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    Entries in Wesley So (87)

    Saturday
    Jun232018

    Grand Chess Tour in Paris: So Wins the Rapid (Again), But Karjakin Leads Overall after the First Day of Blitz

    Wesley So's rapid play has been outstanding in this year's Grand Chess Tour, but in Paris he wasn't as successful as in Leuven. He finished the rapid portion with a one point lead (a half point lead on traditional scoring, which comes to a full point here as the rapid games are weighted double compared to blitz games). He went 6-3 in the rapid round-robin for a score of 12 points, with Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura a point behind.

    In the blitz he started out well with a couple of draws and a win, but consecutive losses to Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk pushed him into third place. Karjakin got off to a fantastic start, drawing with Nakamura in the first round and then reeling off five straight wins. He cooled off a bit, losing in rounds 7 and 9 (sandwiching another win in round 8), but it was still good enough to finish the day with 17.5/27, a point in front of Nakamura and a further half a point ahead of So. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is another point behind So (he has 15 points), and Levon Aronian rounds out the top 5 with the only other plus score; he has 14 points.

    The action concludes tomorrow, and starts two hours earlier than usual, at 12 noon local time in Paris (6 a.m. ET).

    Wednesday
    Jun202018

    Leuven 2018: So Hangs on to Win by the Skin of his Teeth

    It's old news, I know, but in case there are a few of you out there who didn't follow the nail-biting finish of the first Grand Chess Tour event of 2018, the rapid & blitz tournament in Leuven, Wesley So won, barely, and only with near-miraculous help. Or maybe it really was miraculous help, as expressed by the man himself! There's a fine report on the finale here, so I'll send you in this direction for more info.

    Thursday
    Jun142018

    Daily Roundup: Leuven, Svidler-Yu, Navara-Harikrishna

    It's rapid & blitz time in the chess world, as not one, and not two, but three elite quick-play events transpired today.

    We already know about Leuven, the first Grand Chess Tour tournament of 2018. Today was the last day of the rapid portion of the event, and Wesley So continues to enjoy a dominant lead. He defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the first game of the day, then drew the next two to finish with 7/9. Or rather 14/18, since the rapid games count double compared to the blitz games coming Friday and Saturday. Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave have 11 points apiece, Sergey Karjakin and Nakamura have 10, and on it goes: Mamedyarov 9, Grischuk 8, Caruana 7, and Anand and Giri have 5 each.

    Next, Peter Svidler played a rapid  and blitz match against Yu Yangyi that started Tuesday and finished today (Thursday), consisting of eight rapid games (which counted double) and ten blitz games. Svidler massacred Yu in the rapid, going 6-2 thanks to a five-game winning streak, but after going +1 in the first five blitz games it was Yu who delivered the beatings, scoring 4.5 points in the last five games. Yu thus won the blitz portion 6.5-3.5. It wouldn't have been enough to save the match even without the double scoring in the rapid, but with it Svidler's final margin of victory was 15.5-10.5. (Offiical site here; this will be more helpful to non-Chinese readers.)

    Finally, David Navara and Pentala Harikrishna are halfway through a rapid-only match, and the score is tied 3-3 with one win apiece. As with Leuven, play continues through Saturday.

    Wednesday
    Jun132018

    Leuven, Days 1 and 2: So Far, So Good. So Very Good!

    No time this week for detailed blogging - sorry - so I'll just offer a quick update on Leuven, the first stop on this year's Grand Chess Tour, and then on TCEC.

    Leuven is a combined rapid & blitz event. The first three days are for rapid play, with the ten players engaged in a single round-robin (three rounds per day), and the last two are for a double round-robin in blitz. The rapid games are weighted twice as much as the blitz games, which means that 18 points are available in each discipline, 36 overall.

    After two days of rapid, Wesley So is doing great: he has four wins and two draws and leads Levon Aronian, his closest competitor, by two points (by one point on 1-.5-0 scoring, but as noted above the rapid games are weighted double). It isn't just his results that are excellent, but his play has been at a very high level as well.

    There have been plenty of exciting games in the event so far (check out Nakamura-MVL from today's round 5 action, for instance), and plenty of blunders too, thanks at least in part to the no-increment time controls. At least in part, but not entirely: one moment that left me incredulous occurred in the Mamedyarov-Karjakin game, also from round 5. I haven't had much time to watch the games, but I clicked to that one when it was in progress right before move 60. A glance was enough to see 60.Rg8+, 61.Rg7+, 62.Rxc7 followed by Ke5-f6, and only a very few seconds to satisfy myself that this was a trivially easy win. I wasn't watching commentators or checking with an engine; it was just the kind of basic, simple, cynical method of simplification all players used to have beaten into their heads from the time they were beginners.

