A day after a surprising loss, Minnetonka Grandmaster Wesley So bounced back with draw Saturday against his chief rival for the national chess title.

Though the game ended in a draw, So held the advantage in the game, pressing his opponent who had to turn to a defensive posture to avoid a loss.

The result puts So alone in third place, only a half-point behind two co-leaders, and keeps him in the hunt after four rounds of the 11-round U.S. Chess Championship in St. Louis.

So grabbed the initiative at a point where he likely could have steered the game to a safe draw. Instead, he went all out for the win with an aggressive and risky pawn push, and when Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura failed to sense the danger in the move, So sprang a clever attack that won a pawn.

That put Nakamura on his heels for the rest of the game, but he defended correctly and there was nothing So could do to notch the victory.

The clash between So and Nakamura was greatly anticipated because they are the two top players in the U.S., and both are in the top 10 in the world. They had played once before at this long time control, a game that also ended in a draw.

The pawn-up draw with Nakamura has to give So more confidence after an upset loss the previous day to the youngest player in the tournament, 14-year-old Grandmaster Sam Sevian.

Seven rounds remain at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, meaning there's plenty of time for a reshuffling of the leaders of the tournament.

Dennis J. McGrath •