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Reports Oct 27, 2022 | 12:30 PMby Colin McGourty

Fischer Random 2: Wesley So tries to castle illegally

Reigning Fischer Random World Champion Wesley So confessed he’d never read the rules after he lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi in 19 moves when he was unable to castle while in check. Nodirbek Abdusattorov has already qualified for the semi-finals, so that either Ian or Wesley will be knocked out, while Magnus Carlsen had a good day to catch Hikaru Nakamura in the Group B lead.

Nepo and the arbiters explain to So that you can't castle when in check | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

On Day 2 of the Fischer Random World Championship in Reykjavik the players played two mini-matches against the same opponent. Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Magnus Carlsen won both matches to top their groups — with Nodirbek already sure of a place in the semi-finals.


Replay the games from the group stages of the World Fischer Random Championship in Reykjavik using the selector below.

The day’s most remarkable drama came in the key match-up of the day, Wesley So vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Nepomniachtchi 3:1 So (1:1 and 1.5:0.5)

Ian Nepomniachtchi dealt a big blow to Wesley So's hopes of retaining his title | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The day started well for defending World Fischer Random Champion Wesley So, who entered a queen and pawn endgame against Ian Nepomniachtchi on move 37 and then went on to grind out a win… in 106 moves!

Nepo hit back in the second game of the mini-match, however, so that the players shared a match point each.

Nikita Vitiugov is seconding Nepomniachtchi in Reykjavik | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The most shocking moment of the day came in the first game of the second match, however, where Wesley So would have been winning… if he could have made the illegal move he was planning — 18…0-0.

In this Chess960 setup to castle “short” you just needed to move the rook from h8 to f8, while the king would stay rooted on the spot on g8.

That created confusion, since it wasn’t necessary to move the king while it was in check, but, as Ian Nepomniachtchi rightly pointed out, the rules are simple — you can’t castle while in check, either in normal chess or Chess960!

That came as a surprise to Wesley when the arbiters pointed it out to him.

Other grandmasters also had their doubts, however. You can see Anish Giri in the tweet above, while Wesley noted that Magnus Carlsen also thought castling was legal in this particular situation!

A painful case of “no-one reads the regulations”, or in this case, the rules. With no option to castle the position was hopeless, and Wesley resigned. 

That meant that this time he was the one who had to win on demand to rescue a match point, but instead he only got an ending where the best he could hope for was a draw.


64.Kxh3 is one way to achieve that, but 64.Rxh2? was in fact liquidating into a losing endgame after the precise 64…Re3+! 65.Kf2 Kf4.

Ian won in 79 moves, with the players then spending 5 minutes discussing the endgame.

That mini-match defeat for Wesley leaves his fate out of his hands, since Nodirbek Abdusattorov is already in the semi-finals and Ian Nepomniachtchi will be uncatchable if he wins his matches on Thursday against Nodirbek and Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson.

Abdusattorov 4:0 Gretarsson (2:0 and 2:0)

Iranian arbiter Shohreh Bayat wears a "Women. Life. Freedom" protest T-shirt | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

18-year-old World Rapid Champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov won both mini-matches against Icelandic no. 1 Hjorvar Gretarsson, meaning he’s conceded only a single draw in the tournament.


It wasn’t quite as easy as it looked, however. In the first game of the day Hjorvar briefly had a big advantage, while his crucial opportunity came in the first game of the second match. Nodirbek lost a key pawn for no real compensation and was all but forced to go for a wild attack that, with best defence, simply wasn’t working.

Despite making things hard for himself, by move 22 Hjorvar was still on course to win and ensure he picked up at least one match point. He needed to play 22…fxg4!, but instead he went for 22…Rd8?, allowing the spectacular 23.Nxf5!

