So Takes Lead vs Carlsen In Thrilling Fischer Random Final
FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich makes the first move of the first official Fischer Random World Championship final. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/

So Takes Lead vs Carlsen In Thrilling Fischer Random Final

| 68 | Chess Event Coverage

Wesley So is the surprise leader after an exciting first day of the World Fischer Random Chess Championship final vs. Magnus Carlsen.

The American takes a three-point lead thanks to a win in game two of the slow-rapid games. The title match and bronze final continue for two more days, on November 1-2 beginning at 9:30 a.m. Pacific (17:30 CET) on and

So escaped a vicious attack from Carlsen in the first game and reached a drawn ending. In the second, their roles were reversed, but the Norwegian eventually cracked on the verge of navigating truly mind-bending complications.

The bronze match between Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi was also a violent affair, with the two trading wins with the white pieces—but all eyes were transfixed by the title bout.

What is Fischer Random Chess (Chess960)? Find out here! 

The FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship can be watched live at and The day's broadcast can be seen here.

One of the great things about Fischer Random chess, and its coverage on Norwegian TV, is that the variant doesn't just end the curse of modern engine-enhanced theory. It also makes the opening an occasion and a conversation piece. 

The players line up to tell Norwegian TV NRK what they think of the starting position. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana and Nepomniachtchi had similar reactions; both emphasized how much the position resembled a normal game. The other pair provided more entertainment. Carlsen was mistakenly introduced as Henrik, his father's name, and so jokingly said he wouldn't answer unless they got his name right next time. He is on the record, however, as disliking cornered queens.

The day's start position.

So bubbles over with excitement whenever asked about the start position, and can't prevent himself from beginning to analyze freestyle. He also managed to squeeze in a joke about Nepomniachtchi bungling the castling protocols yesterday.

"I heard Magnus said queen on the rim is very bad," said So. "Now we'll see if that is true. But also I like the rook on g1, because I can play e3, Be2 and castle by picking the rook first. I'll see if it works today."

The first official Fischer Random title match is on. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen was unhappy about not following through on what was nearly a fine game. On the other hand, if one thing has become clear on route to the final, it is that Wesley So is a very resourceful man.

Carlsen was not chatty afterwards:

Caruana sizes up his opponent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The first day of the bronze final between Caruana and Nepomniachtchi came to an early climax, as the Russian GM went on an over-optimistic misadventure, miscalculating and misjudging a not-quite-rational piece sacrifice.

Watching this, the author tweeted: "Nepo is playing like a man who is barely managing to keep the jets of angry steam from whistling out of his ears," and afterwards he admitted to the Norwegian chess journalist Tarjei Svensen that he was indeed haunted by the Halloween spirits of opportunities missed against So.

After the game, Nepomniachtchi said that he was also having trouble fighting for bronze: "It’s easier to motivate yourself if you’re playing in the final and not on the board of shame."

The arena, crowd and cameras. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/

In between the first and second round of the day, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich joined the live broadcast and provided his thoughts about Fischer Random, and FIDE's plans in general.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich on the live broadcast.

The second round was even better than the first. Both games built towards white attacks despite quiet beginnings. Carlsen opted for an ambitious strategy of granting White a pawn center, with clear intentions of destroying it. The game reached the ignition point when So decided to sacrifice first his center, then a rook, ventilating Black's king position and initiating immense complications.

It's a wonder why we regularly see players plunging into this kind of chaos in less-familiar settings, and at faster time controls. Is it the Fischer Random start, and if so, exactly how does this promote such excitement?

The final moments of the game, from the live broadcast.

Meanwhile, Nepomniachtchi was pulling himself together and produced a more-characteristic display of sustained aggression, and this time he finally kept his focus and overcame Caruana's dogged resistance. 

Finding focus. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Our engine overlords can have the final word in assessing the start positions, but today was the first time there was universal domination by the white pieces. There is a temptation to write that off to it being closer to a normal setup, but that isn't really convincing. Regular chess isn't so uneven, and the differences and lack of theory should surely have kept things...random.

Perhaps it is a sign that as experience increases, White will eventually regain some clear and steady superiority in results. But of course, we are still in the game's infancy and tomorrow will bring something completely different.

Wesley So was happy in his broadcast interview. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Wesley So, who clearly delights in toying with all the early possibilities in each start position, summed up the state of opening theory when asked by the TV commentator Sopiko Guramishvili what his favorite start position is.

"That's a great question!" So said. "The problem is I can't remember them."

The FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship continues on Nov. 1 at 17:30 CET, 9:30 a.m. Pacific, and can be watched live at and

Replay day four here.

Previous reports:

More from GM JonathanTisdall
Wesley So Wins Fischer Random World Championship

Wesley So Wins Fischer Random World Championship

Wesley So Closes In On Fischer Random Championship Over Carlsen

Wesley So Closes In On Fischer Random Championship Over Carlsen