GRANDMASTER (GM) Banjo Barcenilla showed incredible grit in delivering a match-saving victory in an upset 2-2 draw by the Philippines with a heavily favored Israel in the sixth round on Wednesday night to stay in the 44th World Chess Olympiad hunt in Chennai, India.
Mr. Barcenilla punished GM Tamir Nabaty for his faulty sacrificial queenside attack with a devastating rook invasion that won a piece and the game in 64 moves of a King’s Indian duel on board two.
GM Mark Paragua, who saved the day in the Filipinos’ shock 2.5-1.5 upset of Sweden in round five, tried again to squeeze out a win out of what looked like an equal position against GM Avital Burochovsky on board one but wound up splitting the point in 59 moves of their Four Knights showdown that sealed the standoff with the Israelis.
The pair of results erased a 1.5-.5 deficit following a draw by GM Darwin Laylo with grizzled Olympiad vet GM Ilya Smirin on board three and a crushing loss by International Master (IM) Paulo Bersamina to GM Evgeny Postny that was exacerbated by the Filipino’s poor opening play.
The draw kept the Filipinos, who are backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, in striking distance with the big guns as they share 14th place with 10 other nations with nine match points in this 11-round, 12-day event that gives two points for a match victory and a point for tie.
After a much-needed break on Thursday, they play a mighty Poland side that is seeded fifth on Friday night’s seventh round for a chance for the GM Eugene Torre-mentored Philippines to reclaim its spot in the top 10.
GM John Paul Gomez will be re-inserted into the roster in place of a still dazed Mr. Bersamina in anticipation of their much-awaited collision with the powerful Poles.
“We’ll just fight and play on until the end for our country,” said Mr. Barcenilla, who was accompanied by wife, also former Olympiad veteran, Lilibeth.
The Filipinas, for their part, received another mighty blow after drawing with the lower-ranked Ecuadorians, 2-2, that sent them spiraling down to a 13-nation logjam at 48th spot with seven points.
Woman FIDE Master Shania Mae Mendoza lost to WIM Anahi Ortiz Verdezoto on board two, while WGM candidate Kylen Joy Mordido won on board four, and WIMs Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Marie Antoinette San Diego drew on boards one and three, respectively.
They face Bolivia next. — Joey Villar