Viswanathan Anand began his quest for a fifth successive Corsica Masters title in Bastia, France, with comfortable victories in the pre-quarter-finals and then the quarter-finals.
Anand will take on French youngster Etienne Bacrot in the last four, while the other semi-final will feature Sergei Rublevsky against Alexander Motylev.
The quarter-final clash featured the experienced Mikhail Gurevich, a former Soviet player, who now turns out for Belgium. Anand wiped out Gurevich in both games to complete a 2-0 win.
Two big surprise results in the quarters saw the exit of fancied Alexei Shirov at the hands of Alexander Motylev, who won in the tie-breaker. The first games in regulation were tied 1-1 and in tie-breaker Motylev won 1.5-0.5.
In another match, Sergei Rublevsky beat last year's finalist Veselin Topalov 2-0 in a stunning result. Topalov is the fifth-ranked player in the world.
Anand has won this event four-times in a row, in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. He is often called the 'Napoleon' and the "Lance of Chess" in Corsica.
Anand, Topalov, Shirov and Bacrot were seeded into the pre-quarters-finals, where they were joined by 12 qualifiers.
The games are all played in the rapid chess format. In last year's final, Anand beat Topalov 4-2, with a 2-0 verdict in the final tie-break.
(Quarter-finals): Gurevich lost to Anand 0-2; Alon Greenfeld lost to Etienne Bacrot 0.5.1.5; Alexander Motylev beat Alexei Shirov 2.5-1.5; Sergei Rublevsky beat Veselin Topalov 2-0.
(Pre-quarter-finals): Anand beat Nenad Sulava 1.5-0.5; Christian Bauer lost to Mikhail Gurevich 0-2; Vadim Milov lost to Alon Greenfeld 0.5-1.5; Csaba Balogh lost to Etienne Bacrot 0-2; Alexei Shirov beat Zhang Pengxiang 2.5-1.5; Artur Yusupov lost to Alexander Motylev 0.5-1.5; Sergei Rublevsky beat Arkadij Naiditsch 2-0; Amir Bagheri lost to Veselin Topalov 0-2.