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Pinoy woodpushers continue to set pace in ASEAN chess

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Al-Basher Buto of the Philippines downed top seed Pham Viet Thien Phuoc of Vietnam to seize the solo lead in the Open Under-8 division even as International Master Paulo Bersamina and Woman FDE Master Shania Mae Mendoza kept their lead in the premier U20 sections of the ASEAN+ Age Group Championships at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City.

The seven-year-old Buto, who won the rapid and blitz event of the under-7 13th Asian Schools Chess Championship in Panjin, China early this year, has stayed perfect after four rounds as he won over Vietnamese Ho Dang Nhat Minh and Nguyen Manh Duc, fellow Filipino Ruslan Pamplona and now Pham, who owns the highest rating in the division with 1420.

Buto, who learned to play chess in the sidewalks of Quiapo, will have a chance to claim another victory as he was playing another Vietnam bet, Nguyen Vuong Tung Lam, at press time.

Also unflappable at the helm was the 19-year-old Mendoza, who turned back countrywoman Ella Grace Moulic to zoom to the top with four points, a full point ahead of Moulic and WFM Dita Karenza of Indonesia.

Mendoza is seeking to rule this event organized by Chess Events International, sanctioned by the NCFP president Butch Pichay and backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, before she joins the training camp of the Phl team seeing action in the World Chess Olympiad this September in Batumi, Georgia.

Bersamina, for his part, trounced FM Agni Jeevitesh Sai of India to stay at the helm alongside FM Azarya Jodi Setyaki of Indonesia, who downed Filipino Rhenzi Kyle Sevillano, with 3.5 points apiece.

The two were playing each other in the fifth round for the solo lead.

The Phl’s Dale Bernardo and Istraelito Rilloraza drew to jump into a three-way logjam on top along with another local bet Carl Zirex Sato, who waylaid Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Anh, with 3.5 points apiece in the Open U18.