By Denes Boros
Just last weekend, Wesley So won one of the most prestigious chess events, the Tata Steel Chess Tournament held in the Netherlands. So faced a difficult challenge, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen and World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin participating but, in the end, he won the tournament with a convincing full point lead.
Last year ended with the World Championship match in November. Magnus Carlsen defended his champion title against his rival, Sergey Karjakin. The open question now is who will be the next challenger to Carlsen.
Pundits were thinking that the next challenger would be Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik or Hikaru Nakamura. Then So started his fantastic streak. So’s incredible run started after his tournament in Bilbao, Spain last July.
The fastest improving player lost his last game in Bilbao but, surprisingly, So has not lost a single game since. He tied for third in Bilbao, then he won the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic and the Grand Chess Tour 2016. During the London Chess Classic, So won convincingly. He didn't losing a single game in the entire London Classic super-tournament. His undefeated streak matched the reigning World Champion’s unbeaten streak of 43 undefeated games.
Not only did So have a great year with individual tournaments, but he was also a part of the American team that took gold at the Olympics in Baku for the first time since 1976. The American powerhouse team consisted of Caruana, Nakamura, So, Ray Robson and Sam Shankland. Wesley So scored 8.5 out of 10, while also netting an important win against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the match against the great rival, Russia.
Recently, the American chess scene has been quickly growing and setting itself apart as a chess superpower, thanks to players like Caruana, Nakamura and So. Nakamura has a firm position in the elite, while Caruana, who scored a blistering seven out of seven in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup is now second in the world. Caruana is sporting a cool 2800+ rating.
Wesley So was slightly behind him, but he broke through the 2800 barrier during the London Chess Classic tournament and, with his recent win at Tata Steel, is now second in the world.
With Wesley So’s run at Tata Steel, he has actually surpassed Carlsen’s unbeaten streak and is now at 57 games without losing.
Obviously, the old favorites Caruana and Nakamura need to step it up, because So is cruising and winning just about every tournament. Caruana is going to play in the strong Gibraltar tournament soon, and we will see if he can match So’s blistering growth.
After his fantastic year-opener, everyone is expecting Wesley So, the young American talent, to be the next one to be knocking on King Carlsen’s door.
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