MANILA, Philippines – United States back-to-back champion Wesley So got tested to the hilt before subduing teen sensation Nihal Sarin, 15-14, and advancing to the finals of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship main event on Monday, December 13 (Tuesday, December 14, Philippine time).
As predicted, So met stiff resistance from the 17-year-old Indian but pulled through by taking the 3+1 (3 minutes plus 1-second increment) segment of the tournament being held online.
The 5+1 segment ended up tied at 5-5 after Sarin took the last two games.
Nihal seized the lead by winning the opener of 3+1, but So retaliated by taking the next three games for an 8-6 lead which cushioned him up to the bullet (1 minute) segment.
Just as the 30-minute time allotted for the bullet segment ran out, Nihal extracted a win to make the final count closer.
The Filipino-born So thus advanced to the finals for the third time, where he’s going to tangle with either defending champion Hikaru Nakamura of the US or China’s Ding Liren, who’ll be battling in the other semifinal tussle on December 16.
So was the losing finalist to speed chess demon Nakamura in 2018 and 2019.
As usual, So remained modest in the post-match interview: “I never had any full control of the match. I knew Nihal was higher rated in bullet, and I didn’t know what to expect. But it turn[ed] out that things were not so bad in the bullet,” thus acknowledging the final segment to be his focus, too, from the beginning of the match. – Rappler.com