GM Eugene Torre leading PGMA cup

3rd PGMA Cup round 4

By Ed Andaya

ASIA’S first GM Eugene Torre is again reminding everyone why he is the country’s No. 1 player for almost four decades.

Torre flashed his old, deadly form to subdue No. 17 GM Li Shilong of China in the third round and last year’s co-champion GM Zhou Weiqi of China the following round to wrest the solo lead in the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Cup international chess championship at the Duty Free Fiesta Mall in Paranaque City.

The 56-year-old Torre, who served as the face of Philippine chess since becoming the fist-ever GM from Asia in 1974, crushed the lower-rated Li (ELO 2511) in 55 moves of the London opening in a morning match and then bested the higher-rated Zhou (ELO 2556) in 56 moves of another London during the evening encounter.

“Sa endgame na nagkatalo. Maganda yung panalo ko. Sana magtuloy-tuloy na,” said Torre, who made history by earning his NM title at age 17 (1969), IM title at age 20 (1970) and GM title at age 22 (1974).

With his back-to-back victories over his Chinese rivals, Torre vaulted into the solo lead with a perfect score of four points 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.

But only half a point behind Torre with 3.5 points is top seed GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev of Kazakhstan, who drew with No. 18 GM Darwin Lalyo of the Philippines in the third round before beating No. 10 GM Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia in the fourth round.

eugene torre

GM Eugene Torre

Twelve players, led by defending champion GM Li Chao of China and local bets GMs Laylo and Mark Paragua and IMs John Paul Gomez and Julio Catalino Sadorra, also stayed within striking distance of the US$6,000 top prize with three points out of a possible five.

Laylo, who earned one of five RP team berths to the World Chess Olympiad during the recent national qualifying tournament, followed up a draw with Kazhgaleyev with another one against another fancied entry, No. 3 Mikheil Mchedlishvili of Georgia to remain one of the leading Filipino bets.

Gomez, who created a stir with an upset win over GM Wesley So in the third round early Monday, also did well in drawing with Li in the third round and No. 4 seed GM Ehsan Ghaemmaghami of Iran in the fourth round.

Paragua, who will head the RP team to the inaugural World Mind Games in Beijing, China next month, defeated compatriot Deniel Causo in the fourth round to make up for a loss to Zhou in the previous round.

And Sadorra, who rose to prominence by winning the overall title in the recent ASEAN Grand Prix, swept Karl Victor Ochoa and Noel de la Cruz in the third and fourth rounds to move into contention.

Aside from Li and the four Filipinos, also with three points are Zhang, Ghaemmaghami, Zhou, Mchedlishvili, LI, Wen Yang of China and Weiming Goh of Singapore.

So, GMs Jayson Gonzales and Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor and IM Richard Bitoon head a big group of players with 2.5 points.

Standings after four rounds

4 points — E. Torre (Philippines)

3.5 — M. Kazhgaleyev (Kazakhstan)

3 — J. Gomez (Philippines), C. Li (China), D. Laylo (Philippines), W. Zhou (China), Z. Zhong (Singapore), M. Paragua (Philippines), M. Mchedlishvili (Georgia), E. Ghaemmaghami (Iran), S. Li (China), J. Sadorra (Philippines), W. Goh (Singapore), Y. Wen (China)

2.5 — L. Wang (China), K. Yang (China), B. Villamayor (Philippines), S. Megaranto (Indonesia), Y. Wan (China), N. G. Truong Son (Vietnam), D. T. Hai (Vietnam), R. Bitoon (Philippines), D. Elorta (Philippines), A. Branzuela (Philippines), N. A. Dung (Vietnam), J. Gonzales (Philippines), K. Shananava (Uzbekistan),W. So (Philippines), Z. Ziyang (China), M. Dzumaev (Uzbekistan)

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