The Philippines blanked Oman in the men’s division and Guam in the women’s side Friday night to open its 44th World Chess Olympiad campaign with a bang in Chennai, India.
Grandmasters Mark Paragua, John Paul Gomez, Darwin Laylo, and International Master Paulo Bersamina delivered the wins on the men’s side while WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, Woman FIDE Master Shania Mendoza, WIM Marie Antoinette San Diego, and WIM Kylen Joy Mordido provided the triumphs in the women’s.
The pair of impressive wins launched the country’s bid to improve on its finish of 37th place in the men’s and 67th in the women’s in the last over-the-board edition of the biennial event in Batumi, Georgia four years ago.
While the GM Jayson Gonzales-mentored women’s squad had it easy, there were some anxious moments in the GM Eugene Torre-coached men’s side, particularly in the game of Paragua, who fought his way back from an inferior position in outlasting an upset-conscious FM Amer Al Maashani.
Paragua’s escape sealed the 52nd-seeded Filipinos’ place in the 92-country logjam at first that included 76 that posted 4-0 shutout wins.
They play sixth pick Azerbaijan, an all-GM team that is expected to field in World No. 10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov after resting him in its 4-0 blanking of Algeria, in the second round at press time.
GM Banjo Barcenilla will suit up on this one after an opening day breather in place of Laylo.
The Filipinas, ranked 39th, for their part, shared the lead with 78 others including 69 other nations who had the same score as them.
They battle No. 78 Nicaragua, which smashed Somalia, 4-0.