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    Entries in Wesley So (103)

    Friday
    Jul052019

    Zagreb GCT, Rounds 8 & 9: Carlsen Leads, So Half a Point Back Going into the Round 10 Clash

    Despite a fairly high drawing percentage, the Grand Chess Tour event in Zagreb has been exciting. The rise and fall of Ian Nepomniachtchi, the continued march of Magnus Carlsen into the stratosphere, and Wesley So's dogged pursuit and remarkable good luck are the three most prominent storylines thus far.

    In round 8, Carlsen built on his success in round 7, when he defeated Nepomniachtchi for the first time in a classical game. In round 8 it was Ding Liren who tasted defeat against Carlsen for the first time (in a classical game); their seven previous games were all drawn. Carlsen uncorked some remarkable analysis that was part of his preparation for the Caruana match. Ding played well for a while, but his deficit on the clock, his bad knight, and Carlsen's bishop pair eventually proved too much for him to handle. With the win, Carlsen reached 6/8 and brought his rating over 2881, one point short of his highest-ever official rating.

    The biggest rating winner so far is So, who remained just half a point behind Carlsen after he (So) defeated Hikaru Nakamura. So ground Nakamura down and won a (mostly) clean ending, though surprisingly both players made half-point-losing errors in a king and pawn ending. Chess is hard!

    The other winner in round 8 was Anish Giri, who blew away Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a Rossolimo/Moscow hybrid. Mamedyarov played the opening badly, and was thoroughly lost after 16 moves. Maybe Giri could have won more quickly and forcefully, but even so he won with ease in 31 moves.

    In round 9, the regime of draws returned, with only Mamedyarov managing to win a game - against Viswanathan Anand. Mamedyarov had a big advantage early on, and while the game had ups and downs throughout the final result was the logical one. Fabiano Caruana had a nice advantage against Ding, and later was probably lost, but the game finished peacefully. More importantly for the race for first, Nepomniachtchi was winning against So, but made a comparatively simple error in a heavy piece ending that allowed So to escape with perpetual check.

    Fortunately for So, that didn't put him any further behind, as Carlsen didn't manage to parlay the white pieces and an interesting novelty into a win over Levon Aronian. Both sides played very well, and Aronian put a stop to Carlsen's winning streak.

    Two rounds remain, with the biggest game coming in the next round as So will have the white pieces against Carlsen in the next round. The full pairings follow, and here are the round 8 & 9 games, many with my analysis.

    • So (6) - Carlsen (6.5)
    • Caruana (5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)
    • Ding (4.5) - Aronian (5)
    • Giri (4) - Nakamura (3)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (4) - Nepomniachtchi (5)
    • Anand (3.5) - Karjakin (4)

    Wednesday
    Jul032019

    Zagreb GCT, Round 7: Carlsen Beats Nepomniachtchi to Become the Sole Leader

    Three players entered the round in first, but only one left that way. Magnus Carlsen began the round sharing first with Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So, and took care of the first one himself while So was lucky to draw with Sergey Karjakin when he got away with a blunder.

    Carlsen chose an incredibly ugly-looking structure against Nepo's anti-Sveshnikov line, and even if it wasn't as bad as it looked - as Carlsen himself put it - it's clear that White had the advantage. Still, he couldn't find much to do with it, and when Nepo burned more and more time on the clock Carlsen started to spice things up on the board. The critical moment came when Carlsen played 27...f5. Nepomniachtchi had an hour less on the clock than Carlsen, but his 27 minutes was still more than enough time to work out that 28.exf5 was fine and 28.gxf5?? was losing. He had a blind spot somewhere though, played 28.gxf5, and resigned three moves later. Nothing Carlsen did after 28.gxf5 required Magnus Carlsen at the helm - even I would have found and played those moves - so it's hard to know what happened to Nepo. It's not his track record against Carlsen, as their career score in classical games was 4-0 in Nepomniachtchi's favor. He won their first game back in 2002, in the European U-12 Championship, and won their second-most recent (classical) game in the London Chess Classic in December of 2017. It's 4-1 now. And the turnaround in the tournament must be even harder on him: he started 3-0, and now his score is 4-3.

