Wesley So showed his mettle in the playoffs, beating Fabiano Caruana and thrashing Sam Sevian to retain his US Chess Championship crown on Tuesday, October 19 (Wednesday, October 20, Philippine time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.
Defending accurately, So forced the top-seeded Caruana to commit inaccuracies and eventually ran out of time while making the 46th move of an English Opening, e4 variation.
Against the 20-year-old Sevian, So was in complete control and prevailed in 33 moves to wrap up the playoffs and bag the $50,000 (P2.5 million) top purse.
It was a brilliant turnaround for So, who thought the title had slipped away when he missed winning chances against Daniel Naroditsky in the ninth round.
So, Caruana, and Sevian wound up with 6.5 points each after 11 rounds of classical play, necessitating the rapid playoffs.
It was way below So’s 9-point output in ruling last year’s edition.
The Cavite-born So, who also topped the 2017 edition with 7.5 points, however, stretched his unbeaten run to 22 matches in the annual event.
Caruana, the world No. 2, and Sevian split their matches and pocketed $30,000 each.
“I thought the tournament was pretty much over by yesterday, Fabiano almost won three games in a row. It just gave me a new breath of life that the tournament was not yet over, that I might still have some chances,” said So during the post-round interview.
“I just wanted to play fast today and make some good moves. Fabi plays for a win with both colors, soon I found myself in a very difficult position. Probably, in the endgame, he missed a win somewhere. I was playing with no pressure. I did not expect this playoff, so I was just playing chess – if chances come, good; if I lose, that’s fine.”
According to So, he’s going to take a break from chess as he’s gotten tired from a hectic schedule which saw him cop the overall championship of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour and place second to world champion Magnus Carlsen in the 2021 Champions Chess Tour.
For sure, So will be enjoying his short vacation. – Rappler.com