United States champion Wesley So crawled out of a deep pit to subdue Jeffery Xiong, 18-14, in their round-of-16 encounter on Monday, November 15 (Tuesday, November 16, Manila time), and advance to the quarterfinals of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship.
Far from his best form, So trailed Xiong, 3.5-8.5, before finding his rhythm and catching up with his fellow Team USA member, 10.5-10.5, at the end of the 3+1 minute segment.
Although Xiong managed to reclaim the lead after three bullet games, So showed his mental toughness by drawing the fourth and taking the next six to line himself against the winner between Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the remaining round-of-16 tussle on November 19.
According to So, overall winner of this year’s Grand Chess Tour and second placer to Magnus Carlsen in the 2021 Champions Chess Tour, he was glad to have survived Xiong’s onslaught in blitz action.
“Obviously, I was very fortunate to win the match. I feel like Jeffery could have won today,” So said during the post-match interview. “
“The start didn’t go very well and I think that it is because I didn’t prepare seriously enough for this match.”
He continued: “However, at some point in the match, I figured that I should just stop losing, doesn’t matter if I had a good or bad position. I think that I was also getting more used to the flow and the tempo of the games.”
The Bacoor, Cavite-born So is seeded third in the annual event ruled by speed chess specialist Hikaru Nakamura for three straight years. So emerged runner-up in the 2018 and 2019 editions.
So, who is taking a break from standard chess, said he was prepared to head to the exits.
“I wasn’t particularly worried when I was losing by five points. If I lose today, that’s fine, then I get to watch Jeffery play the next match and watch you guys on Twitch,” said So.
For beating Xiong, So pocketed a total of $3,125, a small amount considering he has earned over $400,000 (P20 million) this year.
Other quarterfinal matches will pit Nakamura against Anish Giri, Ding Liren against Levon Aronian, and Richard Rapport against Nihal Sarin. – Rappler.com