Wesley So is now world no. 3 and unbeaten in 46 classical games, but it would all have been so different if Richard Rapport hadn’t spoiled a brilliant attacking game with a mystifying meltdown while under no real time pressure. Ian Nepomniachtchi also collapsed with salvation in sight, but it was only fitting that Wei Yi’s scintillating attack was rewarded with a full point. Sergey Karjakin got the day’s third win, punishing Loek van Wely’s decision to give up his queen, while Pavel Eljanov still has the sole lead on 2.5/3. In the Challengers Markus Ragger has raced to 3/3 after all but one game finished decisively.
Tata Steel Chess Masters Round 3
There’s only one place to start an account of Round 3 of the Tata Steel Masters – with the extraordinary Wesley So vs. Richard Rapport. It was clear that if Wesley hoped not merely to prolong his 45-game unbeaten record but win the tournament in Wijk this was the kind of game in which he needed to push for a full point.
However, Rapport initially surprised chess fans and perhaps Wesley by playing standard chess (“He’s playing mainline theory – I feel betrayed!” - Svidler) and then found a tactical shot out of nowhere:
More inspired chess soon meant that all 20-year-old Richard needed to do to beat the toughest player to beat in world chess was deliver a straightforward final blow. The meltdown that followed rendered our commentary team speechless, though Lawrence Trent later returned to narrate the extraordinary turnaround:
Richard Rapport had suffered a heart-breaking second loss in three games, while Wesley So climbed above Vladimir Kramnik into the no. 3 spot on the live rating list.
He admitted, though, “I have to learn from this game”:
The other game in which the player with White would clearly push for a win was Sergey Karjakin vs. Loek van Wely, even before Loek added an extra provocation by playing the Pirc Defence.
In the end perhaps they should have swapped roles!
It was one-way traffic, but things might have gone differently if Loek hadn’t jettisoned his queen: