'So' young and 'So' good

4/20/2008 – The youngest grandmaster in the world is Filipino Wesley So, who last December made his final norm at the tender age of 14 years and two months. That was no fluke, as Wesley went on to win the 10th Dubai Open this April, with a 2708 performance. In a match that is under way against Susanto Megaranto, Indonesia's highest rated player, Wesley leads 3:0. Report by IM Rodolfo Tan Cardoso.

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"So" young and "So" good

Portrait of Wesley So by IM Rodfolfo Tan-Cardoso

Wesley So, a Filipino who is currently the youngest grandmaster in the world, scored another milestone by winning the 10th Dubai Open Chess Championship held form April 5 -15, 2008. The 14-year-old schoolboy, who is enjoying a two-month summer break from his high school studies in the Philippines, finished with 7.0/9.0 output and a performance rating of 2708 in this tournament, the same number of points as GM Gagunashvili Merab, GM Ghaem Maghami and GM Li Chao B, but won the title with a better tiebreak to grab the Sheikh Rashed Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup. What a better way to start a summer vacation!


The currently youngest grandmaster in the world: Wesley So

Wesley So bested 131 players from 25 countries in the tournament that attracted 29 GM/WGM, 21 IM/WIM and 22 FM/WGM held at the Dubai Chess Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It offered a guaranteed prize of $45,000.

Dubai Open final standings

Rnk Sd Title Player Rtg FED
Pts
RtgSum Prize
1 16 GM So, Wesley 2540 PHI
7
20234 $4500
2 15 GM Gagunashvili, Merab 2553 GEO
7
20085 $4500
3 4 GM Ghaem, Maghami Ehsan 2604 IRI
7
19789 $4500
4 8 GM Li, Chao B 2581 CHN
7
19605 $4500
5 19 GM Gupta, Abhijeet 2521 IND
20400 $1687
6 7 GM Drozdovskij, Yuri 2581 UKR
20135 $1687
7 25 IM Laxman, R R 2488 IND
19794 $1687
8 12 GM Neverov, Valeriy 2568 UKR
19658 $1687
9 6 GM Arutinian, David 2593 GEO
19546 $1687
10 17 GM Ibrahimov, Rasul 2535 AZE
19533 $1687
11 1 GM Guseinov, Gadir 2625 AZE
19527 $1687
12 26 GM Guliev, Sarhan 2487 AZE
18570 $1687
13 33 FM Salem, A R  Saleh 2429 UAE
6
19985 $600
14 5 GM Kuzubov, Yuriy 2603 UKR
6
19690 $520
15 10 GM Kotanjian, Tigran 2570 ARM
6
19663 $520
16 9 GM Adly, Ahmed 2578 EGY
6
19634 $520
17 23 GM Ibrayev, Nurlan 2507 KAZ
6
19370 $520
18 35 IM Sachdev, Tania 2423 IND
6
19184 $520
19 48 FM Wu, Xibin 2351 CHN
6
19137 $520
20 13   Zhou, Weiqi 2560 CHN
6
19088 $520
21 30 IM Ashwin, Jayaram 2446 IND
6
18905 $520
22 20 GM Negi, Parimarjan 2514 IND
6
18872 $520
23 32 IM Guliev, Logman 2434 AZE
6
18559 $520

Note: Tie Break consists of the sum of the ratings of the top eight opponents

For school kids like Wesley So, summer time in the Philippines is fun time. Kids here normally spent their time with their friends to play basketball or to swim in beach resorts. But not with this kid, the highest rated Filipino in the April 2008 FIDE rating list needs to prepare for the coming tournaments ahead since he has a full tournament schedule for the next two months. After this tournament he would proceed to Indonesia to meet GM Megaranto in a six-game match, then in May two international tournaments in local soil are lined up, and the national championship, the qualifying tournament for this coming Olympiad in Germany. Although chess presently occupies Wesley’s time, he keenly wants to have a college degree – he attends regular high school classes and he is not taking his academic studies lightly.

In an interview by a local paper in Dubai, Wesley So said that he was happy to have been awarded with the grandmaster title, but now that he has it his next goal is to become a super-grandmaster. Well, this is not wishful thinking on his part. This kid’s goal in chess is achievable with his enormous talent and dedication to the game nothing is impossible indeed. However, to be more realistic, in order to achieve his next goal he still needs to have more local sponsorship for his possible trips abroad and advance training expenditures. Hopefully, his victory in Dubai would pave the way for invitations to prestigious European chess tournaments like the Corus Chess, where this year Asian chess prodigies like WGM Hou Yifan of China and GM Negi of India participated.

Selected Games of GM Wesley So at Dubai

After beating the third seeded GM Pantsulaia (2617) of Georgia, for his third consecutive victory, Wesley met the reigning World Junior champion GM Ahmed Adly of Egypt once again. A quick flashback – last October 9, 2007 (Manila Time), So, who was celebrating his birthday at that time and was the solo leader of that tournament, was annihilated by Adly while playing the white side of a Sicilian Najdorf game. However, in Dubai, U.A.E., his last year's nemesis in Yerevan, Armenia last year could not respond to his tactical maneuvering.

