Here is a link to the game itself.

[FEN ""]
[White "Wesley So"]
[Black "Varuzhan Akobian"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Nxf6+ Nxf6 7. c3 c5 8. Be3 cxd4 9. Bxd4 Be7 10. Bd3 O-O 11. Qc2 h6 12. O-O-O Qa5 13. Kb1 Rd8 14. Ne5 Bd7 15. Qe2 Bc6 16. Rhe1 Bd5 17. c4 Bxg2 18. Bc3 Qb6 19. Rg1 Bc6 20. Nxf7 Kxf7 21. Rxg7+ Kxg7 22. Qxe6 Qxf2 23. Qxe7+ Kg8 24. Bh7+

I'm a chess newbie and was looking at this game and quite amazed by the White knight's attack. I have two questions.

First what point did Akobian go wrong? I really didn't see the attack coming. Only at 20. Nxf7 did I realize that the White knight must have some sort of plan and it was probably calculated way ahead. I assumed it was only on the next move that Akobian was also able to calculate ahead and see no chance of winning. But at what point was the game not saveable, at what point did Akobian make a big mistake? I have a very limited chess program, but it never gives the White knight a big advantage for any of the moves until then so I can't figure it out.

Secondly, did the White knight make a mistake at the end? My computer gives 24. Bxf6 as the better move, forcing a checkmate in just a few moves. Meanwhile, the line played by the White knight is not forcing, at least not immediately.

  • 24. Bh7+ won immediately, since it convinced Black to resign. Hard to see how mate in 6 moves improves on that.
    – bof
    Jan 18, 2021 at 13:02

4 Answers 4


But at what point was game not saveable, at what point did Akobian make a (big) mistake?

Qxf2 is a big mistake as after that it is forced mate in 7 moves. If So had played 24. Bxf6 there is no defense against all the mate threads and all black can do is prolong his suffering by throwing in some pieces.

[FEN ""]
[Event "US Chess Championships"]
[White "Wesley So (2773)"]
[Black "Varuzhan Akobian (2615)"]
[StartPly "46"]
[Result "1-0"]
[PlyCount "47"]
[ECO "C10"]
[Opening "French Defense: Rubinstein Variation, Kasparov Attack"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Nxf6+ Nxf6 7. c3      c5 8. Be3 cxd4 9. Bxd4 Be7 10. Bd3 O-O 11. Qc2 h6 12. O-O-O Qa5 13. Kb1 Rd8 14. Ne5 Bd7 15. Qe2 Bc6 16. Rhe1 Bd5 17. c4 Bxg2 18. Bc3 Qb6 19. Rg1 Bc6 20. Nxf7 Kxf7 21. Rxg7+ Kxg7 22. Qxe6 Qxf2?? 23. Qxe7+ Kg8 24. Bh7+!? (24. Bxf6 Qxf6 25. Qxf6 Bg2 26. Rg1 Rxd3 27. Rxg2+ Rg3 28. Rxg3+ Kh7 29. Qg7#)

However So did not play 24. Bxf6 but went for Bh7+ instead which is of course also winning. Most likely he saw that after Bh7+ lots of material would come off the board in a forced line and he would end up in an easily won endgame with queen plus 4 pawns vs. bishop plus 3 pawns (no counterplay for black and no fortress either).

While mating quickly is more desirable for the beauty of chess, from a practical standpoint, going for a forced line which is easy to calculate and obviously won makes a lot of sense. 24. Bxf6 of course looks very good even without calculating concrete lines, but has more potential for error. Furthermore if So had played 24. Bxf6, he would have needed a bit more time for calculating consequences of that move and also Akobian might have fought on for a move or two. So in the end the second best move (Bh7+) might even have ended the game quicker, because it was obvious that white will win.

Back to Qxf2...

That's a curious choice as it leaves the bishop on e7 hanging and after that also the knight on f6 is hanging. I have no idea what Akobian was thinking here (probably desperation or time trouble?). He must (or should) have checked at least all the options of protecting the bishop on e7, like Qc5, Qc7, Re8 and Rd7. Both, Qc5 and Qc7 lose and it is easy to calculate this on the board. 22 .. Re8 seems to hold according to the computer. Black is still under a very dangerous looking attack and will have to find the correct moves to secure equality in the moves to come. 22 .. Rd7 will lose, but not as fast as 22 .. Qc5/c7. From a GM I would have expected to play one of Re8 or Rd7 at least.

Did Akobian go wrong before Qxf2?

Computers give more or less equality (small advantage for white) before that move, but from a human perspective I find 17 .. Bxg2 a strange choice as it opens the g file for white's rook. This will always be dangerous even if there is no immediate tactics.

Also I am not sure whether transferring the bishop from c8 to d5 via d7 and c6 was such a good idea. Wasted lots of tempi just to force white to play c4. Probably a better plan for black here was to go for a minority attack on the queen side with b5, b4...

  • Agree with all the above, although I don't see how 24. Bxf6 requires any more time than 24.Bh7+.
    – gented
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:36
  • Well, maybe not a lot more time, but compared to the Bh7+ forced line there are more replies to consider because B×f6 is not check. Dec 6, 2016 at 14:42

the line WS played is not forcing, at least not immediately.

You have a funny definition of not forcing. The lines look pretty forcing to me.

First possibility:

24 ... NxB 25. Qg7#

Second possibility:

24 ... Kh8 25. BxN+ QxB 26. QxQ+ KxB 27. RxR RxR 28. QxR

leaving white with Q+4P v B+3P.

The aim of the game is to win not to copy the computer's best line. So won the game so by definition did not make a mistake.


Great answer by user1583209.

But my view is that the error was perhaps a series of small errors, so I don't put as much emphasis on Qxf2 as THE error though it was a big error still. In fact, if you use a chess engine, even if black plays Re8, it's still a losing game and the queen can continue to check the king as it regains its material advantage. Perhaps that's what Wesley So had in mind because otherwise why did he make those sacrifices (move 20 and 21)? He surely did not know that Akobian would play 22...Qxf2.

  • Can you give a concrete line after Re8? On my computer it gives just +1 which is not that much compared to the other options which are clearly losing. Dec 6, 2016 at 7:18

Moving the white-squared bishop around only to have it chased away again with c4 was already a dubious plan by Black, but 17. ... Bxg2 almost looks like a beginner move. Opening the g-file straight to the Black king like that is more or less a gift to White. 15. ... Rac8 looks more active, or maybe even 15. ... Be8 defending the weak f7 pawn and at the same time improving the position of the d8 rook.

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