Classic: MVL beats So in exciting confrontation, wins Division II

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/15/2024 – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave prevailed in an exciting pair of matches against Wesley So to win Division II of the Classic. So reached the Grand Final by winning the losers’ bracket, which meant he needed to beat MVL twice to claim the title. The US grandmaster did win the first 4-game match in Armageddon, but was then defeated by his French colleague in the Grand Final Reset.

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So forces Reset, MVL prevails in tactical fight

After losing his first match of the Classic, against online-chess specialist José Martínez from Perú, Wesley So needed to win six matches in a row to rejoin the main bracket of Division II — in the Grand Final.

In the deciding contest against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — who came from getting the better of Grigoriy Oparin in the winners’ bracket final — So managed to force a reset after winning the first 4-game match in Armageddon. In the Grand Final Reset, though, MVL scored back-to-back victories to win the division.

In the first match of the day, MVL got ahead on the scoreboard by winning the first game with the black pieces. Two draws followed, and So managed to take the match to a sudden-death decider by winning game 4 on demand.

The Armageddon encounter saw MVL getting the black pieces, draw odds and a 3-minute deficit on the clock (10 minutes v. 7 minutes). So came out on top following an exciting, imbalanced struggle.

White’s 38.Qg4 threatens Nc5-d7, attacking the rook on b8 and creating dangerous threats via a potential Nd7-f6+. MVL foresaw this idea and played the natural-looking 38...Bd5 — which turned out to be a losing mistake — preparing 39.Nd7 Be6, forking queen and knight along the light-squared diagonal.

What MVL apparently missed in his calculations was 40.Qg3, as played by So in the game.

The subtle queen manoeuvre attacks the rook on b8 while maintaining the threat of Nd7-f6+, since the queen stands on the same file as the black king. (Note that an immediate 40.Nxf6+ fails to 40...Qxf6 41.Rxf6 Bxg4).

MVL was thus forced to give up an exchange with 40...Qxd7 41.Qxb8+, and So had no trouble converting his advantage into a 50-move victory.

In the first diagrammed position, Black could have avoided the line seen in the game with 38...Bxa2, since after 39.Nd7 he has 39...Rb1 (diagram), forcing a rook swap and thus successfully dealing with the threat of Nd7-f6+.

So’s victory in the Armageddon meant a 2-game Grand Final Reset would decide the winner of the division. MVL got the black pieces first, and obtained a remarkable win out of a Grünfeld, his long-standing pet defence.

For a second time on the day, So was in a must-win situation, and he had the black pieces. The 30-year-old played the Sicilian Najdorf — against an expert on the defensive system — and failed to create winning chances. The game ended up favouring MVL, who thus won the division and qualified to Division I of the next Champions Chess Tour event.

All games - Division II

Bracket - Division II

Division III: Andreikin beats Grandelius in Grand Final

Dmitry Andreikin had defeated Nils Grandelius in the winners’ bracket final of Division III. Grandelius set up a rematch by beating Karthikeyan Murali in the final of the lower bracket, but was once again defeated by Andreikin in the Grand Final. In the deciding match Andreikin beat Grandelius with white in Armageddon to claim the $7,500 first prize.

Replay all the games of the division on

Bracket - Division III


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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