    As for So, he committed a howler with 20...Bd6, completely missing the crushing 21.Rxf5. Luckily for him, Karjakin missed it as well, to his embarrassment and chagrin in the post-game interview with Maurice Ashley. After that the game soon finished in a draw by repetition, and for that matter all the other games ended in draws as well. (So much for the bloodbath in round 6; no trend has begun.)

    The games, with my notes to Carlsen's win and a few more details about Karjakin-So, are here. These are the pairings for round 8, headlined by a major matchup:

    • Ding Liren (4) - Carlsen (5)
    • So (4.5) - Nakamura (2.5)
    • Aronian (4) - Nepomniachtchi (4)
    • Anand (3) - Caruana (4)
    • Giri (2.5) - Mamedyarov (2.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (3) - Karjakin (3)

    Wednesday
    Jul032019

    Zagreb GCT, Catching Up: Carlsen, Nepomniachtchi, and So Tied for First After Six Rounds

    The tournament reached (and passed) the halfway point on Sunday followed by a rest day on Monday. Ian Nepomniachtchi had been the solo leader from early on, and had accounted for most of the action in the tournament up to that point. After the four decisive games in round 1, the next four rounds only produced three more wins in total - and two of them were Nepo's! (The third came in round 5 when Ding Liren ground out a win against Anish Giri.) That's not to say that there wasn't action: there were entertaining games and missed opportunities, just not very many wins.

    In round 6 the dam burst, and five of the six games finished with a winner. The most important was Ding Liren's second straight win, this one at Nepomniachtchi's expense. The game was a disaster for Nepo, who was lost by move 19, and Ding never gave him a chance to fight back. Ding had lost in round 1, so even with the back-to-back wins he remains half a point behind Nepo.

    Two other players caught up, however, including top dog Magnus Carlsen. After squandering his winning advantage against Viswanathan Anand in round 2 he seemed to struggle, but a win over his old customer Hikaru Nakamura was just what the doctor ordered. His win was convincing, as was Wesley So's butchery of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Along with Nepomniachtchi, they're all at +2.

    Joining Ding Liren in the chase pack half a point behind are Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. Caruana outplayed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with Black in a Ruy Lopez, while Aronian won on the white side of the Berlin ending against Sergey Karjakin.

    The only draw on the day was Giri-Anand in an Open Ruy Lopez. Giri was better throughout, but never winning thanks to the former champ's sturdy defense.

    The games are here, with some notes to the games from rounds 3-5 but none from round 6. (Lest I never get any sleep.) Here are the pairings for round 7:

    • Nepomniachtchi (4) - Carlsen (4)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - So (4)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Giri (2)
    • Nakamura (2) - Aronian (3.5)
    • Anand (2.5) - Ding (3.5)
    • Mamedyarov (2) - Vachier-Lagrave (2.5)

    Thursday
    Jun272019

    The Grand Chess Tour in Croatia, Round 1: Carlsen, Caruana, So, and Nepo Win

    No draw death here! Four of the six first-round games in the new Grand Chess Tour event in Zagreb, Croatia, had a winner. And these were not rapid or blitz games; they were classical contests.

    Magnus Carlsen led the way, as one would expect from the world champion, speedily defeating Anish Giri. Giri was too taken on the champion's poor queenside structure and neglected his king's safety. He paid the price, and he paid it quickly.

    Fabiano Caruana defeated Hikaru Nakamura thanks to good preparation on his part combined, I suspect, with Nakamura's forgetting his own prep. The players raced through their first 23 and a half moves, and then Nakamura made back to back errors. Caruana played just about perfectly and won convincingly.

    Wesley So was a little better against Ding Liren thanks to a slightly better structure and his bishop pair (though the dark squared bishop was relative ineffectual), but Ding's problems only became serious - fatal, even - when his remaining bishop got stranded and then lost.

    Viswanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi had an up-and-down battle. Anand's 12.f3 was perhaps mistaken, but Nepo's reply was even worse. Anand enjoyed a serious advantage, but it quickly slipped away. Anand continued to drift, wound up in a bad queenless middlegame, and then blundered with 30.Be2 (he should have avoided the ensuing pin by taking on f5) and then again with 32.Rg2. It was a very bad day for the former champion.