The problem with taking the queen on d3 is Nxe7+, picking up the black queen, while after 23…exf5 White had 24.Qb3+! and, with a couple more only moves, it turned out Nodirbek was completely winning.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov is the 1st player through to the semi-finals | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

From there on he cruised to yet another match victory and can now lose to both So and Nepomniachtchi on the final day of the group stages and still qualify for the semi-finals.

Carlsen 4:0 Bluebaum (2:0 and 1.5:0.5)

Matthias Bluebaum and Magnus Carlsen in front of the Norwegian TV cameras | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

It was a good day for Magnus Carlsen, whose hopes of bouncing straight back from his painful loss to Hikaru Nakamura the day before were boosted as early as move 7.

The tricky knight move, threatening the fork Nxe2+, meant that Magnus could immediately force a much better endgame where his bishop pair was powerful. He went on to win easily, and then also won the next game in just 31 moves after Matthias Bluebaum picked up a poisoned pawn.

Magnus, a big Real Madrid fan, had no distractions for the 2nd mini-match, since Inter Milan were cruising to victory, condemning Barcelona to being knocked out of the Champions League whatever happened in their own match.

Nevertheless, the second mini-match in Reykjavik was much more hard-fought, with Magnus going for a somewhat dubious tactic and surviving some difficult moments before making a draw in the first game.

Peter Heine Nielsen and Magnus Carlsen discuss the starting position | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

He started the second with a move that in normal chess would look like trolling.

It had the aim here of dissuading White from playing b4, however, with Magnus in fact meeting 2.b3 with 2…b5!? himself.

The opening experiment was a mixed success, but ultimately Magnus managed to win a pawn and then grind out a 75-move win in a rook endgame. It was tough on Matthias, who can no longer qualify for the semi-finals, while Magnus is right back in control of his own destiny.

Nakamura 2:2 Fedoseev (1:1 and 1:1)

Hikaru Nakamura started this match two points ahead of Vladimir Fedoseev. That meant the four draws that followed favoured him, though the US star also missed two big chances for more.

The first game of the first mini-match was a quick 19-move draw, but the second was absolutely explosive. Vladimir went for a risky pawn grab that was more or less correct, according to the computer, but led to wild complications. Vladimir had missed one crucial detail, 21…Nxd2!

In his video round-up, Hikaru commented that after this move “everything starts to spin completely out of control”.

The crucial moment came after 24.Rd4.


For once Hikaru’s pragmatism failed him, as he decided to go for an endgame with 24…Qxe3+ 25.Kxe3 Bxc5 26.Nxc5 Rxd4 27.Kxd4 fxg2. He felt it was low risk and the g-pawn would give him winning chances, but the position fizzled out into a draw after Vladimir defended accurately.

Instead 24…Rxd4+! 25.Bxd4 Qxg2+ was the way to fight for more. Nevertheless, the draw was a fair outcome, and it led to a very animated post-mortem.

The pattern was repeated in the second mini-match, with a relatively quiet draw in the first game before an explosive second. A tense battle suddenly swung in Hikaru’s favour.

In deep trouble, Vladimir came up with 34…c3!?, which Hikaru admitted, “threw me off and I completely lost focus”.

35.Rfh5! was the cleanest killer blow, but Hikaru said he spent all his time on 35.Nf6+. That’s also a winning move, but Hikaru missed a detail further down the line, and went for 35.dxc3 instead. That was still winning, especially after 35…Rxd5 36.exd5 Qb6.


It turns out 37.Kg2! was winning here, but unable to see how his king would escape from checks, Hikaru decided to play things safe by going for 37.Rg5 and offering a draw, which was accepted.

Hikaru could have got more, but he still has everything in his own hands | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Will that dropped match point prove critical? The odds are probably not — if Magnus beats Fedoseev in the first mini-match on Thursday and Hikaru beats Bluebaum then the two favourites will have wrapped up qualification with a round to spare. If they don’t, however, anything could happen!

Watch the World Fischer Random Championship from 15:00 GMT (17:00 CEST)!

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