Filipino chessers make right opening moves
PALEMBANG, Indonesia—Grandmaster John Paul Gomez bested fellow Filipino GM Darwin Laylo and Indonesian International Master Lioe Dede in succession to grab the solo lead in the blindfold chess event of the 26th Southeast Asian Games at the Hotel Swarna Dwipa here.
Gomez, a mechanical engineering graduate from De La Salle University, next faces Malaysian IM Mok Tze-Meng of Malaysia in the third of the nine-round competition.
Laylo, a four-time Olympian, quickly rebounded by trouncing GM Zaw Win Lay of Myanmar. He duels Dede next.
Newly minted GM Oliver Barbosa (Elo 2571) and WIM Catherine Pereña (Elo 2083) also started strong in the mixed pairs competition Saturday, blanking Myanmar, 2-0.
Barbosa trounced Fide Master Zaw Oo (Elo 2274) while Pereña dumped May Hsu Lwin (Elo 2112).
Next up for the Filipino tandem is the Indonesian pair of GM Susanto Megaranto (Elo 2537) and WGM Irine Kharisma Sukandar (Elo 2350), who also posted a 2-0 victory over Thailand’s Hansing Saphong (Elo 1886) and Taweesupmun Chanida (Elo 1826).
The favored Vietnamese team of GM Dao Thien Hai Elo (2505) and WGM Nguyen Thi Thanh An (Elo 2300) kept abreast by subduing their Malaysian counterparts IM Lim Yee-Weng (Elo 2253) and WFM Nur Najiha Hisham (Elo 1867), respectively.
After drawing an opening-round bye, veteran GM Rogelio “Joey” Antonio, a 12-time national champion, faces Thai Kongsee Uaychai in the second round of the Asean competition, a variation of standard chess favored by the Indonesians, the Thais and the Malaysians.
Top medal prospect GM Wesley So, the country’s No. 1 player with an Elo of 2659, will make his debut in these Games when he competes in the individual standard and blitz competition.
The 18-year-old So, the youngest player ever to breach the Elo 2600 barrier at 16, will be joined by Barbosa in individual standard play and by GM Mark Paragua in the blitz section of the sport dangling a total of nine gold medals.
Other members of the Philippine team being mentored here by Asia’s First GM Eugene Torre and former Olympian Cesar Caturla are two-time national women’s champion Rulp Ylem Jose, WIM Beverly Mendoza, WNM Jedara Docena and WFM Cherry Ann Mejia.
The Filipinos are out to exact revenge on the Vietnamese, who swept the nine golds at stake in the 2005 Manila Games.