MANILA, Philippines -- For the first time joining the Chess Olympiad in 1956, the Philippines gained a chance to make it to the last three rounds.
This after the gritty Philippine men's team crushed 11th seed England, 3-1, in the eighth round of the 40th World Chess Olympiad.
Asia's first Grandmaster (GM) Eugene Torre and GM Oliver Barbosa toppled their respective rivals to stay in course for the coveted top place Thursday morning (Manila Time) at the WOW Convention Center in Istanbul, Turkey.
The new grandfather Torre from Iloilo City, appearing in a record 21st Olympiad, deftly handled the black pieces in their Nimzo-Indian encounter and forced GM Nigel Short to resign after trapping the latter’s bishop on the 41st move.
Short, ranked 49th in the world among active players with an ELO rating of 2698, is the same player who challenged Garry Kasparov for the World Chess Championship in 1993.
Torre’s heroics in the previous round also allowed the 35th seed Philippines to salvage a 2-2 draw opposite fourth seed Hungary.
The Taytay, Rizal native Barbosa, on the other hand, the Filipino hero in the sixth round, rebounded from a loss in the seventh round with a marathon 102-move victory over GM Gawain Jones.
Grandmasters Wesley So and Mark Paragua also did their share by holding their opponents to a standoff.
So, the Philippines’ top player, held his ground against GM Michael Adams and forced a draw after 51 moves of Caro-Kann while Paragua split the point with GM Nicholas Pert after 37 moves of Queen’s Pawn Game.
With its 13th match point, the Philippines shared a piece of second place with USA, China, Germany and fourth round tormentor Armenia. The Russian Federation remained on top with 15 match points.
But while the men’s team continued to flourish in its drive to improve on its worst 50th place finish two years ago in Russia, the ladies’ squad faltered, absorbing a 0.5-3.5 defeat at the hands of the 5th seeded United States.
Woman National Master (WNM) Janelle Mae Frayna split the point with IM Rusudan Goletiano on Board 3 to prevent a shut-out loss for the Pinay woodpushers.
The defeat dropped the Filipino ladies from top 10 to joint 23rd with 10 points.
In the ninth round, the men’s team will meet China while the women’s team goes up against 10th seed Romania, who blasted 8th seed Armenia, 3-1.
National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) Chairman Prospero "Butch" Pichay Jr. is very confident that the Filipinos will give a good fight against the Chinese. – By Marlon Bernardino