Wesley So Wins Skilling Open
Wesley So wins the Skilling Open. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Wesley So Wins Skilling Open

| 85 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Wesley So won the Skilling Open final on Monday by beating GM Magnus Carlsen 1.5-0.5 in the blitz tiebreak. So earned $30,000 in what was the first leg of the online Champions Chess Tour that runs until September 2021.

How to watch?
All games of the chess24 Champions Chess Tour Skilling Open can be found here as part of our live events platform.

Skilling Open results bracket

"First of all, I'd like to apologize to Magnus for semi-ruining his birthday," So started his interview after he just won the tournament. "I gotta try to win from time to time!"

Carlsen turned 30 on November 30 but was playing from an undisclosed, sunny location where it was already past midnight when the match ended. Earlier in the day, he had posted a picture of an impressive birthday brunch on Instagram.

Carlsen didn't want to blame the late hour of play for his defeat ("no excuses!"), pointing out that it was his own decision to celebrate elsewhere on the planet. He did refer to the new decade in his life when he quipped: "I did somewhat blunder like an old man today."

Carlsen congratulated his opponent on "a deserved win" and admitted he hadn't been able to play his best chess. "I never really hit the stride in this tournament. If I was going to win it, it was always going to be difficult. Overall, it's deserved that Wesley won, and I have to be much, much better."

So: "He missed a lot of chances, and he made a lot of mistakes here and there which would have sealed the match."

The day started fine for Carlsen, who nicely outplayed his opponent from the black side of a Caro-Kann:

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As he had pointed out the day before, Carlsen kept failing to play two good games in a row. In the second, he erred in a position where he was trying to force a draw as he knew White had nothing:

Thus far, the players had been trading wins for six games in a row in this tournament! That would have been seven if Carlsen had capitalized on a big mistake by So in game three.

"I actually saw the winning move," said Carlsen. "I just decided that what I did was winning as well and, for whatever reason, I thought easier, which was just a total lapse. "

After all the drama, the players took a breather in game four, where they went for a quick draw. It was time for a blitz tiebreak.

After the first day, So stated that he liked his chances if he could manage to reach a tiebreak, and he proved his point. He won a topsy-turvy first blitz game as Carlsen first blundered, next managed to come back, but then blundered again:

Skilling Open: Knockouts Day 2.

So seemed ultra-solid in game two when the players reached a queenless middlegame from a Queen's Gambit Accepted. Apart from the bishop pair, Carlsen had nothing.

However, So was careless for one move and allowed a tactic where Carlsen could trade two minor pieces for a rook and pawn, which left him with two passers on the queenside. The computer liked his chances, but the world champion couldn't find the right piece setup to support his pawns and soon got stuck, while So remained calm and kept in control:

After beating Carlsen in Chess960 last year, So has now managed to do the same in standard chess. Asked what's his secret, he answered: "There's no secret, really. It really depends on Magnus having a good day or a bad day. When he has a good day, he is basically unstoppable."

Carlsen So Fischer Random 2019
Carlsen and So during their Fischer Random match in 2019. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In October, So convincingly won the online U.S. Championship. With this second victory in a month's time, he is clearly making his mark in online chess, which Carlsen noted as well:

"I think I'm definitely the best player here, but there are a lot of strong players; and I think at the moment Wesley is probably the best at this format. Frankly, to lose to him is not a shame, it's not a disaster. I just feel it's a bit of a pity that I couldn't show my very best here in this tournament; that's all I'm unsatisfied with."

Just as Carlsen ended his birthday, So noted that for him the festivities had only started: "I'm finally able to celebrate Thanksgiving!"

All games

The chess24 Champions Chess Tour Skilling Open ran November 22-30. The preliminary phase was a 16-player rapid round-robin (15 + 10). The top eight players advanced to a six-day knockout that consisted of two days of four-game rapid matches, which advanced to blitz (5+3) and armageddon (White has five minutes, Black four with no increment) tiebreaks only if the knockout match was tied after the second day. The prize fund was $100,000 with $30,000 for first place.

Earlier reports:

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