W So (2540) - A Adly (2578) [B99]
Dubai Open Dubai UAE (4), 09.04.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qf3 Be7 9.0-0-0 Qc7 10.Bd3 h6 11.Bh4 g5 12.fxg5 Ne5 13.Qe2 Nfg4

The weak f7 pawn is the prime target of White’s queen at this point. In the Evans-Portisch 1972 (San Antonio) continued with 15. gxf3 hxg5 16. Bg3 Ne5 which ended in a drawn position. 14.Nf3 Nxf3 15.Qxf3 Ne5 16.Qh5 Ng6 17.Bg3 hxg5 18.Qf3 Ne5 19.Bxe5 dxe5 20.Rdf1 Rh7 21.h4 gxh4 22.Qg4 Rh6 23.g3 Rg6 24.Qf3 Rf6 25.Qh5 Rxf1+ 26.Rxf1 hxg3

Two pawns down, but with a strong attacking stance, GM So delivers the lethal move he had been waiting for, setting the stage for his coup de grace. 27.Qxf7+ Kd7 28.Rd1 Kc6 29.Qg6 Bh4 30.Nd5 Qd6?? (30… Qa5 31. Qd8+ Kd6 offers better resistance, or 30. … Qd8 31. Bb5+ Kc5 32. b4+ Kxc5 Nc3+ Kxb4) 31.Qe8+ Bd7 32.Qxa8 exd5 33.Bxa6 Qc7 34.Rxd5 Bg5+ 35.Kb1 Qb6 36.Bb5+ Qxb5 37.Rxb5 1-0. [Click to replay]

In the fifth round he met the host country's leading player, FM Salem Saleh, the 2007 Asian Youth Boys 14-under and a fellow 14 year-old school boy, who incidentally had also won four consecutive games, including the one against GM Neverov (2568). In what could be his greatest game so far, GM So, stormed Black’s fortress with all the firepower he could muster, sacrificing pieces in the process to shred the enemy king of its defenses. Although he lost this game, FM Salem would still go on to score his first GM norm in this tournament.


In a fiery mood, GM So annihilated the defenses of FM Salem Saleh
(picture courtesy of FIDE through my friend and a Filipino, Casto Abundo)

W So (2540) - AR Salem (2429) [B33]
Dubai Open Dubai UAE (5), 10.04.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.0-0 Bxd5 13.exd5 Ne7 14.c3 e4 15.Bc2 Bg7 16.Qh5! If 16.Qd2 Qb6 0–0. 16...Qa5 17.Nb1 would have equalized 17.Rae1 Qc8. Less advisable is 17...Nxd5 18.Qxf5 Nf6 19.Bxe4 Nxe4 20.Rxe4 18.Kh1 Rb8 19.g4 19.Nb1!? should not be overlooked, says Fritz b4 Black has equalized. 20.cxb4 Bxb2! Black fights back.

21.Qg5+! Leaving his knight on the roll. 21…Ng6 22.gxf5 Bxa3 23.fxg6 fxg6 (not 23...Qxc2?? because of 24.gxh7+! Kh8 25.Qf6+ Kxh7 26.Rg1 Bxb4 27.Qg7#!) 24.Bxe4 Qd8 (not 24...Bxb4?? because of 25.Bxg6! Kh8 26.Re7! and White wins) 25.Qg3 Bxb4 26.Bxg6 Bxe1. Of course not 26…hxg6 because of 27 Qxg6+ Kh8 28 Rg1, and it’s mate next whatever Black does, e.g., 28…Rg8 29 Qh5#!; if 28…Qh4 29.Qg7#!

27.Bxh7+! Kh8. Not 27...Kxh7 28.Qh3+! 28.Rxe1 Rf6?? 28...Qf6 offers the best chance: 29.Be4 Rf7! 29.Qh3! Rf4 30.Bf5+ Qh4 31.Qc3+ Rd4 32.Rd1 33.Qc8+ Kg7 34.Rg1+! 1-0. Black had seen enough and resigns although there is plenty of counterplay left as trotted out by Fritz: 34.Rg1+ Rg4 35.Bxg4 Qxf2 36.Qc7+ Kh8 37.Qc3+ Qd4 38.Qc8+ Kg7 39.Qd7+ Kh6 40.Qxd6+ Kg7 and so on. [Click to replay]

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About the author

IM Rodolfo Tan-Cardoso, a former Philippine Champion and chess Olympian, was born in the Philippines in 1937. He was awarded the IM title in 1957, was Philippine Champion in 1958 and 1963.

