Philippine-born Wesley So suffered a massive blow in the second round of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals on Monday (September 27, Manila time).
The Filipino-American So could not sustain his fine start in the opening round after falling at the hands of French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 0.5-2.5.
"It didn't go well. I think I made some mistakes here and there. Also, I had some poor time management today, but I think that was my main issue," the 27-year-old So said.
The loss put So's ascent in the tour standings to a halt at second place with 15.5 points, denting his chances of toppling world champion Magnus Carlsen, who piled up 21.5 points at the end of the second round.
"I just want to take it one round at a time. The tournament is still very long. Anything can still happen," So added.
Carlsen strengthened his hold of the top spot with a victory over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan in tiebreaks.
The fancied Norwegian had to shrug off an erratic start before coming through at the critical juncture of the match, where a blitz tiebreak and an Armageddon ensued.
Armenian Levon Aronian put his first round heartbreak by securing 3 full points in a win over Russian Vladislav Artemiev with a 2.5-0.5 score to close the gap on So.
Coming off a crushing loss to Carlsen in the first round, Jan Krzysztof Duda of Poland established his footing in the race for positioning with a breakthrough win over Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri, 2.5-0.5.
Meanwhile, Hikaru Nakamura carved out a win over Teimour Radjabov in a controversial match that featured four quick draws, which set up a tiebreaker where the former emerged victorious in blitz.
Here is the rest of the standings after the second round: Radjabov with 8, Giri with 7.5; Vachier-Lagrave with 7.5; Nakamura with 7; Artemiev with 5.5; Duda with 3; and Mamedyarov with 1.5.
The tournament will resume action with its third round on Tuesday (September 28, 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.
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