Malcolm Pein on…The Unstoppable So
Wesley So was unstoppable in the Blitz at the Paris Grand Chess Tour, scoring nine wins and nine draws, to win the event at a canter.
So lost just one game to Levon Aronian. Only world title contender Ian Nepomniachtchi was able to stay within striking distance, until So secured first place with a round to spare after a short draw against Richard Rapport. So then defeated his closest rival to emphasise his dominance of the day’s proceedings.
Nepomniachtchi ended in second overall, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alireza Firouzja tied for third.
So won both the Rapid and Blitz sections at Paris and tops the leaderboard of the 2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour, which goes to Zagreb, Croatia next. Play begins on July 6.
Final scores, Rapid scores given first: 1 So 12, 12.5 = 24.5; 2 Nepomniachtchi 11, 10.5 = 21.5; 3 Vachier-Lagrave 9, 9 = 18; 4 Firouzja 7, 11 = 18; 5-6 Aronian & Rapport 8, 9.5 = 17.5; 7 Svidler 9, 8 = 17; 8 Caruana 8, 8.5 = 16.5; 9 Bacrot & Kramnik 10, 5.5 = 15.5; 10 Radjabov 8, 6 = 14.
W So – A Firouzja
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 d5 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 c6 (Black invests a tempo to enable cxd5 to be met by cxd5. After 7…c5 or 7…b6 8.cxd5 exd5 White has a central majority, which can advance as in the famous game Botvinnik – Capablanca, AVRO 1938) 8.Ne2 b6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.f3 Ba6 (Black exchanges his worst piece for White’s best, and should have equal chances) 11.e4 Bxd3 12.Qxd3 Qc8 (12…Ne8!? avoids a pin after Bg5. 12…Nc6 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 dxe4 15.fxe4 Ne5 16.Qh3 Ng6=) 13.0–0 Qa6 14.Qc2 Nc6 15.Bg5 Ne8 16.Bh4 Qc4 17.e5
17…f6!? (17…Rc8 or even 17…Nxe5 18.Be7 Ng6 19.Bxf8 Kxf8 20.f4 Nd6 look fine for Black) 18.exf6 Nxf6 19.Qd2 Rae8 20.Rfe1 Nd7 21.Bg3 e5 22.dxe5 Ndxe5 23.Nf4 d4 24. Rac1 d3 (24…dxc3 25.Rxc3 Qd4+ 26.Qxd4 Nxd4 was safe enough. Firouzja always tries to complicate) 25.Re4 Qc5+ 26.Kh1 Qxa3 27.Rce1 Qd6 28.h4 (28.Nxd3? Qxd3 29. Qxd3 Nxd3 30.Rxe8 Nxe1) 28…Qh6 Black assumed his d3 pawn remained secure.
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29.Qa2+ 1–0 Nxd3 follows with a pin on the knight on e5.