Skilling Open: Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura, So make it a day of comebacks

Ian Nepomniatchtchi, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So bounced back from first-set defeats to reach the semifinals on Thursday.

Hikaru Nakamura (in picture) will play against Wesley So in the semifinals.   -  RAJEEV BHATT (FILE)

In a reversal of fortunes, Ian Nepomniatchtchi, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So bounced back from first-set defeats to reach the semifinals of the USD 100,000 Skilling Open online chess tournament on Thursday.

On a dramatic day, Nakamura raced away to 2.5-0.5 victory in the rapid games against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after winning twice from the white side. However, he stared at elimination against losing the first tie-break blitz game as Vachier needed just a draw in the second blitz game.

REPORT - QUARTERFINALS, SET ONE

Undeterred, Nakamura levelled the blitz score and then pulled off the much-needed draw from the black side to claim the Armageddon game for a place in the semifinal against American compatriot So.

In another well-contested game, So won the second game and drew the rest in the rapid section against Teimour Radjabov. Following the two drawn blitz games, So came out undefeated from the black side in the Armageddon game to advance.

Nepomniachtchi was in his element against Levon Aronian. He won the rapid phase 3-1 and then clinched both blitz games to stamp his superiority. He now faces World champion Magnus Carlsen.

‘Difficult day’

Though Carlsen kept Anish Giri at bay with all draws in the four rapid games and advanced due to his victory in Game Four of the first set, he had his moments of struggle with black pieces.

“It was a difficult day,” admitted Carlsen and continued, “Basically, I was worse in the first and third games - significantly worse - and I was significantly better in the second, and then in the fourth I think I was much better, but I was generally just steering the game towards a draw, so that was fairly comfortable.

“In general I definitely have to commend Anish on a very tough fight. It was never easy for me at any moment and the whole match just came down to one game that I managed to eke out, so definitely very, very tough.”

The results (Quarterfinals - Set Two)
  • Magnus Carlsen (Nor) drew with Anish Giri (Ned) 2-2.
  • Ian Nepmniachtchi (Rus) bt Levon Arnoian (Arm) 3-1; Blitz: Nepomniachtchi bt Aronian 2-0.
  • Wesley So (USA) bt Teimour Radjabov (Aze) 2.5-1.5; Blitz: So drew with Radjabov 1-1; (So prevails in Armageddon).
  • Hikaru Nakamura (USA) bt Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) 2.5-0.5; Blitz: Nakamura drew with Vachier 1-1; (Nakamura prevails in Armageddon).

Semifinal-lineup
  • Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi; So-Nakamura.