SPORTS KEN: Rough road to FIDE championship

there is no physical contact in the game of chess save for the traditional opening game handshake and the congratulatory reaching out at the end of the match.

Despite the less strenuous, non-physical exertion, the mental combat in the 64-square board is far more stressful and exhaustive than some of the popular sports in this planet.

When this was being written, GM Wesley So, after four straight draws, has registered two wins in the 14-man 2018 Tata Steel Chess Masters tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands. This were over Indian GM Baskaran Adhiban and Chinese GM Wei Yi.

The victories propelled So into a tie for second, alongside ex- world titleholder Viswanathan of India and erstwhile leader Anish Giri of the Netherlands, all with 4 pts.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan (4.5pts.) has taken over the driver’s seat with a thumping of GM Adhiban of India. World champion Magnus Carlsen is tied at third with Vladimir Kramnik at 3.5.

This competition is a final tune-up phase for the Fil-Am GM before he takes part in the Candidates Matches, one of the toughest phases to the world championship cycle, which starts in March.

Eugene Torre was the first Filipino GM and the first Asian to have achieved this feat that has been considered the domain of Russian masters for many decades.

Every chess player dreams of someday making it to the Big League and So is one of them. It took a great leap of faith for this Cavite-born lad to pursue his aspirations, eventually strategically transferring his base from the Philippines to the United States.

I do not expect Wesley to win this tournament considering the stiff opposition. Like a boxer who needs adequate sparring time in training for an upcoming fight, the Wik aan Zee contest will give him opportunities to hone his skills, aside from sizing up the other GMs whom he will tangle against in the Candidates.

This tournament offers high monetary incentives and the organizers invite only strong GMs with integrity and reputation.

That So is always one of the regular invitees (he has won this joust twice if I remember correctly) alongside some of the top ten GMs in the world (not to mention the world champion) gives him a certain degree of elevated recognition in the world of pawn pushing.

What are Wesley’s chances of taking the challenger’s seat against Carlsen?

The odds are great but not overwhelmingly great.

These are the guys in the stumbling blocks list: Levon Aronian, Sergey Karyakin, Fabiano Caruana, Mamedyarov, Ding Liren, although not in this order.

While ELO ratings help described the capability of a chess master, it does not logically follow that GMs will always impose their will over lesser-rated opponents.

Serious analytical study, spartan physical and mental conditioning and the hiring of a professional coach are three of the integral ingredients that I believe will help Wesley get into the scheme of things.

Unlike Bobby Fischer’s era when GMs and all other aspiring chess nuts needed to acquire advanced chess literature and rare, expensive imported books to read and sharpen their memory banks, today’s chessers need only to google the cyberspace and voila!

Wesley will pick up good, important lessons in Wik aan Zee and may even want to try some innovative variations. I would want him though to continue cultivating the virtue of patience.

Patience, says the Bible, is a fruit of the Spirit. (Email your feedback to Mk 10:35. “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.” GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!