A member of Team Wesley reported on one of the rest days at Wijk aan Zee: “It is terribly exhausting and I can hardly fault anyone here for losing or not doing their best. The weather is horrendous, rain every day and the cold and wind are exceptionally bitter. We walk back and forth to the venue and often arrive wet. The schedule is exhausting and the games quite long. But then again, this is the way champions are made and we are all grateful to be here at this event.”
Everyone at Tata lost at least one game. So’s only loss, against Giri in the 12th round, lasted 111 moves and took eight hours and 20 minutes to finish, well past normal dinner time. It was the longest game in the entire tournament. The following day, with the last round starting 1.5 hours earlier, So came back strong and ended another successful stint at Wijk aan Zee with a brilliant win against Loek van Wely.
“Anish is a nice guy and obviously an extremely talented player,” So said upon his return to Minnesota. “He deserved to win although there was a moment I thought it was a draw. You can always learn from any loss and, personally, it motivated me to work harder and stay more focused.”
That loss stopped So’s unbeaten run at 54 games, beginning from April 2014 in the 4th round of the Bill Wright Saint Louis Open. During that remarkable streak, he won four high-profile tournaments: the Capablanca Memorial in Havana, Cuba, in May; the ACP Golden Classic in Bergamo, Italy, in July; the Millionaire Chess Open in Las Vegas, in October, where he got into the world’s top 10 for the first time; and the North American Open, also in Las Vegas, in December. He also finished second, just half a point behind the Ukrainian legend Vassily Ivanchuk, at the Edmonton International in Alberta, Canada, in June.
Considering how closely So had come to at least a tie for first with Carlsen at Tata, his many fans could only rue the one that got away and couldn’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently. So himself had thought about it and this is what he had to say –
“Hindsight is always 20/20 and of course you tell yourself, I should have done this or that. Losing a game is hard but that is what gaming is about. The heartbreaking losses make it interesting. If you always won, you’d get bored and stop growing.”
“I did the best I could, I learned a lot, and the biggest lesson was that there is always room for improvement and greater effort,” So said. “It was a wonderful time for me at Wijk aan Zee. To survive a long challenging tournament, it is crucial to be disciplined and Tata Steel provided me the opportunity to test myself in this and in many other ways."
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