Wesley So spoils Magnus Carlsen’s birthday with Skilling Open title win

Roy Luarca

CHAMPION. Wesley So grabs the early lead in the ranking points with the memorable victory.

File photo

(UPDATED) Wesley So defeats world chess No. 1 Magnus Carlsen to win the Skilling Open title and $30,000 grand prize

Wesley So handed Norwegian and current world chess champion Magnus Carlsen another beating to remember on Tuesday, December 1, Philippine time.

The Filipino-born So trounced Carlsen in Game 1 and drew the second of their blitz playoff to win the Skilling Open and bag the $30,000 (P1.44 million purse).

Unrattled by Carlsen’s opening victory in their second four-game match, So struck back in the next, then drew the rest to forge the playoff where he stunned the world champion in their Caro-Kann Defense-Advance Variation encounter to rule the kickoff leg of the $1.5 million (P72 million) Champions Chess Tour.

“I have to apologize to Magnus for semi-ruining his birthday!” said So, referring to Carlsen’s 30th birthday coinciding with their final tussle.

So mirrored his 13.5-2.5 demolition of Carlsen in the 1st Fischer Random World Championship last year which was painful to bear as it occurred in Norway where Carlsen, the world No. 1 since 2013, was born.

It was a rough ride for So to the summit as he had to come from behind to conquer Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan via Armageddon in the quarterfinals, and had to hurdle touted speed chess exponent and preliminary stage topnotcher Hikaru Nakamura in the semifinals.

Nakamura and So are teammates in the US chess team.

Pitted against Carlsen, the world’s highest-rated player ever with an Elo of 2882, So, the Philippines’ former No. 1 before he switched to the United States federation in 2014, was understandably the underdog.

But So pounced on Carlsen’s few mistakes and desire to always go for a win to deal the Norweigian his first defeat in the final since the launching of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, forerunner of the Champions Chess Tour.

“I’m very shocked to beat Magnus,” said the ever-humble So, who earlier stated his chances of beating Carlsen was largely dependent on whether the world’s classical, rapid and blitz champion will be bringing his A-game.  

“I’m very lucky today.”

Carlsen believes otherwise.

“Huge congratulations to Wesley on a deserved win,” said Carlsen, noting So is one of the hardest players to beat because he has no noticeable weaknesses.

With the victory, So assured himself of a slot in the Champions Chess Tour final which has 9 legs left, including the first major set to start December 26.

So also took the early lead in the points ranking with 46 – 40 for being the champion and 6 for placing third behind Nakamura and Carlsen in the preliminaries.

Carlsen has 30 points, followed by Nakamura with 18 and Ian Nepomniachtchi with 15. –