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Wesley So shares crown with Carlsen, pockets P2.2M

Wesley So shone in time, winning his last 3 games to share top honors with Magnus Carlsen in the 2020 Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz online chess tournament on Sunday, September 20.

Trailing Carlsen by a point heading to the concluding rounds 7, 8, 9 of blitz 2, So summoned his fierce form to topple Russian No. 1 Ian Nepomniachtchi, Armenian No. 1 Levon Aronian, and Indian No. 2 Harikrishna Pentala in succession to finish with 6.5 points in the segment and 24 overall.

So, the Philippines' top player before switching to Team USA, ruled the rapid section with 13 points but could only score 5 points in blitz 1 early Saturday, allowing Carlsen to wrest the lead with 6.5 and 18.5 aggregate.

A win by Carlsen over Harikrishna in round 6, coupled by So's draw with Russian No. 2 Alexander Grischuk, enabled the longtime Norwegian world champion to pull ahead, 22.5-21.5, entering the homestretch.

It was a grand rebound for So, who started badly with back-to-back draws against fellow Team USA members Jeffery Xiong and Hikaru Nakamura and a loss to Carlsen.

As per tournament rules, there was no tiebreaker with So, the reigning Fischer Random world champion, and Carlsen sharing the title and splitting the first and second place purses of $90,000 (P4.5 million) for $45,000 (P2.25 million) each.

Nakamura, the 2018  winner of the tournament, placed a distant third with 21 points, followed by Aronian, the 2017 and 2019 champion, and Grischuk at joint fourth.

It was a lucrative week for Carlsen, who earlier won the 2020 Champions Showdown also hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club of Missouri worth $37,500. 

That time, So was in title-contention up to the last round, where he tumbled against Iranian teen sensation Alireza Firouza and settled for fifth worth $12,500.

“I’ve had a lot of experience in these events from the Grand Chess Tour and I tend to lose one game after another. If I lose one game, it can snowball to a second or third loss, so I was trying to avoid that at all costs,” said So in the tournament release. 

“It is often hard to compete against Magnus for first place and generally in these blitz games a lot of things can happen very quickly so I’m grateful for today’s win.”

Carlsen said: “Obviously, I am happy to win anything that I play. I thought overall the rapid portion was successful with many good moments and I congratulate Wesley So on a fantastic tournament, he played solidly throughout, especially with his 3 consecutive wins. It was an overall amazing performance that you can only tip your hat to.”

Carlsen knows what So is capable of doing. So, pride of Bacoor, Cavite, handled Carlsen a 13.5-2.5 thrashing in their duel for the title of world's first Fischer Random king last year. – Rappler.com