Wesley So Trounces Wei Yi In Tactical Speed Chess Match
So moved on easily to the next Speed Chess round.

Wesley So Trounces Wei Yi In Tactical Speed Chess Match

Jul 30, 2018, 11:36 AM |
26 | Chess Event Coverage

On Sunday, Wesley So was the first player from the right half of the bracket to reach the quarterfinals of the 2018 Speed Chess Championship. The American GM dominated a match full of nice tactics, and beat Wei Yi of China 18.5-9.5.

Although it was one of the time slots Wei Yi have provided Chess.com for his availability, it wasn't perhaps the best moment for him play a match against So. It was 8 a.m. in the morning Hainan time, where he's playing a super-strong tournament at the moment. (Luckily, a few hours after the match with So, he got away with a 22-move draw as Black!)

It's hard to say if that was the reason for his big defeat. More likely, it was simply his opponent. So has proven himself to be a formidable speed chess player, for instance by winning this year's Leuven Grand Chess Tour. 

It was also the world number seven vs the world number 25 in classical chess according to the FIDE ratings, with an even bigger difference in blitz: the world number 12 vs the world number 72.


"I was pleasantly surprised when the polls said I have a 66 percent chance," said So, referring to Chess.com's SmarterChess match predictions.

Wei Yi had prepared seriously for the match, all in bullet. As you can see on his account page, he had played about 200 games of bullet on Chess.com in July, many at 1+1 (used in the Speed Chesss matches) instead of the more regular, flat 1-minute.

And he started the match well. After a draw in the first 5+1 game, the Chinese GM won two games in a row. However, by then So was warmed up, and won six games in a row. For instance, this crushing game, the shortest of the match:

Two games later, in the longest game of the match, So won in a completely different way. Here, in a deep ending, Wei Yi thought he could escape by building a fortress, but he failed with little time on the clock. "I don't believe in fortresses," a decent chess player from Norway once said.

It wasn't as lopsided as the score suggested in this phase. For instance, Wei Yi outplayed his opponent in game eight of the match, but look how nasty he was tricked. A Schwalbe, as the Germans say.

Wei Yi 2017

Wei Yi played all right in several games but was also fighting against time. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

So's winning streak came to an end in the following game. He was again nicely outplayed, and this time he didn't get away with it. In fact, So kind of helped his opponent at the end:

5|1 section | Score

Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
Wesley So 2993 2643 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 6.5
Wei Yi 2535 2885 ½ 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3.5

That brought the score of the five-minute section to 6.5-3.5 for So. That wasn't disastrous yet for Wei Yi, but things got critical when he lost the first four 3+1 games. This section took nine games, and the Chinese player scored only two draws! The match was more or less decided before the bullet had even started.

Here's the second draw. It's possible that at least one of the players had the full game as part of his home analysis of the Grünfeld.

So's undefeated score in the middle section was a devastating 8-1. Wei Yi had several good positions, but was nearly always lower on time and several times had to play on increment only. This really hurt him in the three-minute portion, where four of his seven losses were on time.

Wesley So London 2017

So especially dominated the 3+1 section. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The most painful one was the following. With a brilliant tactic Wei Yi won material, but got eventually got flagged.

The following was possibly So's nicest win of the match. He sacrificed two pawns to get the d5-square for his pieces, and he used it for no fewer than four different pieces in the game!

The three-minute time control really seems to be So's speciality. He won this segment in all three matches he has played so far, against Anish Giri, Magnus Carlsen, and now Wei Yi.

3|1 section | Score

Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
Wesley So 2963 2968 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 8
Wei Yi 2607 2602 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1

Being 14.5-4.5 down, all Wei Yi could do is play for honor. And he succeeded, winning the bullet portion 5-4. His extra practice this month paid off there! It was also nice for him to finish the match with two wins:

In the last game Wei Yi decided to go "all in," and it paid off eventually:

1|1 section | Score

Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
Wei Yi 2919 3013 1 1 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 1 5
Wesley So 2975 2881 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 0 4

"I had some good chances, but I played too slow," Wei Yi said in the interview afterwards.

"I tried the experimental approach many times in the past, but they haven't really gone well," said So, who chose to go for playing principled chess and main lines this time.

For his big victory, So earned $1,690.21 and Wei Yi earned $368.79. The original $2,000 prize pool was sweetened by the $59 that was donated by the chess community on Twitch.

Chess.com Speed Chess bracket 2018

So's next opponent will be the winner of Vidit vs Andriasyan.

The next Speed Chess match is between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Leinier Dominguez, on August 2, 2018 at  12 p.m. Pacific (3 p.m. Eastern, 9 p.m. Central Europe). As always, the games can be followed in Live Chess and live commentary will be provided on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess.

You can find all top chess events easily in our tournament calendar.

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