MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So drew his first-round match with Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem at the start of the 2011 Tata Steel Corus Group B chess championship, which was held in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

So and Le decided to split points after 36 moves of the Slav defense variation. The Filipino had a black bishop and four pawns against Le’s knight and 4 pawns.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines President Chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay Jr. commended So for his feat.

“It’s a good start for Wesley (So), I hope mag-perform siya ng maganda at makakuha ng Elo rating points dito sa Netherlands chess meet,” he said

Joining So and Le with half-point apiece in the 14-player, category-17 tournament to be held in the popular Dutch resort town for the 73rd straight year are GM’s:

Li Chao of China;

Laurant Fressinet of France;

Friso Nijoboer of the Netherlands; and

Vlad Tkachiev of France.

Meanwhile, Chao halved the point with Nijoboer after 69 moves of Petroff defense. Fressinet, on the other hand, split the point with Tkachiev after 33 moves of another Slav game.

Also, GM’s Zahar Efimenko of Ukraine, Luke McShane of England, David Navara of Czech Republic and Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia, each won their opening matches:

Efimenko downed GM Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway after 78 moves of Queen’s Pawn Game;

McShane defeated GM Wouter Spoelman of the Netherlands after 69 moves of Sicilian defense;

Navara nipped GM Radek Wojtaszek of Poland after 58 moves of Gruenfeld defense; and

Sargissian clobbered GM Surya Ganguly of India after 38 moves of Queen’s Gambit accepted.

– By Marlon Bernardino