Wesley So yields to Nakamura in Speed Chess semis

Roy Luarca
Wesley So yields to Nakamura in Speed Chess semis

FINAL FOUR. Wesley So reaches the last 4 of the 2020 Speed Chess Championship.

File photo

After bowing to Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So admits his fellow Team USA mainstay was ‘very fast and very good in the endgame’

Wesley So failed to break Hikaru Nakamura’s dominance in the Speed Chess Championship on Wednesday, December 9  (Thursday, December 10, Philippine time), yielding to his fellow Team USA mainstay, 12.5-13.5, in the semifinals.

It was the third straight win by the top-seeded Nakamura over So, who also lost to the Osaka-born American in the 2018 and 2019 finals of the event but prevailed in their semifinal tussle in the Skilling Open semifinals 11 days back.

What is clear, however, So is bridging the gap between him and the world’s No. 1 blitz player with an Elo of 2900. So is ranked No. 4 with Elo 2816.

In 2018 their score was 15-12.5 and last year it was 19.5-14.5. This year, Smarter chess predicted a 16.5-11.5 tally in favor of Nakamura, who was also given a 72% chance of winning over So.

The Cavite-born So took a 3-1 lead in the 5-minute plus 1-second increment section, but Nakamura won the last 2 of the 9 games to pull ahead, 5-4. 

In the 3+1 section, So won the first 2 en route to a 4.5-3.5 score, but in the bullet section, Nakamura stormed ahead, 5-2, negating the reigning US national champion’s victories in the last 2 games.

In the post-match interview, So said he played a lot of bullet chess in the last two weeks, but it hardly mattered as “Hikaru was very fast and very good in the endgame.”

Nakamura routed both Armenian Haik Martirosyan (21-5) in the round of 16 and Russian Vladimir Fedoseev (21.5-5.5) in the quarterfinals and came into the match eager to celebrate his 33rd birthday and get back at So, who bested world champion Magnus Carlsen on the Norwegian’s 30th birthday to rule the Skilling Open, the kickoff leg of the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour.

“Certainly, it’s payback time. I’m gonna be out for blood. I will say that much!” Nakamura said before his match with So, who beat Uzbekistan’s Nodirbek Abdusattorov, 18-10, and Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda (16-10) in succession to barge into the semifinals.

Carlsen, the No. 2 seed, will be the heavy favorite to beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France in the other semifinal slated Friday and forge another title duel with Nakamura on Saturday.

In the 2017 Speed Chess Championship, Carlsen routed Nakamura, 18-9, for the title. Carlsen did not compete in the last two editions. –