Carlsen, So Share Win At Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz
Carlsen and So playing their Fischer Random final in 2019. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen, So Share Win At Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz

| 45 | Chess Event Coverage

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament ended in a shared victory for GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So. Both won $45,000 as the American grandmaster caught up with his Norwegian rival in the final round.

Carlsen defeated So in their mutual game on the final day and scored 4.5/8 in the other games. So's 6/9 was half a point more and just enough to end on a total of 24 out of a possible 36 points like Carlsen.

GM Hikaru Nakamura's best day in the tournament was the fifth. He scored 6.5/9 and ended in clear third place, good for $35,000. GMs Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk tied for fourth place and took home $27,500 each.

2020 Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz final standings
Image: Spectrum Studios.

The day started oddly. Again, the Nakamura vs. Carlsen clash was on the menu, but the world champion wasn't sitting behind his desk when the game started. The clock had been ticking away for almost a full minute when he briefly showed up in the right corner of the webcam, still putting on his shirt with sponsor logos.

With 3:46 on the clock, Carlsen finally made his first move (while still buttoning his shirt) when the clock was immediately adjusted back to 5:00. But something was still wrong, and Carlsen again moved away from the camera for a while during the opening phase. He ended up playing the remainder of the game starting with a one-minute deficit on the clock after all.

Carlsen buttoning shirt Saint Louis Rapid Blitz
Commentator Jennifer Shahade: "Don't worry, I'm sure that's not gonna be screengrabbed by anyone!" Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Meanwhile, Nakamura sat at his desk calm and collected, played good moves, and was already up on the clock three minutes when Carlsen tried to defend with an incorrect tactic. As early as move 23, the world champ had to resign.

"I just had too little time before the round," Carlsen would say later. "I just didn't plan very well, I guess. I still should have played better in that game obviously."

With a draw against GM Jeffery Xiong, So tied Carlsen for first place right away. Two rounds later, the two leaders met, and it was Carlsen who won that potentially highly important game.

It was a completely different Carlsen this time, one who brought his A-game and converted a slightly better endgame with strong determination, although it must be said that So missed some chances for a draw.

Taking a full-point lead in this game, Carlsen finished with wins against GM Pentala Harikrishna and Xiong and four draws. So did better: he beat GM Leinier Dominguez after his game with Carlsen, then drew twice before finishing strongly with three straight wins.

Wesley So
A strong finish for Wesley So. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After the tournament, So thanked GM Ian Nepomniachtchi for declining a draw offer in their game:

So's win against Aronian was excellent as well:

So drew his second game of the day quickly with Nakamura in a well-known line of the Berlin that leads to a quick perpetual. Grischuk did exactly the same against Carlsen in the last round. Whether So knew, he had to win to tie for first place and did that convincingly as Black against Harikrishna.

The Game of the Day has very little to do with the tournament intrigue. In the final round, Nakamura, who was already certain of sole third place, decided to have some fun and played 1.e4 e5 2. Ke2.

This way of trolling the opponent has been called the Bongcloud, although Carlsen said he considers 1.f3 and 2.Kf2 the original Bongcloud. "The fact that he played it and still won is pretty cool," he added. "I think it would be fun regardless, but obviously when he wins, it looks a lot better, right?" 

Shahade: "You would have been ready for Nakamura's Bongcloud."
Carlsen: "Yeah, I probably would have gone 2...Ke7 to be fair. Then he goes 3.Ke1, I go 3...Ke8, and we basically play No Castling chess!"

In the interview in the official broadcast afterward, So called it "shocking" what had happened: "I wasn't really expecting anything. I was just trying to secure second place after losing to Magnus in that crucial game. But yeah, suddenly things went out of hand."

Asked which format he would have preferred if there had been a playoff, So replied without hesitation: "I'll play him in Chess960!"

Wesley So Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz 2020
Wesley So: "I'll play him in Chess960!" Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

"I thought overall the rapid was not too bad. It wasn't smooth, but there certainly were some good moments," said Carlsen. "Yesterday I thought I didn't play very well, but I scored quite a lot of points, and today I was frankly just not in good shape at all. I was extremely tired; I didn't sleep well. I didn't expect even to play remotely well today. With that in mind, I'm actually pretty happy with the result that I managed to put up."

Magnus Carlsen Saint Louis Rapid Blitz 2020
Carlsen: "I was extremely tired; I didn't sleep well." Saint Louis Chess Club.

Carlsen picked regular chess as his preferred format if there had been a playoff, saying: "I feel pretty good about that. Maybe not today but I still feel I could have done well in a tiebreak.

"I also have to say—not to be too salty—but if I hadn't lost the game by disconnect at some point, there wouldn't even have been an issue at the end. That's something, right?"

Despite the mixed feelings he was showing on camera, Carlsen wouldn't be Carlsen if he didn't praise the co-winner: "Overall, I think Wesley played a fantastic tournament. He made plus-four in both formats and lost very few games and won three games in a row when he needed to. That's an amazing performance, and you can only tip your hat to that."

Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, Day 5 | All games

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz was played September 15-19 on lichess with a $250,000 prize fund. The time control was 25 minutes plus a five-second increment for the rapid (nine rounds) and five minutes plus a three-second increment for the blitz (18 rounds).

See also:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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