    The other two games were tasty draws. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian played an interesting Berlin ending that wasn't just rattling off computer prep, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin tested a lively line of the 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian that finished in a repetition.

    The games are here (I've annotated Carlsen's and Caruana's wins), and here are the round 2 pairings:

    • Carlsen (1) - Anand (0)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1) - Caruana (1)
    • Ding (0) - Karjakin (.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - Giri (0)
    • Nakamura (0) - Mamedyarov (.5)
    • So (1) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)

    Monday
    Feb252019

    The Champions Showdown: The Rapid Leaders Keep Their Leads to the End

    The Champions Showdown was a fun event with lots of decisive results. The play was entertaining and the openings were lively. It was everything a fan could hope for - except for the almost complete lack of drama. Some of the blitz matches were close, taken just as blitz matches, but with the exception of a brief flurry near the end of the match between Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez, there was hardly a stich of doubt about who would win what match shortly after the start of the blitz portion.

    The match between Fabiano Caruana and Pentala Harikrishna was exceptionally lopsided, with Caruana keeping his foot on the gas throughout the first day. Caruana stumbled a bit on day 2, but still won the blitz portion 17.5-6.5 and won overall with an enormous 35.5-12.5 victory.

    Hikaru Nakamura's lead over Jan-Krzysztof Duda was only 14-10 after the rapid games, but when he began the blitz with a 5.5-1.5 run it was pretty clear that the player who has generally been considered the best player in the world, barring only Magnus Carlsen, was going to stroll to victory. He won the blitz 15.5-8.5 and finished a 29.5-18.5 winner overall.

    Wesley So led David Navara by a very comfortable 16-8 margin after the rapid games, and led the blitz portion past the halfway point of that part of the competition. Navara went on a nice run to almost win the blitz, but So won the last two games to tie the blitz 12-12 and take the match with an overall score of 28-20.

    Veselin Topalov led Leinier Dominguez 15-9 after the rapid games, and went +1 in day 1 of the blitz (6.5-5.5). But then Dominguez caught fire. After a draw to open day 2 he won, drew, won twice more, drew again and scored another win. That brought the score to 23-20 in Topalov's favor, and when Topalov won game 44 he was just a draw away from sealing match victory. Dominguez won game 45, but Topalov drew game 46 and the last two games as well to sneak home with a 25.5-22.5 victory despite losing the blitz by a 13.5-10.5 score.

    Finally, Richard Rapport entered the rapid with a crushing 18-6 lead over Sam Shankland. Shankland was much more competitive in the blitz, but Rapport won that as well, 13.5-10.5 to win the match 31.5-16.5.

    A good time was had by all, especially since the winners made $36,000 each and the losers were consoled with $24,000 checks. Not bad for a week's work!

    Friday
    Feb222019

    The Champions Showdown: Mostly Blowouts After the Rapid Stage

    After three days and 12 rapid games, four of the five matches of the Champions Showdown in St. Louis are practically over, barring major comebacks from those who are trailing. The rapid games count double, and the 12 games are equal in value to the 24 blitz games coming over the next two days. Here are the standings so far:

    Caruana 18 - Harikrishna 6

    Nakamura 14 - Duda 10

    So 16 - Navara 8

    Topalov 15 - Dominguez 9

    Rapport 18 - Shankland 6

    Fabiano Caruana came out smoking against Pentala Harikrishna the first two days, going 3.5-.5 (7-1) each of the first two days. His first (and so far only) win in the rapid came in the first game today, but Caruana won in game two and drew the remaining games to maintain an enormous lead.

    Richard Rapport won the first three games of the match against Sam Shankland to put heavy pressure on the American. Shankland stopped the bleeding for a while, (barely) drawing the last game on day 1 and the first three games of day 2. He suffered a very unnecessary loss in the last game of day 2, but started day three with a win. Unfortunately for him, the series of six games with even results was punctuated by three more losses, bookending the start of the match.

