ALMOST but not enough for the Philippines.
The Philippines threw the full weight of its arsenal against unpredictable Argentina and came away with a decisive 2.5-1.5 win at the close of the 38th World Chess Olympiad at the International Congress Center in Dresden, Germany.
Grandmaster (GM) Jayson Gonzales played the hero’s role for the Filipinos, who battled long and hard to bring honors to the country in the world’s biggest chess stage.
Gonzales, the almost-forgotten member of the team, outduelled GM Fernando Peralta in 46 moves of the Queen’s Gambit Declined to clinch the win for the 38th-seeded Filipinos.
GM Wesley So, who played the top board for the third time in the two-week-long competition, drew his match against GM Rubel Felgaer in 30 moves of the Sicilian.
Newly minted GM John Paul Gomez also halved the point with International Master (IM) Anton Kovalyov in 40 moves of another Queen’s Gambit and GM Darwin Laylo split the point with IM Diego Flores in 34 moves of the English opening.
Impressive as it was, the win was not enough to catapult the Filipinos to a coveted top-20 finish in this biennial tournament, which attracted the world’s leading players from a record 154 countries.
Overall, the Filipinos finished in a tie for 29th to 48th places with 13 points on six wins, one draw and four losses at the end of the biggest and most prestigious chess competition, dubbed as the “Olympics of Chess.”
The Filipinos, however, finished in 46th place based on the Sonneborn-berger tiebreak system used by the Dresden organizing committee to determine the final rankings.
That’s two notches lower than what the Filipinos achieved during the 2006 Olympiad in Turin, Italy.
But not exactly bad for a youth-laden team which played minus Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre for the first time since the 1970 Siegen Olympiad in West Germany.
The team’s 1-2 punch, So and Gomez, are only 15 and 22, respectively.
“The boys deserved to be congratulated for their efforts. They did their best and competed with pride against the world’s best chess-playing countries,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Prospero “Butch” Pichay.
“The Desden Olympiad signals the start of a new era for Philippine chess, with the likes of So and Gomez now taking the place usually reserved for Torre and GM Rogelio Antonio Jr.,” explained Pichay, who left his busy schedule in the Philippines to join the team for a few days in Germany.
“It will also be remembered for producing the country’s 10th GM in Gomez,” added Pichay.
Nonplaying team captain GM Eugene Torre agreed with Pichay’s observation, saying the team performed well considering the strong opposition nowadays and the unexpected change in the scoring system.
“I’m satisfied with the team’s performance. Although the breaks did not go our way in the complicated pairing system, we did well enough to make the country proud,” said Torre, who made his first-ever apperance in the Olympiad in Germany in 1970.
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– GM Susan Polgar