MANILA, Philippines – Wesley So, now the favorite to win it all after top seed and reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen was booted out, will have to take another game to cash in on his chances after he drew with Georgia Baadur Jobava in 40 moves of a Petroff Defense in the first of their two-game duel in the Final 16 of the 2017 FIDE World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia Tuesday night.
The second-seeded So couldn’t do anything out of the white pieces as Jobava changed tact from being a known attacking player to employing a surprisingly cautious, positional game by going with the quiet and drawish line of the Russian-originated defensive setup.
It proved beneficial for the 47th-ranked Jobava as he easily equalized by exchanging their queens and some minor pieces and end up with half a point.
Jobava is expected to revert from his old sharp, attacking play as he plays white against So Thursday night in what could make or break their campaign.
So though will not be an easy prey as the Minnetonka, Minnesota native is known as one of the best defending chessers in the world.
Jobava may pose a challenge as he is coming off giant-sized upsets over heavily favored No. 18 Yu Yangyi of China (4-2) in the second round and No. 15 Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia (2.5-1.5) in the third.
While Jobava had to go through virtually the proverbial eye of the needle, So hasn’t really faced tough opposition yet after disposing of Colombian Joshua Daniel Ruiz Castillo (1.5-.5), German Matthias Blubaum (4-2) and Spaniard Francisco Vallejo Pons (1.5-.5) one after the other.
With Carlsen shown the door by Chinese Bu Xiangzhi the round before, the Cavite-born woodpusher will be determined to win the top purse worth $120,000 and one of the available slots in the Candidates Matches — the final doorway to get a crack at Carlsen’s world title.