By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Continuing his hot streak, Wesley So outclassed grandmaster Rauf Mamedov in the fourth round Monday to grab the solo lead in the 100,000 euro Gashimov Memorial chess super-tournament in Shamkir, Azebaijan.
The 21-year-old So, playing with the white pieces, handled the intricacies of a complicated middle game and showed precision in a pawn and rook end game to prevail in 41 moves of a Sicilian Defense transposed into a Queen’s Gambit Declined.
It was the third win against a draw for the Bacoor, Cavite native, to show the way in the 9-man tournament, half-a-point ahead of world champion Magnus Carlsen, who settled for a draw of his fourth-round game – as all the other players.
Anish Giri drew with Mamedyarov Shakhiyar; former world champions Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand also drew while Carlsen was held to a similar draw by Michael Adams.
Maxine Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana also drew their game.
Next up for So in the fifth round today is Anand, who is tied for fourth and fifth places with Vachier-Lagrave, the French champion, each with two points.
The 39-year-old Kramnik, the Russian GM, is at third with 2.5 points.
So is leading a reigning world champion and two former world champions in a remarkable performance for the second youngest player in the tournament.
At 20, Giri, of the Neterlands, is the youngest player.
In an interview after the game, So said that his disappointing results in the US Chess Championships in Saint Louis, “motivated me to work harder.:
” I was trying to figure out why that happened and what my weaknesses are and I tried to solve them – it’s daily work,” he said.
He said that he has a lot of critics and people not wishing him well.
” I just decided to completely forget about what anybody says and focus on my games,” So told chess24.com.