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SO GOOD!

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GM Wesley So is US chess champ.

Grandmaster Wesley So added the United States chess championship to his collection of major victories after edging Ukraine-born GM Alex Onischuk in the two-game rapid play playoffs yesterday in St. Louis, Missouri.

The 23-year-old Filipino, now playing for the US Chess Federation, won the first match with the white pieces and forced the draw with black to bring home $50,000 (about P2.5 million).

“Today wasn’t easy,” So said in an interview with chess.com. “Alex Onischuk will not go down without a fight and he didn’t in the second game.”

So, the world No. 2, employed a rarely-used variation of the English Opening against Onischuk who nevertheless came prepared.

The game soon entered virgin territory with Onischuk complicating the position with a two-pawn sacrifice.

So yielded to temptation and lost the initiative, until the time-pressured Onischuk squandered his chances with a dubious 18th move that led to his downfall after 31 moves.

After a 30-minute break, both players returned and fought a wild second game.

Playing black, Onischuk came out smoking and won a bishop pair that forced So against the ropes.

Just when everyone thought that the playoffs were heading to an extension, Onischuk missed a strong continuation on the 41st move, allowing So to form a powerful dark square blockade.

Following a strong collaboration between his queen and knight, So forced the draw in 60 moves of a King’s Indian Attack.

“I think I played well,” said the 41-year-old who settled for $35,000. “I was just slower than him.”

So, the only unbeaten player in the field, finished the 11-round tournament with three wins and eight draws in a tie with Onischuk who had four wins, six draws and a loss.

Overall, So finished with 8.5 points in the 11-round tournament and pocketed $50,000 top prize. He had three wins and eight draws in the regulation.

GMs Varuzhan Akobian, Fabiano Caruana, and Hikaru Nakamura tied for third with identical 6.5 points, while Yarosklav Zherebukh finished sixth with 5.5 points.

Rounding up the Top 10 were GM Daniel Naroditsky, Gata Kamsky, Sam Shankland, and Ray Robson.

In the women’s division, WGM and Romania-born Sabina-Francesca Foisor won the crown with 8 points on seven wins, two losses and two draws.

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