Wesley So shocks world No. 1 Carlsen, takes early finals lead
MANILA, Philippines – Wesley So surprised chess fans when he led Magnus Carlsen on Friday, November 1, in Norway after the first two games in a race-to-12 finals series of the first World Fischer Random Chess Championship.
So, ranked 10th in the world in standard chess where Carlsen is perched as world champion, defeated his nemesis to take a 4.5-1.5 lead from one win and one draw in the slow-rapid format.
In this format, both players are given 45 minutes each but 15 minutes are added after they reach 40 moves.
On Saturday, there are two more slow rapid games set starting at 12 midnight, Philippine time.
In Fischer Random, players face a tougher challenge as the starting position gets jumbled every game compared to standard chess where the starting positions are fixed.
In the first game, Carlsen obtained strong pressure against So but in the computer analysis, he may have missed a knight sacrifice that would have given him strong pressure on the 19th move.
He got a pawn edge but So hung on and managed to draw as the game ended in a stalemate after 96 moves.
"I am just happy to be in the final," said So in an interview with Norwegian network NRK.
After allowing So to escape in the first game, Carlsen shook his and said, "No!" as he walked by Norwegian press, reported journalist Tarjei Svensson in his Twitter account.
In the second game, So, who has a reputation for drawing, became the aggressor, subjecting Carlsen to head-spinning attacking moves.
Carlsen repulsed all of So's threats, escaped into an endgame, but erred on the 35th move when a rook check would have resulted in strong counterplay.
So pounced on the error by winning a piece but he had to work very hard to force his passed a pawn from queening as Carlsen kept finding resources. Carlsen had no threats left when he resigned after 72 moves.
The 26-year-old So arranged a title clash with Carlsen after upsetting world No. 5 Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, 9-3, in the semifinals.
So – born in Cavite but has been representing the US since 2014 – remains a standard bearer of Philippine chess at a time when no stars of his caliber are present.
But Filipino chess fans stayed up to around 5 am on Friday, as the nation marked a long weekend due to All Saints' Day.
"This is why we love chess. And to see Wesley win like this against the reigning world champion... Wow, I'm speechless," said National Chess Federation of the Philippines treasurer Cliburn Anthony Orbe. – Rappler.com