So beats Nakamura, wins Berlin Grand Prix

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/5/2022 – With a 1½-½ victory in Monday’s rapid tiebreakers, Wesley So became the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix’s third leg in Berlin. So beat Hikaru Nakamura with the white pieces in game 2 of the playoff to take home €24,000 in prize money and finish the series in third place overall. | Photos: World Chess

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“I was very inexperienced”

FIDE Grand Prix 2022Wesley So defeated Hikaru Nakamura in tiebreaks to win the third leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin. A couple of fighting, mistake-ridden rapid games were played on Monday, with So scoring a win with the white pieces after drawing the first encounter to clinch the title. Nakamura had already secured first place in the series, thus gaining a spot in the upcoming Candidates Tournament.

As the contenders themselves explained, fatigue had a lot to do with how the final match progressed. Two quick draws were signed on the first two days of the final, while the elite grandmasters made more mistakes than usual in the rapid tiebreaker.

Motivation was also lacking, as it is clear that for such strong players the main drive in the series was to reach the Candidates. After winning the title, So confessed that his play was simply not deserving of getting a ticket to the tournament in Madrid. He also noted:

I’m only 28, and I’m hoping that next year, or in a couple of years, I will get a chance to play in the Candidates. The last time I played I was very inexperienced and finished second to last. I think if you qualify, you have to be ready to fight for first place.

Meanwhile, Nakamura, who had an outstanding return to over-the-board classical chess after focusing on his career as a streamer the last couple of years, mentioned that his success had something to do with luck.

I was quite fortunate in the first leg, as I got players who hadn’t played as much — they weren’t sharp.

The 5-time US champion was referring to Alexander Grischuk and Etienne Bacrot, who were both in his pool at the first tournament of the series.

Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So

Nakamura got white in the first rapid game of the playoff. A 56-move encounter, it saw both players missing chances before a draw was reached in a rook endgame. In game 2, Nakamura blundered a piece in a queenless middlegame arising from a Berlin Defence.

 

32...c6 leaves the bishop undefended. So got a decisive advantage by force with 33.Bxe5 dxe5 34.d6, and the rook cannot defend d7 anymore, allowing the knight to fork king and bishop in the next move — note that grabbing the knight with the rook on e5 would also fail due to the aforementioned fork.

 

34...Re6 35.Nd7+ Kg7 36.Nxb6 and Black was a piece to the good. A tenacious defender, Nakamura continued fighting until move 65. So was not going to let this great advantage slip away, though, as he converted his material edge into a deciding win.

 

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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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Denix Denix 4/5/2022 06:31
Congratulations to Wesley and Hikaru!
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