Philippine-born Wesley So chalked up a win at the expense of Darius Swiercz in the 2021 US Chess Championships on Friday (October 8, Manila time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.
The reigning champion So pulled out all the stops in the second round as he dismantled the Sicilian Defense of Swiercz, who had no choice but to resign under the brilliance of the fancied Filipino-American.
Coming off a draw against Jeffery Xiong in the opening round, the win served as an emphatic bounce-back effort for So, who also vaulted atop the standings with 1.5 points, tied with early leaders Ray Robson and John Burke.
Still, despite establishing a commanding position in the leaderboards, So remains wary of the competition.
"This tournament is going to be very tough because there's a lot of ambitious players, and also some lower rated but very strong players," said the 27-year-old pride of Bacoor, Cavite.
"But this is my sixth US Open Championships, so I'm used to the tough grind."
Reminiscent of the first round, only two players carved out a decisive outcome in the second round while the rest settled for draws.
Aside from So, Daniel Naroditsky, who sustained a deflating loss in the opening round, barged into the win column as well after dispatching Xiong in convincing manner.
Meanwhile, world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana escaped the jaws of defeat as he ended the precarious encounter with Leinier Dominguez with a draw.
Here is the tournament standings after the second round: So, Robson and Burke stand atop the ladder with 1.5 points apiece; Caruna and Dominguez remain in the middle of the pack with Sam Shankland, Sam Sevian, Lazaro Bruzon, Alex Lenderman and Naroditsky with 1 point each; Xiong settles for second to the last with 0.5; while Swiercz continues trudge at the cellar without a point.
The US Chess Championships will resume action for its third round on Saturday (October 9, 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.