So beats Nakamura, nears finals; Carlsen thwarts Nepomniachtchi

Roy Luarca

SHOWDOWN. Wesley So may be on track for another title duel against world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen.

File photo from FIDE

Wesley So gains the upper hand over fellow Team USA mainstay Hikaru Nakamura in the Skilling Open semifinals

Wesley So sacrificed 2 pieces to beat Hikaru Nakamura in game 2 for the marginal point that pushed the reigning United States champion closer toward the finals of the Skilling Open on Saturday, November 28, Philippine time.

Deviating from their usual Italian game, So gave up a bishop for a pawn and later his knight to set up a mating net that forced the favored Nakamura to resign, giving the Fischer Random king a 2.5-1.5 victory in the first match of their semifinal encounter.

The 3 other games between the Team USA mainstays ended in draws.

The Filipino-born So needs only to draw the second match, also over 4 games, on Sunday to advance against the winner of the other semifinal between world champion Magnus Carlsen and Russian No. 1 Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Carlsen, the top favorite, also won game 2 to subdue Nepomniachtchi, 2.5-1.5, and likewise needs only a draw in the second match to barge into the finals of the online event kicking off the $1.5 million (P72 million) Champions Chess Tour.

Both So and Nakamura overcame losing their first quarterfinal matches against Teimour Radjabov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, respectively, to advance to the semifinals by way of Armageddon.

In an interview with tournament panelists after the quarterfinals, So said he and Nakamura have drawn their last 8 tournament games, so he’ll just be going to look for comfortable positions out of the openings and try not to spend much time.

According to So, the shorter the time control the better it is for Nakamura, a noted speed chess exponent who emerged preliminary phase topnotcher with 9 points along with Carlsen.

If Nakamura manages to win the second match and tie So, there will be blitz tiebreakers, and if they still remain tied an Armageddon will decide who will barge into the finals. –