The tight race for the US Chess Championships crown continued in the ninth round as Wesley So remained in a share of the lead with Alex Lenderman and Sam Sevian on Sunday (October 17, Manila time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.
So, the defending champion of the classical event, handled the white pieces and seemed to have an upper hand over Daniel Naroditsky. But the fancied Filipino-American failed to utilize his cards well, settling for a draw at the end.
"I thought I just missed a very good chance to win today, and probably the tournament," the 28-year-old pride of Cavite lamented.
"Daniel is a very good player, a very tricky player. At the same time, I had very good chances, just blew it," he added.
So, who has earned two wins against seven draws across nine rounds, ascended to 5.5 points, tied with Lenderman and Sevian, both of whom were also held to a draw with Sam Shankland and John Burke, respectively.
Fabiano Caruana, the second-ranked player in the world, carved out a much-needed win over Darius Swiercz to forge a three-man deadlock at 5.0 points with Leinier Dominguez Perez and Ray Robson, who both called a truce in their clash in round nine.
Meanwhile, Jeffery Xiong climbed out of the cellar after sending Lazaro Bruzon Batista in a downward spiral.
Here are the rest of the standings after the ninth round: Xiong now sits alongside Naroditsky and Shankland at 4.0, a full point behind Caruana, Dominguez and Robson, and half a point ahead of Bruzon, Burke and Swiercz, who trudge at the bottom with 3.5.
The US Chess Championships will resume on Monday (October 18, Manila time) for its penultimate round.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.