Emil Guillermo: Wesley So playing white can’t upset World No.1 Carlsen, as 8th round Gashimov matchup ends in draw

carlsen so

For Filipino chess watchers all over the world, this was the Paquiao/Mayweather matchup in this tournament of international grandmasters: The up and coming Wesley So  vs. World No. 1, Magnus Carlsen.

magnus carlsen

Earlier this week I asked So what it would take to win.

“Full focus,” he replied in an e-mail.

When I asked him if after the U.S. Championships he could beat the highest rated player in the world,  he offered another terse reply.

“If you don’t think you can beat your opponent,” he said,” you shouldn’t be playing against him.”

So went on a ponderous attack, taking more than an hour for his moves on the clock. But whatever So did, Carlsen, playing black, deftly defended with ease. Carlsen registered less than seven minutes on the clock to neutralize So. After the Queens were gone in move 36, the  game came down to each player with a rook and four pawns.

It seemed like a relatively stress-game for Carlsen, as the game ended in a draw between the two players who as teenagers once trained with each other.

Going into the final round, So at best could place second, overall.

But he’d need a full point win  against 8th seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave;  And then Fabiano Caruana would have to beat and shutout Viswanathan Anand.

It would create a mirror of the chess world: Magnus alone at top, and a bunch of folks in a  logjam for second.

 

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Emil Guillermo: So slips in 7th round match to Caruana at Gashimov chess tourney; Carlsen next.

A disappointing loss for American Filipino Wesley So at the hands of Fabiano Caruana of Italy.

so caruana

So is seen here on the right.

Playing black, So could not find an answer in this relatively quick match that ended when Caruana’s bishop over knight advantage prevailed.

The round 7 loss of a full point put So further behind  World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, who won his 7th round against Vladimir Kramnik.

The two are scheduled to meet in the 8th round.

But So enters the match with 4 points and in third place.   Carlsen is a top the leaderboard at 5.5 points. India’s Viswanathan Anand, who beat So in their head-to-head matchup, is in second with 4.5 points.

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Emil Guillermo: Excerpt from my Wesley So interview, now trailing Carlsen, World No.1, after 6th Round in Gashimov chess tourney in Azerbaijan

American Filipino chess grandmaster Wesley So has picked up the pieces after a disappointing U.S. Chess Championship showing in St. Louis earlier this month.

The tension still exists with family, but the drama and excitement  is all on the board, So told me in an e-mail interview.

At the Gashimov Memorial, one of the world’s major chess tourneys, So trails  tourney leader Magnus Carlsen, the World’s No. 1 by just half a point.

So kept pace when action started up. In Round 6, both men drew their matches.  The next big moment may be Round 8, when So is scheduled to face Carlsen.

In my  e-mail exchange with So during the break, he told me why he has been playing to form:

Q:You’re playing well in Azerbaijan. Why do you think?

I am trying my best and the atmosphere here is very motivational. The hosts are dedicated to our welfare and provide for all our needs, helping us to  focus on playing the best chess we can. I feel very happy to be here.
Q: Is the higher level of play against the likes of Carlsen more of a motivation?
A: All the players here are extremely talented and it is an honor to even be in this group. I grew up studying the games of some of these player and sometimes I can’t believe I am playing them now. It is very exciting.
I’ll have more of the interview in a subsequent column for Inquirer.net.

Emil Guillermo: UPDATE–Wesley So loses match, but Carlsen wins his to take lead in the Gashimov chess tourney in Azerbaijan

UPDATE

World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen  took over the lead in the Gashimov Memorial in Azerbaijan with a win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. 

The win gives him a  half point advantage over American Filipino chess hero Wesley So, who lost his fifth round match.

So, playing black, was outmaneuvered by former world champ Visanathan Anand.

Just a mild set back for So, who had  won his fourth round game vs. Rauf Mamedov.  That full point win gave So a momentary  advantage over the rest of the field.

The tourney still  seems destined for a  big match between So and the  World No. 1, Magnus Carlsen of Norway.

So’s strong play in Azerbaijan is a real switch from the previous week in the U.S., where he uncharacteristically lost three games and forfeited a fourth at the U.S. Championships.

 

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Emil Guillermo's commentary on race, politics, diversity…and everything else.

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