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So, other aces open Asian Zonal bids vs lightweights

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TAGAYTAY CITY—The Asian Zone 3.3 Chess Championship started yesterday with Filipino campaigners, led by Grandmaster Wesley So, hopeful of sweeping the two World Cup berths at stake in the nine-round tournament at Tagaytay International Convention Center.

So, the country’s top player and the top seed in the 38-player Open division with his Elo rating of 2682, was pitted against compatriot Rustum Tolentino (2364) in the first round held late in the afternoon.

“I prepared hard for this tournament,” said So, who took a break from his studies at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, in a bid to return to the World Cup slated in Tromso, Norway, this year.

Second seed Vietnamese GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son tangled with Indonesian Fide Master Rudin Hamdani while No. 3 GM Rogelio Antonio Jr. battled Edgar Reggie Olay in an all-Filipino affair.

Tagaytay Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, the president of Asian Zone 3.3, graced the opening rites and assured participants, especially the players from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mongolia, of a pleasant stay in this breezy city.

Vietnamese GM Dao Thien Hai took on IM Farid Firman Syah while Indonesian GM Susanto Megaranto, winner of the 2011 Asian Zonal also held here, clashed with FM Tran Tuan Minh.

Paragua, winner of the recent PSC Cup International Championship, placed second to Megaranto as in the 2011 event which So skipped, having secured a World Cup berth in another Asian qualifier.

The 19-year-old So, ranked 66th in the world, did the ceremonial moves with Dao in the presence of Tolentino, also secretary general of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines headed by Prospero Pichay, and other NCFP officials.

WGMs Pham Le Thao Nguyen, Tuvshintugs Batchimeg, Hoang Thi Bao Tram and Nguyen Thi Thanh An head the 16-player women’s division.

Other featured matches: GM John Paul Gomez vs Yeoh Li Tan (MAL), GM Mark Paragua vs Manny Yu, GM Darwin Laylo vs FM Sumilya Bilguun (MGL), GM Eugene Torre vs Michael Gotel, GM Richard Bitoon vs Ben Polao,  GM Rogelio Barcenilla vs Rolando Andador.


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