After seven rounds and a much needed break, the unbeaten players are now down to six: England’s David Howell and German Arik Braun leading the field with 6 points; youthful female sensation Hou Yifan of China with 5.5 points; second seed Maxim Rodshtein of Israel together with last year’s runner-up Ivan Popov of Russia and the Philippines’ top player Wesley So with 5 points apiece.

As for Wesley’s chances for the championship, it’s going to be an uphill climb for the young lad. A critical game ahead is his round 8 match playing white against Georgian IM Tornike Sanikidze, a player who hasn’t had a drawn game so far.

So far he’s only gotten three draws from all his three games as black, and considering the chance that he may end up playing the black pieces in three (or worse, possibly four) of the remaining five games, he may have to conjure something with black in order to keep up. A score of 9.5 points might just be enough to win the event, and it’s going to be a wide open race with just about anyone amongst the top 40 or so seeds still in the hunt.

The streaking Haridas Pascua has made a good comeback after a lackluster start. An IM norm could be well within sight, perhaps two points in his next three games to clinch it.

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