Speed Chess Championship 2021, Chess.com: The Indian prodigy, Nihal Sarin, was close to becoming the first finalist. however, So come out on top to settle it out.
The Indian prodigy took the head-to-head fight against the recent US Champion and narrowly misses out on a chance to finals.
It was a close encounter that ended in a 15-14 score in favor of the US champion. Nihal was playing from Spain. He looked a bit tired and lacked his trademark speed, especially in the 1+1 bullet section.
On the contrary, Wesley So was calm and perfected his clock situation pretty darn well. He held his lead in the last match of the 1+1 section, by cleverly running the Indian speedster out on time.
The Blitz section 5+1: It was even after 10 games.
The first segment witness the opening choices and the tactics which will be applied by both of them during this encounter. Wesley So was playing like a professional as he is a pro now for a very long time. On the other end, the younger blood tried different openings that included the dubious and unorthodox ones as well.
So started his shuffling and went to lead 5-3 after eight games. However, on the ninth game, Nihal came alive. His play toward the end of the ninth game was praised by GM Daniel Naroditsky in the live commentary, who termed it as “accuracy to the end.”
The final two games were won by Nihal to tie the 5+1 section of the Speed Chess Championship 2021‘s first semifinals.
Blitz 3+1, Speed Chess Championship 2021: So took a slight advantage which prove winning.
Nihal Sarin came out of the blocks with all guns blazing and managed to win the first game. However, the American GM came even stronger winning the next three games in a row. Thus mounting pressure on the youngster.
At that point, So had a combined lead of 8-6 in the match, when he blundered badly in game eight of the segment and more dramatic games in the last two encounters. Thus, at the end of the segment, the combined score stood at 10.5-9.5 in So’s favor.
Naroditsy had earlier predicted: “If Nihal can keep So’s lead under two points, he has a chance in Bullet.” And it was set for that thriller to unroll.
Bullet 1+1: Nihal Sarin could not move it out on time.
Proving everything irrelevant for Nihal Sarin as Wesley So won the first two games. Hold on the roller coaster, as Nihal took two points back in the next two games.
A draw to follow and So again converted two wins in a row, leading the game 15-12. GM Aman Hambleton: “Nihal seemed to be lacking his usual energy to play the bullet segment.”
Wesley knew if the number of games increased, Nihal’s chance to come back will also increase. Thus, stretching even the lost game and using his full-time of the clock to reduce the total games.
Making use of this strategy, Wesley played the last game when Nihal Sarin was two points behind. Even though Wesley So lost, he made it a 71 move game playing solidly. This, however, would be the last match of the Bullet section and match too.
Wesley So about his success: “I never had any full control of the match. I knew Nihal was higher rated in bullet, and I didn’t know what to expect. But it turn[ed] out that things were not so bad in the bullet,” thus acknowledging the final segment to be his focus, too, from the beginning of the match.
Nihal Sarin: “Wesley survived many shaky moments and somehow kept control. I think my best chance was in absolute time controls… I was hoping that I [would] be able to get better [in such] scrambles. But Wesley played very well.”