Wesley So surges ahead in Chessable Masters

Roy Luarca

ON A ROLL. Wesley So targets another quarterfinal stint in the latest leg of the Champions Chess Tour

US Chess’ Grandmaster of the Year Wesley So gets off to a hot start as Hikaru Nakamura and Alireza Firouzja remain in pursuit

Wesley So bested top seed Levon Aronian in the third round en route to the early lead in the preliminary phase of the 2021 Chessable Masters on Saturday, July 31, (Sunday, August 1, Philippine time) on chess24.

Aiming for his eighth straight quarterfinal stint in the Champions Chess Tour, So drew with teen sensation Alireza Firouzja in the first round, trounced new prodigy Abhimanyu Mishra in the second, drew with Norwegian No. 2 Aryan Tari in the fourth, and bested Eduardo Iturrizaga in the fifth for 4.0 points.

The Cavite-born So, chosen by the United States Chess Federation as its Grandmaster of the Year, towed Firouzja, fellow Team USA mainstay Hikaru Nakamura, and 2019 European champion Vladislav Artemiev of Russia with 3.5 points each.

Bunched at 3.0 points are Azarbaijan’s No. 1 and co-top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Spain’s David Anton, Vietnam ace Le Quang Liem, Dutch Jorden van Foreest, and Indian Baskaran Adhiban.

Aronian, winner of last month’s Goldmoney Asian Rapid, was at 2.5 points with Indian No. 2 Pentala Harikrishna, followed by 1.5 pointers Aryan Tari of Norway and Iturrizaga, the longtime Venezuelan No. 1 now representing Spain.

Ju Wenjun, the reigning women’s world champion, and Humpy Koneru, the women’s rapid queen, were at 1.0 point, ahead of the 12-year-old Mishra, the youngest GM in history, who salvaged a draw with Koneru in round 5.

Rounds 6 to 10 of the preliminaries will be held early Monday with So, winner of the Skilling Open and Opera Euro Rapid in the CCT and last month’s Paris Rapid and Blitz in the Grand Chess Tour, taking on Ju, Atemiev, Harikrishna, Anton, and Nakamura in succession.

So is expected to breeze through the round-robin eliminations with Nakamura, Artemiev, Mamedyarov, Firouzja, Le and Aronian. –