PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — GM Wesley So of the Philippines faces another major challenge when he meets fifth seed GM Emil Sutovsky of Israel in the pivotal ninth round of the 72nd Corus chess tournament at the De Moriaan Community Centre.
So will play white against Sutovsky, the last of five players with higher ratings than the sixth-seeded Filipino champion in this prestigious, 13-round Group B tournament being held at the wind-swept Dutch resort town.
After Sutovsky, So (ELO 2656) will battle four more players with ratings lower than him in the next five days.
So’s remaining opponents are seventh seed GM Tomi Nyback of Finland in the 10th round, GM Anish Giri of the Netherlands in the 11th round, GM David Howell of England in the 12th round and lone female participant IM Anna Muzychuk of Slovenia in the final round.
Giri, however, could provide another stern test.
The 15-year-old Dutch champion enjoys a one and a half point lead over So and two other players, GM Ni Hua of China and Erwin l’ Ami of the Netherlands.
Giri has 6.5 points on five wins and three draws against So’s five points on two wins and six draws.
Experts said So must be able to gain a headway in the next two rounds against Sutovsky and Nyback in time for his keenly-awaited 11th-round match against Giri on Friday.
“He (So) must be able to narrow Giri’s lead to at least one point ahead of their 11th-round showdown this Friday,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) executive/events director Willie Abalos.
“It will be interesting to see how Giri will play black against Wesley with only a point separating them,” added Abalos.
Before the match against Sutovsky, So drew his first five matches against top seed GM Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany, GM Erwin l’Ami of Netherlands, Varuzhan Akobian of the United States, GM Parimarjan Negi of India and GM Pentala Harikrishna.
The fourth year high school student of St. St. Francis College-Cavite then swept his next two matches against second seed GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu of Romania in the sixth round and No. 13 seed GM Dimitri Reinderman of Netherlands in the seventh round.
He again drew with GM Ni Hua of China in the eighth round Sunday.
Last year, So topped Group C with a 13-round total of 9.5 points on seven wins, five draws and only one loss.
He finished a full point ahead of Giri and GM Tiger Hillarp Persson of Sweden.
This year, So and Giri were invited to play in Group B.
In Group A, GM Alexei Shirov of Spain tries to keep his slim half-point lead when he plays black against GM Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine.
Top seed GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway and GM Vladimir Kramnik of Russia face off in another crucial ninth-round encounter.
Shirov has six points, half a point ahead of Carlsen and Kramnik.