Latest news

Reports Jun 14, 2018 | 8:02 PMby Colin McGourty

Leuven GCT, Day 3: Wesley So cruises to rapid win

Wesley So demolished Hikaru Nakamura in the first round of the day as he cruised to victory in the rapid section of the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour in Leuven. His 14/18 was an exact repeat of his score a year ago, but this time there’s no Magnus to overtake him. Nakamura claimed (for which Fabiano Caruana criticised him) “several of us… are much better blitz players than Wesley”, and good days for the likes of MVL and Alexander Grischuk set up the blitz showdown nicely. Only Anish Giri and Vishy Anand would need a miracle to challenge.

A dramatic start saw four wins for Black, including Nakamura 0-1 So | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

You can replay all the rapid games using the selector below:

And here’s the live coverage of Day 3 in Leuven:

Wesley So retains his cool

Wesley has been making it look easy | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Things couldn’t have been going much better for Wesley in Leuven until a strange incident threatened to upset that balance on the eve of Day 3. Accusations were posted online that Wesley So had responded to an abusive message at a chess website with extremely unpleasant abuse in return. Normally we would ignore such posts until any facts were established, but in this case Wesley himself felt the need to respond. In a Facebook post where he notes he was woken up in the middle of the night to be shown the messages, he says his account had been hacked:

If someone was, as Wesley assumed, “trying to derail” him, it didn’t work, as the first game of Day 3 couldn’t possibly have gone better for him – or worse for Nakamura!

Hikaru opened with the London System, which while perhaps not a lethal weapon is not an opening in which you often see an elite player all but lost by move 10! 7.Qb3? seems to have been a bad mistake, compounded by 9.Bd6?, and after 9…Ne4! things were already falling apart:

That knight is not merely targeting the d6-bishop but the f2-pawn, and, if White does nothing, after capturing on f2 Black will give a check with the queen on f6 and pick up the unfortunate rook on a1. There was nothing better than 10.Qb2, and after 10…Nxd6 11.cxd6 Qf6! Hikaru traded into a miserable ending. You might call him a glutton for punishment, as he played on as his pieces continued to get lost in multiple painful ways, with 26….Kc5! perhaps the most attractive:

There was no coming back, and he eventually resigned what he called a “horrendous” game on move 34.  

Wesley never looked back, taking a comfortable draw against 2nd place Sergey Karjakin in the next round to win the rapid section with a round to spare. He finished with a quick draw against Vishy Anand that meant he'd scored 5 wins and 4 draws, just as he had a year ago. In fact he even matched his performance day-by-day, with two wins on the first two days and “only” one on the last.

Jockeying for position before the blitz

You might say Hikaru never looked back either, though, since he channelled his frustration into wins against Vishy Anand and then Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The Vishy game was visually appealing as Hikaru, with White, managed to put all his pieces on light squares, while Vishy almost did the same with Black:

It may have been a fortress, but persistence paid off for Hikaru, who squeezed out a win in 74 moves, and remained "in the zone" to convert a double-edged position against Mamedyarov where it was unclear whose passed pawns were more dangerous.

Hikaru Nakamura was in combative form on and off the chessboard | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

It was the first time a player other than So had won two games on the same day this year, and Hikaru was emboldened to dismiss the 4-point gap between him and Wesley before the blitz as “manageable” – “it’s on the upper limit of where you want to be”. He went one step further shortly afterwards, when he commented of So:

He’s not the best blitz player here. There are several of us who I think are much better blitz players than Wesley.

Those were fighting words which would soon be challenged by the third member of the US triumvirate (all recently confirmed with Sam Shankland and Ray Robson as playing in the 2018 US Olympiad team). Caruana matched Nakamura in winning two of his games, both with Black and both massacres. 

Fabiano Caruana said he hadn't written off his own chances, despite trailing So by 7 points | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

His victims were Anish Giri and then the previously unbeaten Sergey Karjakin, who got tangled up in more of Fabi’s Petroff webs. How about this for a dominant bishop pair!

White is a pawn up, but the computer gives Black an almost 4 pawns advantage. It wasn’t all sweetness and light for Fabi, though, since he also got blown away by Levon Aronian. He summed up:

I’ve committed suicide in a few games – some were just embarrassing! My game against Levon… I don’t want to think about it.

He bristled, however, at Hikaru’s suggestion that there were several players among them who are much better at blitz than Wesley:

I don’t think that Wesley is a worse blitz player than Hikaru - at all! Isn’t he higher rated? He also won the Norway Chess blitz.

Fabiano had also seen his speed chess skills denigrated by his teammate, with Hikaru giving Magnus Carlsen a 75-80% chance of winning the upcoming World Championship match, with 10% of that because, “Fabiano has absolutely no chance if it goes to tiebreaks”.  

In terms of fact-checking, though, while Wesley has now leapfrogged ahead of Hikaru on the live list for rapid chess…

…for now Nakamura does lead in blitz:

Of course that can change dramatically in the next couple of days!

Among the other players Vishy Anand and Anish Giri both suffered two losses and then took quick draws in the last round to end the pain. They remained rock bottom.    

Anish Giri & his second Erwin l'Ami could still see the funny side | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Others who had suffered did better – we’ve already seen that Fabi picked up two wins, while Grischuk scored 4/6 and could have made it more if not for an amazing 120-move save by Mamedyarov. MVL is right where he’d want to be before the blitz, and despite not having fired on all cylinders yet he remains unbeaten.

"Generally you need to impress your friends, not your enemies", said Aronian after coming close to beating MVL | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

No-one managed to push Wesley, though, since Levon Aronian’s bold attacking play against Sergey Karjakin in the first round backfired badly, then in the final round, when Karjakin could have cut So’s lead to two points, he instead went on to lose to Caruana. That left the following scoretable:

The time control for the remaining 18 games will be 5 minutes for all moves plus a 3-second delay, with some losses on time likely to enter the picture. Can Wesley keep up his form? And how will the grudge games between the US stars go?

And above all, who will pick up the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour trophy? | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Don’t miss the live show from from 14:00 CEST!

See also:

Sort by Date Descending Date Descending Date Ascending Most Liked Receive updates

Comments 9

Guest 4684451933
Join chess24
  • Free, Quick & Easy

  • Be the first to comment!


Create your free account now to get started!

I am aged 16 or older.

By clicking ‘Register’ you agree to our terms and conditions and confirm you have read our privacy policy, including the section on the use of cookies.

Lost your password? We'll send you a link to reset it!

After submitting this form you'll receive an email with the reset password link. If you still can't access your account please contact our customer service.

Data Consent Details

We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines.

Using chess24 requires the storage of some personal data, as set out below. You can find additional information in our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, Disclaimer and Terms of Website Use. Please note that your data settings can be changed at any time by clicking on the Data Settings link in the footer at the bottom of our website.

data details

Necessary Data

Some data is technically necessary to be able to visit the page at all. A so-called cookie stores identifiers that make it possible to respond to your individual requests. It contains a session ID - a unique, anonymous user ID combined with an authentication identifier (user_data). A security identifier (csrf) is also stored to prevent a particular type of online attack. All of these fields are alpha-numeric, with almost no relation to your real identity. The only exception is that we monitor some requests with the IP address that you are currently using, so that we are able to detect malicious use or system defects. Additionally, a technical field is stored (singletab) to ensure that some interactions are only processed in the browser tab that is currently active. For example, a new chess game will not be opened in all your current tabs. We use your local storage to save the difference between your local clock and our server time (serverUserTimeOffset), so that we are able to display the date and time of events correctly for you. You can also enable more data fields, as described in the other sections. Your personal decision on which data storage to enable is also stored as necessary information (consent).

Settings Data

We offer a range of personal settings for your convenience. Options include which opponents you prefer to be paired against, your preferred chessboard and pieces, the board size, the volume setting of the video player, your preferred language, whether to show chat or chess notation, and more. You can use our web page without storing this data, but if you would like to have your individual settings remembered we recommend enabling this feature. For logged-in registered users this setting is mandatory to store information about your privacy settings, users you have blocked and your friendship settings. As a registered user we also store your data consent in these settings.

Social Media Data

We embed a Twitter feed showing activity for the hashtag #c24live and also make it possible to share content in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If you enable this option social networks are able to store data in your cookies or local storage for the purpose of these features.

Statistics Data

We would like to measure how our page is used with Google Analytics, so that we can decide which features to implement next and how to optimize our user experience. If you enable this feature Google will store your device identifiers and we will send tracking events (such as page requests) to Google Analytics. These have no direct relationship to your person except for the IP address currently being used.

Marketing Data

To help cover the cost of free services we would like to show you advertisements from our partner networks. Members of these networks store data on the banners shown to you and try to deliver ads that are relevant. If you choose not to allow this kind of data we have to show more anonymous advertisements and will be more limited in the free services we can offer.

Other Data

For registered users we store additional information such as profile data, chess games played, your chess analysis sessions, forum posts, chat and messages, your friends and blocked users, and items and subscriptions you have purchased. You can find this information in your personal profile. A free registration is not required to use this application. If you decide to contact the support team a ticket is created with information that includes your name and email address so that we can respond to your concern. This data is processed in the external service Zendesk. If you subscribe to a newsletter or are registered we would like to send you occasional updates via email. You can unsubscribe from newsletters and as a registered user you can apply several mail settings to control how your email address is used. For newsletters we transfer your email address and username to the external service MailChimp. If you buy content or subscriptions on chess24 we work with the payment service provider Adyen, which collects your payment data and processes information about the payment such as fraud protection data.