In-form Fide Master Haridas Pascua subdued Grandmaster Richard Bitoon in the eighth round Friday night to keep top spot with GM Mark Paragua in the PSC Cup International Chess Championship at Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Pascua, pride of Mangatarem, Pangasinan, raised his output to 7.0 points, the same total posted by his sixth round victim Paragua.
Smarting from that loss, Paragua downed GM Oliver Barbosa in the seventh then bested Mongolian GM-elect Bayarsaikhan Gundavaa in the eighth to boost his chances for the champion’s purse of $6,000.
The 20-year-old Pascua guns for the biggest title of his career yet when he tangles with GM John Paul Gomez, who’s nursing slight chances with 6.0 points, in today’s ninth and final round.
Gomez, recovering from a so-so start, streaked to his third straight win at the expense of Mongolian FM Gombosuren Munkhgal.
The other crucial encounter pits Paragua against 12-time national champion Rogelio Antonio Jr., who also totes 6.0 points following a victory over Hamed Nouri.
Bunched at 5.5 points are Gundavaa, Bitoon, International Master Rolando Nolte, who tamed FM Suliya Bilguun; and top-seeded Russian GM Aleksandr and GM Darwin Laylo, who drew their eighth round match.
The tournament, supported by Smart and organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines headed by Prospero “Butch” Pichay and secretary general Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, took a break yesterday.
NCFP executive director GM Jayson Gonzales told the Inquirer that Pascua could have earned an IM result had he met only four Filipino opponents.