Wesley’s masterpiece

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

In the first game of round 3 Wesley So took down Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, only 24 years old but already the third highest rated from India (1. Anand 2765, 2. Harikrishna 2746) and widely touted to be the heir apparent of former world champion Vishy Anand.

So, Wesley (2767) — Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi (2718) [D38]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk (3.1), 16.09.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 0–0 7.Qc2

[7.Bd2 is best answered by the immediate 7…dxc4! 8.Bxc4 Bd6 getting ready for e6–e5, which is the main idea in the Ragozin. 9.0–0 e5 10.h3 a6 11.Qc2 exd4 12.exd4 b5! 13.Be2 Nb4 14.Qd1 Bb7 Yermolinsky-D. Zilberstein, San Francisco 2007]


The idea is to support the …e6–e5 break.

8.Bd2 a6

Radjabov beat Vidit earlier this year in the Wijk aan Zee tournament. They arrived at the position after White’s 8th move but then Vidit continued 8…Bd6. In annotating this game for NIC Yearbook Radjabov remarked that Vidit is mixing up the move order. “A better way for Black is to start with 8…a6! as now I could have played 9.c5!.” He continued that after 9.c5 Bf8 10.Bb5 Black is already worse and White’s play is also much easier 9.h3 a6 10.a3 Bd7 11.Be2 dxc4 12.Bxc4 h6 13.g4!? e5 14.g5 b5 15.Ba2 exd4 16.gxh6!! White threatens Qg6! 16…dxc3 17.Bxc3 Be6 18.Bxe6 Rxe6 19.Rg1 Ne8 20.Bxg7 Nxg7 21.Rxg7+ Kf8 22.Qh7 White had a winning attack. Radjabov, T. (2757)-Vidit, S. (2695) Wijk aan Zee 2019 1–0 36. You would expect that Vidit studied this game very intensively.

9.a3 Bd6 10.Rd1 Bd7 11.h3 h6 12.c5 Bf8 13.Ne5 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Ne4 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Ba5 Qc8

Otherwise White will play 17.c6! bxc6 18.Qd2 and, surprisingly, wins a piece.

17.g4 Bc6 18.Bg2 Rd8 19.Rxd8 Qxd8 20.Bxe4 Bxe4 21.Qxe4 Bxc5 22.Qxb7 .Rb8 23.Qxc7 Qxc7 24.Bxc7 Rxb2 25.0–0 Rc2 26.Bd6 Bxd6 27.exd6 Rd2 28.Rb1 Rxd6 <D>


As you might imagine this position is completely equal. After the game the commentators on the website Chess24, GMs Yermolinsky and Miroshnichenko, reproached Visit with “how can you lose a position like this?” Take note that Vidit is rated 2718, a legitimate super GM and you don’t get to this level without knowing your endgames. Yermolinsky summed up for Wesley So: “after playing so many games with Magnus Carlsen you learn a thing or two about endgames.” Yermo is absolutely right, this game is akin to a Magnus Carlsen grind-it-out win.

29.Rb8+ Kh7 30.Rb7 Kg6 31.Ra7 Kf6 32.h4 Rc6 33.Kg2 g5?!

During the on-line commentary on Chess24 GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko threw up his arms “what is black doing here?” Indeed, Vidit should have just left his kingside pawns intact.


Perhaps Vidit expected White to just exchange pawns and everything is okay for him.

34…gxh4+ 35.Kxh4

Black’s position is still OK, but it was completely unnecessary for him to split his pawns ad leave a weakness on h6.

35…Kg6 36.a4 Rc2

In the post-game interview Wesley remarked that all Vidit had to do was put his pawn on f6, K on g6, and there is no way for White to break through. Instead the Indian GM starts taking a lot of time on his moves and made a few weird king moves.

37.Kg3 Rc6 38.a5 Kf6 39.e4 Kg6 40.f3 Kf6 41.Kf4 e5+

Might not be best. He should just follow Wesley’s suggestion of …Kg6 and …f6.

42.Kg3 Kg7 43.Ra8 Kh7 44.Rd8 Kg7 45.Ra8 Kh7 46.Kf2 Kg7 47.Kg2 Rc2+ 48.Kg3 Rc6 49.Ra7 Kf8 50.Kf2 Kg7 51.Kg2 Rc2+ 52.Kg3 Rc6 53.Rd7

The position is equal but Wesley is still casting around looking for possibilities. He spots that the ideal position of his rook is on the 5th rank where it simultaneously attacks Black’s e5 pawn and defends his own on a5.


Vidit spent 15 minutes studying 53…Rc5 54.Rd5 Rxd5 55.exd5 Kf8 which siimplifies the position and brings it that much closer to an agreed draw. Finally he decides “what’s the rush?” and plays a non-committal move. Wesley pounces on it immediately. The chessbase website says that “Nevertheless, converting after the text move is no easy task, but So continued to stun the commentators with his technique until finally scoring a 93–move victory.” Tremendous praise indeed.


