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.
Lennart Ootes / London Chess Classic
Wesley So after signing his score sheet from Round 9.
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.
Lennart Ootes / London Chess Classic
Veselin Topalov, left, and Levon Aronian near the end of their Round 9 game, with it displayed on the screen behind them.
Aronian, Levon vs. Topalov, Veselin
London Classic |London |Round 9 |18 Dec 2016 |0-1
15. Ra1b5?!This is a very energetic move, but probably better for White.
( 15... a5Would have been my choice. 16. a3Na6And Black seems to have a decent variation of a King's Indian Defense setup. 17. Nd2f5 )
16. a3The knight is trapped. Of course Topalov saw this and planned to give up a piece with 16... bxc417. axb4cxb418. Bd2But I
don't think Black would have enough compensation. After 18... Nxd519. Qc1!Black must lose one of the three pawns he won for the piece he sacrificed. 19... c3
( 19... Be620. Rxa6 )
20. bxc3b321. Qb1?!I don't
understand this move. Why put the queen on such a passive square?
( 21. Qb2This looks almost automatic to me as it blocks Black's b-pawn. White
should be close to having a winning edge. )
( 21. Qa3This is the engine's choice, which is also a strong move. )
21... Nf622. Qb2Better late than never. 22... Qc723. c4!Qxc424. Nc3Black 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... Be625. Rec1Nd726. e4!Nc527. Bf1
( 27. Ne1The engine prefers this move, but I don't think that Aronian's choice is bad. )
27... Qb428. Be3Rfc829. Nd2?
( 29. Bxa6Why not take the pawn? 29... Nxa630. Rxa6d5This would have been dangerous because White has 31. Ra4!When White would be much better. )
( 33. Bxe6fxe634. Raa1This move was also possible after which the computer evaluates the chances as equal. )
33... Bxd534. exd5Qd735. Ra3a4!?This loses the two queenside pawns but wins the d-pawn, allowing Black to get his center pawns rolling.
( 35... e4This also works well for Black. )
( 36. Rxa4?Rxc3 )
36... Rxd537. Nxb3e4!38. Qa2Qf5!39. Re1Rdb540. Rc1d5Time 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. Nac5d442. Ra7
( 42. Ra8Qd5!43. Rxb8+Rxb844. Qa4Rc8I don't think Black's chances are worse at this point. )
42... d3The 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. Rc7h5!Black threatens to play h4 and even h3, aiming to attack kingside. 44. Qa4h445. Qxe4!This move was necessary. 45... Qxe446. Nxe4Rxb347. gxh4?Now Black's d-pawn becomes a monster.
( 47. Rd7!Bh648. Rd1This position would have been moderately unpleasant for White, but with accurate defense he should definitely hold. )
47... Bh6!48. Rf1
( 48. Rd1Rb1And the d-pawn would promote to a queen. 49. Rxb1Rxb1+50. Kg2d2 )
48... R3b449. f3Rb250. Nf6+Kg751. Ng4d252. Rd7Re8!The last finesse. 53. Nf2Re1White resigned since he cannot stop Rbb1. A fine effort from Topalov.
Viswanathan Anand during the first move ceremony at the start of Round 9.
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. d4Nf62. c4e63. Nf3d54. Nc3Be75. Bf4O-O6. e3b67. Bd3c58. dxc5bxc59. O-ONc610. cxd5exd511. Rc1h612. h3Be613. Bb5Qb614. Qa4Rfc815. Ne5Nxe516. Bxe5a617. Be2I 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... Rd818. Bf3Nd719. Bg3Nf620. Rfd1Rac8Anand now forced a draw by playing Be5. The computer evaluates the position as equal but I prefer white. For example: 21. Be5
( 21. Ne2Qb522. Qa3!Preventing d4 ...Bf823. b3Ne4The 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. )
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.
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