Chess

So in smashing start

Round one of the 3rd PGMA Cup

By Ed Andaya

GM Wesley So opened his campaign for another major international chess honor with a resounding victory in the first round of the third President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Cup international chess championship at the Duty Free Fiesta Mall in Paranaque City.

So, who is widely expected to become the country’ s highest-rated Filipino player in history by surpassing the ELO 2650 rating next month, overwhelmed Yu Lie of China in 76 moves of the Sicilian to take the headstart in this tough, nine-round tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and supported by Duty Free Philippines, Department of Tourism, Pilipinas Shell, Globe and PAGCOR.

The 14-year-old high school student of St. Francis College (Bacoor), who made history by becoming the world’s youngest GM during the Pichay Cup last year, initiated massive exchanges of the queens and rooks on the 30th move and emerged with an overwhelming three-pawn advantage and a clear path to victory over his lower-rated Chinese opponent.

Yu tried to stave off the inevitable and succeeded in prolonging the match with several rook and knight moves, but So wisely steered the game to victory with precise continuation. When the game ended, So had a rook and a queening pawn against Yu’s rook.

So confident was So that he stood up more than a dozen times during the four-hour long encounter, moving freely on the playing hall while watching the games of the other players.

GM Jayson Gonzales outduelled IM Chito Garma in an all-Filipino showdown to join So and the other favorites in the list of early winners. Gonzales, who earned his GM title during the Asian circuit in Tarakan, Indonesia early this year, played almost flawlessly with the black pieces to subdue Garma.

Sharing the limelight were GMs Eugene Torre, Mark Paragua, Darwin Laylo and Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor, who outclassed their respective opponents. Torre, seeded 12th with an ELO of 2524, dumped FM Hoang Canh Huan of Vietnam to serve notice of his own title aspirations.

Paragua humbled Rolando Andador, Laylo subdued Efren Bagamasbad and Villamayor bested Mirabeau Maga in thrilling all-Filipino matches. Newly-crowned ASEAN Grand Prix overall champion IM Julio Catalino Sadorra made short work of FM Sebastian Simanjuntak of Indonesia to join the lead pack.

Two Filipino campaigners, Emmanuel Senador and Hamed Nouri, also made their presence felt by holding fourth seed GM Ehsan Ghaemmaghami of Iran and No. 10 seed GM Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia to hard-earned draws.

The leading foreign bets were equally impressive, with top seed GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev of Kazakhstan, second seed GM Zhang Zhong of Singapore, sixth seed Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son of Vietnam and defending champion Li Chao of China leading the way with smashing opening-day triumphs.

Kazhgaleyev bested Reggie Olay of the Philippines, Zhang crushed IM Amir Mallahi of Iran, Nguyen whipped IM Aleksander Wohl of Australia and Li trounced Nguyen Van Huy of Vietnam to lead the march of the favorites. But third seed GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili of Georgia failed to produce the full point, settling for a draw with Wang Li of China. The day’s lone upset win, however, came from world youth campaigner Karl Victor Ochoa , who pulled the rug from under compatriot GM Oliver Dimakiling.

The other notable winners were comebacking IM Ronald Dableo, who outwitted Jan Emmanuel Garcia; John Paul Gomez, who downed Christopher Castellano; Barlo Nadera, who waylaid Edmundo Gatus; and Haridas Pascua, who nipped Dino Ballecer.

NCFP president Prospero “Butch” Pichay formally declared the tournament open during a colorful ceremony. Pichay also made the ceremonial moves with Kazhgaleyev, the highest-rated player here with an ELO of 2641. Also present during the colorful opening ceremony were NCFP directors Judge Gonzalo Mapili, Atty. Edmundo Legaspi and Red Dumuk and NCFP executive/events director Wilie Abalos.

At stake in the prestigious tournament being organized in honor of President Arroyo for the third straight year is a total cash prize of US$40,000, with the champion getting the lion’s share of US$6,000. The runner-up and the third placer wil receive US$5,000 and US$4,000, respectively. Cash prizes will also be given to the fourth up to the 32 nd places.

Notably absent was GM Rogelio Antonio Jr., who begged off from participation for still undetermined reasons.

After the PGMA Cup, the NCFP will host the fourth edition of the Pichay Cup, which offers a total cash prize of US$30,000.

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