By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Showing he has now joined the world’s chess elite, Wesley So pulled off a fighting draw against former world champion Vladimir Kramnik in the Gashimov Memorial chess tournament in Azerbaijan.
The 21-year-old Bacoor, Cavite native displayed poise and nerves of steel in playing, with the black pieces, against the 39-year-old Russian GM, who was world champion from 2000 to 2006.
Together with his first-round win, So now shares the early lead with Kramnik and world champion Magnus Carslen, who beat Azerbaijan GM Shakhiyar Mamedyarov in the only decided game in the second round.
The rest ended in draws in the nine-man round-robin tournament that offers 100,000 euros in prize money.
Anish Giri, coming off that loss to So, settled for a draw with Rauf Mamedov; Maxine Vachier-Lagrave and Vishy Anand also drew while Fabiano Caruana and Michael Adams also halved the point.
Playing in his toughest tournament since turning professional, So will play the white pieces against England’s Michael Adams in the pivotal third round Sunday.