Wesley So will play either Fabiano Caruana or Jan-Krzysztof
Duda in the Speed Chess Championship quarterfinals after scoring a crushing victory
over 16-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Wesley raced to a 4.5/5 start before
Nodirbek hit back to end the 5-minute section trailing by just one point. It looked like we might be in for a close match, but the youngster was blown away
in the 3-minute section. The score could have been even more convincing, since
Nodirbek won the last two games.

The Speed Chess Championship match between Wesley So and
Nodirbek Abdusattorov was played on chess.com. You can replay all the games
with computer analysis using the selector below.

For live commentary on all the action Grandmaster Jan
Gustafsson was joined by Nodirbek’s Uzbek compatriot Rustam Kasimdzhanov, whose
2004 FIDE World Championship victory seems to have helped inspire a hugely
promising generation of young players.

Wesley So gets off to a blistering start

The first game of the match was a sign of things to come,
with Wesley outplaying Nodirbek in an ending. Both players would in fact keep
steering towards endings, which made sense given their natural ability there,
but it was clear that for now it’s an area where Wesley is just that little bit
better all round.

Game 2 was a knight and pawn ending, with Wesley getting off
to what, Jan confirmed, was a perfect start.

In Game 3 Nodirbek mistakenly exchanged down into a lost
ending, while stopping the bleeding in Game 4 with a draw proved only a brief respite.
Game 5 was the most crushing victory yet, with Nodirbek later lamenting:

His opening preparation was amazing. I played once this e4
e5 and the Italian, this sharp line with Ng5, and he just crushed me!

Our commentators were also impressed:

Rustam: “Wesley eh, he has this habit of getting really
good positions with both colours, right?”

Jan: “Yeah, I think it’s connected to his habit of
working a lot on chess”

Abdusattorov hits back

At 4.5:0.5 it already looked all over, but suddenly,
unexpectedly, Nodirbek hit back to win three of the next four games. He
revealed a simple recipe for success when he talked to Danny Rensch and Maurice
Ashley afterwards:

The start was very, very bad, 3:0, and draw, and 4.5:0.5,
and then I said, ‘ok, I need to play faster and my best’, and suddenly it
became very, very close after the 5-minute portion.

Wesley had been taken by surprise:

After the first four wins, I thought the match would be
comfortable, but then Nodirbek played very well today. He’s always looking for
a fight, he gets fighting positions with both White and Black, so it’s hard for
me to consolidate, and then I got a bit careless. I was playing openings which
I normally don’t play, like the Sicilian Najdorf, for example, and I was
getting very good positions, but my experience in that opening is just not very
good, and in a faster time control it’s easier for Nodirbek to play, and I
think he exploited that fact very well.     

The most dramatic game was the 8th, where Ben Finegold’s “never
play f6” applied to Wesley’s 20…f6?

21.c4! was the correct way to punish Black’s move, but after
21…Ne7 Nodirbek should have stuck to his guns with 22.d5! and Black’s position
is in ruins. Instead after 22.Bxf6!? gxf6 23.d5 exd5 24.Re6 Qxc4 it turned out
Black had things under control. In fact Wesley was soon winning, but he went
astray before blundering with 32…Re7?

33.Rxe7+! Nxe7 34.Qxh8 and it was time for Black to resign.

Nodirbek followed that up with a crushing win with the black
pieces to cut Wesley’s lead to a point, and it was clear So was rattled as he
took a draw in a better position in the next game to bring the 5-minute section
to an end.

Wesley ends the match as a contest

Wesley So began the 3-minute games with a win, his first in
five games, but the next game was one of the most memorable of the match. Wesley
voluntarily put his rook on b4, only to find it trapped and defenceless after
33.Rb2! 

33…g6 (33…Kf7 and White can bring his king over to win the black rook) 34.Ne7+ and Wesley resigned before waiting for Nc6-Nxb4.

Once again the gap was just one point, but suddenly the
match turned a second time. Wesley went on to win the next five games, extending
his lead to an unbridgeable six points. He wasn’t going to make any
mistakes this time, and though he could have won the final 3-minute game it
seems he was instead intent on stretching the game out long enough that there
wouldn’t be time for an extra game.

“In the 3+1 portion it was like I couldn’t motivate myself”, reflected Nodirbek. The match outcome was already a foregone conclusion going
into the last 30 minutes of 1-minute chess, but, just to make sure, Wesley also
won the first three games, to take a 9-point lead. Our commentators were
switching to other topics, though while Jan held forth on the subject of
dolphins Nodirbek finally picked up his first win in 13 games.

Ever the professional, Wesley ran down the clock by playing that game out until mate on the board, before hitting back again to win the next two games and take
a 10-point lead. Wins for Nodirbek in the last two games helped give the
scoreline some measure of respectability – and also earned him some cash, since half the prize fund for each match is split according to points scored.

It was a tough match for the 16-year-old from Uzbekistan,
but Nodirbek said he’d learned a lot. Wesley reflected on the passage of time,
noting it was just six years since he’d left college to become a professional
chess player:

I don’t mind getting old, everyone gets old, and also with it
comes experience and maturity in a way, but you’re right, they are a lot of
talented youngsters right now and I’m particularly impressed with Nodirbek’s
games. I’ve been studying his games for the last few days, and also looking at
his recent best games, and he’s a very good player, he’s very principled, I’m
sure he’s coached well. I’m not sure how exactly the chess culture is in
Uzbekistan, but with proper support and training I’m sure Nodirbek would go
far.

He added:

I just want to say that it feels unreal that, for example, Vladimir Kramnik is retired now, when he’s such an amazing, great player. Time
flies so fast, and that’s the thing with chess also. You cannot lose momentum
because a lot of things can happen in one year or two years.

In the immediate future for Wesley is a quarterfinal match
against Fabiano Caruana or Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who play on Sunday November
15th.

The next match, however, is the heavyweight contest Ian
Nepomniachtchi vs. Levon Aronian. That will take place on Wednesday November
11th at 18:00 CET. Once again you’ll be able to watch all the action here on
chess!

See also:


Chess Mentor

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