MANILA, Philippines – Wesley So squeezed out back-to-back victories over Amin Tabatabaei in the semifinal tiebreaks on Friday, April 1 (Saturday, April 2, Philippine time) to advance to the finals against familiar rival Hikaru Nakamura in the third and last leg of the FIDE Grand Prix series in Berlin, Germany.
Like the Philippine-born So, the Japan-born Nakamura also beat Azerbi Shakhriyar Mamedyarov twice in their own tiebreaker to gain a chance of duplicating his first leg triumph also in Germany’s capital city.
That time, So failed to reach the semifinals and it cost him a chance to play in the 2022 Candidates Masters where Nakamura has secured a spot with second leg Berlin winner Richard Rapport of Hungary.
The So-Nakamura tussle will be a battle between two of the most dominant players in the US Chess Championships.
So is the reigning US back-to-back champion apart from ruling the 2017 edition, while Nakamura is a five-time champion, having won in 2005, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2019.
“He is very determined and it seems like he is getting back to his old 2800 level form, so it’s going to be a very tough match,” said So, the reigning World Fischer Random champion, in the post-match interview.
“Also the way that he beat Shakhriyar today was very convincing I must say.”
Regardless of Nakamura’s performance, however, So stressed he isn’t afraid of Nakamura or any other chess player since there will always be more games to play regardless of the outcome.
While So holds a higher rating than Nakamura in classical chess, Nakamura is back as the world No. 1 in both rapid and blitz play, displacing world champion Magnus Carlsen.
The first finals game will be held Saturday with So handling white.
So is gunning for his first title this year after a banner 2021 season that saw him rule the Grand Chess Tour and place second to Carlsen in the Champions Chess Tour. – Rappler.com