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    Entries in Wesley So (59)

    Friday
    Apr212017

    Shamkir, Round 1: The Streak is Over

    I don't recall exactly how many games Wesley So had played without a loss in Classical chess - it was 50-something, I think - but that streak is at an end. His game with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had been approximately equal most of the way, and after 38 moves it was still equal. Had So played 39.gxf3 any result would have been possible, with a draw the likeliest and most correct option. Instead, he uncorked 39.Qxf3+??, Mamedyarov replied with the obvious 39...e4, and So resigned. It's hard to figure out what he missed, as ...Qxc4+ is an obvious crusher*. Maybe it was time trouble, or a moment of blindness. Whatever the case, it was a fantastic run, and now it's time for him to start building a new streak.

    The day's other winner was Pavel Eljanov, who won smoothly against Teimour Radjabov in a knight vs. bishop ending. In the draw department, Vladimir Kramnik was better forever against Radoslaw Wojtaszek but couldn't put him away; it seems this is mostly due to great defense by Wojtaszek rather than Kramnik's having missed something concrete. Veselin Topalov had an advantage against Michael Adams that gradually evaporated after the latter's good defense, and Sergey Karjakin drew with Pentala Harikrishna in a game that was pretty level throughout.

    Round 2's pairings: Kramnik - Radjabov, Harikrishna - Eljanov, Mamedyarov - Karjakin, Adams - So, and Wojtaszek - Topalov.

    * A Wesley [So] crusher? Apologies to GM So, fans of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and to pun haters everywhere. (But not that sorry.)

    Friday
    Apr212017

    Shamkir, Round 1 Pairings

    Grenke will have a run for its money when it comes to publicity in the chess world, as the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir gets underway in a few hours. Here are the round 1 pairings: 

    • Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2745) - Vladimir Kramnik (2811)
    • Veselin Topalov (2741) - Michael Adams (2761)
    • Wesley So (2822) - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2772)
    • Sergey Karjakin (2783) - Pentala Harikrishna (2755)
    • Pavel Eljanov (2751) - Teimour Radjabov (2710)

    Will So win yet another tournament, and will his undefeated streak continue? Will Kramnik bounce back from a mediocre performance in Zurich, and will the presence of his bestest bud Topalov ruin his tournament? Or will a relative outsider win the laurels? Make your predictions now.

    Monday
    Apr102017

    Wesley So: 2017 US Champion

    The playoff is over, and Wesley So has won the 2017 U.S. Championship. He defeated Alexander Onischuk 1.5-.5 in a pair of tiebreak games, winning the first with White and barely drawing the second with Black. In the first game, Onischuk played very sharply, sacrificing a couple of pawns for activity. In the short time controls (G/25, plus a five second time delay before each move) he didn't have enough time to work through the complications and maintain his activity, and So managed to take over and win pretty smoothly. In the second game Onischuk managed to reach a middlegame with two bishops against two knights, and while in theory the position was equal due to the knights' outposts, maintaining them was a difficult task. Onischuk outplayed the world's #2 and achieved both a winning position and a big time advantage, but couldn't figure out how to put him away. His best opportunity began with 41.Bd5+; missing that chance, the advantage started to slip away, bit by bit, and in the end, with both players almost out of time, So drew by perpetual.

    Congratulations to Wesley So!

    Monday
    Apr102017

    St. Louis Wins the Pro Chess League

    This is "old news", as the well-known oxymoron has it, and as the final pairing was announced here earlier it's likely that any readers who were interested then already know how things turned out. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness: the St. Louis Arch Bishops won the inaugural PRO Chess League rapid tournament (15 minutes/game, plus a two second increment added after every move), a team event that stretched from early January through the end of March. The team was led by Wesley So, and in the final they defeated the Norway Gnomes, led by Magnus Carlsen.

    Both So and Carlsen had enormous scores over the course of the season, and both were 3-0 leading into their head-to-head matchup in the final round of the team match. (Each team has four active players, and each player faces every member of the opposing squad.) Carlsen won that game - with the black pieces, at that! - but as St. Louis had already clinched overall victory So may have been a little less circumspect than normal. Even if that's true, however, it was a nice feather in Carlsen's cap to remind the world's hottest player who's boss.

