With most chess action moved online, Wesley So is currently the chess player in the best sporting shape. Only the US star can boast three Champions Chess Tour tournament victories -Skilling Open in November 2020, Opera Euro Rapid last February, and the Chessable Masters just two weeks ago. He is second to Magnus Carlsen in the Tour overall standings but not without stunning the Champ several times.
Wesley seems to have a knack for the Tour format. He knows how to conduct his tournaments and how to handle an advantage, both on the board and the standings. He rarely needs to make an effort to finish in the top half of the qualification. Nor does he see the need to push for first place in the preliminaries. He’s proven he knows how to play the KO stage.
His other stronghold has been solid results with White, mostly based on his popular Lifetime Repertoire courses on 1.e4.
After his brilliant victory at the Chessable Masters, we take a look at 10 of his best productions over the board -er, the chess24 Playzone- in 2021.
Play like Wesley So
Wesley’s style has always been very crystalline and objective. It seems to be a perfect fit for the match format, as he is always ready to grind a win. Equally important are his defensive prowesses. When inferior, he’s always in the lurk for a swindle and has salvaged many points that way.
In the following exercises, you’ll have to attack and defend like Wesley. The examples are from his Champions Chess Tour campaign. Underline the space below to find the answer and click on the diagrams to see the complete game with cloud engine analysis.
So-Carlsen, FTX Crypto Cup Finals, day 1, game 2 (30/5/2021)
33.Qg7+! Black resigned. The detail lies in the pawn check after 33…Qxg7 34.fxg7 buying time enough to take Black’s Rook on f8.
So-Le, Chessable Masters Finals, day 1, game 1 (7/8/2021)
42.Bxf7+ is the fastest 42…Kxf7 43.Qf6+ and mate will land on g7 either with the Queen or the Knight, depending on where the King goes.
Carlsen-So, FTX Crypto Cup Final, day 2, tiebreak 1 (31/5/2021)
27…Rc6! and soon the game ended as White loses his Queen due to the back-rank weakness. 28.Qxc6 or mate on c1 28…Qxc6 29.Rxc6 Ra1 mate.
Dubov-So, Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries, day 2, round 7 (14/3/2021)
32…Ne2! The discovered attack on the rook has to be dealt with, but how do you stop mate? 33.Rxd7 Rxd7 34.Rxd7 Nf4+ 35.Qxf4 Otherwise it would be mate on g2 35…exf4 and Black easily won.
Adhiban-So, Goldmoney Asian preliminaries, day 2, round 8 (27/6/2021)
46…Bf4! is almost an only move. White threatened 47.Nxh6+! and it’s a draw since the White King controls the corner and the Bishop is the wrong color to the queening square. 46…h5 should still win but after 47.Ne3+ (47.Nh6?+ gxh6 is still drawn but 47…Kg6! 48.Ng8 Bd6 traps the Knight) Black still needs to show some technique. The text move is curtains because the Knight can only move to e3, allowing a hopeless pawn ending. The nuance is that in case of 47.Nxh6+ Bxh6! wins because it’s not a Rook pawn anymore.
Karjakin-So, Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries, day 1, round 2 (13/3/2021)
22…Bd7! Allowing the e8-Rook to defend f6 with tempo over the Queen on h6 23.Bg5 Re6 24.Qh5 Qf8 25.dxe5 dxe5 26.Rad1 Be8 and White has nothing for the sacrificed piece.
Adhiban-So, Chessable Masters preliminaries, day 3, round 14 (2/8/2021)
32…exd5! 32…Rxd5? loses as 33.Rxd5 exd5 34.Ke3 Ke7 35.Kd4 Ke6 36.b6 Black is in zuzwang. Now in case of 33.Ke3 Ke7 34.Kd4 b6! The difference is that the Rook on c5 is held and as soon as the King gets to e6, its White colleague will be expelled from d4 with Rc4+. e5 falls and a4 is weak. The game went otherwise but it’s this reasoning which allowed Wesley to reach a winning Rook endgame.
Radjabov-So, Opera Euro Rapid Semifinals, day 2, game 3 (12/2/2021)
17…Rb2+ 18.Rd2 Nd3+! Disconnecting the Queen from defending the Rook on d2. 19.Ke3 Nxf4 20.gxf4 Qxc3+ wins on the spot so Radjabov had to give up his Queen 19.Qxd3 Bxd3 20.Rxb2 Qxc3 21.Nxd3 Qxd3 winning anyway.
