Wesley So bags Skilling Open title, spoils Carlsen's 30th birthday

Wesley So bounced back from a comprehensive defeat in the opening game to win the $100,000 Skilling Open online chess tournament overcoming Magnus Carlsen.

In the third game, So (in picture) moved to a better position until he blundered on the 18th move to temporarily give Carlsen a decisive edge.   -  REUTERS

Wesley So bounced back from a comprehensive defeat in the opening game to win the $100,000 Skilling Open online chess tournament and spoilt the 30th birthday celebration of Magnus Carlsen on Monday.

After the players drew the first rapid set of the final by winning their games from the white side on Sunday, Carlsen returned to take the lead in the opening game, with black pieces, without giving So any chance.

But in the second, the World champion was punished for a poor bishop-move on the 17th turn and soon, the score stood at 1-1. As So said later, “I felt very lucky today. I felt when Magnus won the first game he was just on fire today, he’s just going to crush me, but then he somehow gave me the second game.

In the third game, So moved to a better position until he blundered on the 18th move to temporarily give Carlsen a decisive edge. But Carlsen could not find the important response with a knight-move and the game eventually ended in a draw.

READ| Skilling Open Final: So hits back twice to hold Carlsen 2-2 in Set One

In the final rapid game, where Carlsen played white, he took a draw in just 23 moves like he had done a few times in the past.

In the first blitz game, Carlsen opted for Carokann Defence for the third time during the day and got into serious trouble. So tightened the grip and eventually Carlsen cracked.

READ| Skilling Open: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So make it to the final

Needing a win to stay alive in the final, Carlsen did raise some expectations of a victory in the second blitz game but So defended accurately and forced a draw with just the kings left on the board.

An elated So said, “First of all I’d like to apologise to Magnus for semi-ruining his birthday, but I’ve got to try to win from time to time, because we don’t want him to win ten tournaments in a row!

“I’m very shocked, of course, to beat Magnus. He’s the best player in the world, so coming into the match all I wanted to do was to put up a good fight and make the games interesting, but today has been my day.

We were both making mistakes here and there and, as I said yesterday, I don’t think Magnus was in his best form right now, because he missed a lot of chances and he made a lot of mistakes here and there, which would have sealed the match.

READ| Skilling Open quarterfinals: Carlsen survives day of upsets

In response, Carlsen said, “I’m definitely the best player here, but there are a lot of strong players and I think at the moment Wesley’s probably the best at this format. Frankly, to lose to him is not a shame, it’s not a disaster. I just feel it’s a bit of a pity that I couldn’t show my very best here in this tournament. That’s all I’m unsatisfied with.”

On turning 30, Carlsen’s take was, “I did somewhat blunder like an old man today! But I had a nice day overall. Obviously this wasn’t ideal, but that’s the way it is. This time I wasn’t good enough.”

The results

Final: Set Two (rapid) Magnus Carlsen (Nor) drew with Wesley So (USA) 2-2; Tie-breaker (blitz) So bt Carlsen 1.5-0.5.

Final Standings (with prize-money and Champions Tour points): 1.

Wesley So (USA) $30,000 (46 points); 2. Magnus Carlsen (Nor) $15,000 (30); 3. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) $7,500 (18); 4. Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) $7,500 (15); 5. Levon Aronian $5,000 (4); 6. Teimour Radjabov (Aze) $5,000 (3); 7. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) $5,000 (2); 8. Anish Giri (Ned) $5,000 (1); 9-16. Alireza Firouzja (FIDE), Liem Quang Le (Vie), Ding Liren (Chn), Vidit Gujrathi (Ind), David Anton (Esp), Peter Svidler (Rus), Sergey Karjakin (Rus) and Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Pol), $2,500 each (No points)

(The top eight players qualified for the next Tour event, worth $200,000, beginning on December 26).

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