Wesley So prevails, shares US Championship top spot

Roy Luarca
Wesley So prevails, shares US Championship top spot

PICKING UP. Wesley So targets back-to-back wins heading into the third round.

LennartOotes/Saint Louis Chess Club

After starting his title defense with a draw, Wesley So bounces back to grab a share of the lead in the 2021 US Chess Championship

Wesley So trounced Darius Swiercz and shared the lead with Roy Robson and John Burke in the 2021 US Chess Championship on Thursday, October 7 (Friday, October 8, Philippine time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.

Playing the Sicilian Defense, Canal-Sokolsky Attack, So forced Swiercz to resign in 32 moves and climb to 1.5 points in the company of Robson and the 20-year-old Burke, who drew their round 2 matches with Sam Sevian and Aleksandr Lenderman, respectively.

It was a huge relief for So as he’s trying to shake off a disappointing closing stint in the recent Champions Chess Tour Finals, where he tumbled from second to fourth in the last four rounds and is hard-pressed to regain the crown he won online last year.

This year’s edition of the classical event is being held over the board with So being challenged by 11 other elite Grandmasters led by world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana for the $50,000 (P2.5 million) top purse.

The top-seeded Caruana, the winner of the 2016 US Championship, drew with third seed Leinier Dominguez, putting them at 1.0 point with five others.

Also with 1.0 point are Sevian, Lenderman, Lazaro Bruzon, 2018 US champion Sam Shankland, and Daniel Naroditsky, who stunned fourth seed Jeffery Xiong, who forced So to a draw in the first round.

Xiong, last year’s runner-up, remained at 0.5 while Swiercz hogged the cellar with 2 straight defeats.

The Bacoor, Cavite-born So, who first won the annual event in 2017, will try to make it back-to-back when he tangles with Lenderman in the third round.

Other round 3 matches pit Robson against Shankland, Jeffery Xiong against Sevian, Swiercz against Naroditsky, Caruana against Burke, and Bruzon against fellow Cuban-born Dominguez. –