GM Wesley So defeated GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a Speed Chess Championship match that was tight in the beginning and tight in the end, but it was a tour de force by So in the middle. With the exception of World Champion Magnus Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura, So is the most accomplished player in Speed Chess Championship history, and with this victory, he has advanced to the semifinals where he will face the winner of the match between Nakamura and GM Vladimir Fedoseev.
How to watch?The games of the Speed Chess Championship Main Event are played on the Chess.com live server. They are also available on our platform for watching live games at Chess.com/events and on our apps under "Watch." Expert commentary can be enjoyed at Chess.com/tv.
So and Duda had played one previous Speed Chess Championship match in 2018, and So won convincingly, 20-7. Two years later, Duda is a considerably more accomplished player and no longer a junior. Would his performance against the reigning U.S. champion be superior this time around?
In general, yes, Duda performed much better. The final score of 16-10 was certainly closer, and Duda even leaped out to an early lead of 2.5-0.5. He ultimately drew the 5|1 time control (4-4) and won the 1|1 time control 5-4, but in the 3|1 time control, So was simply untouchable. He won 7 games and drew only two for a point total of 8-1. After the match, commentator GM Robert Hess said that So was "the best player in the entire world in the 3|1 time control." Given that So has defeated both Carlsen and Nakamura in this time control, Hess has good supporting evidence for this bold claim.
The high-water mark in the match for Duda came after games two and three when Duda first won an excellent game two in a smooth and convincing fashion.
He then defended a dangerous attack in game three with accurate play.
So's first win came in game three when he won an instructive endgame thanks to his dominant knight. So has consistently shown himself to be one of the most accurate and unperturbable blitz chess players in the world. He's incredibly hard to tilt, and if his opponent starts tilting, things can quickly go downhill.
Duda scored the next full point in an opposite-colored bishops endgame where the outside passed pawn on the a-file gave him excellent chances. So then won game seven below in a remarkable time scramble before collecting a full point with a nice attack in game eight to close out the 5|1 time control in a 4-4 tie.
Amazingly, Duda was only able to draw the third and fourth games in the 3|1 time control. So won all other games, and his win in the fifth game was a real blitz chess masterpiece. He sacrificed a piece early and carried the pressure through to the endgame where his rook tied down Duda's forces. When Duda missed the chance to give the piece back and achieve balance in the rook endgame, So pushed his pawns forward on the kingside and Duda's extra knight could only spectate.
As the match advanced to 1|1, Duda was almost mathematically out of contention, but he did start well with a victory. After the two grandmasters exchanged a series of victories, Duda's consecutive wins in games five and six gave him the edge in the time control, and he ultimately won it 5-4. The most insane moment came when Duda hung his queen in the second game, but So missed the opportunity to take it!
In fact, the final game was declared a draw as after time ran out, the server temporarily went offline due to high traffic to play the newly released Beth Harmon bots. As this game did not affect the match outcome, the players agreed to adjudication of the game rather than wait for the match to be restored after a server restart.
The 2020 Speed Chess Championship Main Event is a knockout tournament among 16 of the best grandmasters in the world who will play for a $100,000 prize fund, double the amount of last year. The tournament will run November 1-December 13, 2020 on Chess.com. Each individual match will feature 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.
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