PH chessers skid to 21st
Loss to Romanians stalemates Filipinos’ Olympic dreamBy Roy Luarca
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ISTANBUL, Turkey—The dream became a nightmare Sunday for the Philippines as it bowed to Romania, 1-3, in the 11th and final round and wound up 21st at the 40th Chess Olympiad here.
Nurturing hopes of a top 10 finish at the start of play, the Filipinos failed to muster their best form, with Grandmasters Wesley So and Oliver Barbosa settling for draws and fellow GMs Eugene Torre and Mark Paragua absorbing losses at Istanbul Expo Center.
The 35th-seeded Filipinos, who started strong and climbed as high as joint second after eight rounds, faltered in the homestretch, losing to the Chinese in the ninth (3.5-0.5) and drawing with the Vietnamese in the 10th to finish with 14 match points out of a perfect 22.
The men’s team copped the bronze trophy for Group B teams ranked 32nd to 62nd behind gold medalist Sweden and silver winner Denmark.
Armenia, which subdued the Philippines, 2.5-1.5, in Round 4, regained the Open division crown with 19 points following a closing 2.5-1.5 win over Hungary. The Armenians, champion in the 2006 and 2008 editions, edged the Russians, who also tallied 19 points after a 3-1 drubbing of the Germans via the tiebreak.
Even with just 14 points, however, the Filipinos bettered their performances in the previous three editions of the biennial event that lured a record 157 countries to this Asian-European metropolis.
They posted just 12 points and placed a worst-ever 50th in the 2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad, two years after a 13-point output and 46th place in Dresden, Germany. The Filipinos garnered 28.5 points the last time the game-point system was applied in the 2006 Turin (Italy) edition and wound up 44th. They wound up No. 19 in 2004 in Calvia, Spain.
A team spearheaded by Torre placed seventh in the 1988 Thessaloniki (Greece) Olympiad, and, for a while, the Filipinos appeared capable of matching or even surpassing the feat.
The Philippines opened up with a 4-0 rout of Libya, stunned Moldova (2.5-1.5), blanked Kazakhstan (4-0) and rebounded from that loss to Armenia by melting Iceland (3-1), shocking Bulgaria (2.5-1.5), holding Bulgaria to a 2-2 draw and taming England, 3-1, to enter unfamiliar territory.
Eventually, however, the rigors of playing against higher-rated opponents took their toll on the players as board 5 player International Master Oliver Dimakiling— winner of his first three games—wasn’t fielded again following a crushing loss to Armenian GM Gabriel Sargissian.
Only So, the country’s highest-rated player with an Elo of 2652, emerged unscathed for the Philippines, whose women’s team landed 43rd in a field of 127.
Like their male counterparts, the Filipinas also sputtered toward the end, losing to the Romanians, 1.5-2.5, in the ninth round and then settling for 2-2 draws with the lower-rated Malaysians and Bosnia & Herzegovina in succession.
Jan Jodilyn Fronda streaked to her third win against Sanja Dedijer on board 4 while Catherine Pereña trounced fellow Woman IM Elena Boric on board 1.
Shaken by the harrowing experience of being trapped for half an hour inside the elevator of Radisson Blu hotel, Janelle Mae Frayna bowed to Woman Fide Master Aleksandra Dimitrijevic on board 2. Jedara Docena also yielded to WFM Dijana Dengler on board 4.
The 57th-ranked Filipinas, including board 2 player WFM Rulp Ylem Jose, amassed 12 match points, matching their output in Khanty-Mansiysk, where they ended up 44th.
Russia kept its title with 19 points following a 4-0 drubbing of Kazakhstan, besting China in the tiebreak. The Chinese, powered by world champion GM Hou Yifan, downed Bulgaria, 2.5-1.5.
Extending his amazing showing against players rated 2700-plus, So has pooled 29 draws, five wins and no losses.
The 18-year-old So, who took a break from his studies at Webster University in Missouri, split the point with GM Constanstin Lupulesco and so did Barbosa with GM Mircea-Emiliano Parligras as the Romanians repeated their 3-1 conquest of the Filipinos in the 1998 Elista Olympiad.
Paragua’s attack with white against GM Vladislav Nevednichy failed after a pair of weak moves. He resigned after 40 moves of a Pseudo-King’s Indian Variation.
Beset by a cramped position with black, Torre missed the lone drawing line and lost to GM Levente Vadja after 36 moves of a Scotch Game.
Vietnam drew a light final assignment in Uzbekistan and won, 3-1, to vault to 16 points and seventh place.