Almost but not enough for Paragua

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Almost but not enough for GM Mark Paragua of the Philippines.

Paragua topped the preliminary round of the men’s blitz tournament but finished empty-handed in the four-team semifinal in the first World Mind Games at the Beijing International Convention Center here.

The 26-year-old champion, who holds the distinction as the first-ever Filipino player to breach the ELO 2600 rating, suffered back-to-back defeats to GM Yuri Drozdovskij (ELO 2567) of Ukraine in their two-game semifinal encounter.

The losses came as a big surprise for Paragua, who had beaten Drozdovskij in the preliminary stage.

He also dropped a close 1-2 decision to GM Christos Banikas (ELO 2572) of Greece in the battle for third place.

Actually, Paragua drew first blood by beating Banikas but eventually lost the next two games to his higher-rated Greek opponent.

The semifinal setbacks negated Paragua’s surprisingly strong showing in the prelimnary stage.

Despite being seeded only 28th in the tough, 32-player field, Paragua pulled off a major surprise by topping the 11-round preliminary stage with 8.5 points on eight wins, one draw and two losses.

The pride of Meycauayan, Bulacan defeated GMs Anton Kochov of Ukraine in the first round, Ehsan Ghaemmaghami of Iran in the second round, Varuzhan Akobian of the United States in the third round, Wang Yue of China in the fourth round and Drozdovskij in the fifth round.

Paragua’s five-game winning streak, however, came to an end at the hands of Banikas in the sixth round.

Paragua came back with vengence to pull the rug from under eventual champion Kratsiv in the seventh round.

He absorbed his only other loss to Soviet-born GM Mikhail Gurevich of Turkey in the eighth round.

Paragua added two more victories by humbling GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam and GM Jianchao Zhou of China in the ninth and 10th rounds, before drawing his final round assignment against GM Csaba Balogh of Hungary.

After the preliminary phase, Paragua (8.5 points) towed Banikas (8 points) , Kratsiv (8 points) and Drozdovskij (8 points) in the semifinal phase.

Another Filipino campaigner, IM Rolando Nolte, finished only 28th place with four points on three wins, two draws and six losses.

The two Filipino players — Paragua and Nolte — did not fare any better in the men’s rapid chess competition.

Paragua finished in 18th place in the 34-player field with only 4.5 points.

He posted three wins, three draws and three losses.

Nolte wound up only 27th with 3.5 points on seven draws and two losses.

The Filipinos’ campaign in the World Mind Games is supported by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), headed by president Prospero “Butch” Pichay and secretary-general Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) thru chairman Butch Ramirez.