AFTER spearheading the country’s solid effort in the 44th World Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India, Grandmaster (GM) Mark Paragua has set his sights at capturing nothing less than a gold medal in next year’s Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
And he is not the only GM interested to see action in Cambodia as Julio Catalino Sadorra, Oliver Barbosa and Banjo Barcenilla may answer the call if given the chance.
“If Inno and Oli are in the team, we’ll have better chances to win the gold especially in the team event,” said Mr. Paragua referring to fellow United States-based GMs Messrs. Sadorra and Barbosa.
“Hopefully, if given a chance again, I will play in the SEA Games,” said Mr. Barcenilla.
Messrs. Paragua and Barcenilla were fresh from helping steer the team to a 32nd-placed finish in Chennai that they capped with a shock 2.5-1.5 win over a third seed, Magnus Carlsen-less Norway in the final round.
Part of that GM Eugene Torre-squad were GMs John Paul Gomez and Darwin Laylo and International Master (IM) Paulo Bersamina, who stunned GM Frode Olav Olsen Urkedal on fourth board to seal the Filipinos upset win over the fancied Norwegians, who shot themselves on the foot by resting Mr. Carlsen — the reigning world classical champions.
While all five members of the team earned FIDE rating points, it was Mr. Paragua who gained the most after earning 21.2 points by scoring 6.5 points out of 10 that he highlighted by his magnificent triumph over World Cup king and World No. 18 Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland.
The Filipinas, for their part, failed on their bid of registering their best effort in the Olympiad after faltering against the 14th-seeded Cubans, 2.5-1.5.
The defeat was sealed by WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda’s defeat on board two that came after WGM Janelle Mae Frayna and WIMs Marie Antoinette San Diego and Kylen Joy Mordido all drew their games on boards one, three and four, respectively.
They finished at 37th with 13 points, which surpassed their embarrassing 67th-place finish in Batumi.
Another consolation was Mses. Frayna’s and Mordido’s individual feats as the two finished in the top 20 on boards one and five, respectively.
With a potential all-GM squad in the SEA Games, expect the Filipinos to finally strike gold after failing to snare one in last year’s Hanoi Games where they settled for a pair of silver and three bronzes. — Joey Villar