Paragua rules Battle of Grandmasters

Roy Luarca
Paragua rules Battle of Grandmasters
New York-based Mark Paragua says he's just 'very lucky' to survive past some of the Philippines’ top chess players


MANILA, Philippines – Mark Paragua pulled off a great escape then proved true to lofty billing as he bested Rogelio “Joey” Antonio in the finals, 1.5-0.5, to rule the Battle of Grandmasters on Sunday, June 28.

Pumped up after scraping past Richard Bitoon in the quarterfinals, Paragua trounced Antonio in the first game then forced a draw by repetition in the second to snare the top prize of P25,000 in the one-day, online rapid chess tournament featuring the country’s top players.

Picked by fans to prevail in the event honoring National Chess Federation of the Philippines president and chairman Rep. Prospero Pichay,  Paragua downed Woman GM Janelle Mae Frayna in the round of 16 but met stiff resistance from Bitoon in the next round.

After yielding Game 1, Bitoon shrugged off an early blunder to take Game 2 and force Armaggedon. Fighting back from an inferior position, Paragua mated Bitoon with only 1.2 seconds left on his clock.

Pitted against fellow New York City-based Oliver Barbosa in the semifinals, Paragua prevailed, 2-0, to forge the title clash with Antonio, the No. 2 fans’ choice.

Still going strong at 58, Antonio downed Darwin Laylo in the round of 16, toppled United States-based Julio Catalino Sadorra, the top seed according to ratings, via Armaggedon in the quarterfinals, then tamed John Paul Gomez, 1.5-0.5 in the semifinals.

According to Paragua, the first Filipino to breach Elo 2600, he was simply “very lucky” to survive Bitoon and hurdle Antonio.

It was a fitting follow-up to Paragua’s triumph in the Philippine Bullet Chess Championship two weeks ago, further boosting his chances  of being inserted back into the Philippine team.

Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre, 68, yielded to Fide Master Sander Severino in the first round and so did Jayson Gonzales to Bitoon, National Master Giovanni Mejia to Sadorra, International Master Angelo Young to fellow US-based GM Rogelio Barcenilla, and FM Narquingden Reyes to Barbosa.

Severino, the new IPCA (International Physically Disabled Chess Association) World Online champion bowed to Barbosa in the quarterfinals, where Gomez subdued Barcenilla.

NCFP executive director Atty. Cliburn Anthony Orbe served as tournament director of the strongest local event in years. –


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