Wesley So wins U.S. Championship 2020

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/30/2020 – By scoring two quick draws on the last day of competition, Wesley So secured first place at the 2020 U.S. Championship. The Filipino-born grandmaster had a great run from start to finish and took home the $40,000 first prize after obtaining a remarkable 9/11 score. Jeffery Xiong also had a great performance, finishing in sole second place on 8½, while Ray Robson took third place after collecting 7½ points.

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“You can’t really compare anybody to Fischer”

Wesley So truly dominated the 2020 edition of the U.S. Championship, played online with a rapid time control due to the pandemic. Commentators and fans started comparing his performance with Bobby Fischer’s dominant performances in the 1960s, including his 11-0 run in 1963/64. So himself thought this comparison was a bit exaggerated:

The most important thing is to win the title, but I don’t think you can really compare anybody to Fischer. I have high respect for him. He is one of the greatest chess players who ever lived.

Nevertheless, the fact that Fischer and So are the only players to score 9 or more points in an 11-round U.S. Championship illustrates how strong So’s performance actually was.

The undefeated run of So allowed him to win the event with two rather quick draws on Thursday. First, he agreed to a 30-move draw with Ray Robson, after following 19 moves of a Caruana v Aronian game from 2018. And then came the eventual champion’s last rival, none other than Hikaru Nakamura. So commented:

I’d like to thank Hikaru for his gentlemanship and sportsmanship in the last game. Obviously he still could have spoiled my tournament.

Nakamura and So played the Berlin Defence a theoretical line of the Classical Nimzo-Indian and agreed to end the game peacefully after merely 5 minutes. The contenders followed a line they had explored in a previous direct encounter, played at the 2018 U.S. Championship.

This was So’s second win in the national championship since changing federations. He had won the event back in 2017, when he defeated Alexander Onischuk in a playoff.

US Championship 2020

Xiong clinches second place

After drawing So, Robson was still tied in second place with Jeffery Xiong, who could not defeat Aleksander Lenderman from a superior — yet tricky — position in round 10. Xiong, however, went on to beat Alejandro Ramirez in the final round:

 

Ramirez simply blundered a piece with 38.Kd3, allowing 38...g5, and White resigned.

Meanwhile, Robson lost with black against Lenderman, which meant Xiong finished in clear second place a half point behind the winner and a full point ahead of his young rival. Robson’s performance was also commendable though, and was even described by So as “almost the tournament of his life”. In fact, Robson ended the event 1½ points ahead of Leinier Dominguez — it was practically a three-horse race atop the standings during the second half of the tournament.

For Xiong it was a bit disappointing to finish second with such a great performance, and shortly after having got second place at the U.S. Junior Championship, when John Burke defeated him in the Armageddon playoff.

All games

 

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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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blindfldjeddah blindfldjeddah 11/2/2020 04:09
Meant to be so!
tom_70 tom_70 11/1/2020 07:01
@Karbuncle. Never heard of a 'twitch streamer'. Do they shake a lot?
Karbuncle Karbuncle 11/1/2020 05:09
Nakamura himself has said he considers his career is now a Twitch streamer, rather than a professional chess player. He finds it much more relaxing.
turok turok 11/1/2020 02:50
come on now lets not compare this to Fischer. As for Naka I think he's content with all the fast chess and will never be world champion sadly-
BKnight2003 BKnight2003 10/31/2020 10:12
Then Nakamura didn't spoil Wesley So's tournament, but chose to spoil Jeffery Xiong's tournament instead? Interesting...
MrPerry MrPerry 10/31/2020 09:24
I couldn't find the crosstables from Fischer's quickchess championships. I find the comparison a little silly. As great a win as it is for So, I really doubt the chess playing public really consider it to be a "real" US Championship victory.
CentrKentr CentrKentr 10/31/2020 05:25
I like Nakamura, but I find his last round action a bit questionable. If he had beaten So (granted, no easy task, but at least a possibility), Xiong would have tied for first and a playoff would have been necessary. I also like So (I've spoken with him and Naka at several Sinquefield Cup tournaments; they are both fan friendly), but his comment thanking Naka is also somewhat disconcerting. I see no reason why Naka should not have tried to "spoil [So's] tournament". Their game was in the final round; I would like to have seen Naka put more effort into it, especially given that a victory by him might have made a difference as to who won the tournament. (In closing, I should note that I am not unhappy that So came in first. He is one of the nicest of the many top players I've met during my attendance at every Sinquefield Cup.)
calcomar calcomar 10/31/2020 03:43
@Yasser - Thanks for the correction, it's fixed now.
Yasser Seirawan Yasser Seirawan 10/31/2020 03:14
"Nakamura played the Berlin Defence and agreed to end the game peacefully after merely 5 minutes." Really? I'm pretty sure that I was commentating upon a sharp, theoretical line of the Classical Nimzo Indian. Hmm. Yasser
Somewhat Experienced Somewhat Experienced 10/31/2020 02:24
Well, Naka is playing bullet chess day and night while also talking his head off - a simple case of exhaustion...
tom_70 tom_70 10/31/2020 11:39
What happened to Naka?
chessgod0 chessgod0 10/30/2020 11:57
We are comparing a high-score in a (strong) rapid tournament to Fischer's accomplishments? Seriously?

Utterly ridiculous and proof that even many chess players/enthusiasts have absolutely zero perspective on anything regarding this game.
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