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Wesley So clinches Capablanca crown with a round to go

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Standings after ninth round: 6.0 points—W. So (PH); 5.0—L. Bruzon (Cub); 4.5—L. Dominguez (Cub); 4.0—F. Vallejo Pons (Esp), Z. Almasi (Hun); 3.5—V. Ivanchuk (Ukr)

MANILA, Philippines — Score another giant feat for Wesley So.

The Filipino Grandmaster drew with Ukrainian GM Vassily Ivanchuk in the ninth round Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to assure himself of the Capablanca Memorial 2014 crown in Havana, Cuba.

With 6.0 points, the 20-year-old So can afford to lose against Hungarian GM Zoltan Almasi in the 10th and final round Sunday and still emerge champion in the 49th edition of the six-round, double round-robin event.

That’s because So’s closest pursuer, Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon, only has 5.0 points and will still lag behind in the tiebreak even if he closes out with a victory over top seed countryman GM Leinier Dominguez, according to the calculation of computer expert Reginald Tee, So’s adviser and longtime supporter.

Handling black, So agreed to a truce with Ivanchuk (Elo 2753) after 27 moves of a Ruy Lopez-Benoni Defense and kept his leading position following the successive draws between Almasi (2693) and Bruzon (2682) and Dominguez (2768) and Vallejo Pons (2700).

Apart from his sixth draw, So notched three wins over Vallejo Pons, Almasi and Dominguez in the Category 19 (average Elo 2721) event honoring Cuban GM Jose Raul Capablanca, world champion from 1921 to 1927 and hailed as one of the greatest players ever.

So was the lone newcomer among the players who were all former winners of the event. It was a strong follow-up to So’s triumph in the 27th Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia, last August.

His other victories last year came in the 17th Unive Chess Tournament in The Netherlands, Las Vegas International Chess Festival, Calgary International Chess Classic and Reykjavik (Iceland) Open.


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