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Wesley So wins Paris Rapid and Blitz Grand Chess Tour

by Shahid Ahmed - 23/06/2021

Wesley So who has been consistent throughout the Paris Rapid and Blitz Grand Chess Tour won the event with a round to spare 24.5/36. He finished three points ahead of the competition Nepomniachtchi 21.5/36. He had kept So on his toes at all times to remain in the championship hunt. Despite winning the tournament before the final round, So went on to beat Nepomniachtchi in the final round to assert his dominance. The world championship challenger has shown that he is gearing up well for the world championship match later this year. Vachier-Lagrave and Firouzja shared third place 18.0/36. Kramnik had a difficult event as he scored only 5.5/18. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

So wins with a round to spare

So lost only one game out of 27 games in the entire Paris Rapid and Blitz Grand Chess Tour. That speaks a lot about the current Fischer Random world champion's strength and present form. He scored an unbeaten 7.0/9 on the final day of the Blitz and won the tournament with a round to spare. He still fought and beat Nepomniachtchi in the final round. Richard Rapport was the second highest scorer of the day 5.5/9, followed by Aronian and Caruana 5.0/9.

So remained undefeated on the final day | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

"Well it's very huge. I have never really won blitz game before. I am just very happy right now, it's incredible. I never expected to win. I would like to thank many people. I am sure I will miss a lot of names but first I'd like to thank Lord Jesus for letting me win. I think today I scored +5, 7.0/9 which never really happened before. Usually in past events, I finished in the middle of the table in Grand Chess Tour events. So this is very pleasing, totally unexpected. Of course, I prepared hard for the event but everyone prepares hard in these events... I played in Paris back in 2016, so five or six years ago. It's always a pleasure to comeback to Paris. It's one of me and mother's favorite place to go to. I'd also like to thank my mother Lotis Key, she is here, encouraging me in every game. I have been a chess professional for six and a half years now and I think you really need somebody, so I'd like to thank my family..." - Wesley So on winning the tournament.

Round 10: So - Caruana: 0.5-0.5

So was completely winning the rook and pawn ending against Caruana.

Position after 55...Ra3

White's win is quite elementary here after 56.Kf6 but So continued 56.Re8+ Kg7 57.f6+ Kh7 58.Rf8 and after Ra7 the game heads towards a draw. Time scramble can make even the best miss simple stuff.

Firouzja - Radjabov: 1-0

Firouzja beat Radjabov in their rematch, however things were not always easy for the former.

Position after 38.Ne1

38.Ne1 causes white to lose material. After 38...dxc5 39.Rxd7 Bxd7 40.Rxd7 Qe6 41.Qxc5 and now Black should have taken the d7-rook which would have given a decisive advantage. Unfortunately for Black, he blundered 41...Rxb6 and White got a decisive advantage after 42.Qxf8. It took a while but Firouzja converted into a full point.

Firouzja avenged his loss in Rapid against Radjabov by beating him twice in Blitz | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Kramnik - Vachier-Lagrave: 0-1

Kramnik once again started the day with a loss against Vachier-Lagrave. The former world champion miscalculated, which left both of his bishops vulnerable as they were en prise.

Position after 23.Nf5

White needed to play 23.Ba2 and everything would have remained fine. 23.Nf5 drops a piece as White cannot save both bishops after 23...Bf6.

Round 11: Caruana - Nepomniachtchi: 0.5-0.5

Caruana had an opportunity to avenge his loss against Nepomniachtchi of their previous blitz encounter.

Position after 29...Qh6

Find out the winning continuation for White in the above diagram. White traded the queens 30.Qxh6 gxh6 and the game headed towards a draw.

Nepomniachtchi escaped with a draw | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Aronian - Rapport: 1-0

Aronian scored his lone win against Rapport in the event as he got a substantial positional advantage early in the game.

Position after 20.Kh1

White's advantage is evident and we all know Aronian can win this without any difficulty.

Vachier-Lagrave - Firouzja: 1-0

Vachier-Lagrave avenged his loss in the previous blitz encounter against Firouzja after mutual errors caused the Frenchman to gain decisive advantage and win the game eventually.

Position after 19.a6

Find out the best continuation for Black in the above diagram.

Svidler - Kramnik: 1-0

Svidler avenged his loss against Kramnik. The former world champion had an opportunity to make a draw, but he missed it.

Position after 33.g5

Find out how can Black force a draw here.

Position after 41.Rc4

Kramnik obviously knows how to save this but time scramble caused him to miss it. Find out the only way for Black to save the game in the above diagram.

Both Kramnik-Svidler games were decisive | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Round 12: Nepomniachtchi - Radjabov: 0.5-0.5

Nepomniachtchi and Radjabov had a well-contested draw.

So - Vachier-Lagrave: 1-0

So beat Vachier-Lagrave for the third time in the tournament.

Position after 24...Rxc8

White has a significant positional advantage. What should be the correct plan for White in the above diagram?

Position after 30...Bc5

White could have ended things early if the correct continuation was opted after 30...Bc5. 31.b4 was played here but what was the better alternative?

So won all of his games against Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Rapport - Caruana: 1-0

Rapport scored a win over Caruana. Although he took a bit longer to convert his advantage.

Position after 30...Bxd5

White played 31.Kh2 which was not needed. Find out what White should have done instead.

Rapport remained undefeated against Caruana in the entire tournament | Photo: Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour

Firouzja - Svidler: 1-0

Firouzja scored a fine victory over Svidler after the latter trapped his own knight.

Firouzja made a good comeback after losing his previous round game | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Kramnik - Aronian: 0-1

Kramnik suffered his third consecutive loss of the day, this time it was against Aronian. The former world champion had a better position but he missed a few things at a critical juncture.

