Russian Peter Svidler raised his game when it mattered the most, beating Spaniard Alexei Shirov in his first pre-quarterfinal game of the World Chess Cup in Khanty Mansiysk (Russia).
Svidler, who came to the last-16 stage after a marathon struggle against German Arkadij Naiditsch in the previous round, had to find many correct moves against a menacing looking Shirov before he could win with his black pieces.
The win gave Svidler a decisive advantage in the mini-match comprising two games initially.
The Russian needs just a draw in the return game with white pieces to go through to the quarters.
Filipino Wesley So played out a draw with another higher ranked player Vladimir Malakhov of Russia in a tense game.
So, who has ousted the likes of Ukrainian Vassily Ivanchuk and American Gata Kamsky from the event, will have black pieces in the return game, a colour with which he has been making waves here.
Apart from Svidler, the only other winner of the day was two-time world junior champion Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan who outwitted Viktor Laznicka in a keenly contested game.
Mamedyarov won with black pieces which means he has a safe passage to the quarters barring a debacle in the return game.
Out of the eight games in pre-quarters, only two were decisive -- three short draws while the rest had the few spectators glued to their chair.
Svidler made the most of his opportunities against Shirov in a full-bloodied game arising out of a Grunfeld defense.
Shirov went for complications at the first opportunity but could not turn the tide in his favour despite trying his best.
Svidler found the most accurate moves when he needed them and went on to secure the full point after 36 moves.
In a noted statement, the Chinese duo of Wang Hao and Li Chao 'B' admitted that they had gone for a smoke and did not realise that it was time for the game in the tiebreakers of previous round.
Both had to forfeit and bow out of the competition. The FIDE rules say that every player has to be present when a game starts.