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Wesley So Wins Grand Chess Tour

Wesley So Wins Grand Chess Tour

By drawing his game with Fabiano Caruana comfortably, Wesley So clinched victory in the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. In the penultimate round, the only winner was Viswanathan Anand who used a great novelty to beat the luckless Veselin Topalov.

Two of the greatest chess players of all time praised Wesley So this week. After Kramnik's nice words, Garry Kasparov also chipped in and called So, together with Fabiano Caruana, the main contender to claim the crown from Magnus Carlsen.

So himself remained modest and used the phrase, "I am honored," more than once in his comments after today's game, where he equalized remarkably easily against his main rival.

"I thought I had a very pleasant ending, but I completely underestimated Rae8," said Caruana. "I think that equalizes on the spot."

A draw today was enough for So to win the $100,000 Grand Chess Tour prize. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

So: "This is a huge success for me. I would like to thank the Lord for winning such a prestigious tour." After he thanked the sponsors, he commented on his progress this year: "I have learnt a lot. I played so many world-class players."

Let's go to our game of the day, which was, of course, the only decisive game. Vishy Anand defeated Veselin Topalov with the black pieces using a great novelty found by his second, Polish GM Grzegorz Gajewski

Anand: "I try to pay him well these days."

Here Anand played Gajewski's 12...b5!N

Topalov didn't react in the best way (who would have?), and after a few more strong moves, Anand reached a winning position.

He then missed a cute idea by the computer on move 21, which would have won quickly. "It would have been a nice game," said Anand, being self-critical despite his victory.

Two ex-world champions chatting about their game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Anand needed another mistake from his opponent to wrap up the game. "He defended incredibly well. If he had not played 31.h4, he would have been practically back in the game."

This was Topalov's sixth(!) loss in the event (his other two games were drawn). He has dropped 26.7 rating points and is now #25 in the world in the live ratings.

Anand explaining his victory to Maurice Ashley. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

For Anish Giri, the tournament has been rather similar to the Candidates' Tournament in March of this year in Moscow. It seems that whatever happens in his game, eventually it will end in a draw.

Today the Dutchman had the tough task of defending with the black pieces against Vladimir Kramnik. Surprisingly, the 14th World Champion played 1.e4 and duly went into the Najdorf! Besides one game in September of this year (versus Gelfand at the Tal Memorial), he hasn't done this since 2005.

Whereas he had played 6.Bg5 against Gelfand, this time Kramnik chose a move that might suit his style better: 6.g3—although we're talking about a player who is capable of playing everything on the highest level obviously.

It was indeed a rather positional game where things were about equal on move 29. That was when Giri decided to give up a piece for a lot of pawns. The ending that remained was rather easy to draw.

Kramnik was happy to face the Najdorf today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Michael Adams was a game that demonstrated the shape these players are in: Mickey is doing quite alright in London this year whereas Maxime is struggling.

The Frenchman got kind of outplayed in the middlegame, but, as Adams had mentioned earlier, Vachier-Lagrave is a top GM and so he liquidated at the right moment.

"I played OK for a while, and I was getting a bit ambitious, but he did quite a good job just giving up this pawn and go for the endgame," said Adams.

Another good game by Adams, but no win. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Hikaru Nakamura expressed surprise about the lack of ambition from his opponent, Levon Aronian, even though it was the American who played with the white pieces today. But he was referring to the situation in the Grand Chess Tour. The first prize was obviously going to So, but the only other prize ($50,000) wasn't decided yet.

"It's interesting to see how different people treat different situations. When I played Fabiano, I kind of had this approach that I thought I could maybe still win the Grand Chess Tour so I tried very hard to create a position. Obviously it didn't work out.  

"But still, considering that there are only two prizes in the GCT, I thought it would make sense to just go for it and kind of take the big risk. So, I expected Levon to try something a bit more aggressive because there is no prize for third, but obviously there's nothing wrong with being very solid as well."

Aronian more or less admitted that he hadn't forgotten about his terrible loss against Vachier-Lagrave just yet.

"That was a terrible game. I got over-confident; I thought I mate him somehow. In a tournament like this, if you want to win the tournament, you can't afford a mistake of that range. I'm kind of sad, but I deserve it."

 

And so we have reached a remarkable situation where the Grand Chess Tour saga is over, but the London Chess Classic is not. With So still half a point ahead of Caruana, the tournament will be decided in the last round. The top three finishers will directly qualify for next year's tour.

Image: Spectrum Studios.

Here are the pairings for the final round, which is Sunday at 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. New York, 6 a.m. Pacific).

Image: Spectrum Studios.


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