Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So of the Philippines tried to secure his first win but only managed to draw with fellow GM Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway in the third round of the 73rd Tata Steel-Corus Group B chess championship at the de Morianne Community Center in Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands on Monday.

It was the third straight draw for So, who also obtained the same result against GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam and Armenian GM Gabriel Sargissian in the first two rounds.

So, visibly in fighting mood with black following two straight draws, and Hammer agreed to the draw after 63 moves of the Queen’s Gambit Declined when they reached the endgame that offered little promise of a win either way.

The 17-year-old Filipino champion, who topped Group C of this prestigious competition in 2009 and finished fourth in Group B last year, had a bishop and two pawns against Hammer’s knight and two pawns when they agreed to the draw.

So, who lost to the lower-rated but hard-fighting Hammer in the SPICE Cup chess 2009, deviated from their previous game and surprised Hammer with his seldom-employed Queen’s Gambit Declined.

But Hammer (ELO 2647) played solidly despite being a pawn down and in a slightly worse position to steer the game into a draw.

All three players, however, are seeded lower than So in the tough, 14-player, category-17 tournament being held in the town on the coast of the North Sea in the municipality of Beverwijk in the province of North Holland.

Overall, So is now tied for fifth to 10th places with five other players (1.5 points), with a crucial fourth-round match against fourth seed GM Zahar Efimenko (ELO 2701) of Ukraine scheduled late Tuesday.

Efimenko won over Hammer in the first round before settling for draws against GM Laurent Fressinet of France and GM Surya Ganguly of India.

GM Luke McShane of England outduelled GM Vlad Tkachiev of France in 56 moves of the Ruy Lopez for his third straight win and the solo lead.

Sargissian and GM David Navara of Czech Republic drew their match to share second to fourth places with Efimenko with two points each. – JVP, KY, GMANews.TV