American Wesley So is the first through to the semi-finals of the Online Speed Chess Championships when he defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
The match 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 Hikaru Nakamura, So is the most accomplished player in Speed Chess Championship history and he proved it true withteh win.
He will play the winner of the match between Nakamura and Vladimir Fedoseev in the semi-finals.
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 as the final score of 16-10 was certainly closer.
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.
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.