One day after wrapping up first place in the Grand Chess Tour, Wesley So added the London tournament title to his collection.

Wesley So had a very profitable weekend.

Sunday, one day after So guaranteed that he would finish first in the Grand Chess Tour, winning the $100,000 bonus in the year-long series of tournaments, he won the London Chess Classic, winning an additional $75,000.

So, who plays for the United States after switching federations in 2014, drew his last game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. That was enough to clinch first as So’s closest pursuer, Fabiano Caruana, who, like So, recently switched federations to the United States, drew with Anish Giri of the Netherlands. 

So finished with 6 points, Caruana with 5.5, and three players — Hikaru Nakamura, a teammate of So’s and Caruana’s, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, and Viswanathan Anand of India — had 5 points apiece.

The final round on Sunday was fairly uneventful. The only decisive result involved Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, but for the first time in the tournament he was on the winning side as he beat Levon Aronian of Armenia.

I was very impressed with what Topalov did in the final round. He had by far the worst event of his professional life, losing six games, including all four when he had White. He seemed unprepared and was clearly in bad form. Given how poorly he had played, it would not have been hard to imagine him collapsing in the final round. Indeed, he did get into some trouble, but ultimately played an inspired game and came through when it counted, defeating Aronian in fine style.

Aronian, Levon vs. Topalov, Veselin
London Classic | London | Round 9 | 18 Dec 2016 | 0-1
15. Ra1 b5?! This is a very energetic move, but probably better for White.
15... a5 Would have been my choice.
16. a3 Na6 And Black seems to have a decent variation of a King's Indian Defense setup.
17. Nd2 f5  )
16. a3 The knight is trapped. Of course Topalov saw this and planned to give up a piece with
16... bxc4 17. axb4 cxb4 18. Bd2 But I don't think Black would have enough compensation. After
18... Nxd5 19. Qc1! Black must lose one of the three pawns he won for the piece he sacrificed.
19... c3
19... Be6 20. Rxa6  )
20. bxc3 b3 21. Qb1?! I don't understand this move. Why put the queen on such a passive square?
21. Qb2 This looks almost automatic to me as it blocks Black's b-pawn. White should be close to having a winning edge.  )
21. Qa3 This is the engine's choice, which is also a strong move.  )
21... Nf6 22. Qb2 Better late than never.
22... Qc7 23. c4! Qxc4 24. Nc3 Black again has three pawns for a piece, but his pawn structure is not the best, his b-pawn is overextended, and his pieces are not too active. White is ready to regroup with Bf1.
24... Be6 25. Rec1 Nd7 26. e4! Nc5 27. Bf1
27. Ne1 The engine prefers this move, but I don't think that Aronian's choice is bad.  )
27... Qb4 28. Be3 Rfc8 29. Nd2?
29. Bxa6 Why not take the pawn?
29... Nxa6 30. Rxa6 d5 This would have been dangerous because White has
31. Ra4! When White would be much better.  )
29... a5! Now Black's pawns are actually creating counterplay.
30. Bxc5 Rxc5 31. Ra4 Qb7 32. Bc4 Qc6! 33. Bd5
33. Bxe6 fxe6 34. Raa1 This move was also possible after which the computer evaluates the chances as equal.  )
33... Bxd5 34. exd5 Qd7 35. Ra3 a4!? This loses the two queenside pawns but wins the d-pawn, allowing Black to get his center pawns rolling.
35... e4 This also works well for Black.  )
36. Nxa4
36. Rxa4? Rxc3  )
36... Rxd5 37. Nxb3 e4! 38. Qa2 Qf5! 39. Re1 Rdb5 40. Rc1 d5 Time control has been reached. Black only has two pawns for the piece he sacrificed, but they are advanced and his pieces are extremely active.
41. Nac5 d4 42. Ra7
42. Ra8 Qd5! 43. Rxb8+ Rxb8 44. Qa4 Rc8 I don't think Black's chances are worse at this point.  )
42... d3 The pawns continue to advance! Note that White's kingside is mostly unguarded, and that neither of his knights can move without losing the other one.
43. Rc7 h5! Black threatens to play h4 and even h3, aiming to attack kingside.
44. Qa4 h4 45. Qxe4! This move was necessary.
45... Qxe4 46. Nxe4 Rxb3 47. gxh4? Now Black's d-pawn becomes a monster.
47. Rd7! Bh6 48. Rd1 This position would have been moderately unpleasant for White, but with accurate defense he should definitely hold.  )
47... Bh6! 48. Rf1
48. Rd1 Rb1 And the d-pawn would promote to a queen.
49. Rxb1 Rxb1+ 50. Kg2 d2  )
48... R3b4 49. f3 Rb2 50. Nf6+ Kg7 51. Ng4 d2 52. Rd7 Re8! The last finesse.
53. Nf2 Re1 White resigned since he cannot stop Rbb1. A fine effort from Topalov.

The other four games were incredibly dull, three reaching simplified and symmetrical positions within 20 moves. The only game with any imbalance at all was between Anand and Kramnik, but they repeated moves early to agree to a draw.

Anand, Viswanathan vs. Kramnik, Vladimir
London Classic | London | Round 9 | 18 Dec 2016 | ECO: D37 | 1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 b6 7. Bd3 c5 8. dxc5 bxc5 9. O-O Nc6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Rc1 h6 12. h3 Be6 13. Bb5 Qb6 14. Qa4 Rfc8 15. Ne5 Nxe5 16. Bxe5 a6 17. Be2 I have always preferred White in these positions in which Black has hanging pawns -- the pawns on c5 and d5. Still, it's not easy to make progress.
17... Rd8 18. Bf3 Nd7 19. Bg3 Nf6 20. Rfd1 Rac8 Anand now forced a draw by playing Be5. The computer evaluates the position as equal but I prefer white. For example:
21. Be5
21. Ne2 Qb5 22. Qa3! Preventing d4
...  Bf8 23. b3 Ne4 The computer again evaluates this position as having equal chances, but I still prefer White. This might just represent my own poor understanding of chess, but I think Anand could have continued.  )
21... Nd7 22. Bg3 Nf6 23. Be5 Nd7 24. Bg3 Nf6

This was So’s second major tournament victory, coming after he won the Sinquefield Cup, which is also part of the Tour, earlier this year. In both cases, however, he did not have to beat Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion (who won the Tour last year), because Carlsen was preparing for and then recovering from his title match in New York City. It will be interesting to see if So can keep up these kinds of results when he has to contend with Carlsen as well.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.