Wesley So has won the 2016 London Chess Classic and taken his Grand Chess Tour earnings to a whopping $295,000. All he needed to complete his triumph was a rock solid draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave since Fabiano Caruana got nothing against Anish Giri and in fact flirted with disaster. Hikaru Nakamura finished second in the Grand Chess Tour, 11.5 points and $150,000 behind Wesley. The day’s entertainment was provided by Veselin Topalov, whose sacrifice finally paid off against Levon Aronian.
The London Chess Classic has been a hugely enjoyable event but the final round was something of an anti-climax, saved only by Veselin Topalov’s never-say-die attitude!
Wesley So summed up that winning in London was his “best achievement ever”, but he pointed out himself that it had all happened in the second half of the year, since before then he’d been “going just around normal”. His fourth place in Paris and distant second to Carlsen in Leuven gave little hint of what was to follow, while on the July 2016 rating list he was ranked 11th in the world at 2770.
In hindsight a significant date was July 16th, when Wesley was crushed in 26 moves by Carlsen in the Bilbao Masters. He didn’t lose another classical game all year:
Bilbao Masters (Round 5 onwards): 6 games, +1
Sinquefield Cup: 9 games, +2
Olympiad: 10 games, +7
Isle of Man Open: 9 games, +4
London Chess Classic: 9 games, +3
Total: 43 games, +17
Such a run of form and dominance of a big series of events inevitably started talk about Wesley’s potential, with some high praise for the US no 2. You can watch all the interviews on the live coverage, including Vishy’s: