GCT: So takes three point lead to the blitz

by Johannes Fischer
6/15/2018 – Wesley So survived the third day of the Grand Chess Tour in Leuven, Belgium, without a loss and won the tournament confidently with 14 out of 18 possible points. Three points behind are Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Tomorrow, the first nine of 18 rounds of blitz are on the program, and So must defend his lead against some legendary blitz specialists like Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin, Nakamura and Grischuk. | Photo: Lennart Ootes, tournament page

Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

Wesley So published two new opening DVDs: 1.b3, the so called Nimzo-Larsen-Attack, for White and his black secrets in the modern Italian. Get them in a package and save money!


The hot hand continues on day three

For the first two days of the Leuven rapid tournament, Wesley So kept a firm grip on the top spot on the standings. He won four of his six games, with two draws and no losses. On the third day, one win and two draws were enough to keep him well ahead of his rivals.

Round 7

The seventh round brought So an additional '1' in the crosstable (worth 2 points in the standings). Wesley played with the black pieces against Hikaru Nakamura, who was in trouble right out of the opening: after only nine moves, Black was clearly better, and it wasn't long before So had a decisive advantage.


Not the way Nakamura hoped to start his afternoon | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour


So's closest rival after the seventh round was Levon Aronian, who had to play with White against Karjakin. In this important game, Aronian was too impatient and Karjakin capitalised.


With two rounds to go, So was now three points clear of Karjakin and four points clear of Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and managed to secure his place in the standings for the third day already in round 8.

My Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

The Italian Game is considered a sound but quiet opening without early trades, giving rise to rich positions where plans are more important than forced variations. So shows black's plans on this DVD.

Round 8

So played with White against Karjakin and just needed a draw. With a well-known variant in the Catalan, he avoided any risk and easily succeeded. So he was three points ahead of Karjakin before the last round and had thus won the rapid portion. The rapid tournament in Leuven is just part of the story, however, as on Friday and Saturday, we will witness the blitz tournament which will determine the overall winner. The players will partake in a further double round-robin, this time with traditional scoring — one point for every win and a half point for a draw. Theoretically, each of the participants can score up to 18 points, and thus anyone has a chance of making up ground in the overall standings.

Round 9

Therefore, the ninth round remained contested as players jostled for position going into the blitz. Viswanathan Anand, with white against So decided that after two painful losses, a trouble-free draw was just fine. The pair played an exchange variation in the French and quickly exchanged off all the pieces until only opposite coloured bishops remained and they shook hands.

Aronian won with White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nakamura outplayed Mamedyarov with Black, bringing him up to 10 points.



Mamedyarov is squarely in the middle of the pack | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Karjakin, however, suffered a setback against an old rival. He lost to Fabiano Caruana, who was already better after the opening and later in the game missed a flashy win, but in the end still managed to safely convert.


On Friday, So will start with three points ahead of Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave in the blitz tournament. He has a good chance of winning overall in Leuven, not least considering that he has performed well in blitz of late, finishing first in the Norway Chess blitz opener. But at least Nakamura still believes in his chances to go in Leuven as the overall winner of the field and said confidently in the interview after his final round game:

"He's is not the best blitz here, simply put. There are several of us that are much better blitz players than Wesley."

Nakamura chats with Maurice Ashley at the conclusion of day three | StLChessClub YouTube

Round-up show

Rapid tournament final standings (with double point scoring)


All games


Commentary webcast

Commentary by Yasser Seirawan, Jovanka Houska, Alejandro Ramirez (St. Louis)
Maurice Ashley and Nigel Short (Leuven)

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson

Correction: The headline initially misstated the number of points So leads by after round nine. It is three.


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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