By U.S. News Agency / Asian

After taking part in a day-long cultural tour in this picturesque seaside resort town ‘to forget about chess,’ GM Wesley So returns to the battleground against GM Li Chao of China in the ninth round of the 73rd Tata Steel-Corus Group B chess championship at the de Morianne Community Center on Tuesday.

So, who wrested the solo lead with a smashing victory over GM Wouter Spoelman of the Netherlands in the eighth round Sunday, looks to extend his four-game winning streak that started right after the first rest day last January 19 when he plays white against Li.

The 17-year-old Filipino champion, who topped Group C in 2009 and finished shared fourth place in Group B last year, drew his first four assignments before winning the next four against GM Surya Ganguly of India, Laurent Fressinet of France, David Navara of Czech Republic of Spoelman.

So now holds a half-point lead over erstwhile solo leader GM Luke McShane of England with still five rounds left in this prestigious 14-player, category 17 tournament being held for the 73rd straight year and hosted by Indian steel giant Tata.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay congratulated So for his impressive showing so far but also urged him to continue to play well against his remaining five opponents and make the country proud.

Up next in So’s calendar is Li, who is best remembered by Filipino chess fans for winning the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Cup in Manila in November 2007 and the Philippine Open in Subic in May 2008.

Li, the 21-year-old campaigner from Taiyuan, who became China’s 23rd GM in 2007, is currently tied for seventh to eighth places with Navara with four points on two wins, four draws and two losses.

After Li, So’s remaining opponents are GM Vlad Tkachiev of France, GM Friso Nijboer of Netherlands, McShane and top seed GM Radek Wojtaszek of Poland.