PH men's team falters, settles for 37th in Chess Olympiad




MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine chess teams lost their last-round games as they failed to improve on their placings Friday night, Ocotber 5, at the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.

The men's team, which was running 19th before the final round following 5 straight wins, wound up finishing at 37th – still a big jump from its worst ever performance of 58th place two years ago in Baku, Azerbaijian. The team had 14 match points from 7 wins and 4 losses.

The women's team hobbled in 67th place after wrapping up with a loss to Australia, 3-1, in a campaign that started so full of promise in the 11-round Swiss System tournament.

China dethroned Wesley So's US team and it added the women's title for good measure.

Vietnam reasserted its mastery over the Filipinos, 3-1, with only Jan Emmanuel Garcia scoring the only win for the Eugene Torre-captained squad which was in 19th place before the 11th and final round was held.

Garcia, coach of the Ateneo squad in the UAAP, defeated Tran Tuan Minh in 66 moves of an English Opening.

Grandmasters Julio Catalino Sadorra and John Paul Gomez lost to the redoubtable Vietnamese 1-2 punch Le Quang Liem and Nguyen Ngoc Truongson. 

Sadorra, who carried the team for all 11 rounds, took his first defeat in 40 moves of an English Opening.  Gomez gave up in 40 moves of a Queen's Indian as he sustained his third loss.

Two-time national champion Haridas Pascua, the first one to lose, succumbed to Nguyen Anh Khoi in 34 moves of a Benoni.

"We did our best," said Sadorra in a Facebook message.

The men's squad had won 5 matches, all against lower-rated teams, after they lost to Lebanon in the fifth round before the day, as they climbed from a low of 101st place. They were also in the running for first prize as the best team in the Category B division before the final round.

A source from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines ( NCFP) said Torre "gave the team a serious talk after losing to Lebanon, saying they cannot play this way."

The team came together, the source said, walking together after dinner. Reserve Mari Joseph Turqueza,who won once in 3 games, helped greatly in researching their opponents. 

Australia proved too much for the Filipinas, 3-1, as woman grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna lost for the fourth time, 3 of them coming in the last 4 rounds. 

Catherine Secopito, who was the only winner in Thursday's 10th round match against Moldavia, was not fielded.  The women's squad was in 46th place and was bidding for victory to raise themselves into the top 30 places. 

Frayna lost to Julia Ryjacova in 42 moves of a Queen's Gambit Accepted.

The only scorers were Marie Antoinette San Diego, who drew in 42 moves of a Sicilian Defense to Nguyen Thu Giang and Bernadette Galas, who battled from an inferior position to force a draw against Irina Berzina in 66 moves of a Pirc Defense.

National champion Shania Mae Mendoza bowed to Zhang Jilin after the former forced promotion of her remaining pawn in a 74-move Benoni Defense.  –