GCT: So leads in Leuven

by Johannes Fischer
6/13/2018 – Wesley So got off to a good start in the rapid tournament in Leuven, with 5 / 6 (rapid games use double scoring). So maintained his lead on day two, keeping the same rhythm. He won in rounds 4 and 5, in round 6 he played a draw, bringing his point tally to 10 / 12. In second place is Levon Aronian with 8 / 12 | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

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So dominant so far

Also on the second day of the Rapid Chess tournament in Leuven, Wesley So played calm and unspectacular, but strong and successful. He won with White against Anish Giri, with Black against Alexander Grischuk and played draw against Aronian.

Round 4

In the fourth round, So showed that he had not lost his form overnight. Against Giri, he won a pretty positional game with a petite combinación à la Capablanca.


Giri's last move ran into 23.Nxa6! when 23...bxa6 would run into 24.d6! Instead, Giri went for 23...Nf7 but was in a serious hole from which he could not emerge.

Fabiano Caruana had a tough time on the first day. But in the American prestige duel against Hikaru Nakamura earned him his first victory in the tournament — thanks to a small strategic feat.


Nakamura, So, Caruana

Teammates, rivals: The American top ten triumvirate | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Round 5

In round five, So won a seemingly balanced position after Grischuk made a serious mistake in the king and pawn endgame.


This position was drawn...until...34.Ke3? (34.f4 Kxf4 35.Kf3 grabs the important opposition.) 34...Kxf5 35.Kf3 but the difference is that White will run out of moves and be Zugzwang-ed into submission. 35...g6 36.a4 a6.

The only player who could keep up the pace of So was Levon Aronian. In round six, he played with Black against Anish Giri and repeated a line of the Berlin Defence with which he had lost a disastrous game against Magnus Carlsen. But this time he turned the tables and gained an energetic attack.


Of course, games with a reduced time to think are objectively not as good in terms of quality as classical games are — the players simply make more mistakes. But you can sometimes see things in rapid and blitz games that you rarely get in classical games between top players. The following lively exchange between Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is a typical example.


Round 6

In the last round of the day, So played with White against Levon Aronian, who was in second place in the standings. So took no risk and quickly led a play of the Catalan opening in an endgame that was a fairly tame draw.

Levon Aronian considers his options | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Thus, So maintained his lead and is now on 10 points out of a possible 12, remaining alone at the top. Two points behind is Aronian. So has good chances to win the rapid portion of the tournament tomorrow.

Standings after six rounds (with double point scoring)


Round-up show:

Games of rounds one to six


Commentary webcast

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

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


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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