Iloilo bucks shocking GM Antonio loss in tiebreaker to reach finals

Lynde Salgados

STILL LUCKY. Despite his loss, GM Joey Antonio is still happy that his Iloilo Kisela Knights reached the finals again.

File photo

Grandmaster Joey Antonio and Iloilo arrange another showdown with San Juan in a PCAP grudge finals rematch

A loss by Grandmaster Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr at the hands of a little-known guest foreign opponent in the Armageddon play almost averted a classic All-Filipino championship rematch in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines’ (PCAP) season-ending 3rd Conference.

The GM Antonio-led Kisela Iloilo Knights, the 2nd Conference Champion, survived a thriller with the superbly tough side of the Penang Blue Panthers from Malaysia, 9.5-11.5, 14.5-6.5 and 2-1 on Wednesday night, November 24, to arrange another title showdown with the vast-improved San Juan Predators.

Pahirapan talaga. Grabe ka close ang laban (We really got tested in a very difficult closely fought battle),” the many-time National Open titlist and veteran Olympiad campaigner Antonio told Rappler as he detest from talking about his defeat.

Anyway, ang importante nakapasok ulit sa grand finals (What’s important is we reached the grand finals again),” said Antonio, who was upset by Poh Yu Tian in a pawn endgame tussle.

Fortunately, Antonio’s youthful teammates National Masters Karl Victor Ochoa and Fritz Bryan Porras upstaged the semis conquerors of GM Mark Paragua and Elan Asuela of Camarines in the fearsome tandem of Fide Master Long Ying Wong and NM Evan Timothy Capel to seal the victory for Iloilo in the three-board blitz tiebreaker, 2-1.

“The Malaysian’s passed pawn on the a-file gave Joey (Antonio) a headache that paved the way for the breakthrough win in the endgame,” commented Arena Grandmaster Rey Urbiztondo, the team-playing owner of PCAP’s second-round casualty Surigao team.

“Penang’s strategy almost worked wonders when both Wong and Capel deliberately avoided to face Antonio in the do-or-die situation. But they got ambushed instead by Ochoa and Porras in another unexpected twist of PCAP’s unending drama,” observed US chess master Marlon Bernardino.

The South topnotcher Iloilo also drew strength from  Woman Fide Master Cherry Ann Mejia, NM John Michael Silvederio, and PCAP Finals’ MVP NM Cesar Mariano as it goes for a keenly-awaited grudge rematch with North frontrunner San Juan on Saturday, November 27 for the 3rd Conference crown.

San Juan lost in the 2nd Conference finals to Iloilo, but with the Ilonggos gaining much on the reinforcement of erstwhile Olympic U16 champion in Armenian GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan, who is rated close to 2600.

With no foreign imports around for both squads, the San Juan Predators got stronger this time with the acquisition of grizzled International Master Rolando Nolte as they proceeded to eliminate the GM Banjo Barcenilla-powered inaugural champions Laguna Heroes in the semifinals via the Armageddon playoff.

In the division championships, the Predators toppled down the equally-strong, youth-laden Caloocan Loadmanna Knights, 14-7, and 16.5-4.5 in two straight sets.

With Caloocan’s  Philippine Team tandem of young International Masters Jan Emmanuel Garcia and Paulo Bersamina emerged slight superiors in topboard matches with GM Oliver Barbosa and Nolte, Laguna took the warfare in the seniors and lower board skirmishes where they struck hard for the crucial points.

Yielding just a couple of draws, the foursome of IM Ricardo De Guzman, FM Narquingden Reyes, Narciso Gumila and Narquingel Reyes had never tasted a single defeat from boards 4 to 7 in two-leg squabbles for blitz and rapid plays that keyed San Juan’s steamrolling of Caloocan and set a revenge plot against the back-to-back title-seeking Iloilo. –