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Pinoy Chessers continue assault at possible Top 10 finish

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By Erel Cabatbat

The Philippines turned to its youth brigade to deliver the key wins as the men’s squad whipped Ecuador, 3-1 to close in on a possible top 10 finish after the penultimate round of the 43rd World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.

International Master Jan Emmanuel Garcia took out FIDE Master Kevin Naboa while IM Haridas Pascua outwitted IM Miguel Muñoz Sanchez in boards 3 and 4 to send the Philippines to a seven team logjam at 13th place in the team standings.

Grand Masters Julio Catalino Sadorra and John Paul Gomez drew their matches against GM Carlos Matamoros Franco and IM Christian Barros in the top boards.

With 14 match points, the Philippines is three points behind joint-leaders United States, which edged Armenia, 2.5-1.5, and China, which brought down former solo leader Poland back to earth with a 3-1 shocker.

Since bowing to lowly Lebanon in the fifth round, the Pinoys have posted wins over Jersey, Albania, Uruguay, Zambia and Equador to keep their bid for a possible best finish in the Olympiad.

The Philippines placed seventh in the 1988 Thessaloniki World Chess Olympiad in Greece.

Non-playing coach GM Eugene Torre, who manned the top board in that historic 1988 team, believes they have a chance.

“The team prepared hard and didn’t give up. We have an opportunity to make history,” said Torre, whose team is backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and NCFP president Prospero Pichay.

The women’s side, however, was not as fortunate.

WGM Janelle Mae Frayna and WIM Bernadette Galas slipped against WIM Diana Baciu and WFM Paula-Alexandra Gitu as the Pinays bowed to Moldova, 1.5-2.5 and fell to a share of 46th spot with 11 points.

WIM Shania Mae Mendoza drew with IM Svetlana Petrenko in board 3 while WIM Catherine Secopito turned in the team’s lone triumph against WFM Olga Hincu.