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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