Magnus Carlsen of Norway secured the all-important draw against local bet Nijat Abasov and won his match, 1.5-0.5, to advance into the finals for the first time of the FIDE World Cup Sunday in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Playing the black side of the London system of the Queen’s gambit, Carlsen plugged all holes and evaded all endgame traps by the upset-conscious Abasov, the surprise semifinalist of the tournament.
It took 74 moves for the 28-year-old Abasov to squeeze out an advantage or a small opportunity to win but Carlsen was eagle-eyed to all the threats that were thrown his way, as he prepares for an extra day to wait for a finals opponent.
Carlsen’s best finish in the knockout-style, best-of-two-games World Cup format was third — twice. The first one was in the 2007 Khanty-Mansiyisk, Russia edition as a promising 16-year-old boy genius. During the 2021 Sochi, Russia edition, Jan-Krysztof Duda of Poland beat him in the semis, making this year extra special in vying for another shot at the crown.
The world No. 1 and five-time world champion Carlsen, 32, now awaits for the result of the tiebreaker match between world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana of the United States and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, the 18-year-old boy wonder from India.
Using faster time controls with the same best-of-two-games eliminator format, the Caruana-Praggnanandhaa match will be a battle of nerves between the 31-year-old veteran, and another up-and-coming phenom from Chennai, who became a grandmaster at age 12.
Caruana, playing black, equalized early in the Catalan game and managed to gain the initiative of attacking the queenside.
But the young Indian deftly defended and got his own counter-attack going and the draw was forged on the 46th move.