So, Carlsen lead semifinal rivals, near Opera title duel

Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen inched closer toward another title duel with first set victories over their Opera Euro Rapid semifinal rivals on Friday, February 12.

Continuing his drive for another crown in the Champions Chess Tour, So held Teimour Radjabov to a draw in the fourth game and squeezed out a 2.5-1.5 victory.

The top-seeded Carlsen had an easier time against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, prevailing in just 3 games, 2.5-0.5.

The Filipino-born So, the lone survivor among 4 Team USA bets, and Carlsen, the world champion in classical, rapid and blitz, need only to draw the second four-game match on Saturday to arrange a repeat of their Skilling Open championship showdown won by So in November.

With both players launching all-out assaults, So won the first game, a King's Indian, with white but Radjabov employed the Queen's Gambit to equalize in game 2 also with white.

In the crucial game 3, a Sicilian Rossolimo variation, So managed to extract the full point with his bishop and 2 connected pawns against Radjabov's 3 pawns.

In a must-win situation in game 4, Radjabov, the Airthings Masters champion, did not take a pawn on move 15 and So wisely settled for the draw.

Even if So ousts Radjabov, the Azerbaijani is likely to retain the top spot in the overall Champions Chess Tour standings since the Airthings Masters is a major with the prizes and points double that of the inaugural Skilling Open. ā€“