Philippine-born Wesley So settled for a draw with Lazaro Bruzon Batista in the fifth round of the 2021 US Chess Championships on Tuesday (October 12, Manila time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.
Coming off a rest period from the competition, the defending champion played with renewed vigor out of the opening as he banked on the Petroff with the black pieces to put the pressure on Bruzon.
However, the seasoned Cuban-American countered So with precise counterplay, setting up a threefold repetition at the end.
This is the fourth time in a five-game stretch So was forced to call a truce. With the result, he remains in second place with 3.0 points, tied with Leinier Dominguez, who also drew his match with John Burke.
Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana, the second-ranked chess player in the world, suffered his first defeat in the classical event after falling at the hands of Daniel Naroditsky.
Caruana slid down to third place with 2.5 points, creating a four-man deadlock with Burke, Bruzon and Sam Sevian in the standings.
For his part, Alex Lenderman, who carved out a breakthrough in the fourth round, vaulted atop the standings with an emphatic win over Sevian.
Lenderman now holds 3.5 points to create a two-man seat at the top spot with Ray Robson, who was held to a draw by Darius Swiercz.
The last result of the fifth round saw Jeffery Xiong break out of his slump with a win over Sam Shankland.
Here is the rest of the tournament standings at the end of round five: Swiercz and Naroditsky possess 2 points apiece to place a position higher than cellar-dwellers Shankland and Xiong, both of whom hold 1.5 each.
The US Chess Championships will swing into its sixth round on Wednesday (October 13, 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.