    Naturally, Mamedyarov played 60.Rg8+ right away, but then thought for nearly a minute and played 61.Ke5(??). I don't know if the move is winning with best play (I haven't checked with the engines), but if it is it's only with significant difficulty. There were further mistakes in the game, which was drawn after 123 moves, but 61.Ke5 is almost incomprehensible.

    Anyway, these are some of the world's best players, so the foregoing isn't meant to be scornful. To err, even to blunder, is human. It's just a very surprising sort of blunder. What makes a blunder surprising? One sort of "normal" blunder is when one makes an automatic move - when one plays "by hand". In positions similar to the one on the board, a certain sort of move is typically good; in this case, however, there's a concrete reason why it's bad. To give a beginner's example: 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6?? illustrates the point: Black's third move develops a piece, helps control the center, and attacks White's prematurely developed queen. They are all virtuous aspects of the move, but the move is a blunder in this particular case because it allows 4.Qxf7#. Another simple but amusing case: the correspondence player who replied to 1.d4 with 1...g6, and included an "if-move": "If any, then 2...Bg7." Of course his opponent replied with 2.Bh6! Bg7 3.Bxg7, and won; this also happens in online bullet games from time to time when 1...g6 players pre-move 2...Bg7.

    Now, grandmasters won't walk into scholar's mate or lose a bishop and a rook the way the correspondence player did, but their blunders can follow the same template. Their automatic moves and natural reactions will be very sophisticated, but even they can be led astray by their unchecked intuition. When they are, they commit "normal" blunders.

    The abnormal blunder occurs when one ignores the move one's hand wants to make, the obvious move that one's chess experience and education cries out to be played. A line I sometimes use when annotating games or looking at a game with a student is "sometimes, obvious moves are good moves". Keep it simple! If the obvious move wins, play the obvious move! As there was no danger in making the rook trade, and absolutely no difficulty in working out that it wins, and it would be extremely surprising if the idea escaped Mamedyarov's attention, this is a bizarre blunder. Even if 61.Ke5 wins, it's not winning in an especially quick and beautiful way, even if Karjakin cooperates. Weird - but if all of us get to learn from Mamedyarov's error, their game could prove more instructive and valuable to us than a dozen masterpieces.

    Standings After 6 Rounds:

    • 1. So 10/12
    • 2. Aronian 8
    • 3-5. Karjakin, Mamedyarov, Vachier-Lagrave 7
    • 6. Nakamura 6
    • 7-9. Giri, Grischuk, Anand 4
    • 10. Caruana 3

    Good thing I didn't pick Caruana to win this event! Wait, what's that? I did? In that case, just wait and see: he still has 21 games left to make his incredible comeback.

    Sunday
    Jun032018

    Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

    A tip of the hat to John Cole and David McCarthy, both of whom let me know about this choice quote from Magnus Carlsen after round 5, speaking of his 12-game history with Wesley So: “To be honest, usually nothing happens in these games. I can't remember him ever being close to beat me [sic]. If I want a draw, I will often get it easily.”

    Perhaps it would be smarter (and more polite) to avoid such comments in the future, at least with opponents who aren't fellow trash-talkers like Anish Giri. Then again, the quote comes from a tweet by Tarjei Svensen; perhaps Carlsen's words weren't meant for public consumption (or for public consumption in English?), and so it's his fault too if this gave So a bit of extra motivation before his one-sided victory in game 6.

    Sunday
    Jun032018

    Norway Chess, Round 6: So Beats Carlsen, (Sort of) Catches Him in First

    When Wesley So had his great streak in the second half of 2016 into early 2017, he surged to a clear #2 on the rating list and looked like the next challenger to Magnus Carlsen. Whenever someone has emerged like that as a seeming threat to the champion, Carlsen has gone out of his way to beat him up and show him who's who at the top. Carlsen beat So several times after that, and demonstrated that he was still the boss. It took So a while, but today he finally took Carlsen's measure, beating him decisively on the white side of an Exchange Slav. Well done! Further, it means that Carlsen's tournament victory has gone from an apparent fait accompli to an open question. Carlsen had been +2 while the next six players were on 50%; now Carlsen and So are on +1, with five players half a point behind and the two tailenders at -1. Anyone can still win the tournament - and for that matter, it's still possible that everyone could win it (tiebreakers and playoffs aside).

    The other three games were drawn, mostly uneventfully (you can replay today's games, with my notes to So-Carlsen, here). Tomorrow (Monday) is a rest day, and on Tuesday the pairings are as follows:

    • Mamedyarov (2.5/6) - So (3/5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2/5) - Anand (2.5/5)
    • Caruana (2.5/5) - Nakamura (2.5/5)
    • Karjakin (2.5/5) - Aronian (3/6)
    • Carlsen (3.5/6) - bye

    Saturday
    Mar102018

    Tukmakov on Coaching So

    Ukranian GM Vladimir Tukmakov has coached a number of top players, including (until very recently) Wesley So. He discusses this and teases for an upcoming book, here.

