Grandmaster Wesley So cruised to easy draws with Ray Robson and Hikaru Nakamura in the final two rounds to clinch the 2020 United States Chess Championship crown held online on Friday (Thursday in the US).
Needing just a draw in the final round to seal the title, the 27-year-old So did just that and split the point with Nakamura after 30 moves of a Nimzo-Indian battle.
It was a performance to remember for the Minnesota-based So as he captured his second title in the tournament since first winning it three years back.
He finished the 11-round competition unscathed with nine points on seven wins and four draws, pocketing the $40,000 (around P2 million) top purse.
“It feels really great, it means a lot to me to win the title as US champion. Winning a second title is really big to me,” said So, the Philippines’ former No. 1 player, in an interview by the tournament’s official online broadcast.
In a Facebook post, So also thanked people who supported his career.
“It amazes me how many friends and encouragers take time out to watch my games even though I am sure they have their own important stuff to do. I am very grateful. I am just a kid trying to earn a living as is everyone else and to have so much support astounds me,” So wrote.
Jeffrey Xiong, who turned 20 on Friday, finished second with 8.5 points while Robson, So’s former teammate at Webster University, came in third with 7.5.
Xiong had a chance to catch up on So and force a blitz playoff for the title but failed to convert on his winning chances against Alex Lenderman by settling for a draw in the penultimate 10th round.
Xiong bested Alejandro Ramirez in the final round to claim a runner up finish.