 in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

In the best-of-four-game encounter, Praggnanandhaa won twice with black pieces and emerged triumphant with a game to spare. After dominating the opening game with black pieces and signing off in style with a queen-offer in 38 moves, Praggnanandhaa needed five moves less with white pieces to take a 2-0 lead.

In the third game, where Murzin needed a win to stay alive in the match, Praggnanandhaa relentlessly attacked the white’s castled king with a twin-rook attack. A hapless Murzin gave up after 44 moves.

The talented Indian will now face Germany’s Vincent Keymer in the semifinal who beat Leon Mendonca in the second blitz tie-break game of their quarterfinal. Keymer, who lost the second game and won the third before the four rapid games ended 2-2, went on to carve a 3.5-2.5 victory over the fighting Indian.

The other semifinal will be an all-USA affair when Liang Awonder takes on Christopher Yoo.

Christopher Yoo (USA) won 3.5-2.5 after getting extremely lucky when facing a possible loss in the second blitz game against Lei Tingjie (China). Awonder knocked out top seeded Uzbek Nodirbek Abdusattor 3-1 after winning the first and fourth rapid games in the day’s other quarterfinals.

Semifinal line-up: Vincent Keymer (GER) v R. Praggnanandhaa (IND); Liang Awonder (USA) v Christopher Yoo (USA).