• So notches another draw, keeps lead

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    Filipino Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So agreed to a draw with GM Hikaru Nakamura in the eighth round to remain on top in the 2017 US Chess Championship being held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in St. Louis, Missouri.

    So raised his score to five points on two wins and six draws.

    GM Varuzhan Akobian joined him on top with the same five points.

    Akobian scored a crucial eighth-round victory over erstwhile co-leader GM Yaroslav Zherebukh in the tournament which offers a total prize fund of $194,000 with the winner pocketing $50,000 and the runner-up getting $35,000.

    Zherebukh dropped to the No. 3 position with 4.5 points along with Nakamura, GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Alexander Onischuk.

    GM Ray Robson, GM Daniel Naro­ditsky, GM Samuel Shankland, GM Gata Kamsky and GM Jeffrey Xiong are in a five-way tie for seventh with 3.5 points each while GM Alexander Shabalov is at the cellar with (2.5 points).

    Caruana defeated Naroditsky, Onischuk blasted Robson and Xiong clobbered Shankland in the other eighth-round results.

    Kamsky and Shabalov also drew their game in the event sanctioned by the International Chess Federation.

    So will be gunning for important wins against Xiong in the ninth round, Kamsky in the 10th and Naroditsky in final round to strengthen his title bid.

    The other ninth-round pairings are Akobian against Caruana, Robson against Zherebukh, Nakamura against Onischuk, Kamsky against Shankland and Naroditsky against Shabalov.

    EMIL C. NOGUERA

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