Philippine-born Wesley So stayed within striking distance of world champion Magnus Carlsen after defeating Anish Giri in the fifth round of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals on Thursday (September 30, Manila time).
Coming off a tough loss to Hikaru Nakamura, So regained his footing with a much-needed victory over Giri via a blitz playoff.
The Filipino-American grandmaster rallied back from an early deficit in the rapid games before trouncing Giri in the tiebreaks.
"He should've won the match today, so big shoutout to Anish. I think in the rapid he pretty much wrapped things up, but on the blitz I think I played better. I was a bit more relaxed, I had an hour break," said So, the 27-year-old native of Cavite.
He then chimed in, "I'm very pleased because I'm still at clear second."
True enough, So preserved his solo second position in the standings with 21.5 points to fuel his bid of catching up to league leader Carlsen, who also made a resounding bounce back effort in the fifth round.
Carlson recovered from a stunning defeat to Vladislav Artemiev with a dominating 2.5-0.5 triumph over Nakamura to raise his total points to 26.5, five points ahead of So, who remains hopeful of his chances to win the tournament.
"Well, there's still four rounds left, so anything can happen. But if Magnus plays like the way he's playing right now then his lead is very comfortable," So opined.
"I just want to take it a match at a time and play good chess," he added.
Speaking of playing good chess, Teimour Radjabov did just that against Levon Aronian to come away with a convincing 3-1 result in a rematch of the Airthings Masters final.
Artemiev, the lone tormentor of Carlsen in the Tour Finals thus far, sustained his fine form after prevailing over Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov.
Meanwhile, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave pulled off a solid performance in the 2.5-0.5 win over Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
Here is the tour standings after the fifth round: Aronian with 15; Radjabov with 15; Nakamura with 12; Vachier-Lagrave with 11.5; Artemiev with 11.5; Giri with 10.5; Mamedyarov with 5.5; and Duda with 5.
The tournament will resume action on Saturday (October 2, Manila time) with the sixth round that will feature the following pairings: Aronian-Duda, Radjabov-So, Nakamura-Mamedyarov, Artemiev-Vachier-Lagrave, and Giri-Carlsen.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
Watch more videos on Yahoo: