Wesley So captured the US Chess Championship, defeating Alexander Onischuk 1.5-0.5 in a playoff in St. Louis, Missouri on Monday.
So, 23, went undefeated in the 11-round tournament proper, but ended up tied with Onischuk atop the standings with 7.0 points.
During the extra session, the Bacoor, Cavite-born grandmaster solidified his stature as one of the best in the world, dominating the 1st rapid match using white pieces and coming from behind on black to force a draw in the 2nd and seal the title.
“I really wanted to win this one this year . . . because it’s the strongest national competition in the world,” So told the Star Tribune. “All the great (US) players have won this one.”
Besides Onischuk, the 2006 US champion who is 18 years So’s senior, former winners Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana participated in the tournament held at Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
So defeated Onischuk in their 1st meeting and halved the point with the other 3. He took home $50,000 for winning the championship.
Joey Villar, chess insider for the Philippine Star, said So made winning look easy against a veteran field.
“For him to top that event, it’s impressive,” Villar said, “He is unbeatable right now.”
Grandmaster Maurice Ashley told the Star Tribune: “(So is) very hard to beat, very levelheaded, very practical, and he’s growing in front of us. Imagine how strong he’s going to be in two years.”
Tested in various top-notch competitions, So, currently No. 2 in the world, is setting his sights on the top ranking, now held by Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, whom So defeated at last year’s Grand Chess Tour in Paris.
Villar said it’s only a matter of time before So replaces Carlsen at the summit.
“He has beaten practically everybody and won almost every tournament he participated in,” Villar said.
“The only thing stopping him from becoming a world champion is if he decides to change sport or the world ends today.” (abs-cbn sports)