GM Eugene Torre still leading PGMA Cup

Zhong full point behind

Standings after seven rounds:

6.5 points — E. Torre (Philippines)

5.5 – Z. Zhong (Singapoure)

5.0 – C. Li (China), M. Kazhgaleyev (Kazakhstan), M. Mchedlishvili (Georgia), E. Ghaemmaghami (Iran), W. Zhou (China), K. Shananava (Uzbekistan)

4.5 – L. Wang (China), N. A. Dung (Vietnam), J. Sadorra (Philippines), N. N. Truong Son (Vietnam), M. Paragua (Philippines), Y. Wen (China), W. So, M. Dzumaev (Uzbekistan), D.T. Hai (Vietnam), S. Iuldachev (Uzbekistan), B. Nadera (Philippines)

4.0 – J. Gomez (Philippines), D. Laylo (Philippines), A. Pacis (Philippines), S. Li (China), W. Goh (Singapore), S. Megaranto (Indonesia), H. C. Huan (Vietnam), Z. Zhang (China), D. Xiu (China), D. Causo (Philippines), R. Nolte (Philippines), D. Ballecer (Philippines)

Official press release

WHEN he’s hot, GM Eugene Torre is an unstoppable force even in the international front.

Torre continued to push back the time as he hurdled the biggest stumbling block in his title aspirations, beating defending champion GM Li Chao of China in a keenly-watched seventh-round showdown to take a one-point lead in the third President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Cup international chess championship at the Duty Free Fiesta Mall in Paranaque City.

The 56-year-old campaigner from Iloilo City, who is widely regarded as the most successful Filipino chess player ever, exploited Li’s shattering blunder in the middle game and escaped with a victory in what was thought to be a drawish game.

The end came in 57 moves of the Scotch, with Torre threatening to mate his younger but higher-rated Chinese opponent in this nine-round tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), headed by president Prospero “Butch” Pichay and secretary-general Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.

Before beating Li, Torre halved the point with sixth-round rival GM Zhang Zhong of Singapore in 43 moves of the London system, the same opening used by the Filipino in vaulting to the solo lead with back-to-back victories over GMs Li Shilong and Weiqi Zhou Weiqi in the third and fourth rounds.

“It’s a great feeling to be ahead with only two rounds left. I like my chances now,” said Torre, who rose to prominence by earning his NM title at age 17 (1969), IM title at age 20 (1972) and GM title at age 22 (1974). Overall, Torre has 6.5 points on six wins and one draw.

The 12th-seeded Torre will next meet third seed GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili (Georgia), needing at least a draw to boost his chances for the title and the US$6,000 top prize in this tournament supported by Duty Free Philippines, Department of Tourism, Pilipinas Shell, Globe and PAGCOR.

A full point behind Torre with is second seed Zhang, who whipped No. 21 GM Wen Yang of China. Zhang will battle top seed GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev of Kazakhstan in the other crucial eighth-round encounter.

Except for Torre, no other Flilipino players managed to break into the Top 10 dominated by foreign bets. Newly-crowned ASEAN Grand Prix champion IM Julio Catalino Sadorra was the next best thing, moving up to 11th place with 4.5 points following an upset win over compatriot GM Jayson Gonzales in the seventh round. But Sadorra, one of several local players seeking to achieve their GM titles this year, blew his chance when he lost to Mchedlishvili in the previous round.

Although they also have 4.5 points, GMs Mark Paragua and Wesley So are ranked 13th and 15 th based on tiebreak scores. Paragua, ranked 13 th with an ELO of 2523, drew with IM John Paul Gomez in the sixth round and IM Barlo Nadera in the seventh round to stay in a tie for ninth to 19th places. So, who is expected to break the ELO 2600 barrier in the FIDE quarterly rating next month, demolished No. 30 IM Richard Bitoon in the sixth round but drew with No. 39 Wang Li of China in the seventh round.

IM Gomez, GM Darwin Laylo and FM Adrian Pacis are locked in a tie for 20th to 31st places with four points. Already out of it are Gonzales and GM Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor, who remained in a big group of players with 3.5 points. Gonzales, the country’s second highest-rated player behind So, trounced Yu Lie of China in the sixth round but lost to Sadorra in the seventh round, while Villamayor settled for draws with Rodrigo Atotubo and Nguyen Van Huy of Vietnam.

So, Gomez, Laylo, Gonzales and Villamayor are all members of the Philippine team to the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden,Germany on November 12-25.

A total of US$40,000 is at stake in the annual tournament being organized in honor of President Arroyo, with the champion getting the lion’s share of US$6,000. The runner-up and the third placer will receive US$5,000 and US$4,000, respectively. Cash prizes will also be given to the fourth up to the 32nd places, according to NCFP executive director and tournament director Willie Abalos. Casto “Toti” Abundo is the supervising arbiter.

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