By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Chess grandmaster Wesley So outplayed Gareev Timur of the United States in the seventh round Sunday, Oct. 12, to qualify outright for the semifinals of the rich Millionaire Open chess tournament at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
With the victory that pushed the Filipino into a share of the lead with Webster University teammate Roby Robson, each with six points, So also jumped into the top 10 of the world’s highest-rated grandmasters.
The 21-year-old So now has a live rating of 2762, a personal best, after gaining 7.0 rating points from 5 wins and 2 draws. He surpassed former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who has a 2760 rating.
In the semifinals Monday, So will face Chinese GM Jianchao Zhou while Robson tangles with another Chinese grandmaster Yangyi Yu.
The Chinese prevailed over their opponents in knock-out games to break a four-way tie for the remaining two slots and set up the China versus Webster University semifinals.
So, the top-seed, is picked as the favorite in the $1-million tournament that offers $100,00 to the champion, but his coach, Paul Truong, dismisses the talk as speculation.
“I would not put any weight behind any of these predictions,” Truong said. ” In such a short format, anything can happen. One mistake can cost any player the big prize.
” We are not worried about winning. We put more emphasis on making good and sound moves.”
The march of the two Webster University players into the next round accomplished Truong’s and his fellow coach Susan Polgar’s goal of taking the tournament one step at a time – and it will be no holds-barred in the finals.
Truong and Polgar were generally credited for So’s rise in the world standing but they have also gotten flak for “influencing” the Filipino’s request to transfer to the U.S. chess federation from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).
So will sit out until August next year before he can compete in official tournaments of FIDE or the international chess federation, although he can accumulate live rating points with a strong performance, such this tournament.