Wesley So Does It Again

Heading into the sixth and last round of the ongoing National Open GM Wesley So was tied with GM Alejandro Ramirez and GM Manuel Leon Hoyos for first place, each with 4 ½ points. Six players, all GM’s, Ray Robson; Jaan Ehlvest; Varuzhan Akobian; Tomas Gelashvili; Victor Michalevski; and Enrico Sevillano, were a half point back. The pairings were: 1)Ramirez-So; 2) Hoyos-Robson; 3) Gelashvili-Ehlvest; 4) Michalevski-Akobian; 5) Fidel Corrales Jimenez (with only 3 ½)-Sevillano.
Ramirez battled So for twelve tough moves before offering a draw, which was accepted. As it is said in golf, “That puts them in the lead in the clubhouse.” I was disappointed Wesley did not make his twelfth move and castle, for then the position would have been completely symmetrical. Maybe that is why Ramirez decided to offer the draw. This would seem to make no sense because Hoyos can finish a half point ahead of them with a win over Robson. Certainly that will not be an easy task as Ray needs a win to tie for first place. Still, it is a possibility. If Hoyos manages to draw that would allow the possibility of a six-way tie for first. If ever there were a time to do battle, this would seem to be it.
Wesley So, along with his opponent Pavel Eljanov, has taken much heat from the press and pundits for offering a draw in the last round of the recent Reykjavik Open. There is an extremely interesting article by GM Eljanov in the current issue of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess (2013/3), in which Pavel tries to explain his motivation for taking the draw without playing. He writes, “The last round started much earlier than the others-at 12, as often happens even in super-tournaments.” Another motivating factor was, “It’s all very simple: we are people and sometimes our strength is exhausted.” He admits to being out of bullets, writing, “In Reykjavik I strictly followed my principles for the first nine rounds, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I fought to the last bullet.” He blames the Soviet chess school culture when he writes, “Nevertheless, I was raised in the traditions of the Soviet school of chess, where various kinds of short and prearranged draws were fairly standard,” later admitting, “But one way or another I have a grain of that mentality inside me.” Maybe an exorcist would help? He writes about a game he lost versus Mikhail Gurevich, playing a Dutch (and nothing says “I intend to win” better than the Dutch!). Eljanov provides chess fans a glimpse into his soul when he writes, “Unsurprisingly, at some point in an ordinary but complex position I couldn’t withstand the tension and came under a crushing attack.” After reading this how many 2700 GM’s are going to offer Pavel a three move draw in the last round?
About the short draw Pavel writes, “Even then I had a kind of an unpleasant aftertaste after the draw,” and, “…I couldn’t have imagined that the reaction would be so strong!” That is precisely the problem in chess. The top players have come to regard it as their right to not try and win. Unless the rules are changed the only thing that will stop this sordid practice from occurring is the opprobrium of the chess community. Without a fan base, there will be no chess.
He must have come to the conclusion that accepting the draw offer was wrong because he writes, “The first thing I’d like to do is apologize to the chess fans who felt insulted.” He quotes Albert Einstein a couple of times and compares chess to a “90-minute football match.” (For my American readers, that is what we call “soccer,” not the maimball in the US) It is an interesting article to read. Pavel sums things up by writing, “The next day what happened, happened.” Or as Hikaru Nakamura is fond of saying, “It is what it is.”

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