So hot right now: American chess champion wins in Paris and leads GCT



GM Wesley So won the Paris Rapid & Blitz event of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. // photo Lennart Ootes, GCT

Grandmaster Wesley So has crushed in all its forms and almost all comers during the month of June. After a pandemic-induced digital offseason, the reigning US chess champion has made a most successful return to the physical chessboard of the Grand Chess Tour, the international summer series of five $ 1 million tournaments that he leads. now after two events.

Technically a showcase of domination over three different time checks, So started the month with a further test of her skills under the classic clock, clinching a second place finish at the opening of the GCT Classic Superbet Chess in Romania. Immediately after, he kicked things up a notch by winning the Paris Rapid & Blitz, the first of three GCT speed events, which ended on June 23. 9 Rapids and 18 Blitz – So he only lost one blitz match on his return.

So headed to Paris throughout the five days of the event, starting with nine laps using the fast clock – which he declared during the pandemic break as his new favorite time control, responsible for not only delivering him the United States Chess Championship 2020, but also several big victories against world champion Magnus Carlsen in the online final of his monthly Champions Chess Tour.

With every double-weighted quick match in the Paris scoring format, the regular So notched three wins for two points apiece, including two wins on day three that separated him from the field, one of them with the black pieces. in a sharp Berlin against his compatriot GM Fabiano Caruana.

[pgn][Event "GCT Rapid Paris 2021"] [Site "Paris FRA"] [Date "2021.06.20"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2820"] [BlackElo "2770"] [ECO "C67"] [Opening "Ruy Lopez"] [Variation "Berlin defence, open variation"] [WhiteFideId "2020009"] [BlackFideId "5202213"] [EventDate "2021.06.18"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. d4 Bf6 10. Re1 Re8 11. Nc3 Rxe1 12. Qxe1 Bxd4 13. Bf4 Ne8 14. Nd5 d6 15. Bg5 f6 16. Bh4 g5 17. Qe4 Bxb2 18. Rb1 Be5 19. f4 gxh4 20. fxe5 dxe5 21. Bc4 Be6 22. Rxb7 Kh8 23. Bd3 Bg8 24. Nxc7 Nd6 25. Qxh4 Nxb7 26. Nxa8 Nc5 27. Bf5 e4 28. h3 Qd4+ 29. Kh1 Qa1+ 0-1 [/pgn]

Caruana, the US world No. 2, was on the reverse trajectory of his teammate So throughout the month of June. After a forgettable seventh place in his reliable classical time control in Romania, Caruana was even less efficient with the accelerated clocks in Paris. He scored 4/9 in the quick play section and 8.5 / 18 in the blitz, finishing eighth in the second event and now likely out of the race for any major GCT overall prize.

So, however, he looked as usual under the blitz clock, scoring 12.5 / 18 in format and ending the final day 1.5 points ahead of the peloton to cushion his lead. His only loss of the month came against GM Levon Aronian in a surprisingly straightforward game, although the blow was immediately left aside as So ended GM Alireeza Firouzja’s rise to power in the next round. The Iranian-born speed specialist, who turned 18 at the Paris event, did not score a victory in the fast section but came up with something more during the blitz portion, totaling six wins on day one only – until So stops it flat in a Trompowsky attack.

[pgn][Event "GCT Blitz Paris 2021"] [Site "Paris FRA"] [Date "2021.06.21"] [Round "7.5"] [White "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2759"] [BlackElo "2770"] [ECO "A45"] [Opening "Trompovsky attack (Ruth, Opovcensky opening)"] [WhiteFideId "12573981"] [BlackFideId "5202213"] [EventDate "2021.06.21"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 d5 3. e3 c5 4. Bxf6 gxf6 5. dxc5 Nc6 6. Bb5 e6 7. c4 dxc4 8. Nd2 Bxc5 9. Ngf3 c3 10. bxc3 O-O 11. O-O f5 12. Nd4 Bd7 13. Rb1 Rc8 14. Qh5 Qf6 15. Rfd1 Qg6 16. Qe2 Rfd8 17. N2f3 Qf6 18. e4 Bb6 19. exf5 Nxd4 20. cxd4 Qxf5 21. Bd3 Qf6 22. Qe4 h6 23. Qg4+ Qg7 24. Qh4 Ba4 25. Re1 Bxd4 26. Re4 Bf6 27. Qh3 Rxd3 28. Rg4 Bg5 29. Rxa4 Qb2 30. Rf1 Rc1 31. g4 Rxf1+ 32. Kxf1 Qb5 0-1 [/pgn]


Grand Masters Wesley So and Alireeza Firouzja participate in the Paris Rapid & Blitz 2021 event in June. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tower

So led a two-horse race with Russian general manager Ian Nepomniachtchi entering the final day of the blitz in Paris, both enjoying a four-point cushion in the standings as top finishers in the weighted quick format. The event seemed to be heading towards a final round, a dream scenario between So and Nepo with the tournament title at stake, although the Russian did not hold his half of the bargain, losing to Firouzja in the penultimate lap and losing pace. Despite the lack of mathematical opportunities, the world champion contender went hard on So with a Nimzo-Larsen attack in the final round – although the attempt was unsuccessful.

[pgn][Event "GCT Blitz Paris 2021"] [Site "Paris FRA"] [Date "2021.06.22"] [Round "18.5"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2792"] [BlackElo "2770"] [ECO "A01"] [Opening "Nimzovich-Larsen attack"] [Variation "classical variation"] [WhiteFideId "4168119"] [BlackFideId "5202213"] [EventDate "2021.06.21"] 1. b3 d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. e3 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. c4 c6 6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. d4 Ne4 8. a3 Bd6 9. Bd3 Nxc3 10. Bxc3 Bxd3 11. Qxd3 Qe7 12. O-O a5 13. e4 O-O 14. Bb2 dxe4 15. Qxe4 Nf6 16. Qh4 b5 17. Bc1 bxc4 18. bxc4 c5 19. a4 Rfc8 20. Be3 cxd4 21. Bxd4 Rab8 22. Bc3 Bb4 23. Be5 Bd6 24. Rfd1 Bxe5 25. Nxe5 Qc7 26. Qg5 Qc5 27. Qf4 Rb7 28. h3 h6 29. Rd3 Rcb8 30. Kh2 Rb2 31. Rf3 Qc7 32. Re1 Ra2 33. Qg3 Kh7 34. Qh4 Rbb2 35. Ree3 Re2 36. Qd4 Rxf2 37. Rxf2 Rxf2 38. c5 Nd5 39. Rg3 Rf4 40. Qb2 Rf5 41. Nf3 Nf6 42. Qb6 Rxc5 43. Qb1+ Kg8 44. Nd4 Nh5 45. Ne2 Nxg3 0-1 [/pgn]


Paris Rapid & Blitz 2021 final ranking // courtesy of the Grand Chess Tour

After two events, So now leads the Grand Chess Tour with 21.3 points and $ 82,500 in prize money. As a full tour participant, he will perform in one of two remaining speed events, scheduled next in Zagreb, Croatia on July 5 and again in St. Louis, MO on August 9; as well as the classic Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis on August 16th.

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