Winning the Asian zonal tournament of 1957-58 he qualified for the interzonal at Portoroz in 1958. There he finished in 19th place (out of 21 players), but his performance was notable for the last round defeat of David Bronstein which kept Bronstein out of the subsequent Candidates Tournament.

Currently Rodolfo lives in Cebu in the Philippines, where he coaches young Filipinos chess talents.


Breaking news: Wesley So leads Megaranto

Grandmaster Wesley So continued to amaze the chess world by dominating Indonesia’s top player right on his turf. So posted three straight wins in his six-game duel opposite GM Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia, leaving him a draw short of winning the FIDE rated event at the Indonesian Sports Council Hall in Jakarta, Indonesia. Megaranto, the highest rated player of Indonesia with an Elo of 2561, needs to sweep the last three games to salvage a draw. His rating will go down regardless of the results in the remaining games. The youngest GM in the world these days will pick up some more rating points to inch closer to the 2600-barrier. He earned 15 Elo points from Dubai, giving him an unofficial rating of 2555. Only one Filipino player reached the super GM status – Mark Paragua, whose best rating is 2621. The former child prodigy is now playing in the United States and is the second highest rated player in the country with an Elo of 2538. From Sunday Times: Wild, wild Wesley on fire versus Indon GM.

We have the first three games of this remarkable match:

So,Wesley (2540) - Megaranto,Susanto (2561) [B19]
JAPFA Chess Festival 2008 Match Game 1 Jakarta, Indonisia (1), 17.04.2008
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bf4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qc7 13.0-0-0 Ngf6 14.Ne4 0-0-0 15.g3 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Nf6 17.Qe2 Bd6 18.c4 c5 19.Bc3 cxd4 20.Nxd4 a6 21.Kb1 Rd7 22.Rc1 Qc5 23.Nb3 Qf5+ 24.Rc2 Bc7 25.Bxf6 gxf6 26.c5 Rd5 27.c6 b5 28.Qe3 Kd8 29.Qa7 Re8 30.Nc5 a5 31.Na6 Qe5 32.Rhc1 Qd6 33.Qa8+ Ke7 34.Qb7 Kd8 35.Rc5 Rxc5 36.Rxc5 f5 37.Rc2 Rg8 38.Nxc7 1-0. [Click to replay]

Megaranto,Susanto (2561) - So,Wesley (2540) [B30]
JAPFA Chess Festival 2008 Match Game 2 Jakarta, Indonesia (2), 18.04.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.Re1 Nd4 6.Nxd4 cxd4 7.d3 a6 8.Ba4 Nc6 9.Bf4 Be7 10.Nd2 0-0 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.e5 c5 13.Qg4 Kh8 14.Ne4 Bb7 15.Qh5 Qb6 16.b3 f6 17.f3 Bd5 18.exf6 gxf6 19.Ng3 Rg8 20.Nf5 Bf8 21.Qf7 Qd8 22.Kh1 Bc6 23.Ng3 Rg6 24.Ne4 e5 25.Bg3 Qe7 26.Qxe7 Bxe7 27.Bh4 Rag8 28.g4 Kg7 29.Bg3 Kf7 30.Rg1 R6g7 31.Raf1 d6 32.Rf2 h5 33.Kg2 hxg4 34.fxg4 Rxg4 35.Kf3 f5 36.Ke2 Ke6 0-1. [Click to replay]

So,Wesley (2540) - Megaranto,Susanto (2561) [B01]
JAPFA Chess Festival 2008 Match Game 3 Jakarta, Indonisia (3), 18.04.2008
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ gxf6 10.c3 Nd7 11.Nh4 Bg6 12.Qf3 Qc7 13.0-0 Bd6 14.g3 0-0-0 15.a4 f5 16.a5 a6 17.Rfe1 Nf6 18.Bg5 Be7 19.Ng2 Ne4 20.Bxe7 Qxe7 21.Nf4 e5 22.dxe5 Rd2 23.Re2 Rhd8 24.h4 h5 25.e6 Rxe2 26.Bxe2 Qf6 27.exf7 Bxf7 28.Qe3 Re8 29.Qa7 Rg8 30.Kh2 Rd8 31.Bd3 Nd2 32.Rd1 Ne4 33.Re1 Bd5 34.Re2 Qf7 35.f3 Nd6 36.Nxd5 Qxd5 37.Qe3 Qxa5 38.Qe5 Qxe5 39.Rxe5 b5 40.b4 Rf8 41.Re7 Rh8 42.Kg2 Rh6 43.Kf2 Kd8 44.Ra7 Kc8 45.Ke3 Re6+ 46.Kf4 Re1 47.Rxa6 Kb7 48.Ra2 Kb6 49.Rc2 c5 50.Bxf5 c4 51.Bg6 Kc6 52.Bxh5 Nc8 53.Bg6 Kd6 54.h5 Ne7 55.Be4 Rh1 56.g4 Ke6 57.Kg5 1-0. [Click to replay]


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