Wesley So on verge of ruling US Chess Championship
Wesley So

Wesley So on verge of ruling US Chess Championship

Joey Villar (Philstar.com) - October 29, 2020 - 1:11pm

MANILA, Philippines – For the second time in the history of the United States Chess Championship, a Philippine-born player could end up as its champion.

Call him Wesley So.

So escaped past upset-conscious Jeffrey Xiong in 52 moves in a super-sharp Sicilian duel on Thursday to regain the solo lead after nine rounds and inch closer to emerging the US champion for the second time.

The Cavite-born So, the 2017 US titlist, has hiked his total to eight points, or a full point ahead of his recent victim — the 19-year-old Xiong — and Ray Robson with seven apiece, and could seal the deal against in the last two rounds against Robson and third seed Hikaru Nakamura Friday.

“Everything is going right in this tournament. Definitely a dream tournament for me but it’s not yet over,” said So, who has seven wins and two draws.

But So teetered on the brink of defeat after blundering in the middle game.

Using a lot of time, Xiong, who went under the tutelage of Filipino Grandmaster and University of Texas-Dallas coach Inno Sadorra from 2014 and 2015, missed the winning move and allowed So to breathe.

Given a chance to draw, Xiong faltered in time panic and blew that one away too.

“I wasn’t able to calculate everything and thinking of my opponent’s time. Apparently, if he had found the move, he is much better and my king is very unsafe,” said So. “I was kind of happy he allowed me this because I wasn’t expecting winning chances later.”

Xiong caught up with So entering the ninth round after trampling Robson in the seventh and blasting an unnerved Nakamura in the eighth while So was slowed down with a draw with Sam Sevian in the seventh before beating Elshan Moradiabadi in the next.

But Xiong succumbed to pressure and just threw away his chances at pulling the rug from under the top-seeded So.

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