JANELLE Mae Frayna and Shania Mae Mendoza delivered the wins when their team needed it most as the Philippines turned back an unheralded but fighting Nicaragua on Saturday night to firmly keep its stranglehold of the lead after two rounds of the 44th World Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.
Mses. Frayna and Mendoza went for the kill early by employing strong opening lines to overpower Maria Esther Granados Diaz and Patricia Alvarez Gutierrez on boards one and three, respectively, that sealed the win and a place for the Filipinas in the 40-nation lead pack with four match points each.
Jan Jodilyn Fronda tried to do the same with Michelle Ferrifino on board two, but she made an opening misstep that allowed her lower-ranked rival to equalize and send the duel to an equal opposite-colored bishops ending before agreeing for a truce.
The triumph softened the impact of Marie Antoinette San Diego’s shock defeat to Maria Jose Granados Ortiz on the last board in a duel where the former was punished by her opening adventurism that resulted to the latter launching an unrelenting and unstoppable kingside onslaught.
The loss forced the hand of national women’s coach Grandmaster (GM) Jayson Gonzales to sit out San Diego and replace her with Woman Grandmaster-candidate Kylen Joy Mordido when the team, which is being bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission, collides with 18th seed Serbia in the third round at press time.
In the men’s side, GMs Mark Paragua and John Paul Gomez prevented a shutout by pulling off upset draws with Rauf Mamedov and Vasif Durarbayli on boards one and three, respectively, in a 3-1 win by sixth pick Azerbaijan.
GM Banjo Barcenilla and IM Paulo Bersamina lost to Gadir Guseinov and Nijat Abasov, on boards two and four, respectively.
It kicked the Filipinos spiraling down to a 65-country tie at 48th spot with two match points to show in this 11-round, 12-day tournament participated in by 184 teams from 180 nations in the men’s division alone.
GM Darwin Laylo was re-injected into the roster in Mr. Bersamina’s place when the country tackles lowly Cyprus next. — Joey Villar