So Clear 1st At Your Next Move Rapid
Wesley So has a three-point lead before the blitz. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

So Clear 1st At Your Next Move Rapid

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

There's no special prize, but Wesley So can still be called the winner of the rapid portion of the Your Next Move in Leuven, Belgium. With two days of blitz on the program, he is trailed by Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.'s interview with So after day three. He also comments on his fateful game with Caruana in the last round of Norway Chess.

So joked: "I always win tournaments with no prize money!" when he had secured victory in the rapid portion with a round to spare. That was after a relatively quick draw with Sergey Karjakin in round eight, and a good win over Hikaru Nakamura at the start of the day.

Somehow Nakamura must have been confused in the opening, a London System, because it was basically his seventh move that sealed his fate. It's rare thing to see him looking at a technically lost position so early in the game.

Wesley So Leuven 2018

A crushing win for So after an early opening mistake by Nakamura. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The good news for So was that Levon Aronian, the only player trailing by two points, lost his game after spoiling a promising attack on the king. Yep, again it was Sergey Karjakin who miraculously held, and even won the game.

Aronian recovered well with a convincing black win over Fabiano Caruana, but So was still three points ahead going into the final round and thus out of reach. He also won the rapid part last year, but a phenomenal Magnus Carlsen surpassed him in the blitz.

Leuven Grand Chess Tour

The players' view of the playing hall. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In the same round, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a very nice game against Anish Giri. The Dutchman missed a few opportunities for a draw, but it was MVL who found some nice tactical shots.


In the last round, Vishy Anand wasn't too inspired and drew quickly with So using the Exchange French. That meant an undefeated, plus-five score for the American GM. He goes into the blitz confidently, as the winner of the blitz in Stavanger, as a man in form and with the knowledge that a certain chess player from Norway isn't here to repeat his blitz rampage of last year.

Wesley So Leuven 2018

So will start the blitz with a three-point lead. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

With two wins and one loss, Caruana's third day was his best. He avoided finishing last with a win against Karjakin, again using the Petroff. White's 5.c4 sideline wasn't very successful in this game, and that's an understatement.

It's probably good that Karjakin's second Denis Khismatullin had already left the playing hall to watch the Russia-Saudi Arabia World Cup match in one of the many bars in Leuven, so that he didn't need to witness this massacre.

Karjakin, by the way, was limping today, which reminded of what happened at Norway Chess. "I wanted to be like Ding Liren!" he joked, and then explained that he had hurt his foot during basketball last night.

Sergey Karjakin Leuven

Those chess players...they should just stick to chess!  | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In our tragicomedy of the day, this time we see a mishap of Alexander Grischuk, who spoiled a winning bishop ending in time trouble against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. In a tablebase position of mate in 23, he let his opponent slip away:

Alexander Grischuk Leuven 2018That's what time trouble with delay instead of increment does to a player!  | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave are three points behind So after today; for Nakamura the damage is four points—despite a convincing win against Mamedyarov in a variation he has played a lot recently.

Afterward, Nakamura said about his chances to catch the leader: "He's not the best blitz player here. There are several of us who I think are much better blitz players than Wesley."

Then Caruana was interviewed, and he countered: "I don't think that Wesley is a worse blitz player than Hikaru at all. Isn't he higher rated? He also won Norway Chess."

This bit of trash talking should be seen in the context of last week, when Nakamura had stated in an interview with TV2 that he thought Carlsen was the big favorite in the world championship match. Confronted with that, Caruana commented to TV2: "I don't care what Hikaru thinks."

For the record, at the moment Carlsen is number one in blitz (2939), Nakamura second (2878) and So third (2856). But the tournament standings are more important right now:

Leuven Grand Chess Tour standings

Games via TWIC.

Earlier posts:

More from PeterDoggers
After 18 Months Without Classical Chess Peter Svidler Wins TePe Sigeman

After 18 Months Without Classical Chess Peter Svidler Wins TePe Sigeman

3-Year Ban For Kenyan Player Who Pretended To Be A Woman To Win Lucrative Prize

3-Year Ban For Kenyan Player Who Pretended To Be A Woman To Win Lucrative Prize