By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Wesley So outplayed old nemesis Anish Giri of the Netherlands in a smashing debut Friday in the Gashimov Memorial super chess tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.
Continuing his sharp form from the tail-end of the US Chess Championships in Saint Louis, the 21-year-old So thoroughly outclassed the 20-year-old Dutch GM to win in only 32 moves for his first win against three loses lifetime to Giri.
So will face former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, with whom he shares the early lead, each with one point, in today’s second round.
Reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and two former world champions – Kramnik and Vishy Anand of India – are also entered in the tournament, So’s strongest in his chess career.
The tournament, one of the strongest this year, offers a prize pot of 100,000 euros.
Despite being behind most of the game, Carlsen salvaged a draw with Anand while Kramnik defeated Michael Adams in other first-round games.
World’s No.2 Fabiano Caruana drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov while Mamedov Rauf and Maxine Vachier-Lagrave also drew their game.
The Bacoor, Cavite-born So, playing with the white pieces, chose an unconventional opening but easily maintained the advantage through most of the game.
He elected not to castle, giving Giri some hope, but pressed for time, the Dutch grandmaster made some imprecise moves, and was a rook down when he resigned.
It was So’s third straight win after the 9th round forfeit in the US Chess Championships, and avenged his loss to Giri in the Tata Steel championships earlier this year- his only loss in that tournament, in which he finished in a tie for second with two others.
“Anish beat me a lot in the past and they were hard loses,” said So in an interview with chess24.com.”I learned a lot from my loses.”
“I just got to play my game,” he added. “There were a lot of criticisms regarding that incident and my poor performance in the US Championships, so this is the best way for me to show that I fight every game and I just give my best. There are some people who don’t want to see you succeed.”
“Lost the first game- So be it! Looking forward to recover in the upcoming rounds!” Giri humorously said in a tweet.
The tournament is being held in memory of grandmaster Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan, who died in his 20s.