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So bids title hopes goodbye, loses to Ding

GM Wesley So

MANILA, Philippines – Wesley So lost his way in the endgame of their blitz playoff game and absorbed a heartbreaking 2.5-3.5 defeat to Ding Liren of China to crash out of the finals of the FIDE World Chess Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia Thursday night.

After drawing their first two standard play and two rapid play games, So was outplayed by Ding in the first of two blitz games using a time control of 10 minutes plus 10 seconds of increment per player in 69 moves of a Catalan.

So’s doom was sealed after Ding, playing white, found a way to will their Benoni duel into a draw match that ended as the latter wished — a 47-move draw.

Ding thus advanced to the finals against Armenian Levon Aronian, who bested French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final “Armageddon” playoff game to eke out a 4-3 match win.

Ding, along with Aronian, also clinched a spot in the Candidates Matches that made him the first Chinese to ever make it that far.

As for the Cavite-born, Minnetonka, Minnesota native, he would have to qualify to the Candidates via the other way — through average rating.

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It was a sorry loss for So, who would have qualified straight to the Candidates and potentially gain a crack at the world title being held by reigning champion Magnus Carlsen with a victory.

So had actually dodged a bullet in the first of their two rapid playoff games as he was losing to Ding before the former did a Houdini act and escaped with a 68-move standoff of another Catalan encounter.

In the second game, So, playing black, was starting to gain the slight positional advantage when he surprisingly accepted Ding’s draw offer in just nine moves of a Gruenfeld Defense.

It was mistake that will haunt So long after this tournament as Ding delivered the decisive triumph in the blitz playoff.

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