By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Wesley So exacted some sort of revenge, whipping Dutch grandmaster Loek Van Wely in the final round of the Tata Steel chess super-tournament in Wijk ann Zee, the Netherlands.
So beat Wely in 32 moves to somehow avenge his heart-breaking loss to the other Dutch grandmaster in the tournament, Anish Giri, in the 12th round after more than eight hours of play and 111 moves.
With the victory, the 21-year-old So finished with 8.5 point in a tie with Giri and two others for second place, behind world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who captured first outright with nine points.
Carlsen needed just needed a draw – with Ivan Saric – to secure the victory after going hot in the middle round with six straight victories, following a cold start with a loss and two draws.
With So and Giri were Maxine Vachier-Lagrave of France and Ding Liren of China, who both won their final round games and considered the “young guns” of the game.
With five wins and seven draws, with just a single loss, it was So’s strongest tournament, with a rating performance of 2854, 16.8 rating points.
He ended up with 2787.5 live rating points, and ranked No.7 in the world and the top U.S. player, surpassing Hikaru Nakamura.
In his last game, he drew admiration from chess analysts with a bold bishop sacrifice to be followed by another rook sacrifice that would have opened up a devastating kingside attack on his opponent.
Three moves later, Wely resigned anyway.
“This was an almost frighteningly mature performance from the 21-year-old, ” said the analyst from the online 24chess.com. He appeared Carlsen’s biggest rival, until Giri stopped him cold.”
With the 20-year-old Giri leading the pack, So, Ding and Vachier-Lagrave are expected to assault the old guards in what is expected to be an exciting 2015.
“So ended the tournament No. 7 in the world, No.1 in the U.S. and poised to join the chess elite in 2015,” said the analyst.