Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen needs just a draw later Friday to be crowned world chess champion after taking an almost unassailable lead against India's Viswanathan Anand in a one-sided contest.
The 22-year-old Carlsen, hailed by Russian chess legend Garry Kasparov as a Harry Potter-type "super-talent", has won three games and drawn the other six, leaving him only a half-point away from the victory mark of 6.5 points.
Carlsen, the current world number one, has been in supreme form in the world duel in Anand's home city of Chennai, the only challenge from the Indian coming in Thursday's ninth game.
Anand, who has been the king of chess since 2007, matched his opponent during an engrossing 56-move match that lasted three hours and 21 minutes before he resigned, to the dismay of his supporters.
Anand, who at 43 is 21 years older than his rival, conceded a miraculous turnaround is needed to keep his chances alive.
"I need three wins in a row," he told reporters. "I can try but the situation does not look very good."
Carlsen, visibly relieved at emerging unscathed from the keenly-fought contest on Thursday, did not respond when asked by reporters if the crown was now virtually in the bag.
"This was a very difficult game," Carlsen said. "The positions were complicated. I had to find the right moves to regain balance. There was a fear of being mated all the time."
British grandmaster Nigel Short tweeted: "End of an era" even before the match had ended, adding that Friday would be "the only day I would not begrudge them a quick draw".
Kasparov also predicted a short game on Friday.
"Congratulations and coronations can wait," he tweeted. "I do not think we will have to wait very long. No one will criticise a short draw!"
The total prize fund for the title clash is about $2.24 million, with the winner getting 60 percent and the loser taking home the rest.