    Friday
    Jan192018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 6: Mamedyarov the Sole Leader

    It was a strange round as White managed to parlay three winning positions into a glorious total of half a point. Two of the leaders, Anish Giri and Viswanathan Anand, faced off briefly before calling it a day, giving Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to take the lead by himself with a win over Baskaran Adhiban.

    It seemed instead that Mamedyarov was headed for the third place tie. Adhiban got to the time control with an edge, and after Mamedyarov's 41st move Adhiban's advantage was enough to win. But there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, and Adhiban first lost the win, then the advantage, then equality, and finally his last chance to fight for survival. When it rains, it pours, and now Mamedyarov is in clear first with +3 while Adhiban is tied for last at -4.

    The day's other winner was Wesley So, and he too was losing with Black. Wei Yi's enterprising chess had him in great shape for a win and a +1 score overall, but he fell to pieces in time trouble. So is now tied for second place with Giri and Anand.

    Vladimir Kramnik could have been a part of that tie as well, but he gave away a big advantage (like Adhiban and Wei Yi, he too had White) and Gawain Jones slipped away. Kramnik remains at +1, while Jones is playing over his head and retains an equal score.

    The most exciting draw of the round, and probably the most exciting game, period, was Peter Svidler's game with Magnus Carlsen. There were plenty of tactics, sacrifices, and material imbalances, and both sides were simultaneously attacking each other's king. Better yet, their personal post-mortem was caught on video - see below. (I've done my best to include their analysis in the game file, too.)

    The other two games (Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxim Matlakov and Hou Yifan vs. Sergey Karjakin) were "clean" draws, i.e. there were no big errors or missed chances.

    The games, with my analyses of four of the games, are here. The video follows the round 7 pairings, which are: 

    • Carlsen (3.5) - Hou Yifan (1)
    • Jones (3) - Svidler (3)
    • Anand (4) - Kramnik (3.5)
    • So (4) - Giri (4)
    • Mamedyarov (4.5) - Wei Yi (2.5)
    • Matlakov (3) - Adhiban (1)
    • Karjakin (3) - Caruana (2) 

    Wednesday
    Jan172018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 5: Anand, Giri, and Mamedyarov Lead Heading into the First Rest Day

    We'll catch up on the earlier rounds soon, maybe even tonight, but let's begin with round five. This round makes a misnomer of my subject line, as it was played in Hilversum, and between the inconvenience of travel and the anticipation of tomorrow's rest day it might have inspired some of the players to take an unofficial day off. Jones-Giri and Matlakov-Karjakin won't bring any new fans into the chess world. Anand's draw with Wei Yi was short but real, as far as I can tell: it looks like spectacularly good preparation by Black rather than mutual non-aggression.

    The other four games were harder fought, and three had a decisive outcome. The marquee matchup between Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik was a long draw that was always around equal. Kramnik outplayed Carlsen a little bit, but only enough to get the better half of a drawn rook ending. It was a good, correct game in which Kramnik correctly did what Carlsen always does: try to draw blood from a stone.

    Now to the decisive games. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Peter Svidler both won, against Fabiano Caruana and Hou Yifan, respectively, and in both cases their opponents fell apart in time trouble. For Caruana it was grave time trouble, and what was an equal position after 27 moves was lost after 32. Svidler's game was shocking. He was clearly better early on, and missed an almost trivial win on move 22 that would have ended the game immediately. After a further error the position was equal, and the players kept exchanging mistakes as they approached the time control. After Svidler's 38.Rc7 (which was tricky but objectively bad) Black could have saved the game with 38...Nxh3+ 39.Kh2 Rxe5!, but she missed this and resigned right after the time control.

    Finally, Wesley So ground out a win against Baskaran Adhiban in a rook ending. Like the games described in the previous paragraph, there were some serious errors here too that shifted the evaluation back and forth, and Adhiban made the final mistake.

    The games, with my comments, are here. On now to the pairings for round 6, on Friday:

    • Hou Yifan (.5) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Caruana (1.5) - Matlakov (2.5)
    • Adhiban (1) - Mamedyarov (3.5)
    • Wei Yi (2.5) - So (3)
    • Giri (3.5) - Anand (3.5)
    • Kramnik (3) - Jones (2.5)

    Sunday
    Dec242017

    Mueller and So on So's Endgames

    Wesley So isn't as active in the show as one might like, but it's still nice to see him participate in Karsten Mueller's presentation of some of So's interesting, mostly recent endgames, here.