The Philippine men’s team continued its impressive showing by beating Costa Rica, 3.5-0.5, to barge into the Top 15 after four rounds in the prestigious 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.
With International Master (IM) Paulo Bersamina and Grandmaster (GM) John Paul Gomez seizing an easy win early on boards four and one, respectively, the Filipinos appeared headed to a draw as Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre and GM Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. were facing difficult positions.
But Torre came through anew as he found a way to salvage a 64-move draw in a rook-and-pawn endgame against GM Bernal Gonzales Acosta in their Slav duel despite falling a pawn down and in a cramped position the whole game.
Torre’s escape act rubbed into Barcenilla, who hung tough enough and claw his way out of an inferior game by bringing down IM Leonardo Valdez Romero in 74 moves of a King’s Indian Attack.
Bersamina unleashed the Nimzo-Indian defense in hammering IM Alexis Murillo Tsijli in 43 moves while Gomez, playing his second straight game on board one since top player GM Julio Catalino Sadorra fell to illness and was rushed to the hospital three days back, destroyed IM Sergio MInero Pineda’s Frech Defense in 44 moves.
The win catapulted the Filipinos in a big group tied at 14th spot with six match points and should get another opportunity to jump into the top 10 with a win over a lower-ranked South Africans in the fifth round.
The Philippines, however, could stick with the same Gomez-Torre-Barcenilla-Bersamina roster since Sadorra, who has played just a game that ended in a draw in the second round, remains doubtful.
Interestingly, the Filipinos is just a point behind former teammate GM Wesley So and his US squad, which was held to a stunning 2-2 deadlock by the Czech Republic.
The Filipinas, for their part, blew a golden chance for a victory as Jan Jodilyn Fronda couldn’t cash in on her material advantage and lost miserably to WIM Yuan Yuanling on second board that saved the Canadians a 2-2 standoff.
Rookie Woman FIDE Master Shania Mae Mendoza made a good impression on her first ever game on the Olympiad stage by smashing World Candidate Master Maili-Jade Ouellet on board four while WIMs Janelle Mae Frayna and Catherine Secopito split the point with FM Zhou Qiyu and Lali Agbabishvili on first and third boards.
The Philippines fell out of the top 20 and into the top 30 with five points and will tackle a weaker Algeria next.