PH chess stars stun BulgariansBy Roy Luarca
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Sixth round leaders
OPEN: 11 points—Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan; 10.0—China, Philippines, Hungary, Spain; 9.0—Germany, Moldova, India, United States, France, England, Mexico, Criatia, Argentina, Georgia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Italy, Israel.
WOMEN: 11 points—Russia, Poland; 10.0—China, Ukraine, Georgia, France, Vietnam; 9—Hungary, Grece, Serbia, Spain, Slovakia, India, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Montenegro, Peru; 8.0—United States, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Armenia, Turkey, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Netherlands, Philippines
ISTANBUL—Blunders do happen even in the elite level.
On the verge of capitulation, Grandmaster Oliver Barbosa pounced on an atrocious move by GM Kiril Georgiev to steal a win and hand the Philippines a 2.5-1.5 upset victory over Bulgaria in the sixth round of the 40th Chess Olympiad Monday at Istanbul Expo Center here.
Their fifth victory against one loss gave the Filipinos 10 match points and an unprecedented share of fourth to eighth spots behind the top-seeded Russians, Armenians and the Azerbaijans (11 each) in the Open division of the biennial event.
GMs Mark Paragua, Eugene Torre and Wesley So earlier drew their matches in succession, leaving the outcome of the PH-Bulgaria tussle to Barbosa and Georgiev, whose Elo rating of 2682 is vastly superior to the Filipino’s 2556.
Handling black, Barbosa complicated the game by exchanging his queen for two rooks in the Slav encounter.
Georgiev eventually got the upperhand, though, and Barbosa admitted he was on the verge of resigning when the Bulgarian inexplicably pushed forward with his queen on the 57th move.
After the 25-year-old Barbosa replied with a rook thrust, Georgiev, his face crimson-red, muttered a swear word.
Georgiev’s fatal push gave Barbosa, a former University of the Philippines stalwart, an avenue two moves later that would pin the Bulgarian with a knight fork and result in the loss of his queen.
Keeping his temper in check, Georgiev told Barbosa, “You’re just lucky.”
For his part, So kept his pristine record against rivals with Elo ratings of 2700-plus when he split the point with 2005 world champion Veselin Topalov (2752).
Paragua and Torre stood their ground against GM Alexander Delchev (2596) and GM Ivan Cheparinov (2681) on boards 4 and 3, respectively.
It was the first win by the Philippines over Bulgaria, fourth placer in the 1995 Moscow Olympiad. The Bulgarians prevailed in the 1996 Yerevan Olympiad, 2.5-1.5, but were held to a 2-2 in 1984 in Thessaloniki, Greece, where the Filipinos posted their best-ever seventh-place finish.
The Philippines, ranked only 35th here after a 50th-place windup in the 2010 Khanty-Mansiysk edition, will have to contend with an even stronger foe—Hungary—in the seventh round starting at 3 p.m. (8 p.m. Manila time) Tuesday.
Featured sixth-round matches saw Russia and Armenia battle to a 2-2 draw, Azerbaijan trounce Croatia, 3-1, Germany tie the United States, 2-2; and China rout Bosnia & Herzegovina, 3.5-0.5.
Ranked fourth among 157 Open teams, the Hungarians are aiming to recapture lost glory. They ruled the 1978 Olympiad in Buenos Aires.
The Hungarians will be fielding Super GM Peter Leko (2737), Super GM Zoltan Almasi (2713), GM Ferenc Berkes (2685) and GM Osaba Balogh (2688) against So, Barbosa, Torre and Paragua, respectively.
The Filipinos stunned the Hungarians in the 2004 Calvia (Spain) Olympiad.
While the Filipinos hurdled another major obstacle in their drive for a top 20 finish, the 57th-seeded Filipinas slipped after yielding to the No. 14 French, 1-3.
Woman International Master bested IM Almira Skripchenko on board one, but compatriots Janelle Mae Frayna, Jedara Docena and Jan Jodilyn Fronda bowed to IM Sophie Milliet, WGM Nino Maisu-radze and IM Silvia Collas in succesion as the Filipinas remained with 8.0 match points, sharing 18th to the 38th spots.
National Chess Federation executive director and team coach GM Jayson Gonzales said he will be fielding his regular roster against No. 52 Portugal on Tuesday.
Defending champion Russia and Poland paced the women’s division with 11 match points.
The Russians were held to a 2-2 draw by the second-ranked Chinese, while the Poles dumped the Serbs, 3.5-0.5.
NCFP president Prospero “Butch” Pichay lauded his wards for their strong showing and urged them to “continue making the country proud.”