Wesley So wins Skilling Open, rains on birthday of top-ranked opponent Magnus Carlsen
Filipino-American Wesley So has won the Skilling Open by beating Norwegian opponent Magnus Carlsen, the world’s number one chess player who incidentally was celebrating his 30th birthday on the day of the finals match.
“I have to apologize to Magnus for semi-ruining his birthday,” So told the hosts of the chess24 show in a post-game interview shown below. “But I got to try to win from time to time.”
After a draw in their first finals game, So and Carlsen were neck and neck in the rubber match finals. The two grandmasters ended the first four matches with one wins each and two consecutive draws, forcing a blitz game that So won after winning the first game and forcing two consecutive draws.
“That was incredible. Magnus Carlsen looked like he was winning this and Wesley So with as much pressure as he’s had in his career, he’s able to just get that draw,” said show co-host Kaja Snare after So’s victory.
So took home the $30,000 (around P1.4 m) prize and a ticket to the finals of the Champions Chess Tour.
This is the second time that the Cavite-born 27-year-old So beat Carlsen, who is the reigning world champion. He also beat Carlsen last year after he won the Fischer Random World Chess Championship held in Norway on Nov. 2, 2019.
“We've been talking about it so many time —the Magnus effect. All the big players they just struggle to beat Magnus Carlsen. Wesley So now showing the world this is how it’s done,” So said.
After scoring the huge upset win, So remained magnanimous in victory, even deflecting praise by saying that Magnus was not just “in his best form.”
“It just depends on Magnus having a good day or a bad day because when he has a good day he is basically unstoppable, then when he has a bad day then you can chip his armor here and there,” So said.
So also added that he invests a lot of time in studying Carlsen’s game.
“He’s the player who I always keep an eye on. I study and analyze his games,” said So.
In his post-game interview, Carlsen also tipped his hat to So for “a deserved win.”
“I just have to be much much better. He matched me evenly all the way,” said Carlsen. “Definitely I feel I'm the best player here but there are a lot of strong players and I think at the moment Wesley is probably the best in this format.”
Winning the Skilling Open and beating the grandmaster tipped as the Mozart of Chess was quite the long shot initially as So previously said he did not even expect to barge into the tournament's semis.
"To be honest with you, I didn’t expect to make it today,” So said in an interview below after he advanced to the tournament semifinals on Nov. 26.
So said he was preparing to be dislodged so much that his family was already preparing for their Thanksgiving dinner.
After winning the tournament, So said the cash prize will go a long way especially now that opportunities are rare because of the pandemic. But for now, So said he is just looking forward to finally having a much-delayed Thanksgiving meal.
"First our family is gonna have its Thanksgiving lunch finally. I'll finally be able to celebrate Thanksgiving because its been nine days of hard-fought chess," said So.
So is a Filipino but has been representing the USA since 2014 after he felt let down and dismayed at the lack of support and corruption he experienced from the local sporting agencies.
"There’s a basic chess structure in the Philippines, but there’s very little support systems for developing good players into global stars," So said in an interview with Chess.com last year.
"The major problem is corruption. It’s hard for athletes to get financial assistance to compete abroad, especially if they don’t have connections," So added.