Standings after nine rounds:

6 points — L. McShane (England), G. Sargissian (Armenia), W. So (Philippines)

5.5 -– Z. Efimenko (Ukraine), V. Tkachiev (France)

5 –- L. Chao (China), D. Navara (Czech Republic), R. Wojtaszek (Poland)

4.5 -– L. Q. Liem (Vietnam)

3.5 –- L. Fressinet (France)

3 — S. Ganguly (India), J. Hammer (Norway), F. Nijboer (Netherlands)

2 -– W. Spoelman (Netherlands)

WIJK AAN ZEE, Netherlands Jan 27 –- Grandmaster Wesley So saw his
four-game winning streak come to an abrupt end Tuesday, falling to Li
in a crucial ninth-round encounter in the 73rd Tata Steel-Corus Group B
chess championship at the de Morianne Communtiy Center.

Handling white for only the second time in the last five rounds,
So went the extra mile to keep Li in check in the opening stages of the
sharp line of the Gruenfeld defense before resigning under threat of
mate in 34 moves.

The 17-year-old Filipino champion, who went into the second rest
day with a four-game winning streak from the fifth to eighth rounds,
could not prevent a backrank checkmate by the lower-rated but
hard-fighting Chinese player when he called it a day.

Chess expert Glenn Bordonada said So’s game went astray with 21.
Nb5 –instead of d6– and took a turn for the worse with 22. Qa3
instead of Qc2, which was the lesser evil.

His 27. dxc6 was also dubious compared to 27. Rd3, athough white’s position, remained difficult.

So had no clear answer about the setback.

“Forget about the commentary. I don’t really know why (I lost). I
just need to rest,” So told his friends and supporters in Facebook
hours after the game.

The loss, however, was not enough to dislodge So from a share of
the top spot with GM Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia, who outduelled top
seed GM Zadek Wojtaszek of Poland, and GM Luke McShane of England, who
halved the point with GM Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway.

All three players now have six points, half a point ahead of GM
Zahar Efimenko of Ukraine and GM Vlad Tkachiev of France going into the
10th round on Wednesday.

So will try to recover lost ground when he plays black against
Tkachiev, who is on a three-game roll following victories over Hammer,
Efimenko and GM Surya Ganguly of India.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP)
president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay urged So to set aside the
ninth-round setback and concentrate on his next game against Tkachiev.

Pichay said So should also not take Tkachiev lightly.

A noted blitz player, Tkachiev was born in Moscow in 1973, moved
to Kazakhstan with his family when he was eight years old and later
settled in Cannes, France.

He achieved his GM title in 1996 and became the France national
champion in 2006 after a tiebreak match with GM Laurent Fressinet.