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Carlsen stops So’s streak


Magnus Carlsen stopped the hot Wesley So winning streak in the finals, 3-1, and crowned himself king of the AimChess Rapid Champions Chess Tour played in cyberspace.

Carlsen, the 32-year-old and five-time classical world champion who got tired of defending his crown this year, relinquishing it and signifying no desire of taking the crown back, pounced on a late blunder by So in the first of a best-of-four rapid games clincher.

That was all Carlsen needed, a pivotal game to stop the freight train that was So, who demolished four separate opponents in must-win knockout matches to earn the right to challenge for the championship, coming from the losers’ bracket.

Carlsen, playing the white side of a Catalan opening in Game 1, blitzed the first 12 moves as So equalized early, matching strong moves with equally accurate counters. With a position even but highly tense on the 40th move, So blundered in extreme time pressure which allowed Carslen to put the clamps.

The rapid finals used a 15-minute, three-second increment format and So, the Cavite-born world elite member, played the English Reversed Sicilian variation, sacrificed a rook for a knight and two pawns in Game 2 to create an imbalance and enough compensation for material.

The 29-year-old So blundered on the 28th move which allowed Carlsen to trade rooks to create an attack on the back-rank and created a mating net with his queen and extra rook and a 2-0 lead.

Playing with the black pieces in Game 3, So went for broke with the sharpest Sicilian Najdorf variation. The Filipino-American gained an attacking combination of a queen, rook and bishop in extreme and tense time scramble to move to just a win away from tying the match.

Prior to Game 4, Carlsen enjoyed a 26 wins-20 losses-34 draws lead in their head-to-head matches with So, who was playing in his homebase in Minnesota, USA. Carlsen, on his ponytail t-shirt and short pants, was in Oslo, Norway.

In the fourth match, Carlsen dug deep into his opening bag of tricks and was able to force conversion of an English opening into a Queen’s Gambit game. Carlsen managed to sneak a pawn dagger into So’s kingside and managed to attack with rooks and pawns on the center to create a mating threat when the final white flag was raised.

Carlsen won $30,000 while So received the runner-up purse of $20,000 (more than Php 1 million) for an intense 4-day tournament featuring some the best players in the world.

“I was hoping to put up a better fight but it was not meant to be,” said So, who was all praises for Carlsen’s excellent play and preparation. “Losing the first game was crucial.”

“When you lose the first two games, it is pretty much over,” added So, who improved chances of him playing in the grand finals of elite Champions Chess Tour in Toronto late this year.

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