So-Aronian, Chessable Masters preliminaries, day,1 round 3 (31/7/2021)
The pawns can’t advance but they create a wall for the Bishop, so it’s all about which King gets there faster. 47.Kf4 Kd6 48.Kg5 Ke7 49.h6 now the pawns are shepherded by the King 49…Kf8 50.Kf6 Kg8 51.h7+ Kh8 52.g7+ and Black can’t avoid Kf7 and g8=Q.
Firouzja-So, Magnus Carlsen Invitational quarterfinals, day 1, game 2 (16/3/2021)
57…Rxd8 58.Rxd8 Nd2+! This disruptive check shatters White’s mating net. If 59.Ke1 Nxf3+ 60.Kd1 Nxg5 the f6-Knight is loose. The game followed 59.Ke2 Nxe4+ The discovered attack is the key, White can’t avoid a losing Rook endgame 60.Ke3 Nxf6 61.gxf6+ Kxf6 -+
So-Grischuk, FTX Crypto Cup preliminaries, day 2, round 6 (23/5/2021)
57.Rh1 Kg8 covering mate on h8. in case of 57…Ke8 58.Rh7 and the pawns will promote. 58…Rxg6 fails to 59.Rh8+ now that the b8-Rook is loose. 58.Ne7+ Kf8 59.Nd5! renewing the threat of mate in h8 and therefore winning the b6-Rook.
So-Van Foreest, Chessable Masters Quarterfinals, day 2, game 2 (4/8/2021)
15.Nxc6 bxc6 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Nxd5 cxd5 18.Bxe8 wins the exchange, same as 17…Qd8 18.Bxc6.
So-Le, Chessable Masters Finals, day 1, game 3 (7/8/2021)
28.Rf3! Creating the unavoidable threat of Nxh6+ winning the Queen. 28…Qd8 Other moves lose too 28…Qb6 29.Be3 Qc7 30.Rg3 is similar to the game now that the Queen doesn’t defend g6 anymore. 29.Nxh6+!! gxh6 30.Rg3+ Kh7 31.Qg4 and mate is unavoidable.
Van Foreest-So, Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries, day 2, round 9 (14/3/2021)
21…fxe5 22.Nxh5 Qf7! it’s an elegant double attack as 23…Bc4 is winning an exchange. The direct 21…Qf7 is the same.
So-Grandelius, Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries, day 3, round 14 (15/3/2021)
Black just played 16…e6 and it takes an agile eye to notice that the f5 Bishop can’t retreat to c8. Therefore, after the liquidations 17.Nxe5 Bxe5 18.Bxe5 Qxe5 19.Bf3 controlling e4 but not strictly necessary 19…Qf6 20.g4 White won a piece and later the game.
So-Firouzja, Magnus Carlsen Invitational quarterfinals, day 2, game 1 (17/3/2021)
21.Re7+! Opening the way for the second rook. 21…Bxe7 22.fxe7+ Kxe7 23.Re1+ Kd6 24.Ne5 Threatening a devastating 25.Nf7 24….Rh7 25.Nxd7 Qxd7 26.Qe5 mate. 25….Nxd7 26.Qxh7 was hopeless anyway.
So-Aronian, Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries, day 2, round 6 (14/3/2021)
22.e6!! Clearing e5 for the Bishop’s entry, none of Black’s extra pieces can defend against the dark square threats. 22…Bf8 23.Be5 c5 24.Bxg7 Bxg7 25.e7! Bd7 otherwise a new Queen appears on e8 and there is no rescuing the Queenside pieces. 26.Qh5 Qc6 27.Rfe1 Be8 28.Rd8 Na6 29.Re6!! The Black Queen can’t defend a6, a8, and e8 at the same time. If 29…Qxe6 30.Qxe8+ Kh7 31.Qh5+ Bh6 32.e8=Q stops mate in e1 and wins. 29…Qd7 30.Rxa8 Nc7 31.Rd8 Nxe6 32.Rxe8+ Nf8 33.Rxf8+ and finally the pawn queens and White wins.
Study chess with Wesley So
Wesley So is the author of a highly acclaimed two-part entry from the Lifetime Repertoires series on 1.e4.
Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So’s 1.e4 part 1 covers 1.e4 e5, the Scandinavian, the Alekhine, and irregular defenses.
Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So’s 1.e4 part 2 covering the Sicilian, the Caro Kann, and the French defenses.
He also published a course on Fischer Random strategy and tactics, which he used to become the 2019 World Fischer Random Chess Champion, after crushing Magnus Carlsen in a match.
You can grab them at 50% off for the next five days as they’re on sale because of Wesley’s victory at the Chessable Masters.