Round 7 loss all but eliminates Wesley So in Candidates Tournament
MANILA, Philippines – The slightly pursued lips and frown during the press briefing after Monday morning's 7th round of the Candidates Tournament in Berlin said it all. Wesley So lost on time, a piece down in a rook and knight and endgame, a 40-move Nimzo-Indian to Sergey Karjakin.
"I kind of forgot that I had 1 more move to play ( to reach 40)," said So in a very short press conference after taking his third loss that erased all chances of the 24-year-old to win the Candidates and challenge titleholder Magnus Carlsen.
His third loss gave him 2.5 points and in a tie for last place with Levon Aronian after the first half of the Candidates, a double-round, 14-game event. Fabiano Caruana leads with 5 points followed by Shakriyar Mamedyarov's 4.5 points. Ding Liren, Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Kramnik are tied with 3.5 points.
Karjakin, winner of the 2016 Candidates Tournament, follows with 3 points.
So will thus have to try again in the 2020 world championship cycle, rearming himself better and bringing a capable second along. He was the only competitor with no second among all the 8 Candidates, who sometimes bring a small group to help them prepare.
There were little wails or anguish from So's followers, majority of whom are Filipinos as he was born in Cavite and learned his chess here. Like many OFWs seeking better fortunes abroad, the Stars and Stripes are now beside So's table.
Hopes that So would finally move up in the standings rose when Caruana came under pressure from Aronian's attack while So held firm against Karjakin's efforts to strive for more in an even position.
But Aronian overestimated his onslaught and missed a beautiful chance to continue the struggle where three connected kingside would march near the throat of Caruana's king. Then, as Karjakin shrugged off time pressure to press So, the youngest competitor here at 24 years old, cracked on the 32nd move and later had to give up a piece.
Karjakin showed the critical movements between moves 30-40 as So sternly looked at the defenses shown by the Russian. So did not show he was sore loser as he smiled and told moderator Anastasiya Karlovich that he didn't have anything to add.
As the second and the final phase of the Candidates Tournament begins, So faces the leader Caruana on Monday night's 8th round. Perhaps the tournament may be over for So after his wondrous first half of 2017 where was the second strongest player in the world, but Filipino chess fans will still stay up and follow their hero as they have always been since top tournaments have been streaming live on the Internet.
After all, though it may be harsh for some Filipino grandmasters, Pinoys will always watch So's games on their laptops or mobile devices until the next superstar comes along.
Standings after Round 7: Caruana 5 points; Mamedyarov 4.5, Grischuk, Ding Liren, Kramnik 3.5; Karjakin 3; Aronian, Wesley So 2.5.
Results of Round 7: Aronian 0-1 Caruana, Karjakin 1-0 Wesley So, Grischuk 0.5-0.5 Mamedyarov, Kramnik 0.5-0.5 Ding Liren.
Round 8 pairings: Wesley So-Caruana, Mamedyarov-Karjakin, Ding Liren-Aronian, Grischuk−Kramnik.