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GM Gomez, IM Bersamina keep lead in Battle of GMs

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TOP seed GM John Paul Gomez and IM Paulo Bersamina settled for draws against their respective opponents to remain in the led after eight rounds in the Battle of GMs-National Chess Championships at Alphaland Makati.

Gomez, the highest-rated player in the tournament with an ELO of 2464, split the point with IM Ronald Bancod after only 30 moves of the French defense, while Bersamina halved the point with upset-conscious Jonathan Jota in 30 moves of the Ruy Lopez to keep the lead with 5.5 points in the 11-round tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), headed by president Cong. Prospero “Butch” Pichay.

Gomez had earlier won by default over Jota and Bersamina subdued IM Chito Garma in a pair of seventh-round encounters late Sunday that almost completely altered the standings.

Jeth Romy Morado, IM Haridas Pascua and United States-based Gm Rogelio Barcenilla also benefited from the unexpected outcomes to move into a three-way tie for third to fifth places with 4.5 points with still three rounds remaining.

The biggest loser during the weekend matches was Jota, who lost by default to Gomez in the seventh round and dropped all the way from a tie for first to sixth place with four points.

Jota decided to forfeit his game against Gomez and instead played for Lyceum of the Philippines during its semifinal encounter against College of St. Benilde in the NCAA chess competition last Sunday.

NCFP official said the 20-year-old Jota needs at least 6.5 points to earn an IM norm.

“It was Jota’s first loss. With three rounds left, Jota’s IM norm is considered gone. Perhaps Jota has time to be an IM but an NCAA chess crown for Lyceum could not be put off.,” noted veteran chess writer Ignacio Dee in his comments for social media group Chess Philippines.

LPU coach Christopher Cunanan, however, defended Jota’s decision to forfeit his seventh-round match against Gomez and play for the Pirates.

“He (Jota) and Curioso led LPU to 2.5-1.5 win over St. Benilde and a chance to battle San Beda in the championship. We needed him in the team against St. Benilde,” said Cunanan.

In the Battle of GMs, Jota now needs to score 2.5 points in his remaining three games against Morado, Pascua and Garma in the next three rounds to earn an IM norm.

In the women’s division, De La Salle University standout WIM Bernadette Galas outclassed Arvie Lozano to maintain a share of the lead with top seed WIM Marie Antoinette San Diego.

San Diego drew with WFM Shania Mae Mendoza.

Gales and San Diego, who led La Salle to the UAAP women’s title last year, both have 5.5 points.

WIM Catherine Perena-Secopito outsteadied WIm Christy Lamiel Bernales to climb to solo third place with five points.

WIM Mikee Charlen Suede defeated Bernales and the won by default over WIM Beverly Mendoza to move to fourth place with 4.5 points.

The tournament is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), under chairman Butch Ramirez.

Angie Oredo