Sadorra, Frayna banner PH chess Olympiad team
MANILA, Philippines – Ten Filipino chess players will compete in the 2018 Chess Olympiad starting Monday, September 24, in Georgia.
Fighting for top places will be remote but chess fans expect individual milestones, a board medal or a big upset.
For only the second time, Philippine chess legend Eugene Torre will not be playing. Instead, the 66-year-old Torre, who won a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympiad, will serve as coach.
He handles a young team led by US-based grandmaster Julio Catalino Sadorra, two-time national champion Haridas Pascua, Jan Emmanuel Garcia and Mari Joseph Turqueza.
Grandmaster John Paul Gomez was selected by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines for the team after he failed to qualify in the national championship. Gomez will be playing behind Sadorra, who mans board one. Third board will be helmed by Pascua, followed by Garcia and Turqueza.
Torre's young crew has the big chore of improving on their 58th place finish two years ago, the Philippines' worst performance since it began joining the biennial Olympiads in 1956.
But the Philippine campaign in the 2016 Olympiad also had its highlights as Torre bagged a bronze medal while Janelle Mae Frayna became the country's first woman grandmaster.
For this year's bid, Torre said he is not setting concrete goals, only that the team must be in a good position in the 11-round event.
"We have to be in a good position with four rounds left. This is most crucial. Then perhaps, the team should not climb too high at the start because you play strong foes and if you lose you fall in the standings," said Torre In an interview with Rappler before the team left Friday.
If the team makes it in the top 30, Torre said it "would an achievement."
The women's team, led by the Philippines' first woman grandmaster, Frayna, has a tough task of equaling their 34th place finish two years ago.
Frayna has lost 37 Elo rating points playing 72 games in tournaments in Europe and the Malaysian Open. She is down to 2278, the September Elo rating list says. Her loss of around 39 points in the Malaysian Open is not yet reflected.
The team lost the services of its stalwart second board, Jan Jodilyn Fronda, who is teaching chess in Singapore. Fronda defeated Bela Khotenashvili of Georgia in the 2016 Olympiad in a stupendous pawn endgame cited in online chess sites.
This victory plus that of Catherine Secopito's upset of veteran Salome Melia, gave the Philippines a 2.5-1.5 win vs Georgia, then the fourth seed.
Women's coach Jayson Gonzales said he encouraged Frayna to keep cool, just play her game and ignore the loss in Elo ratings.
Taking over second board is Secopito, with national champion Shania Mae Mendoza taking third board, Antoinette San Diego fourth and rookie Bernadette Galas, the 2017 national champ at board five.
The men's and women's teams had separate training camps. The men's squad held theirs at Alphaland Makati Place while the distaff side had their sessions in Batangas. This is one of the few times both teams had training sessions. – Rappler.com
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