Philippine-born Wesley So found Alex Lenderman a tough nut to crack as he settled for a draw in the third round of the 2021 US Chess Championships on Saturday (October 9, Manila time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.
The reigning champion So banked on the Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Tarrasch defense with the black pieces in an attempt to disrupt Lenderman, who came armed with deep preparation for the fancied Filipino-American.
Counterplay after counterplay ensued before the match swung into an opposite-colored bishops endgame, leaving both grandmasters no choice but to call a truce with a threefold repetition.
This is the second match So was held to a draw in the tournament, where he has won once so far in a three-game stretch. So is locked in a four-way tie on top of the leaderboard with 2.0 points at the end of round three to continue his title-retention bid.
Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana, ranked second in the world, and Samuel Sevian barged into the win column at the expense of John Burke and Jeffery Xiong, respectively.
Both Caruana and Sevian rose atop the standings to stand alongside fellow leaders So and Ray Robson, who ended the third round with a draw against Sam Shankland.
Other results of the day saw Darius Swiercz snap his two-game losing skid with a win over Daniel Naroditsky and Leinier Dominguez settle for a draw against Lazaeo Bruzon.
Here are the standings at the end of round three: Caruana, So, Sevian and Robson lead with 2.0 points; Burke fell in the middle of the pack with 1.5 points, tied with Dominguez, Shankland, Bruzon and Lenderman; Swiercz and Naroditsky at second to the last with 1.0 points; and Xiong at the bottom with 0.5.
The fourth round of the US Chess Championships shall commence on Sunday (October 10, Manila time).
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.