Paragua topples Sadorra, wrests Asian Chess lead

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Standings after Round 5: (Open) 4.5 points—GM Mark Paragua (PH); 4.0—GM Julio Catalino Sadorra (PH), GM Le Quang Liem (Viet), GM John Paul Gomez (PH), GM Richard Bitoon (PH), GM Li Chao (Chn); (Women’s) 4.0 points—IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul (Mgl), WGM Mary Ann Gomes (Ind), WGM Guo Qi (Chn), WGM Wang Jue (Chn); 3.5—WGM Huang Qian (CHn), WGM Nafisa Muminova (Uzb), IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen (Viet), WIM Ni Shiqun (Chn), WGM Tan Zhongyi (Chn), WFM Marie Antoinette San Diego (PH)

RESURGENT Mark Paragua derailed his time-troubled countryman and fellow Grandmaster Julio Catalino Sadorra on Wednesday night to wrest the solo lead in the Manny Pacquiao Cup Asian Continental Chess Championship at Midas Hotel in Pasay City.

Paragua pounced on an endgame  blunder by the erstwhile pacesetter Sadorra to win by mate in 33 moves of the French Defense and hike his output to 4.5 points after five rounds.

Needing to make six moves in the last minute, Sadorra faltered in his 31st by putting his knight in the c8 square instead of c6, allowing Paragua to sacrifice a rook for the white bishop en route to checkmate.

“There’s a big chance for a draw had he (Sadorra) placed his knight on c6 because I wouldn’t be able to sacrifice,” said Paragua.

The 29-year-old Paragua, the first Filipino to breach the 2600 Elo barrier, zoomed ahead as the United States-based Sadorra got stuck at 4.0 points in the company of compatriot GMs John Paul Gomez and Richard Bitoon, Chinese GM Li Chao and top seed Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem (Elo 2714).

Paragua will handle white against Le in the sixth round of the Swiss System event organized by the GM Eugene Torre Chess Foundation and sponsored by eight-division world boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, Cafe Puro, Alaxan, Oriental and Motolite.

Li, the No. 2 seed with a 2686 Elo, tangles with Bitoon while Sadorra tries to bounce back against Gomez.

Other games saw Gomez beat Chinese GM Li Shilong after 33 moves of the Gruenfeld Defense, Bitoon hurdle GM Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr. after 47 moves of the Catalan Opening, Li  dump Vietnamese GM Dao Thien Hai after 37 moves of the Sicilian Defense and Le draw with Indian GM Lalith Babu after 47 moves of the Queen’s Indian Defense.

Women’s division play saw Indian WGM Mary Ann Gomes whip Kazakh WGM Guliskhan Nakhbayeva to forge a four-way tie for the lead at 4.0 points.

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