Tagaytay-RP chessers on a roll
By Roy Luarca
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Close this AL AIN, U.A.E.—Streaking Tagaytay City blanked Tajikistan Chess Club, 4-0, on Saturday to share the lead with three other teams in the 1st Asian Club Cup at the Al Ain Sports Center here.

With Grandmaster Darwin Laylo drawing first blood, the fourth-seeded Filipinos stormed to their third straight lopsided win and stayed tied with top-ranked Al Ain Team A, third-ranked Qi Yuan of China and No. 7 Club India.

The Filipinos get a reality check Sunday when they tangle with the crack international roster of Al Ain, which also posted 6.0 match points—a win is worth 2 points, a draw 1 and a loss 0—following a 3-1 conquest of Chirchik Chess of Uzbekistan, in the fourth round starting at 4 p.m. (8 p.m. Manila time).

Grandmasters Wesley So, John Paul Gomez and Mark Paragua also bested their respective opponents as the Filipinos duplicated their 4-0 shutout of Al Shuolaa (Yemen) in the first round and bettered their 3.5-0.5 romp over Mon-Cad (Mongolia) in the second round.

Led by Ukrainian Super GM Sergey Karjakin (Elo 2730), Al Ain-A totes a fearsome average rating of 2679 as against Tagaytay City’s 2541.

But the Filipinos are not intimidated and promised to give a good fight on all boards to stay in contention for the champion’s purse of $20,000 in the seven-round Swiss System event.

The 15-year-old So, the country’s highest-rated player with an Elo of 2610, will play black against the 18-year-old Karjakin, the youngest player ever to become a GM at 12 years and seven months and is ranked 15th in the world.

So, chosen Player of the Year by the Chess Journalists Association of the Philippines, is raring to play higher-rated foes. After all, he bested Chinese Super GM Ni Hua (Elo 2710) right in the first round of the recent Dresden Chess Olympiad in Germany and then held Spanish Super GM Alexei Shirov (Elo 2725) to a draw in round six.

Gomez, a three-time national junior champion, will face Ukrainian GM Zahar Efimenko (Elo 2680) in board two while Paragua will tangle with Georgian GM Baadur Jobava (Elo 2664) in board three.

In board four, Laylo will play white in trying to exact revenge against Chinese GM Li Chao (Elo 2622), who beat him en route to the 2008 PGMA Cup title.

Inspired by the presence of older sisters Michelle and Maureen, who are working in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively, Laylo downed Ilhom Yunusov in 32 moves of a Scandinavian Opening to spark the Filipinos’ onslaught.

So followed suit with a 27-move demolition of Fide Master Sokhib Djuraev in a Philidor Defense while Paragua trounced International Master Suhrob Khamdamov after 32 moves of a Caro-Kann Panov variation.

It took Gomez 50 moves to dispose of Rashid Khouseinov in their French Defense tussle, giving the Filipinos, who were sent here by the Tagaytay City government through Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and the National Chess Federation of the Philippines headed by Prospero “Butch” Pichay, strong chances of landing in the money race.

According to NCFP executive director and delegation head Willy Abalos, he had instructed his wards to go man-to-man against Al Ain-A, to concentrate on each one’s game and to not rely on teammates to score.

The all-IM Club India jolted the 30-team $60,000 competition by taming the all-GM Fajr Shams Chess Club of Iran, 3-1, following victories by RR Laxman and P Karthikeyan over Russian Mikhail Kobalia (Elo 2630) and Armenian Tigran Petrosian (Elo 2629), who was a pawn up but blundered away a rook under time pressure in the endgame.

Club India clashes with Qi Yuan, which pipped Vietnam Victory Club, 2.5-1.5, in the pivotal fourth round of the event held at this cool, palm-dotted garden city.

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