Wesley So drew his last 3 games and completed a down to the wire triumph in rapid play of the Paris leg of the Grand Chess Tour Saturday.
The 24-year-old pride of Bacoor, Cavite, now representing the US Chess Federation, posted 12 points in 9 games to thwart the challenge of Hiraku Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin in the event that gives 25 minutes per player with a 10-second delay for each move.
Ahead after six rounds, So agreed to truces with US teammate Nakamura, Russian Karjakin and former world champion Viswanathan Anand in succession to replicate his first-place finish in the rapid event of Your Next Move 2018 in Belgium earlier this month.
The So-Nakamura Queen’s Pawn Game took just 22 moves, while his Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense encounter with Karjakin lasted 39 moves. The Trompovsky Attack tussle between So and Anand ended in 50 moves, with So having 4 pawns and a knight against the Indian’s 4 pawns and a bishop.
So topped Team USA board 1 player Fabiano Caruana in Round 1, Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 3, Russian Vladimir Kramnik in Round 4, Russian Alexander Grischuk in Round 5. He drew with Armenian Levon Aronian in Round 6 and suffered his lone loss against Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Round 2.
Aronian, Anand and Vachier-Lagrave finished with 9 points each, followed by Caruana with 8.
His sustained brilliant showing raised So’s live rapid rating to 2851.8. 29.2 points away from pacesetter and reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen’s 2880.
Play shifts to blitz (5 minutes with a 3-second delay) on Saturday. There will be a total of 18 games for each player with the scores to be combined with the results of the rapid competition.
In Leuven, So wound up with a runaway total of 14 points in rapid, but notched just 8.0 in blitz. His combined 22 points proved enough to win the $150,000 leg, however, as Karjakin and Vachier-Lagrave could only tally 21.5 each.
If So wins the Paris leg, he’ll be on track to repeat his GCT Tour conquest in 2016, when he finished with a runaway total of 36 points and stashed a total prize of $295,000. Nakamura placed second that time with 24.5 and $144,166 in earnings.
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