PH draws with VietnamBy Roy Luarca
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ISTANBUL, Turkey—The Philippines found Southeast Asian rival Vietnam hard to crack Friday and settled for a 2-2 standoff in the 40th Chess Olympiad here.
Both handling black, Grandmasters Mark Paragua and Oliver Barbosa had to weather fierce attacks by International Master Nguyen Doc Hua and GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son before getting the half point on boards 2 and 4.
Despite aggressive play with white, on the other hand, GMs Wesley So and Eugene Torre couldn’t gain headway against GM Le Quang Liem and IM Nguyen Van Huy on boards 1 and 1, depriving the Filipinos a chance to notch a best-ever finish in the biennial meet.
Instead, with 14 match points to show after 10 rounds thus far, the Filipinos have a huge hurdle to a top 10 finish.
They not only need to stun the Romanians in the 11th and final round Sunday, following a tournament break Saturday, but they must also hope that those with 15 points and other 14-pointers like the Vietnamese don’t win.
A team also captained by Torre landed seventh in the 1988 Thessaloniki, Greece, Olympiad.
Pacesetters China, Armenia and top seed Russia are already beyond the Filipinos’ reach with 17 points. China, which downed the United States (2.5-1.5) Friday, has the tougher last asssignment in defending champion Ukraine, which is still in contention with 16 points.
Five-time champion Russia tackles Germany while Armenia, back-to-back winner in the 2006 Turin, Italy, and 2008 Dresden, Germany, editions, battles Hungary starting at 1 p.m. (6 p.m. Manila time).
With Le (Elo 2693) and Truong Son (2639) having high ratings, the Vietnamese, who took the overall chess title in the 2011 SEA Games held in Indonesia, are seeded 32nd, three notch higher than the Filipinos.
Surprisingly, it was only the first Olympiad meeting between the Philippines and Vietnam, which posted its best showing of ninth place in Dresden.
Unable to find winning lines, Paragua and Hua agreed to halve the point after 46 moves of a King’s Indian Defense while Barbosa, who survived a heavy kingside attack, and Truong Son followed suit after 30 moves of a Slav.
The 60-year-old Torre (2469) and the higher-rated Huy (2506) decided to split the point after 54 moves of an Indian Game while So and two-time tormentor Le sealed the draw after 39 moves of a Queen’s Gambit Declined.
With 25 game points, the Philippines is disputing Group B (teams rated 32-62) honors with No. 33 Uzbekistan, which totes 26 points like Vietnam.
In the Women’s division, the Filipinos struggled to forge a 2-2 draw with the lowly Malaysians and must prevail over Bosnia & Herzegovina Sunday to better their 44th place effort in the 2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad.
Jan Jodilyn Fronda trounced Camilia Johari on board 4 while Janelle Mae Frayna drew with Woman Candidate Master Nur Nabila Azman Hisham to give the Philippines the headstart.
Jedara Docena, however, yielded to Li Ting Tan on board 3 and Woman International Master Catherine Perena could only draw against WFM Nu Nahija Azman Hisham on board 1 for the equalizer.