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World No. 2 Wesley So, now representing the US, aims to remain on top of the leaderboard when he clashes with Varuzhan Akobian in the sixth round of the US Chess Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.
So, 23, engaged Yaroslav Zherebukh in the fifth round Sunday of the 11-round event that took a break Monday to keep hold of the lead with 3.5 points, ahead of a five-man chase pack that includes Akobian.
The So-Akobian duel was being played at presstime.
Armed with a world second-best rating of 2821 just behind No. 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway (2838), So is favored to rule the chessfest although just about everyone could come up with a surprise given the caliber of the players entered.
Tied with 3 points each aside are Akobian, Zherebukh, four-time US titlist Hikaru Nakamura, Daniel Narodditsky and Ray Robson.
During the 2016 Olympiad in Baku, So played on Board Three for the US and was instrumental in Team USA’s title romp.
Before transferring to the US in 2015, So suited up four times for the Philippines in the Olympiad.