Wesley So retains US Chess Championships title

·2 min read
BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 10: (L-R) Wesley So is seen playing the first round at the First Move Ceremony during the World Chess Tournament on March 10, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for World Chess)
Filipino-American Wesley So of USA. (Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for World Chess)

Philippine-born Wesley So pulled off a masterful finish to his title-retention bid, ruling the 2021 US Chess Championships on Wednesday (October 20, Manila time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri. 

So, who was coming off a string of draws in the last four rounds of the classical event, picked the right time to hit his stride as he prevailed over world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana and Sam Sevian in the playoffs to once again secure the coveted crown. 

This is the third national title for the savvy Filipino-American after making a championship breakthrough in 2017 and reclaiming the throne in 2020.  

"It matters a lot," So said when asked about the significance of completing his title defense. 

"I remember in 2017, I really wanted to win my first US Championships because it was getting more and more difficult. I wasn't sure if I was going to win it but now this is my third title and it's huge," he chimed in.  

In the opening match of the rapid round-robin, So, who handled the black pieces, displayed his mettle as he outmaneuvered Caruana in the pressure-stricken endgame, where the top-seeded Italian-American got into time trouble. 

The 28-year-old pride of Cavite then left nothing up to chance against Sevian as he seized control with the white pieces and ended the championship-clinching bout in 33 moves.  

Aside from the prestigious title, So also pocketed the $50,000 (₱2.5 million) prize, while Caruana and Sevian bagged $30,000 each.  

As the US Chess Championships reached its conclusion, So will take a much-needed break from the competitive scene as he aims to return to action for the FIDE Grand Prix in February of 2022. 

Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.

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