THE ROAD to a potential World title duel with reigning classical champion Magnus Carlsen gets narrower for Wesley So.
Already denied of the two spots staked in the FIDE Grand Prix to the Candidates Tournament after American Hikaru Nakamura and Hungarian Richard Rapport already claimed it, Mr. So would have to take the road less traveled as he needs to emerge with the highest rating among those who have yet to qualify before May.
This meant Mr. So, who is currently No. 6 in the world with a 2778 rating, would have to beat World No. 3 Ding Liren (2805.7) of China and World No. 5 Levon Aronian (2779.2) of the United States in the ratings race before the allotted deadline with at least 30 games.
And it would help the reigning world Fischer-Random king and two-time US champion to qualify to the semifinals and the finals in the third and final leg of ongoing the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix.
And so far, the Cavite-born Mr. So is on course as he was playing fellow American Sam Shankland, whom he ended up tied at first in Pool C with 3.5 points apiece, in playoff showdown for a semis berth at press time.
If Mr. So beats Mr. Shankland, he would play Iranian Amin Tabatabaei in the semis.
The other semifinalists are Pool A winner Mr. Nakamura and the winner between Azeri Shakriyar Mamedyarov and German Vincent Keymer in Pool B.
Mr. So making the semis and finals and winning it would help in his cause as it would hike his rating for a chance to overtake Messrs. Ding and Aronian.
The spot that Messrs. So, Ding and Aronian are contesting was made available after FIDE banned Russian Sergey Karjakin, the World Cup runner-up, for his alleged pro-war sentiments.
Apart from Messrs. Nakamura and Rapport, former world challenger Ian Nepomniatchi of Russia, wild card Teimur Radjabov of Azerbaijan, Grand Swiss champion Alireza Firouzja of France and runner-up Fabiano Caruana of the US and World Cup titlist Jan-Krzystof Duda have earned spots to the Candidates set from June 16 to July 7 in Madrid, Spain.
And Mr. So hopes to fill that final void for a chance at dream world title fight with Mr. Carlsen. — Joey Villar