By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Wesley So scored a stunning victory over grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk, the erswhile co-leader, vaulting him to No.6 in the world in live ratings, his highest ever and the highest a Filipino chess player has ever achieved.
The victory came after only 26 moves of a Marshall Attack of a Ruy Lopez opening after So sacrificed a knight to launch a devastating kingside attack and crush his opponent.
“It’s an example that a pawn can be stronger than a knight,” said So in the post-game interview.
So jumped to No. 6 in the world with a live rating of 2785.3, helped when grandmaster Anish Giri, who occupied the spot before, lost his game in the eighth round of the Tata Steel super-tournament in Wijk ann Zee in the Netherlands.
The 20-year-old Giri, the youngest in the tournament and one of So’s fiercest rivals, lost to Maine Vashier-Lagragrave.
So launched the often-played Marshall attack, but deviated from the traditional line with a knight sacrifice on the 14th move.
With a queen, a bishop and two rooks pressuring his king, Ivanchuk, of Ukraine, who shared the lead with world champion Magnus Larsen after seven rounds, abruptly resigned, his first loss in the tournament.
The win, his second in three games, kept So in a tie for second to fourth places with two others, each with 5.5 points.
Carlsen won his fifth straight and grabbed the solo lead with six points. After a shaky start and saw him lost one and drew two others in the first three rounds, the Norwegian world champion has steadied himself – and is now streaking.
So is tied with Vachier-Lagrave of France and Liren Ding of China, who beat Croatia’s Ivan Saric, his fifth win against a loss and a draw.
The 21-year-old So made light of his jump in the live ratings.
“It changes everyday,” he said. “For as long as you compete in a tournaments, it will change.”
But with more than 23 points increase in, live ratings at Tata Steel, he has the most accumulated points as he remains the only unbeaten player.
Over a span of more than 50 games, So has not lost a single match.
“My family is here to support me,” So said. “I’m happy, unlike last year.”