Wesley So finishes 7th in debut Fide Candidates Tournament

Rappler.com
Wesley So finishes 7th in debut Fide Candidates Tournament

NICK DUNAEVSKY

Fabiano Caruana, who like Wesley So plays for the US national team, wins the tournament and earns the right to challenge world chess champion Magnus Carlsen

Final Standings: 1st Caruana 9pts; 2nd Mamedyarov 8; 3rd Karjakin 8; 4th Ding Liren 7.5; 5th Kramnik 6.5; 6th Grischuk 6.5; 7th Wesley So 6; 8th Aronian 4.5.

MANILA, Philippines – And it is over for Wesley So after a speedy last round draw with Levon Aronian in the Candidates Tournament Tuesday, March 27. It is a result the former world number two who was born in Cavite but is playing for the United States did not expect.

“I had one win but i was hoping for more. At the least i was hoping for less loses but somehow things have not been going very well. In general I was happy to be here in the Candidates. It’s my first time here,” said So in the press conference Tuesday night in Berlin.

He finished with six points for seventh place in the eight-man tournament where the winner will meet world chess champion Magnus Carlsen in a 12-game match this November. Aronian finished last with 4.5 points.

Fabiano Caruana, who like So is playing for the US, won that right to challenge Carlsen by winning his last round game against Alexander Grischuk.

Sergey Karjakin, the previous challenger, tied Shakriyar Mamedyarov for second with 8 points, one point below Caruana. Ding Liren, the other rookie in the Candidates, was fourth with 7.5 and unbeaten. Grischuk and Kramnik were tied for fifth with 6.5 points.

Expectations of Filipino fans who continued to follow So despite transferring to the US Chess Federation in 2014 were deflated but a sizeable core of diehards continued to encourage him.

It will be another tough climb for So, who doesn’t lose many games, for the 2020 world championship cycle as the battle for the top is cutthroat despite a genteel atmosphere. Strengths and weaknesses of opponents are burnt into one’s brain cells, ready to be used in the next tournament.

So gave a hint of what went wrong and what he should have done.

“In this tournament, I didn’t get the right fighting positions. After my black game against Kramnik I realized I only get difficult positions in this tournament so I figured that in general playing solid is a good idea,” he said.

“I think i learned a lot and this experience from this tournament is very valuable to me and now that the tournament is over I could not have imagined that I would finish minus two which is not very good,” he added.

So hoped to get “at the very least” a 50 percent score.

“But in general I am happy with the tournament not with my play and the overall result but I am happy to be here to play such great players and I think it is a valuable learning experience for me,” he said.

There are some issues that need to be tackled. Did being the only player without a second handicap So in the sense that he has no sounding board? Will there be a need to hire a coach, like what many top players have? Is it enough to rely on computers? Will he allow more risk in his games to create wining chances? In the next few months, answers to these questions might unfold.

So qualified for the Candidates on having the best Elo rating average in 2017 after being knocked out of the semifinals of the World Cup by Ding Liren. In the first half of 2017 when he had a coach, he rose to as high as world number before he slowly went down.

But he said he will be back in the next Candidates.

“I’m quite sure this won’t be my last Candidates and there will be many more tournaments to come this year. If i can learn from the valuable lessons here it would be useful and there are a lot to learn,” So said. – Rappler.com

 

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