THE surging Philippine men’s chess team ran into a great wall in China and lost badly, 3.5-0.5, halting its momentum entering the homestretch of the 40th World Chess Olympiad on Friday at the WOW Convention Center in Istanbul, Turkey.
Only GM Wesley So survived the Chinese onslaught during the ninth round of the tournament that ends next week. The young Filipino played the white pieces in board one and halved the point against GM Wang Hao after 64 moves of a King’s Indian defense.
The rest in the team – GMs Oliver Barbosa, Eugene Torre, and Mark Paragua – dropped their respective matches, bringing down with them the country’s campaign that saw the Filipinos slump to a tie for eighth to 16th place.
The men’s team now takes on Southeast Asian rival Vietnam in the 10th round in a crucial match that could make or unmake the Filipinos’ bid to match – or surpass – their best finish of seventh place achieved during the 1988 Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece.
So far, the Filipinos have a total points of 13 points, two points away from the Chinese who gained a share of the lead with Russian Federation, Armenia and the USA with 15 pioints.
Barbosa fell to GM Ding Liren in board two, Torre suffered the same fate in board three opposite GM Bu Xiangshi while Paragua bowed to GM Li Chao in board four.
The sorry loss came at a time when the team was coming off victories over highly-rated squads Bulgaria and England.
The PH women’s team, meanwhile, also lost its match against Romania, 2.5-1.5.
WIM Catherine Perena and WNM Jedara Docena were beaten by WIM Irina Bulmaga and WGM Alina L’Ami in the top boards.
WNM Jan Jodilyn Fronda provided the lone win for the Filipinas in board four where she beat WGM Mihaela Sandu. WNM Janelle Mae Frayna could only draw her match with WGM Elena-Luminita Costa in board two.
The women’s team has a total of 10 points so far for a share of 38th-53rd place.
The Filipinas go up against Malaysia in round 10.