Wesley So clinches FIDE Grand Prix third leg crown

Roy Luarca
Wesley So clinches FIDE Grand Prix third leg crown

ON TOP. Wesley So completes his title bid.

Saint Louis Chess Club

The Cavite-born Wesley So thwarts fellow US teammate Hikaru Nakamura in a tiebreak to secure the leg crown

MANILA, Philippines – Back-to-back United States champion Wesley So pounced on a blunder by fellow American Hikaru Nakamura to win the second game of their tiebreaker and clinch the FIDE Grand Prix third leg crown on Monday, April 4 in Berlin, Germany.

Like their earlier two standard games in the final, the first game of the rapid tiebreaker also ended in a draw, giving So a 1.5-0.5 victory over Nakamura in the last leg of the mini-series held to determine the last two slots for the 2022 Candidates Masters.

The Bacoor, Cavite-born So pocketed 24,000 euros ($26,325), a consolation for being eased out of the Candidates Masters by Nakamura, winner of the first leg also held in Berlin, and Hungarian Richard Rapport, champion of the second leg held in Belgrade, Serbia.

For his first leg victory and third leg runner-up finish, Nakamura wound up with 23 points while Rapport tallied 20 points, counting his semifinal stint in the first leg.

So, who failed to crash the semifinals in the first leg, posted 17 points.

During the post-game interview, So said he would make another run for the Candidates Masters next year, noting that he had a forgettable seventh-place finish in the 2018 Candidates Masters.

According to So, he would rest for a while before preparing for the $300,000 American Cup set at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri from April 28-29.

Nakamura, the world’s No.1  in rapid and blitz play, said he “didn’t have much energy and didn’t really play great.”

As the world’s most-followed chess streamer, Nakamura plays online chess almost without let-up.

In the first tiebreaker, Nakamura handled white but couldn’t gain headway after 56 moves of a Vienna game.

The second game saw So gain the initiative when Nakamura, a five-time US champion, blundered a piece and held it throughout to prevail after 65 moves of a Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez.

In the end, So had a rook, a knight and two pawns against Nakamura’s rook and two pawns. –