    The match between Wesley So and David Navara was closely contested at first. Navara won game 1, and although So finished the first day at +1 Navara struck back at the start of day 2 to equalize the scores. But then So took over, winning four in a row (= an eight-point lead), setting the margin that is present going into the blitz.

    Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez were equal after two days, with one win by each player and six draws, but day three was a disaster for Dominguez and a triumph for Topalov. Dominguez drew the second game and lost the rest, and trails by six points heading into the blitz.

    The closest match is the one between Hikaru Nakamura and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and if Duda had won the last game instead of losing it it would have been tied. With Duda having finished as the runner-up in the World Blitz Championship a couple of months ago, it would be premature to claim that the match is over - though I'd still expect Nakamura to pull out match victory.

     

     

    Thursday
    Feb142019

    The Next Big Event: The 2019 Champions Showdown

    Hopefully everyone is enjoying Valentine's Day with someone they love. (Unless you're a little kid, in which case all that romantic stuff is icky. For you, be happy - the day is almost done!) Here's some good chess news to go along with your romantic bliss: a very high-level rapid & blitz event starts in less than a week.

    It's the 2019 Champions Showdown in St. Louis, and it features the United States' Fab Five (note the extra pun, free of charge) taking on five challengers from the rest of the world (ROW). There will be three days of rapid play and two days of blitz, and these are the matchups:

    • Fabiano Caruana vs. Pentala Harikrishna
    • Hikaru Nakamura vs. Jan-Krzysztof Duda
    • Wesley So vs. David Navara
    • Leinier Dominguez vs. Veselin Topalov
    • Sam Shankland vs. Richard Rapport

    I'm pretty excited about the event, and it will be nice to see Caruana and especially the long inactive Dominguez back in action. I think the Americans will be favorites on every board, though I wouldn't be shocked to see the ROWers win one or two of the first, fourth, or fifth matches.

    Here are the specifics:

    The event runs from February 20-24, and play each day starts at 1 p.m. local time (= 2 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CET). The first three days will be devoted to rapid chess, the last two to blitz. There will be 12 rapid games - 4 per day - and 24 blitz games - 12 per day. The rapid time control is 15' + 10" (an increment, thankfully, not the abominable Bronstein delay) and the blitz control is 3' + 2". The rapid games are scored 2-1-0, the blitz games 1-.5-0, with the prize money in each match awarding $36,000 to the winner and $24,000 to the loser. If the match finishes in a tie, that's it: the money is split and there's no playoff.

    Monday
    Dec032018

    Speed Chess Championship: The Grand Finale

    I remembered that it was scheduled for after the Carlsen-Caruana match, but didn't remember that it was so soon afterward. The (Chess.com) 2018 Speed Chess Championship took place November 30 through December 2, and it was won by...well, I won't tell you here - if you want spoilers, check out the comments section. What I'll do here is provide some links:

    Semifinal 1: Wesley So vs. Jan-Krzysztof Duda: Video here.

    Semifinal 2: Hikaru Nakamura vs. Levon Aronian: Video here.

    Final Match: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

    Tuesday
    Oct092018

    So-Gujrathi

    As usual, I'll give the result of this match, the penultimate quarterfinal match of Chess.com's 2018 Speed Chess Championship, in the comments. For those who would like to watch the stream of the Wesley So-Vidit Gujrathi match as if live, here it is.

    Monday
    Oct082018

    Coming Events: So-Gujrathi, Nakamura-MVL, European Club Cup

    The first two events listed above are the final quarterfinal matches of the 2018 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship. Wesley So takes on Vidit Gujrathi tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12 p.m. ET, and on Thursday starting at 1 p.m. ET Hikaru Nakamura will play Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The winner of the first match will face Jan-Krzysztof Duda in one semi-final, and the winner of the second match faces Levon Aronian in the other. Those matches can be seen live on Chess.com/TV or Twitch.tv/Chess.

    The other event, the European Club Cup, starts Friday and stars lots of elite players. Above all, Magnus Carlsen will participate in what will be his last event before his championship match with Fabiano Caruana this November. Caruana had an excellent showing at the Olympiad with notable wins over Mamedyarov, Anand, and Gelfand. Will Carlsen make a similar or even more impressive statement? We'll see!