So & Co. battle tough Bulgarians; PH girls tackle French | Inquirer Sports

So & Co. battle tough Bulgarians; PH girls tackle French

By: - Editor / @RLuarcaINQ
/ 10:04 PM September 03, 2012

ISTANBUL—What they failed to resolve two years ago, Filipino star Wesley So and Bulgarian pillar Veselin Topalov will try to settle in the sixth round of the 40th Chess Olympiad here Monday.

Their first encounter in the Khanty-Mansiysk edition two years ago ended in a draw, and the young sensation and the former world champion are going for a win this time to further bolster their countries’ bid for lofty finishes in the biennial tournament that resumes after a break Sunday.

Playing black, So split the point with Topalov, then toting an Elo rating of 2803, on board 1 as the Filipinos yielded to the Bulgarians, 1.5-2.5.

It’s So’s turn to handle white now as he tries to stay unbeaten against foes of Topalov’s caliber and, hopefully, power the 35th-ranked Philippines past 10th seed Bulgaria starting at 3 p.m. (8 p.m. in Manila) at Istanbul Expo Center.

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Backstopping the 18-year-old So (Elo 2652), who holds a 5-win, 25-draw record against 2700-plus rivals, are GM Oliver Barbosa (2554) on board 2, Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre (2469) on board 3 and GM Mark Paragua (2508) on board 4.

Rookie Olympian Barbosa, his stock boosted by victories in two tournaments in India this year, will tackle GM Kiril Georgiev (Elo 2682), who bested 31 GMs in ruling the Karposh Open last April and is renowned for engaging 360 players in a “simul” in 2009.

Still sharp at 60, Torre, who stunned Topalov in the 1996 Yerevan (Armenia) Olympiad for a 2-2 count, will battle GM Ivan Cheparinov (2681) with white.

Paragua, the first Filipino to breach the 2600-barrier, takes on GM Alexander Delchev (2596) with black.

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In Round 2, So forged a draw with Super GM Viktor Bologan (2734) to lift the Philippines past Moldova, 2.5-1.5. So also halved the point with world No. 2 Levon Aronian (2816) in the Filipinos’ 1.5-2.5 loss to 2006 and 2008 Olympiad winner and current world team champion Armenia in the fourth round.

The Filipinos trounced the Libyans and the Kazakhs by 4-0 scores before settling for a 3-1 win over the Icelanders in Round 5 Saturday that gave them eight match points and a share of sixth to 11th places among 157 teams in Open play.

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Top-seeded Russia and No. 3 Armenia are in front with perfect 10 points apiece while Azerbaijan and Crotia have 9 each.

The Filipino women, seeded No. 57 among 127 squads, are exceeding expectations. They will tangle with the 14th-ranked French Monday.

Woman International Master Catherine Pereña tangles with IM Almira Skripchenko (2442) on board 1; Janelle Mae Frayna battles IM Sophie Milliet (2411) on board 2; Jedara Docena faces WGM Nino Maisuradze (2254) on board 3; and Jan Jodilyn Fronda tackles IM Silvia Collas (2261) on board 4.

The Philippines is lodged at sixth to 16th places following three straight 3-1 victories over Turkmenistan, Mexico and South Africa, respectively.

After opening up with a 4-0 rout of the Pakistanis, the PH girls dropped a 1.5-2.3 decision to the Slovenians. They have 8.0 points, 2 behind the reigning champion Russians. The No. 1 seed Chinese, Poles, Serbs and Slovakians have 9 each.

With still six rounds to go, the PH men’s team is well-entrenched to surpass its worst-ever 50th place finish in Khanty-Mansiysk. The women’s squad, on the other hand, is poised to eclipse its 44th place effort in the same Olympiad.

Though Topalov’s rating has dropped to 2752, the 1993 world junior champion—who lost to Indian GM Viswanathan Anand in their battle for the 2010 world title—remains a formidable force.

A PH team skippered by Torre held Bulgaria to a 2-2 standoff in the 1984 Thessaloniki (Greece) Olympiad, where it landed a best-ever seventh.

Round 5 results

OPEN: 10 points—Russia, Armenia; 9—Azerbaijan, Croatia; 8—Germany, United States, Czech Republic, Spain, Philippines, Bulgaria, Bosnia, China, Hungary, Poland, England, Italy, Montenegro, Ukraine, India, Israel, Slovenia

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WOMEN: 10 points—Russia; 9—China, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia; 8—Georgia, Hungary, Spain, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, France, Philippines, Czech Republic, Vietnam, Montenegro, Estonia

TAGS: 40th Chess Olympiad, Chess

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