Top-ranked American Fabiano Caruana proved to be a lucky winner against Russia No. 1 Ian Nepomniachtchi while Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave cruised to an easy win over Dutchman Anish Giri in the first round encounters of the $250,000 Magnus Carlsen Invitational online chess tournament on Sunday.

A day after favourite Magnus Carlsen (Norway) edged out Hikaru Nakaumra (USA) 3-2 and Ding Liren (China) overpowered teen-sensation Alireza Fiourzja (FIDE) 2.5-1.5, Caruana and Vachier scored contrasting wins.

Caruana, in serious danger in the first two games, was lucky to draw both games. After drawing the third, Caruana nailed a frustrated Nepomniachtchi in the fourth for a 2.5-1.5 result.

Against Giri, Vachier raced away to victories in the first two games and drew the next two for a 3-1 verdict. The eight elite players play a round-robin phase where each match involves four rapid games. The time-control is 15 minutes plus a 10-second of increment per move for each player. In case the score is locked at 2-2, an Armageddon game is played to break the tie. Here, white has five minutes on the clock to black’s four, but a draw isenough for black to be declared the winner. No draw-offers can be made before the 40th move.

Following the league, the top players play the semifinals, with the winners battling for the top purse of $70,000 on May 3.