Friday, November 6, 2015

Pestaño: Wesley So scores biggest win of career

WESLEY So scored the biggest victory of his career last weekend in a tournament in Bilbao, Spain that is one of the premier events on the world chess calendar.
So won the Bilbao Masters over a former world champion and two other top 10 players. So has won high-level tournaments before, but none with a field this strong.
After quitting school and leaving the Philippines to play for the United States, he suffered a big setback at the Sinquefield tournament the other month where he finished last but has returned to the top 10 with this win. The lessons from the Sinquefield Cup are bearing fruit.
With the win Wesley So now joined the ranks of former Bilbao Chess Masters champions, including the current world champion Magnus Carlsen, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand, former Fide world champion Veselin Topalov and former world No. 2 Levon Aronian.
“It’s really an amazing experience for me competing against the best players in the world, and of course I wasn’t expecting to win before the event,” So said in comments at the closing ceremony.
The Bilbao victory may be So’s most lucrative tournament to date. Tournaments at this level typically offer huge prize funds and guaranteed appearance fees. This year the organizers did not announce the prizes, but in 2008, the champion collected 150,000 euros (about $165,000 in today’s conversion rate).
The 8th Bilbao Masters 2015 took place from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1 and was a double round-robin event featuring four of the world’s best chess players--five time world champion and last-year’s winner, Viswanathan Anand, No. 4 Anish, No. 6, Giri, No. 7 Liren and So.
The so-called Sofia Rule was applied, establishing that only the arbiter will have the power to determine whether a game is drawn or not, thus avoiding pacts between players. On top of this, a scoring system similar to football is used, awarding three points for a win, one for a draw and no points for a defeat. This system is known as the “Bilbao Rule.”.
However, of the 12 games played, there were only two wins! One was by Wesley over Liren and the other win by Giri over Anand. All of the games were fiercely contested.
So and Giri played a two-game playoff to decide the title but Wesley took the lead in the first encounter in an exchange Variation of the Slav Defence. In a sharp second duel Giri could not convert his material advantage and the draw was fixed after a marathon 98 moves. Thus, So was crowned the new champion.
The next stops for Wesley are the 2015 Qatar Masters Open on Dec. 19 to Dec. 29 and the 2016 Tata Steel Chess on Jan. 15-31 in the Netherlands.
The Qatar Open is considered the strongest tournament ever and features 20 GMs rated over 2700, including world champion Magnus Carlsen, Giri, Vladimir Kramnik and World Cup 2015 winner Sergey Karjakin .
The 78th Tata Steel is known as the Wimbledon of chess and has three sections and a long tradition. Starting as an employee tournament in 1937, it has grown into an international tournament, for which grand masters will clear their schedules if invited. With an average rating of 2750 in the A group, this tournament once again has a strong field of participants spiced by the presence of the strongest female player now, Hou Yifan.
The 2016 Tata Steel Group A participants are Magnus Carlsen (2850), Fabiano Caruana (2787), Ding Liren (2781)(, Anish Giri (2778), Wesley So (2767), Sergey Karjakin (2766), Michael Adams (2744), Shakhryar Mamedyarov (2743), Wei Yi (2737), David Navara (2730), Hou Yifan (2683) and Loek van Wely (2632).

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