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So trounces Nakamura, disputes Skilling Open crown with Carlsen

Wesley So slayed a giant in Hikaru Nakamura, now he battles a titan in Magnus Carlsen for the Skilling Open crown.

Belying the ratings, So beat Nakamura, 1.5-0.5, in their semifinal tussle to forge a title duel with world champion Carlsen, who thwarted Ian Nepomniachtchi, 1.5-0.5, in their own semifinal encounter on Saturday, November 28 (Sunday, November 29, Philippine time).

After taming Nakamura in their first four-game match, 2.5-1.5, So needed only to draw the second four-game match and did just that.

Though enjoying winning positions in the first, second and fourth games, So agreed to truces for a 2-2 count and cruised to the two-match finals against Carlsen, the only man to lead the world ratings in classical, rapid and blitz play.

The top-rated Carlsen (Elo 2881) also beat Nepomniachtchi in their first match, 2.5-1.5, then foiled the Russian No. 1's assaults in the second match to tally a 2-2 tie and arrange another championship showdown with So, ranked No. 11 among the starting field of 16 based on FIDE rapid ratings with Elo 2741.

Carlsen shared the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz title with So in August and dominated So in the chess 24 Banter Series Finals in September.

The memory of a humbling 13.5-2.5 defeat dealt him by So before his Norwegian countrymen in the first World Fischer Random championship last year will always keep Carlsen on guard, however.

Despite his easy victory over Nakamura, his conqueror in the 2017 and 2018 Speed Chess final, So told Skilling Open panelists he was "fighting for my life" in each of the 4 games on Saturday as "Nakamura is very tactical and slippery, and never gives up."

So, the Philippines' top player before switching to the US federation where he is the reigning national champion, said he is “just happy to be here (finals)."

According to So, "Magnus knows typical plans, set-ups and maneuvers in every single opening," but is hoping to "put up a good fight."

Coming from behind to beat Teimour Radjabov in the quarterfinals, So feels he has "nothing to lose."

The same words he uttered when he tangled with Nakamura. – Rappler.com