MANILA, Philippines – The 35th-seed Philippine chess team scored a 3-1 victory over the 51st-seed Iceland in the fifth round of the FIDE World Chess Olympiad early Sunday morning at the WOW Convention Center in Istanbul, Turkey.
Grand Master (GM) Oliver Barbosa and GM Mark Paragua scored full-point victories for the Philippines as the Filipino chessers rebounded from a heart-breaking loss to third-seed Armenia, 1.5-2.5, in the fourth round last Saturday.
Barbosa defeated known chess author GM Henrik Danielsen after 35 moves of the Bogo-Indian defense. The Taytay, Rizal native accumulated small advantages and finished with good technique in Board 2.
Meanwhile, Paragua presented his opponent, International Master (IM) Dagur Arngrimmson, with practical difficulties in the opening, subtleties in the middlegame and strong tactics in the end game.
Paragua wound up outmaneuvering Arngrimmson after 48 moves of Slav defense on Board 4 to complete the country’s fourth win in five rounds under the match point scoring system, which is being used for only the third time in the Olympiad since 1927.
The match point scoring system awards two points for a win, one point for a draw and zero for a loss.
Meanwhile, GM Wesley So drew with GM Hannes Stefansson on Board 1, while GM Eugene Torre also drew with GM Throstur Thorhallsson on Board 3.
So split the point with Stefansson after 31 moves of the Sicilian defense, Najdorf variation, while the 60-year-old Torre halved the point with Thorhallsson after 34 moves of Scotch Opening.
Overall, the Filipinos notched eight points for a share of fifth to 21st place. They are two points behind tournament co-leaders and top seed Russia, as well as third-seed Armenia who have 10 points each.
Seventh-seed Azerbaijan and 19th-seed Croatia have nine points each for a share of third and fourth places.
The Filipinos will next meet 10th-seeded Bulgaria. GMs Veselin Topalov and Ivan Cheparinov struck with the white pieces to lift Bulgaria past 71st-seed Peru, 2.5-1.5.
In their last meeting in the Chess Olympiad two years ago in Russia, the Filipinos lost to the Bulgarians 1.5-2.5.
National Chess Federation of the Philippines chairman and president Prospero “Butch” Pichay Jr. is expecting another battle against the Bulgarians when they clash Sunday night.
“I expect another tough night against Bulgaria just like last Saturday against Armenia,” Pichay said.
In the women’s division, IM Catherine Perena and National Master (NM) Jedara Docena stunned their more accomplished foes using the black pieces to secure the country’s 3-1 romp over South Africa.
Perena downed GM Melissa Greef on Board 1 while Docena topped IM Denise Frick on Board 3.
Meanwhile, NM Janelle Mae Frayna settled for a draw against IM Cecile Va Der Merwe on Board 2, while IM Jan Jodilyn Fronda halved the point against Fide Master Tshepang Tlale on Board 4.
It was the third consecutive match win by the women’s team and fourth in five rounds over-all. The PH women’s team jumped to a share of 6th to 16th places with 11 other squads at eight points. By Marlon Bernardino.