Wesley So quietly leads Sinquefield Cup amid chess drama at Grand Chess Tour

Wesley So Grand Chess Tour
Wesley So stays on top of the leaderboard in the last event of the Grand Chess Tour where he is defending his championship title. Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes.

Wesley So is quietly continuing his lead at the Sinquefield Cup amid the chess drama that has ensued since the start of the week at the 2022 Grand Chess Tour (GCT) in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.

The Filipino American Grandmaster grabbed the solo lead after Round 4 on September 5, Monday, and kept his top rank after drawing his match against fellow US team member Levon Aronian in Round 5 played on September 6, Tuesday.

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The fifth and final leg of the 5-event tournament started on September 1 with 8 full tour players and 2 wildcards including World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann.

However, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament without a reason given before Round 4 started. Prior to his surprise announcement, the Norwegian lost his Sunday match to Niemann. The following days saw the chess world buzzing with talk of unsportsmanlike behavior and cheating allegations at the tournament among the world’s best chess grandmasters.

GCT defending champion Wesley So was interviewed during the GCT coverage about his view of the ongoing disruption of the tournament.

The two-time winner of the Grand Chess Tour recalled the 2016 tournament which he won, as having fewer distractions compared to the ongoing tourney.

“I remember 6 years ago in 2016, all the top players were just preparing for classical chess and all that. But now we have online, we have Rapid and Blitz. Now we have all this drama. So it makes it a bit difficult to concentrate. And I will play Hans Niemann on Round 6,” So shared in the GCT interview.

In his usual humble low-key demeanor, So added, “I’m just trying to play some good chess, trying to improve, trying to focus on my classical chess.”

Carlsen’s leaving before the first half of the event annulled his results along with the other players with whom he played. Only nine players remain in contention for the Sinquefield Cup championship title.

“I think Before the tournament everyone expected Magnus to cruise through this tournament but now there is the tournament wide open,” So pointed out.

Wesley So is on top of the Sinquefield Cup leaderboard with 3 points going into Round 6 of the 9-round event which resumes on Thursday, September 8 (Friday, September 9 in Manila).

Wesley So was in solo 2nd place going into the fourth round after winning his match in Round 3, just before the chess drama started.

The American chess player is seeking a historic third GCT title after winning twice in 2021 and 2016, a feat he shares only with World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen.

The three-time and reigning United States champion, who started his career in the Philippines before moving to the United States to continue competing internationally, must continue to earn top points with four more rounds to play at the final event of the 7th edition of the GCT to have a chance to overtake the current tour leaders and retain his champion title.

The 28-year-old from Cavite province in the Philippines won 2nd place in last year’s Sinquefield Cup but eventually won the overall GCT tour championship which is determined by tour points accumulated from five events in the series.

The Filipino American chess player was leading the 2022 GCT board with 22.5 points after the first three events anchored on a strong start placing 2nd at the Superbet Chess Classic Romania in May, and despite his 5th place finish at the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland also in May, and tied for 4th rank at the SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia held in July.

So opted out of the Saint Louis event in August following the tour rules to only participate in 2 out of 3 Rapid & Blitz games.

After Saint Louis, So’s 22.5 points dropped to 4th spot behind Frenchmen Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alireza Firouzja, and fellow American player, Levon Aronian.

GCT standings prior to Sinquefield Cup. GCT site image.

If Wesley So wins the Sinquefield Cup, he will be awarded the full 12-13 points which would result in his scorecard improving to 34.5-35.5 tour points, an advantage that can overtake Vachier-Lagrave’s 26.5, Alireza Firouzja’s 25.5, and Levon Aronian’s 22.5, depending on their performance in the ongoing final event.

The three players who score the most GCT Tour Points over the course of the 2022 Season shall be awarded Bonus Payments as follows: 1st USD 100,000 2nd USD 50,000, and 3rd USD 25,000.

Although Wesley So will no longer play a match against Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup, he is set to defend his Fischer Random Chess Championship title against Carlsen and two other invited players in the Iceland event scheduled for October 25-31.

The 2022 Sinquefield Cup continues Thursday, September 8, with live coverage from grandmasters Peter Svidler, Yasser Seirawan, and Alejandro Ramirez starting at 12:50 PM CT (AM Manila time) on the Grand Chess Tour site and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch TV channels until September 12.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS & WELL WISHES in the comments below to Wesley So as he continues to lead the Sinquefield Cup on his way to a historic 3rd win at the 2022 Grand Chess Tour!

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