    Monday
    Apr102017

    U.S. Championship Tiebreak Coming Up

    The U.S. Championship (like the Masters, if there are any golf fans out there) finished yesterday with a two-way tie atop the leaderboard. Wesley So and Alexander Onischuk both finished with 7/11, half a point ahead of Varuzhan Akobian, Hikaru Nakamura, and Fabiano Caruana. (Akobian could have joined the tiebreak or even won the event outright win a win in the last round. He had chances, too, despite having Black against Nakamura, but a mistake on move 26 cost him the initiative and more.)

    So defeated Onischuk in their head-to-head matchup earlier in the tournament, but that doesn't count for anything in today's playoff. The action begins at 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis, which is 2 p.m. ET/6 p.m. GMT/7 p.m. CET.

    The Women's Championship finished yesterday with a surprise winner, as Sabina Foisor took clear first with 8/11. Nazi Paikidze took clear second a point behind, and had excellent chances to tie for first. She had white in the last round against a considerably lower-rated player, but she faltered after a good opening and lost. Many-time U.S. Women's Champion Irina Krush had a second straight disappointing event, finishing third with 6.5 points, and four players finished another half a point behind, including Anna Zatonskih, another many-time winner of this event.

    Friday
    Mar242017

    This Week's World Chess Column: So Dominant in the PRO League

    As he has been for some time now, Wesley So has been playing extraordinarily good, successful chess in one event after another. One event that may have slipped below your radar is the PRO League, a slow-moving team tournament which culminates this weekend. I say a bit more about the event here, and present two of So's more recent games from the tournament. There were many to choose from, as his score there is an insane 26-2, including a 12-2 score against grandmasters.

    Friday
    Mar032017

    An Ingredient in Wesley So's Success: Digital Minimalism

    Now go forth and do likewise (except for reading this blog, of course).

    Sunday
    Feb262017

    Last Week's World Chess Column: The PRO Chess League Takes Off

    In addition to the ongoing Women's World Championship and Grand Prix tournament in Sharjah, there's a high-level league competition that's nearing its end. The PRO Chess League sponsored by Chess.com is winding down (it finishes on March 11), and while it's only rapid play (15'/game, plus 2" increments per move) some of the world's absolute elite is participating, including Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Fabiano Caruana - the world's three highest-rated players.

    In last week's World Chess column, I cover one game from that event, Wesley So's win over Cristian Chirila. So grinds out a win in a long same-colored bishop ending, and while Chirila could have drawn with best play it was still a very impressive performance by So - good technique both objectively and from the practical perspective as well. It, and the league's games in general, are very much worth a look.

    Sunday
    Jan292017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017: So Wins!

    With Black in the last round and three players only half a point behind, chances looked pretty good that Wesley So would be caught by at least one player and the winner of the Masters Group in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament would be decided by a rapid playoff. Would we experience a thrilling, nail-biting finish?

    Not even close, as it turned out. Ian Nepomniachtchi played an insane opening against So and was lost - really lost! - after just nine moves (remember, this is with White!), and could have resigned in around 14 moves rather than 28. His attempt to battle on was in vain: So was playing too well in the tournament, and his position was so good that he didn't even need to be especially precise (though by and large he was).

    Worse, for those hoping for a close finish, the chase pack of Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, and Wei Yi managed a grand total of half a point between them. Carlsen had some troubles with Sergey Karjakin but drew, Aronian played terribly in the opening against Dmitry Andreikin and was outplayed pretty much from start to finish (though Andreikin made a couple of significant inaccuracies along the way), while Wei Yi did enjoy excellent winning chances against Radoslaw Wojtaszek before giving them away and then even losing in a long game.

    So thereby finished in clear first with 9/13. This was his third consecutive super-tournament victory, and that doesn't count his exceptional performance in last year's Olympiad. He has gone 56 games without a defeat, gained a pile of rating points, and when Fabiano Caruana lost a few hours later in Gibraltar So could include #2 in the world rankings to his ever-growing resume. Pretty amazing.

