Giri, So To Face Off Thursday In Speed Chess Match

Giri, So To Face Off Thursday In Speed Chess Match

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
May 23, 2017, 8:51 AM |
15 | Chess.com News

A day after the battle between Sergey Karjakin and Georg Meier there's an even higher profile matchup for the 2017 Chess.com Speed Chess Championhip. World number two Wesley So will be facing world number nine Anish Giri this Thursday.

Find all information about the 2017 Speed Chess Championship here

This match will be the first Speed Chess battle where both participants were invited directly into the tournament. "Neither player participated in the 2016 GM Blitz Battle, so I'm really excited that these two famous GMs agreed to join our competition this year," said Chess.com VP Danny Rensch.

Over the board, the players faced each other 25 times. Their rise to the top in the last six years is nicely illustrated by the fact that they first crossed swords in January 2009, when they played in the C group of Wijk aan Zee, and the last time in January 2017, in the top group of Wijk aan Zee!

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Although So is nine months older than Giri, he struggled against the Dutchman early in their careers. The head-to-head score in classical games is 3 wins each, with 12 draws. However, Giri won the first three decisive games, and was leading 4.5-1.5 in January 2015.

Here's Giri's first win over So, from the 2010 Wijk aan Zee B group:

In the years 2009-2014 the players only clashed five times: two wins for Giri, and three draws. In January 2015 Giri defeated So once more in Wijk aan Zee, but that was the last time he managed. 

They drew eight times after that, and So won their mutual encounters at Shamkir 2015, Wijk aan Zee 2016, and Bilbao 2016 to level the score. 

Here's that last decisive game (annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov):

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So and Giri after their long game in Bilbao last year.

The players have met in surprisingly few fast time control games. Their mutual score is 1-1 in rapid, and 3.5-1.5 in favor of So in blitz games. That includes the blitz playoff at the 2015 Bilbao tournament, won 1.5-0.5 by So.

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Over the board So is a tough opponent for Giri (or just about anybody, these days). He also has more experience on the Chess.com server. Playing for the winning team, the St. Louis Arch Bishops, So was responsible for the highest score in the PRO Chess League: 36.5/41.

Here's a game from the final day, with some incredible tactics (notes by FM Mike Klein):

Nonetheless So feels that his online experience is limited. "Not too much! A few guest sessions on random sites," said So to Chess.com. "Online I only like to play with people I know and most of the people I know are busy. I am busy too, so it never works out."

So, who will be playing from his home in Minnetonka, Minnesota, isn't planning to do special preparation for this match. "Well it is a hard to study for blitz. I do work on chess everyday so I hope something I am doing proves useful for this challenge!" 

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Now working with Giri's former coach Vladimir Tukmakov, So sees quite a few qualities in his opponent's play. "Anish has tremendous memory, tons of experience, a lot of maturity on the board and off. What to say? Anish is one of the top players of our time and has been for a long while. I could go on all day and shatter my own confidence so that is enough."

Giri will be playing from his home in The Hague, Netherlands. He just came back from the Moscow Grand Prix, another solid tournament for him where he scored eight draws and one win. Now it's time to switch gears to online chess.

Giri is rather new to our site, but not completely. On 10 May 2015 he played a 10-board simul in a fundraiser for Nepal, after the country was struck by a devastating earthquake on April 25 that killed nearly 9,000.

He has quite a bit of experience with online blitz, but it's been a while: "I used to love it as a kid and I think I was pretty good too (not Hikaru-good, but still). Lately I have become somewhat numb to it, but with events like this one becoming a thing, I might be slowly changing my mind again."

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The Dutch number one does intend to prepare: "A little bit. I might play a similar blitz match with a friend of mine a day or two before. I will also try to refute the Berlin defense while at it."

Naming his opponent's biggest strength was either easy, or too hard for Giri, considering his answer: "That he has no weakness! "

As always, three games of the match will be Chess960, with the pieces on the first rank shuffled and black mirroring their position. Neither player has much experience there.

So: "I played in a few times with friends in college. That's it."
Giri: "Very little, but it does fascinate me somewhat."

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The So-Giri match will start May 25, 2017 at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central Europe). You can watch it at Twitch.tv/Chess and Chess.com/TV with commentary by IMs Danny Rensch and Aman Hambleton.

$1,000 will go to the winner of the match, and another $1,000 will be split between the match winner and the loser by total win percentage. There will be eight matches in total in this round. The total prize fund of the 2017 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship is $50,000.

Find all information about the 2017 Speed Chess Championship here.

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