Position after 33...Bg3

One of the best chances White had in the game was after 33...Bg3 as 34.Nh6+ Kh8 35.Qxg3 gxh6 36.Bxh6 gives white a decisive advantage.

Kramnik had Aronian on the ropes but being away from competition caused him to lose the grip | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Round 13: Aronian - Firouzja: 0.5-0.5

Aronian and Firouzja once again had a marathon draw after the Armenian missed a win in the endgame. Arbiter had to intervene after 75-moves as no capture or pawn move was made. Since it was a blitz game, players did not know when they completed 50-moves without a capture or a pawn move.

Arbiter reminding players about no progress for 75-moves | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Radjabov - Caruana: 0-1

Caruana avenged his loss against Radjabov in their previous blitz encounter. The former World Cup winner probably ran out of time in seemingly balanced endgame.

Vachier-Lagrave - Nepomniachtchi: 0-1

In a relatively equal knight endgame, Vachier-Lagrave blundered and lost the game.

Position after 64.Kf4

White was unable to capture the knight on g4 because h-pawn would have become unstoppable. However, 64.Kf4 is an incorrect retreat. Find out where White needed to move the king from e5 to keep the chances of draw alive.

Nepomniachtchi exhibited his solid endgame technique throughout the tournament | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 14: Nepomniachtchi - Svidler: 1-0

Nepomniachtchi scored a comfortable victory over Svidler.

Nepomniachtchi is definitely preparing well for his upcoming world championship match against Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

So - Aronian: 1-0

The only loss So suffered in the entire tournament was against Aronian. He avenged it in Round 14.

Position after 20...Bc6

Aronian misplaced his bishop on c6 which resulted in his king becoming more vulnerable. After a few more inaccuracies, Black lost material and was forced to resign.

Rapport - Radjabov: 1-0

Radjabov had a decent advantage in the endgame but he moved his king back for no good reason and landed himself in checkmate combination.

Position after 55...Kh7

Black could have easily pushed for a win 55...Rb2 56.Be3+ is met with 56...g5 and there is nothing to worry.

Firouzja - Kramnik: 1-0

Firouzja might have scored only 50% on the final day of the blitz 4.5/9. However, he made the most out of his opportunity as he beat Kramnik for the second time in the tournament.

Position after 36.b5

Black was completely winning in the above diagram. Either 36...Ne6 or Ne2, both would have led to a victory for Black. The game continued 36...Rd8 and White got a chance to get back in the game and eventually win it.

Beating Kramnik twice in blitz is definitely a good achievement for Firouzja | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Round 15: Aronian - Nepomniachtchi: 0.5-0.5

Aronian was better for the majority of the game but Nepomniachtchi managed to salvage a draw.

Nepomniachtchi survived well against Aronian | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Vachier-Lagrave - Radjabov: 1-0

Radjabov made a big positional mistake which immediately turned things in Vachier-Lagrave's favor.

Position after 15...c5

15...c5 invites trouble as 16.Nb5 allows White to control all the dark squares on Black's queenside.

Firouzja - Rapport: 0-1

Firouzja was forced to give up his queen for a rook, bishop and knight early in the opening. Then he lost a bishop and the Hungary no.1 got a decisive advantage. The 18-year-old put up a good fight but it wasn't enough.

Firouzja met his match in Rapport | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Kramnik - So: 0-1

So got a substantial advantage out of the Italian opening, however, Kramnik fought back by launching an attack on his opponent's exposed king. Eventually he blundered a rook to resign immediately.

Svidler - Caruana: 0-1

Svidler got an early advantage in the opening. Caruana managed to weather the storm and eventually utilize the extra pawn to his advantage and score a win.

Round 16: So - Firouzja: 1-0

Firouzja had a momentary lapse in concentration which caused him to resign immediately as the pinned knight's fall became inevitable.

So - Firouzja had an anti-climactic finish | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Radjabov - Svidler: 1-0

After suffering three consecutive losses, Radjabov managed to beat Svidler.

Position after 26...Ne8

White is already having a huge positional advantage. Find out the best continuation for White after 26...Ne8.

Round 17: Aronian - Radjabov: 0-1

Radjabov scored his second win of the day, balancing out his previous blitz loss against Aronian.

Firouzja - Nepomniachtchi: 1-0

Firouzja gained a couple of valuable pawns by doing tactics which eventually became the decisive passed pawns allowing him to score a victory over the world championship challenger again in blitz.

Position after 19...Rae8

Find out why 19...Rae8 is a big mistake.

Firouzja has proven that he can hold his own against the best of the world | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Kramnik - Caruana: 1-0

Kramnik scored his first victory of the day against Caruana who first made some positional mistakes and eventually blundered his queen.

Aronian - Vachier-Lagrave: 0-1

Vachier-Lagrave recovered well from his previous round loss as he beat Aronian convincingly.

Round 18: Caruana - Firouzja: 1-0

Caruana scored a fine victory over Firouzja who suffered his fourth loss of the day.

Nepomniachtchi - So: 0-1

Although So had already won the tournament, he finished the event on a high note by winning against Nepomniachtchi convincingly.

Radjabov - Kramnik: 0-1

Kramnik scored his second victory of the day as he beat Radjabov with a beautiful play in the endgame.

Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian: 0-1

Aronian beat Vachier-Lagrave where evaluation kept changing often.


Rapid: Win - 2 points, Draw - 1 and Loss - 0.

Blitz: Win - 1 point, Draw - 0.5 and Loss - 0

Replay Blitz Round 10-18 games

Final Standings after Blitz Round 18

So finished three points ahead of the runner-up Nepomniachtchi | Photo: Grand Chess Tour
2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour: Day 5 | Video: Saint Louis Chess Club


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