So, Vietnamese GM close in on World Cup berths

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Standings after seven rounds (PH unless stated)

6.0 points—GM Wesley So; 5.5—GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (Vie); 5.0—GM Rogelio Antonio Jr., GM Cao Sang (Vie); 4.5—GM Mark Paragua, GM Susanto Megaranto (Ind), GM John Paul Gomez,  GM Darwin Laylo; 4.0—IM Bayarsaikhan Gundavaa (Mgl), FM Haridas Pascua, GM Eugene Torre, Michael Gotel, FM Munkhgal Gombosuren (Mgl), IM Nguyen Duc Hoa (Vie), FM Mari Joseph Turqueza), GM Dao Thien Hai (Vie), IM Nguyen Van Huy (Vie)

Women Division

6.0 points—WGM Nguyen Thi Thanh An (Vie); 4.5—WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram (Vie), WIM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung (Vie); 4.0—Bernadette Galas, WIM Medina Warda Aulia (Ind), WGM Pham Le Thao Nguyen (Vie), WIM Hoang Thi Nhu Y (Vie), IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag (Mgl), WIM Sihite Chelsie Monica (Ind)

TAGAYTAY CITY—Top seed Grandmaster Wesley So drew with GM Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr. last night and fell into a tie for the lead again with Vietnamese GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son going into the last round of the Asian Zone 3.3 Chess Championship at Tagaytay International Convention Center.

Handling black, So agreed to split the point with Antonio after 31 moves of a French Defense to tally 6.5 points in eight rounds, the same total of Nguyen, who trounced compatriot GM Cao Sang with the white pieces.

“The draw is okay,” said the 19-year-old So, ranked 66th in the world with his Elo rating of 2682. “I want to preserve my strength for the last round tomorrow (Tuesday).”

So, who took a break from his Finance Business studies at Webster University in the United States to vie for the two World Chess Cup slots at stake in this tournament hosted by Tagaytay Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, needs only a draw in the final round to make a return to the biennial event.

“Wesley deserves to be there (World Cup),” said Antonio, a 12-time national champion, who needs to win his last assignment and hopes that either So or Nguyen loses to make it to the World Cup.

GM Mark Paragua, winner of the recent PSC Cup, was still trying to extract the full point against defending champion GM Susanto Megaranto at presstime.

The Indonesian topped the 2011 Asian Zonal, also held here, followed by Paragua, who also advanced to the last World Cup held in Russia.

Both have 4.5 points in the company of  Olympians GM Darwin Laylo and GM John Paul Gomez, who are locked in another do-or-die battle.

Already out of contention, Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre and Vietnamese GM Dao Thien Hai agreed to a quick draw.

The 19-year-old So took the seventh-round lead with 6.0 points following a methodical victory over Vietnamese IM Nguyen Duc Hoa late Sunday.

Seeded second in the 42-player Open division, GM Nguyen (Elo 2631), on the other hand, drew with Antonio (2541).

Other seventh-round results saw Megaranto split the point with Laylo, Paragua edge countryman GM Richard Bitoon and Gomez subdue Vietnamese FM Tran Tuan Minh.

In the distaff side, Vietnamese WGM Nguyen Thi Thanh An repulsed a fierce attack by Bernadette Galas and prevailed after 34 moves of a Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation, to pull away from the field with 6.0 points.

The 16-year-old Galas saw her four-game winning run broken and bowed out of contention for the lone Women’s World Championship slot at stake.

Galas, who shocked Vietnamese WGM Pham Le Thao Nguyen in the sixth round got mired at 4.0 points, in a tie with five others.

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