US Grandmaster Wesley So has won the 2017 Tata Steel Chess Tournament, besting elite Grandmasters from all over the world, including current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, according to its website.
The Tournament, the first Major of 2017, featured a round robin format, where each player got to face the other players once in 12 rounds. A win is equivalent to one point, a loss is zero, and a draw is half-point to each player. The player with the most points wins.
So met Carlsen right in the first Round and got a draw. He next played against Anish Giri of the host Netherlands and also drew after 43 moves.
Then came So’s first victory against 20-year-old Hungarian Grandmaster Richard Rapport in Round 3.
Rapport had a breakthrough on the Kingside with doubled rooks, which So defused with accurate defense.
Rapport would go on to beat Carlsen in a later Round.
So’s next victim was Loek van Wely of The Netherlands.
So exchanged Queens early in the game. At one point, van Wely was about to Queen a pawn but So was able to capture it. So turned the tables in the endgame, with his Rook pawn about to be promoted to a Queen. Van Wely assessed the position and adjudged the pawn to be unstoppable and decided to concede.
So’s next victory came at the expense of Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna. Again, So exchanged Queens early. Fifteen moves into the game, So had developed most of his pieces and controlled more space. By move 35, Harikrishna had a passed pawn that could Queen plus a Bishop against So’s two Knights. Both Kings joined the fray but So forced the capture of the passed pawn, and went on to win with his two Knights.
So also faced 2016 World Championship challenger, Sergei Karjakin, of Russia. But it turned out to be a quiet game and both agreed to a draw in just 22 moves.
So’s next victory was over Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland. By the 34th move, Wojtaszek realized he could not stop a pawn from converting into a Queen without losing his Bishop, and so resigned.
As of the 12th Round, So led with a score of 8 points, chased by Carlsen, former World Number One Levon Aronian, and the young Chinese Grandmaster Wei Yi at 7.5 points each.
He faced Wei Yi, who played aggressively. Queens were again exchanged early, and later the position featured material equality. Repeated moves led to an agreed draw. Thus, So kept his lead.
Carlsen assessed So’s play in the tournament on the website chessdom.com: “This is Wes’ play style when facing stronger opponents. He doesn’t take much chances, which makes him difficult to beat. He is pragmatic, which is why he has reached so far.”
This “pragmatic” approach allowed So to go through the tournament unscathed – without a single loss.
In the penultimate round, the last Grandmaster in So’s path was the Russian Ian Nepomniatchi. But Wesley So swept him away right in the opening to register another point and take an insurmountable lead of 1.5 points late in the tournament.
Right after the victory on Sunday, January 29, (local time), So received congratulations from former World Champion Anatoly Karpov.
Wesley So has continued his impressive rise in elite Chess. In August 2016, he won the Sinquefield Cup in the US, ahead of former World Champions Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov. In September, he helped win for the US the Chess Olympiad and won the Gold Medal on Board 3.
Then in December, So won the London Chess Classic ahead of World Champions Anand, Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik.
So, who was born in the Philippines, is currently ranked fourth in the world.