The result of Vidit’s vacillation is that the 5th rank is now controlled by White and …Rc5 is no longer a possibility.

54…Re6 55.Rc5 Ke8 56.Kh4 Kf8 57.Kh5 Kg7 58.g5

After this move Wesley said that he felt he was winning already. Well, perhaps not quite 100% winning, but already close to that.

58…hxg5 59.Kxg5 Rh6 60.Kf5 Rf6+ 61.Kxe5 Rxf3 62.Rc6 Rh3?

I haven’t seen anyone point it out but 62…f6+! is correct here. After 63.Kd5 f5 64.Rxa6 (64.e5 Ra3 65.Rxa6 f4 66.e6 f3 67.Ra7+ Kg6 68.Kd6 f2 69.Rf7 Rxa5 70.Rxf2 Ra6+ 71.Ke5 Ra5+ this is a book draw) 64…fxe4 65.Kxe4 The general rule here is that Black must check the white king from the side as the monarch has no escape from the checks.

65…Ra3 loses because, as I explained earlier, the rook cannot “check the white king from the side.” I will show you the king maneuver: 66.Kd5! Rc3 (66…Rg3 is already too late. 67.Re6! Rg5+ 68.Re5 Rg6 69.Rf5 Ra6 70.Kc4 Kg6 71.Rd5 Kf6 72.Kb5 with the Black king cut off this is a relatively easy win) 67.Ra7+ Kf6 68.a6 Ra3 69.Ra8 Ra5+ 70.Kc6 Ra3 71.Kb6 Rb3+ 72.Ka7 Ke7 73.Rb8 Rd3 74.Kb6 Rd6+ 75.Ka5 Rd5+ 76.Rb5 Rd7 77.Rb7 game over.

65…Rg3! this is the way 66.Rb6 (66.Kd5 Rg5+ 67.Kc6 Rg6+ 68.Kb7 Rg5 69.Ra7 Kh6! 70.a6 Rg7+ 71.Kb6 Rg6+ draw) 66…Rg5! (66…Ra3 loses because of 67.Rb5! Kf6 68.Kd5 Ke7 69.Kc6 the king is on time to assist his passed pawn) 67.a6 Ra5 68.Rb7+ Kf6 69.a7 Ke6 draw.


Remember what I told you about black’s rook needing to check the white king from the side? The text is a perfect example and now if 63…Rh5+ then 64.e5 blocks and Black will need to go down the board to the 1st or 2nd rank to keep checking the king, which is doomed to failure.

In contrast 63.Rxa6? is only a draw. 63…Rh5+! 64.Kd4 (64.Kd6?? Rh6+ loses the rook) 64…Rb5! 65.Ra8 and now, unbelievably, Black has only one move to draw. 65…Kh7! this is to ensure that the white rook cannot check the black king from behind. I will show you what I mean later 66.a6 Rb6 67.a7 Ra6 White can make no progress. Now you see why the black king should be on h7. If it was on g6 or h6 the white rook will check on either g8 or h8 and then queen his pawn.

63…Rd3+ 64.Kc5 Re3 65.Kd4

[65.Rxa6? Rxe4 66.Rd6 Ra4 67.a6 f5! 68.Kb5 Ra2 69.Rd7+ Kf6 70.a7 Ke5 71.Kb6 f4 72.Rd8 Ke4 73.a8Q+ Rxa8 74.Rxa8 Ke3 the white king is too far away — this is a book draw]

65…Ra3 66.Rxa6 Ra1 67.e5 Rd1+ 68.Kc5 Rc1+ 69.Kd5 Rd1+ 70.Kc6 Re1 <D>


Now for the four-star move.


Putting his king of d6 or d5 will not spoil the win, but RB6 is the correct winning maneuver.

71…Rxe5 72.a6 Re7

[72…Ra5 73.Kb7 f5 74.a7 Ra1 (74…f4? 75.Ra6) 75.Ra6 Rb1+ 76.Kc6 Rc1+ 77.Kd6 Rd1+ 78.Ke5 Re1+ 79.Kxf5 Rf1+ 80.Ke4 the pawn queens]

73.Rb7 Re6+ 74.Kb5 Re5+ 75.Kb6 Re6+ 76.Ka5 Re5+ 77.Rb5 Re7 78.Rc5!

To leave space for his king on b7 and the white rook will interpose on c7 when Black’s rook checks him from the side.

78…Kg6 79.Kb6 f5

Of course, during his 7–minute think on move 71 Wesley had to ensure that his king can come back in time to stop the black pawn.

80.a7 Re8 81.Kb7 Kg5 82.Rc8 Re7+ 83.Kb8 Rxa7 84.Kxa7 Kf4 85.Kb6 Ke3 86.Re8+!

The only move which wins.

86…Kd3 87.Rf8 Ke4 88.Kc5 f4 89.Kc4 Ke3 90.Kc3 f3 91.Re8+ Kf2 92.Kd2 Kf1 93.Ke3 [Right on time!] 1–0

This game filled me with joy, pride and also sadness. Sadness because I know that I can never play like this.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.