    So finished a point ahead of Carlsen and a point and a half ahead of Aronian, Wei Yi, and tournament surprise Baskaran Adhiban, who defeated Richard Rapport in the last round. Karjakin and Pavel Eljanov were a further half a point back to round out the players with plus scores in the tournament. Eljanov must have been extremely disappointed with his result, as he drew and even lost three or four games where he was winning or nearly so. As for Karjakin, it wasn't a great result, but he probably didn't feel too disappointed - he pleaded exhaustion afterwards from the match with Carlsen.

    Today's annotated games are here; the final standings follow.

    • 1. So 9
    • 2. Carlsen 8
    • 3-5. Adhiban, Aronian, Wei Yi 7.5
    • 6-7. Karjakin, Eljanov 7
    • 8. Giri 6.5
    • 9-11. Harikrishna, Andreikin, Wojtaszek 6
    • 12. Nepomniachtchi 5
    • 13. Rapport 4.5
    • 14. van Wely 3.5

    In the Challengers Group the most important games ended peacefully, leaving Gawain Jones and Markus Ragger tied for first with 9 points apiece, half a point ahead of Jeffery Xiong. Jones had the better tiebreak score, so he has qualified for next year's Masters Group. Congratulations to him and especially to So!

    Sunday
    Jan292017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Round 12: So Still Leads Entering the Last Round

    But barely. Wesley So entered the last round with a half-point lead over Wei Yi and more against everyone else, and with White against Wei Yi decided to play it safe. Black went for a well-known line of the Queen's Gambit Declined called the Peruvian Variation (I think) that results in Black's having a structure that appears as ugly as sin but which turns out to be very difficult to beat. In the game Wei Yi had no trouble keeping the draw, which meant that he remained half a point behind So, who guaranteed himself of a clear lead heading into the last round.

    Unfortunately for So - and for Wei Yi too, for that matter - both Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian won and also came to within half a point of So. Carlsen was in serious trouble against Pavel Eljanov, who played a great game for 28 moves. Eljanov has played a very good tournament so far, but he has failed to convert several better-to-winning positions, and this one he even managed to lose. His 29th move was a serious error, giving away the advantage, and his 37th to 39th moves left him lost. Carlsen played the ensuing rook endgame just about perfectly to stay within striking range of the leader.

    As for Aronian, his opponent, Loek van Wely, like Eljanov managed to play very well the first half of the game but not the second. Van Wely's queen moves from 22...Qd8 through 27...Qxe4 left him with a lost position, and Aronian did a fine job of navigating the complications to near perfection.

    The remaining games were drawn, several of them quietly, and in any case none of them left the protagonists with a shot at first place. So after the customary link to the day's wins, with my notes, here are the pairings for the final round:

    • Andreikin (5) - Aronian (7.5)
    • Wei Yi (7.5) - Wojtaszek (5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (5) - So (8)
    • Carlsen (7.5) - Karjakin (6.5) - !
    • Giri (6) - Eljanov (6.5)
    • Rapport (4.5) - Adhiban (6.5)
    • Van Wely (2.5) - Harikrishna (6)

    I don't know what the tiebreak situations will be in case two or more players wind up sharing first, so if some enterprising reader (we all know who that is) wants to inform us, he's welcome to do so. Hopefully for the sake of my patriotic prognostication So will make it simple by winning in the last round.

    As for the Challengers Group, the chances of the U.S. national anthem (probably metaphorically) playing took a bit hit as Jeffery Xiong went from clear first to a tie for third after losing to Tari while all his closest rivals - Markus Ragger, Gawain Jones, and Ilia Smirin all won. Ragger and Jones are tied for first, while Smirin and Xiong are tied for third-fourth half a point behind. But the good news for Xiong is that he's the only one of the four with White in the last round, and his opponent has the lowest score of the leaders' four opponents. Here are the critical pairings:

    • L'Ami (6.5) - Ragger (8.5)
    • Lu Shanglei (7.5) - Jones (8.5)
    • Hansen (7) - Smirin (8)
    • Xiong (8) - Bok (5)