China pricks PH bubble in 40th Chess Olympiad
So averts shutout as Filipinos bow to Asian powerhouseBy Roy Luarca
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Round 9 Leaders
OPEN: 15 points—China, United States, Russia, Armenia; 14.0—Argentina, Netherlands, Ukraine; 13.0—Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Belarus, Germany, Philippines, Vietnam
WOMEN: 16 points—China; 15.0—Russia; 14.0—Armenia, Ukraine, Poland, 13.0—Azerbaijan, France, India, Israel, Germany, Spain, Uzbekistan; 12.0—Italy, Mongolia, United States, Peru, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania
ISTANBUL, Turkey—The Philippines’ bubble of hope at the 40th Chess Olympiad got pricked by China in an instant Thursday.
Unable to match the Chinese juggernaut in Round 9, the Filipinos yielded a lopsided 0.5-3.5 decision in the Open Division at Istanbul Expo Center.
Stuck at 13 match points with two rounds to go, all they could aspire for now is a windup better than their seventh place in the 1988 Thessaloniki (Greece) Olympiad. That is, if the Filipinos manage to hurdle the Vietnamese in the 10th round Friday and whomever they will be paired with in the final round Sunday.
Grandmasters Oliver Barbosa, Mark Paragua and Eugene Torre fell in succession, leaving GM Wesley So (Elo 2652) the task of fending off Super GM Wang Hao (Elo 2726) in their board one tussle.
Finding no winning line despite having two pawns and a bishop against So’s pawn and knight, Wang—rated No. 15 in the world—agreed to split the point after 64 moves of a King’s Indian Defense-Fianchetto Variation.
The Filipinos, whose aspirations soared after stunning the Bulgarians (2.5-1.5), drawing with the Hungarians (2-2) and humbling the Britons (3-1) in succession, fell to an eight-team logjam for eighth place in the 150-team field.
Powerhouse China, runner-up in the 2006 Turin Olympiad and fifth placer two years ago in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, vaulted to a four-way tie for the lead with the United States, Russia and Armenia at 15 points.
Lured into an unfamiliar line of the Slav, Barbosa became the first casualty after GM Ding Liren queened his h-pawn in the 26th move.
It was virtually the same story for Paragua as GM Li Chao, former winner of the Pichay Cup, had a queening d-pawn when he resigned after 43 moves of a Grunfeld-exchange variation.
Torre, whose back-to-back victories over Hungarian GM Ferenc Berkes and English GM Nigel Short, added luster to his record 21 Olympiad stints, got outmaneuvered by GM Bu Xiangzhi (2670) in another King’s Indian in 50 moves.
It was a gloomy day for Team Philippines as the Filipinas likewise bowed to the Romanians, 1.5-2.5.
The Filipinas were mired at 10 points and shared 23rd to 37th places.
Jan Jodilyn Fronda extracted a board 4 victory with white over WGM Mihaela Sandou in a Sicilian-Chekhover Variation, while Janelle Mae Frayna drew with WGM Elena Luminita Cosma following the losses absorbed by WIM Catherine Pereña and Jedara Docena to WIM Irina Bulmaga and WGM Alina L Ami on boards 1 and 3, respectively.
If any consolation, the draw rewarded Frayna an outright Woman Fide Master title with 6.0 points in nine games, as well as two Woman IM norms.
The 18-year-old So will handle white anew against Le Quang Liem (2693), the second best campaigner on board 1 thus far with seven points out of eight games for a performance rating of 2852.
While So has yet to lose against 2700-plus rivals, Le has beaten him twice.
Barbosa plays black against GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (2639) and so will Paragua against IM Nguyen Doc Hoa.
The 60-year-old Torre aims to move up to No. 2 on the all-time highest Olympiad scorers’ list when he plays white against IM Nguyen Van Huy (2506) on board 3. A win will give Torre, board 1 silver medalist to GM Anatoly Karpov in the 1974 Nice Olympiad, a total of 145.5 points that would surpass Argentine GM Miguel Nadjorf’s 145.