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27 April 2010

Asian Chess Championships: So settles for draw, stays on top

Filipino Grandmaster Wesley So settled for a draw with GM Narayanan Gopal Geetha of India in the top board Monday but remained the solo leader in the 9th Asian Individual Chess Championship at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.

Unable to find a winning line with black, the 16-year-old So agreed to split the point with Geetha after 32 moves of a Sicilian-Nadjorf variation.

After six rounds, So stayed at the helm of the 89-strong Open division with 5.0 points, boosting his chances for one of the five slots at stake for the 2011 World Chess Cup.

Tied for second with 4.5 points were Geetha, Mongolian Bayarsaikhan Gundavaa and Chinese GMs Ni Hua and Yu Yangyi, who also drew their board 2 encounter. The untitled Gundavaa stunned Chinese GM Zhou Weiqi.

So, the country’s top player with an ELO rating of 2665, needs only to draw his last three games to earn his second straight World Cup stint. He needs at least two victories to secure the title and the $6,000 that goes with it.

“I’ll play my game and see what happens,” said So, who is skipping college this school year to concentrate on chess so he can break into the elite 2700 club.

With the position unclear, So first offered the draw in the 30th move, which Gopal, ninth placer in the 2007 edition held in Mandaue City, declined.

Two moves, later, it was Gopal’s turn to seek a truce and So relented.

Still battling at presstime were Chinese GMs Ding Liren and Ni Hua, who both tote 4.0 points.

Top seed GM Le Quang Liem beat compatriot GM Tu Hoang Thong and vaulted to 4.0 in the company of GM John Paul Gomez and Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran, who drew their match, as well as Vietnamese IM Nguyen Than Son, who bested GM Darwin Laylo.

Also with 4.0 are Indian GM Bakre Tejas, who bested GM Ziaur Rahman, and Indonesian GM Susanto Megaranto and Iranian Fide Master Ashgar Golizadeh, who figured in another draw.

Filipino GM Rogelio Antonio Jr., a 12-time national champion, could only draw with untitled Chinese Wang Li and, with 3.5 points, needs to sweep his last three games to earn a berth to the World Cup slated in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

In the women’s division, Iranian WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan downed Chinese WFM Ding Yixin to rise to 5.0 points and share the lead with Chinese IM Wang Yu, who was held to a draw by Vietnamese WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram.

The nine-round tournament is organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines headed by Prospero “Butch” Pichay with support from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Department of Tourism, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Sports Commission. (Roy Luarca, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Photo: Filipino Grandmaster Wesley So (right) needs only three straight draws to secure a World Cup stint.

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