On a warm Sunday morning many chess players in Johannesburg descended upon Joubert Park. It has become a kind of tradition that when a Grandmaster visits the Southern African Junior Chess Championships better known as the SAJCC, he also makes time to visit the park. Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was at Joubert Park earlier in the year and this time it was Wesley So’s turn.
The grandmaster beat everyone else quite easily including chess players much stronger than me. I was watching all the games so had a good chance to see what was going on. Wesley spent very little time in the opening in his games and by the time he got to the middlegame in many games, many players were already facing serious problems.
Grandmaster Wesley So is one of my favourite players and I follow his games quite closely. I am not sure at what point I actually decided to play. Perhaps it was when I realised that there was little chance of anyone else doing it as Wesley had just about played everyone.
The grandmaster was beating people left right and centre. No one was coming close to beating him. No matter how noisy the trash talking was, the result was always the same in the end, a win for the GM.
I saw all this from the sidelines and asked if I could play with the humble request”Can I play this man”? Fortunately I was allowed to get into the ring, or at the table is more like it.
It had been agreed that the Grandmaster would have his last game at 1315 hrs. I wanted to have an opportunity to play the GM. Why not? It seemed that everyone else had been given an opportunity but no one could even match him. Some players had even gone twice with no change in the outcome.
Asking to play was an unusual request because I had been filming the event for our Facebook page. During the other games some of the players were doing some serious trash talking but for me it was very different. I was quiet but I am so sure that no one really gave me any chances in the game.
When I got down to play I immediately got into zen mode, I shut out everything else in my mind.
There was no sound in my mind. I did not think of anything else but the game before me. I had no visual except the chess pieces. I am pretty certain that no one gave me any chance at all in my game against Wesley. I thought I might have some chances if I had the white pieces and it was indeed my fortune to have white pieces.
My plan for the game was quite simple, to get a decent position in the opening.I did not want the position to be too familiar to the Grandmaster because that would be just too easy for him. I thought I would go for something a bit on the sidelines. Wesley is well known for his opening preparation and very difficult to surprise at all. Because the GM had just one minute to my three minutes, I figured that if I played reasonably well and play quite fast, I should be fine. It was a simple plan.
As the game proceeded I relaxed a bit and could hear some of the comments being made by the spectators but I really paid no attention at all.
How would I fair in my game because the Grandmaster was demolishing everyone else. I thought that if I play a sideline I would have better chances that playing well known lines. But the opening I played was not really a sideline I think. Wesley played quickly and emerged from the opening with a better position but I didn’t really worry about that.
My biggest concern was being active. I good piece play in the centre and was slightly ahead in development. However, if I wasted any time Wesley was going to eliminate any edge I might have had. I moved quite quickly and decisively in the game.
I had a really crazy idea that I would have good chances against Wesley So. It was very crazy because I am not even titled in chess. I went into the zone from the first move and I completely believed.
From the first move, there was no distraction whatsoever. I did not think I was playing a super grandmaster. I forgot I was playing someone really strong. I was just thinking of the chess game and position.
When Grandmaster Wesley So pressed the clock and my time started moving, I did not move immediately. I paused for at least 2 seconds. What was I waiting for? I was deciding on the opening I would play in our game.
On my sixth move, I clumsily moved my bishop and dropped some pieces. Where the nerves getting to me? No I was just clumsy. I had no nerves.
Many times I play blitz I look at the clock constantly. In this game I did very little of that. I focussed very much on the moves. I was not thinking about winning on time because I have seen just how good these players are. You have to get the work done on the board.
After the game some players felt I should play Wesley So again. I thought about this briefly and decided I was done with playing chess for the day. At least now I can say the only time I ever played a super grandmaster it was a draw. In fact at this point I am thinking about retiring altogether from blitz completely, just so that I will always remember my last game as probably the peak of my blitz play. Who knows if I will be able to stick to this because as many will readily admit, blitz chess is very addictive. For now I will just enjoy what will probably the peak achievement in my chess. I don’t see myself ever beating this.
Wesley jokingly said I had ruined his record at Joubert Park because he had beaten everyone else. He said it with a smile, in his typically laid back style. It has been such a great privilege and honour having the grandmaster and getting to know him a bit as a person.
The illegal move
PS – In this game an illegal move was made on Move 56. In terms of the rules Black should have claimed an illegal move. If a player does not make a claim the position stands. The position
However, knowing Grandmaster Wesley So, I think he just let me have the draw to be honest. That is the kind of gentleman he is. It’s a fly in the ointment for me because this illegal kind of spoilt the game but I think it’s still my best game.