Friday, February 13, 2009

So's magnificent victory

THE 71st Corus tournament took place from Jan. 16 to Feb. 1 at Wijk Aan Zee, a North sea resort in the Netherlands. Wesley So convincingly won Group C, showing a lot of maturity and excellent technique to run away from the 14-man field with a score of seven wins, five draws and a single loss and a performance rating of 2686. His live rating is now 2647, which places him at No.111 in the world.

This is one of the most memorable wins by a Filipino, reminiscent of the victories of Eugene Torre in the 70s. Only the most talented players are invited to Corus.

Next year, he will be playing in the B Group. Wesley is considered one of the finest young talents today and is a probable world champion along with such young talents as Magnus Carlsen of Norway, Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine, the winner in the A Group and Fabiano Caruana, also the winner in the B Group, an Italian- American.

He won over Tiger Hillarp Persson (Sweden, 2586) and all of the players from Holland, namely Ali Bitalzadeh (2400), Friso Nijboer (2560), Roeland Pruijssers (2444) and Manuel Bosboom ( 2418).

His other wins were against Eduardo Iturrizaga of Venezuela (2528) and Manuel Leon Hoyos of Mexico (2542).

He had his draws mostly at the start of the tournament when he was tentative. He drew with Abhijeet Gupta of India (2569), the current World Junior Champion; Harika Donavalli, also of India and the current Girls World Champion; and Anish Giri, the youngest of the group at 14 years and also a player to watch in the future.

Anish placed a strong second, a point behind Wesley, to snare his third and final GM norm. He is now officially the world’s youngest GM replacing the highly-talented girl from China, Hou Yifan.

Other draws were against Oleg Romanishin of Ukraine (2533) and another rising star David Howell of England (2622). His only loss was to Frank Holzke of Germany (2524) which was a fluke as he had a slight advantage when he committed a simple error with a pawn capture by his knight. After that, he engineered four straight wins.

Torre, who knows what he is talking about, often compares Wesley to the great Bobby Fischer and said, “The talent and skills are already there and he has proven that. This year could be a test of character and nerves for him because everybody knows him already.”

Next for Wesley is a probable 10-game match versus Torre which is slated to start Feb. 10.

Two games each will be played in Quezon City, Davao, Iloilo and Cebu and if the match is not decided, another two games will be played in Quezon City. A knockout game will be played in case there is a tie at 5-5.

The winner will take home P600,000, while the loser will earn P400,000. Another P100,000 goes to the winner of each provincial leg while the loser will get P50,000. Sponsor is Rep. Matias Defensor.

The odds are about even in this dream encounter since the two GMs had split their three previous games.

However, I have just been informed by a highly-reliable source that “ nagka hassle pa ang match” although as per previous press releases, the match was sealed as early as September last year.

In case the match will be postponed, the next schedule for Wesley is the Aeroflot Open in Moscow on Feb. 16 to 27. The Open is running on its eighth year. Total prize fund for the A1 Group (rating of 2550 and up) is 70,000 Euros with the champion getting 21,000 Euros.

The winner of the A1 Group will be invited to this year’s super tournament in Dortmund, Germany, which will be held from July 2 to 12. Dortmund is one of the major tournaments in the chess calendar and an invitation is much sought after.

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