Teimour Radjabov emerged unscathed and wrested the lead while Wesley So started with back-to-back losses and landed in the bottom rung of the New In Chess Classic on Saturday, April 24 (Sunday, April 25, Manila time).
Flashing the form that made him the Airthings Masters champion, Radjabov won 3 of his 4 games then drew with world champion Magnus Carlsen to notch 4 points and tow the 16-man field after the first set of preliminary round matches.
Struggling for form, So bowed to Alireza Firouzja and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, respectively, before trouncing Indian sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa.
It turned out to be a short reprieve, however, as So overlooked an opening trap and bowed to Englishman Gawain Jones, Europe's blitz king, in 22 moves.
So, the Champions Chess Tour overall leader, summoned his will to subdue Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round 5 and settle at joint 11th with 2 points.
Radjabov, Azerbaijan's No. 2 behind Mamedyarov, trounced Tour newcomers Jones and Aryan Tari, drew with Levon Aronian, then won over Jojan Sebastian Christiansen to overtake Carlsen and Alireza, both with 3.5 points.
Carlsen opened up with a draw against Sergey Karjakin then bested Le Quang Liem and Leinier Dominguez in succession before being held to another draw by Vidit Gujrathi.
A victory over Dominguez in the fifth round pushed Alireza alongside Carlsen. The world's top junior lost to Mamedyarov in round 2, beat Karjakin in round 3, and split the point with Le in round 4.
Despite his loss to So, the 15-year-old Praggnanandhaa proved his mettle by besting Duda and Karjakin in rounds 1 and 5 and drawing with Jones and Mamedyarov for 3 points, the same as Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, and Gujrathi.
Bunched at 2.5 were Mamedyarov, Duda, and Tari, followed by So, Jones, Le, and Dominguez.
The sixth to 10th rounds will be held early Monday, April 26, with So, the Philippine-born United States champion, needing a positive score to boost his drive for a fifth straight playoffs appearance.
Blocking the path of So, winner of the inaugural Skilling Open and the third leg (Opera Euro Rapid) are Karjakin, Le, Dominguez, and Radjabov, in that order.
Only the top 8 will advance to the knockout quarterfinals. – Rappler.com