After scoring a breakthrough win in Game 5, Filipino grandmaster Wesley So came off with four victories out of a possible six to take the lead in first round of his semifinal series with American-Italian GM Fabiano Caruana.
This put the 26-year-old So on a collision course with world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen in the finals of the 2020 Clutch Chess International online.
So’s decisive 53-move triumph in his King’s Pawn Game with Caruana put him ahead, 6-2.
Both he and Caruano believe that things could still go either way in their last six matches of their 12-game showdown.
Meanwhile, Carlsen also came away with a 6-2 edge over Armenian GM Levon Aronian.
Playing white in his first game, the 2741 ELO-rated So got the lead after prevailing over Caruano in 32 moves of a Queen’s Pawn Game.
Both duelled it out with So using the King’s Pawn Game in their next games and ekeing out two more wins and two draws.
In Game 5, the first clutch game, the white-playing Caruana surprised So in the opening by using the Evans Gambit to counter black’s opening moves.
The 2773 ELO-rated Caruana got a winning position out of the opening as his pieces allowed him to gain a kingside attack and a chance to pressure his opponent’s exposed king.
But Caruana wasn’t able to capitalize on his advantage and his hesitation allowed his opponent to counter with a mating threat.
In Game 6, So went on to force Caruana to give up in 45 moves of a Sicilian Defense.
In clinching Games 5 and 6, the 2017 United States Champion So claimed an additional $2000 for his efforts.
On the other hand, Carlsen took the upperhand in Game 5, which he won in 46 moves of an English Opening.
The world champion watched Aronian miss his winning chances.
Carlsen took the the final game of the day when he managed to check the black king with the queen on the sixth rank.
Eight of the world’s top chess players are battling online from Saturday for eight days for a total $265,000 in prize money.