The Philippines relied on its women’s squad when its men’s team faltered, pulling off a shock 2.5-1.5 victory over a heavily favored Georgia in one of the biggest upsets in the second round of the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan on Saturday night.
Taken for granted by the rest after being seeded just 46th out of 140 participants, the Filipinas defied overwhelming odds by slaying the Georgians, the fourth seeds, former four-time titlists and home to ex-world women champions Nona Gaprindashvili and Maia Chiburnadize.
WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Catherine Perena-Secopito provided the massive victories at the expense of Grandmaster Bela Khotenashvili in 46 moves of a Scotch Opening and IM Salome Melia in 58 moves of a Nimzo-Indian on boards two and four, respectively.
WIM Janelle Mae Frayna fought GM Nana Dzagnidze, who is ranked 11th in the world, to a 43-move draw of a Slav Defense on top board to complete the Filipinas biggest victory to date.
The lone loss came on third board after Christy Lemiel Bernales fell to IM Nino Batsiashvili in 30 moves of another Slav.
The win sent the Filipinas to a 31-team tie on top but more importantly, it came against a Georgia team that is not only seeded fourth with an average rating of 2469.2 against the former’s 2148.25, but also the same squad that won this biennial event four times in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 2008.
The Philippines next face No. 7 India in the third round hoping for another favorable result.
The country didn’t get the same result in the men’s division as it absorbed a heartbreaking 1.5-2.5 defeat to Paraguay.
GMs John Paul Gomez and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. absorbed stinging defeats to GMs Axel Bachmann and Zenon Franco Ocampos on boards two and four.
GM Eugene Torre displayed his vast knowledge of the endgame in trouncing GM Jose Fernando Cuba in 35 moves of a Torre Attack on third board while US-based GM Julio Catalino Sadorra halved the point with GM Neuris Delgado Ramirez on top board.
The Filipinos hope to bounce back by clashing with the Nigerians in the third round.