Pinoy chessers bounce back

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — DRESDEN, Germany. A day after losing to Spain in the sixth round, the Philippines went full throttle against Belgium.

The strategy worked to perfection.

GM Wesley So, GM Jayson Gonzales and IM John Paul Gomez hurdled their respective matches in the Philippines’ lopsided 3.5-.5 win over Belgium to bounce back into contention in the 38th World Chess Olympiad at the International Congress Center.

So, the country’s brightest hope in the international chess stage, made short work of IM Ekren Cekro in only 20 moves of the Austrian Attack to raise his record to 4.5 points on three wins and three draws.

The 15-year-old sensation from Bacoor, Cavite pounced on his opponent’s faulty handling of the opening, giving up two pawns for rapid mobilization of his pieces and a strong attack on the black’s kingside.

When the Belgian player resigned, So is set to gobble up either his rival’s rook or bishop in preparation for an even lethal attack.

Gonzales broke out of a four-game slump to outclass IM Daniyal Saibolautov in 42 moves of the French defense, while Gomez sustained his sharp form to trounce IM Bruno Laurent in 23 moves of another French.

Gonzales, who lost three of his four matches, used his vast experience to recover from a tight, middle game struggle and emerged with a decisive victory.

Only GM Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor failed to extract the full point when he settled for a draw with IM Richard Polaczek in 43 moves of the Slav.

Gomez capitalized on his opponent’s misplaced pieces right in the opening and unleashed a crippling queen-rook-bishop attack which led to an inevitable mate or loss of a material by Laurent.

The 22-year-old mechanical engineering student of La Salle, who won the national junior championship in Manila three times, remained the Filipinos’ leading scorer with four wins and three draws.

The pride of Binan, Laguna needs only a win in his next two games to clinch an outright GM title and join GMs Eugene Torre, Rosendo Balinas, Rogelio Antonio Jr., Nelson Mariano, Mark Paragua, Villamayor, Laylo So and Gonzales in the elite company of GMs.

It was the Philippines’ fourth win against one draw and two losses based on the match point style scoring system being used here by FIDE for the first time in 81 years.

Overall, the Filipinos are tied for 25th to 38th places with nine points, four points behind defending champion Armenia and three points behind former champion Germany, France and Israel with still four rounds remaining in this prestigious competition being held in this historical German city immortalized by well-known author Erich Kastner.

“I like our chances now. The team is in good position of surpassing its 44th-place finish in the Turin Olympiad two years ago,” said non-playing team captain GM Eugene Torre during breakfast at the Ibis Hotel..

“And John Paul has a very good chance of getting his GM title in the next two games,” added Torre, who remains one of the most popular figures here despite his new role as non-playing team captain.

The Filipinos’ next assignment is the GM Loek van Wely-led Netherlands, which dropped a 1.5-2.5 decision to Vietnam in the seventh round.

Equally impressive was the Filipinas’ 3-1 triumph over Costa Rica. on victories by Daisy Rivera, Cheradee Chardine Camacho and Chriity Lamiel Bernales.

Rivera miscalculated a bishop sacrifice during endgame but played well enough to secure a victory over WIM Carla Da Basco in 57 moves of the Sicilian Alapin

Camacho battled back from the brink of a losing king and pawn endgame and escaped with a morale-boosting win over Shirley Patricia Trejos in 62 moves Irregular opening.

Bernales completely outplayed Maria Elena Rodriguez, checkmating her unrated Costa Rican opponent with her queen and two bishops in only 23 moves of the French.

Cua over-extended herself trying to go for the win and lost to WIM Carolina Munoz in 46 moves of a French Tarrasch.

The Filipinas, who finished a respectable 27th place in Turin two years ago, have three wins, one draw and three losses after seven rounds.

Up next is Dominican Republic, 2.5-1.5 winner over Iraq.