Thursday, November 25, 2010

Journal Online

PH chessers slam India, play China for gold medalPDFPrintE-mail
by Ed Andaya   
Thursday, 25 November 2010 20:45
GUANGZHOU, China –  In a performance worthy of the gold medal, the Philippines brought down India, 2.5-1.5 , to set up a keenly-awaited showdown against host China  in the 16th  Asian Games chess competitions at the Guangzhou Chess Institute.

GMs Rogelio Antonio, Jr. and Eugene Torre  pulled off similar hard-earned triumphs, while GM John Paul Gomez  came through with the much-needed  draw  to  clinch the victory that mattered most for the Filipinos  on the penultimate day of competitions in this quadrennial meet,  dubbed as the  ‘Olympics of Asia.’

The win enabled the sixth-seeded  Filipinos to arrange a gold medal match against  China, which edged Iran, 2.5-1.5, on the lone victory by GM Wang Yue over GM Morteza Mahjoob.

India and Iran will dispute the bronze  medal.

Antonio,  who was reinstated to the  team  at the last-minute to bolster the country’s chances for the gold medal,  came through with an inspring victory over  GM Krishan Sasikiran  in 75 moves of the  Sicilian defense.

And Torre, the most recognizable figure in local chess since becoming Asia’s first-ever  GM in Nice, France in 1974,  capped the Flipinos’ day of triumph by humbling GM G.N. Gopal in 50 moves of the King’s Indian defense.

Gomez agreed to a draw with GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly  in 66 moves of the French defense.

The smashing victories by Antonio and Torre and the  draw by Gomez came  after GM Wesley So lost his top-board match to GM Pentalah Harikrishna in  only 31 moves of  another King’s Indian.

“It was a big day for Philippine chess,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay .

“I salute  GMs Joey and Eugene for taking up the cudgels for the team after Wesley’s  setback. Now, it’s time to set our sights for the gold medal match against China  tomorrow (Friday),” said  Pichay.

NCFP secretary-general and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino  congratulatd the  Filipinos for their  second straight narrow victory over India, but urged them to  “play even harder to win the gold medal against China.”

Antonio, who played white,  turned a slight initiative into a  crushing victory  over the higher-rated Sasikiran in their  thrilling board-two encounter.

The 48-year-old pride of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro forced  the Indian champion  to give up his rook for a knight on the 35th move and  steered the match into  an endgame where he had a rook, bishop and  four pawns against his opponent’s two bishops and five pawns.

When the end came,  Antonio is  poised to capture Sasikiran’s  remaining pawn  to set the stage for an unstoppable advance of his two pawns on the fourth and fifth ranks.

It was a fitting vindication for Antonio, who was nearly stripped of his  place in the team  following misunderstanding  with the federation. But he was immediately reinstated to the team after a heart-to-heart talk with Pichay a few weeks before the team’s departure to Guangzhou.

Equally impressive was Torre, who was inserted as the fifth member of the team.

The 59-year-old veteran campaigner from Quezon City kept Gopal on the edge of his seat for most of the match and capitalized on  the Indian’s horrendous blunder  on the 48 th  move where he lost his queen on a discovered check.

The  higher-rated Gopal (ELO 2609) resigned immediately.

But  while Antonio and Torre weaved their old magic, So came up empty-handed this time.

So played one of his worst games in years, losing to Harikrishna in 31 moves of  the King’s Indian defense.

The 17-year-old Filipino champion blundered with his queen move on the 23rd move, allowing the higher-rated Indian player to capture one of his two rooks.

Sensing victory, Harikrishna  went for the kill with his active rooks and bishop, gobbling up  So’s remaining rook and knight  to force the Filipino champion to resign.

When the end came, Harikrishna had a queen,  two rooks, bishop, and four pawns against So’s  queen, bishop, knight and  four pawns.    

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