Wesley So clashes with Nakamura in Speed Chess semis

Roy Luarca
Wesley So clashes with Nakamura in Speed Chess semis

FACE-OFF. Wesley So battles a familiar foe in Hikaru Nakamura.

File photo

Wesley So looks to extend his winning streak after beating world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen in the Skilling Open final

Wesley So aims to snap out of Hikaru Nakamura’s spell in the 2020 Speed Chess Championship when they tangle in the semifinal round this week.

The top-seeded Nakamura ruled the 2018 and 2019 editions of the event, both at the expense of So, and forged another tussle with his fellow Team USA mainstay when he routed Vladimir Fedoseev, 21.5-5.5, in their quarterfinals tussle on Thursday, December 3 (Friday, December 4, Philippine time).

World champion Magnus Carlsen, winner of the 2017 edition and absentee when Nakamura took over the helm, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also advanced to the final 4 with victories over Vladislav Artemiev and Levon Aronian, respectively.

Semifinal matches will be played on December 9 and 11.

The second-seeded Carlsen trounced Artemiev, 13.5-9.5, while No.3 seed Vachier-Lagrave bested Aronian, 14.5-12.5, in the novel format consisting of 90 minutes of 5-minute plus 1-second increment, 60 minutes of 3-minute plus 1, and 30 minutes of 1-minute plus 1 matches.

The Filipino-born So, seeded No. 4, barged into the semifinals first when he bested Poland’s No. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda, 16-10, in the round of 8 before the $100,000 (P4.8 million event) took a break for the Skilling Open which he won at the expense of Carlsen.

So, the Philippines’ No. 1 before switching to the United States federation in 2014, also subdued Nakamura in the semifinals of the Skilling Open kicking off the $1.5 million (P72 million) Champions Chess Tour.

Nakamura has shown sharp form in this year Speed Chess Championship, also thrashing Armenian Haik Martirosyan in the round of 16.

In the 2018 Speed Chess finals, Nakamura tamed So, 15-12.5, and repeated over the reigning US national champion, 19.5-14.5, last year to assume the favorite’s role in their semifinal duel. –