By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Wesley So was so tested – and he passed. With flying colors!
Against the top chess players in the world, the Bacoor-born So scored 2 points in the toughest stretch of the Tata Steel super-tournament in Wjk ann Zee, the Netherlands.
With Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the world champion, So earned a draw. He then beat Levon Aronian, the tournament’s defending champion, and No. 5 in the world.
Against Fabiano Caruana of Italy, No. 2, in the world, he scored a draw. With the two points, the 21-year-old Filipino, now playing under the U.S. flag, maintained a tie for fourth to fifth places, but more importantly, he showed he belonged among the best in the world.
” I’m so happy. These are good results,” said So in an interview with Chessdom. com.
The three-round stretch, from the second to the fourth, was a tough one for So, who has decided to drop out of college and turn full-time chess professional.
In the second round against Carlsen, the No. 1 in the world, he had a fighting chance to win, which the Norwegian acknowledged.
“I was outplayed in the middle game,” Carlsen said. “He’s a good player.” He said he was happy to earn the draw after 34 moves of an English opening by repetition of moves.
” It was a comfortable game,” So said of his first-ever match against Carlsen. ” I’m happy he was not very ambitious in the opening.”
So said he appreciated the opportunity to play against the best in the world. “To become the best, you have to play against the best. But you have to be careful,” he said.
Against Aronian, So played a wild game by grandmasters standard, engaging in back-and-forth slugfest like boxers with little care for protection of their kings.
Aronian blundered a piece away, and So sustained the advantage to force the rmenian grandmaster to resign after 54 moves of a Scotch Opening.
Last year, Aronian badly beat So on the way to capturing the title, and this year’s third-round result was sweet revenge for the Filipino.
” Aronian was human after all,” said So.
It was the second major upset of the third round. Carlsen bowed to Radoslaw Wojtaszek, in another revenge of sorts. Wojtaszek acted as a second to Vishy Anand in his world championship match against Carlsen.
Playing black against Caruana, So played cautiously and simply waited for his opponents to make the bold moves.
But after only 31 moves, the two agreed to a draw, preserving their unbeaten records.
After a rest day Wednesday, So will play against Yifan Hou of China, the women’s world champion.