EVEN on a bad day, the Philippines can take pride in having the old, reliable GM Eugene Torre.
Torre continued to play with the same youthful exuberance that the chess world first saw 46 years ago in Siegen, Germany as he outwitted GM Ivan Salgado Lopez in their eighth round encounter in the 42nd World Chess Olympiad.
Now playing in his record 23rd Olympiad since 1970, Torre struck with the lone victory in the Philippines’ 1.5-2.5 setback to No. 14 seed Spain before an adoring crowd at the elegant Baku Crystal Hall.
The 64-year-old Filipino champion, who rose to prominence by becoming Asia’s first grandmaster during the 1972 Nice Olympiad in Nice, France, is the lone unbeaten Filipino player with six wins and two draws.
His performance rating of 2771 on board three -- as compared to his ELO of 2447 -- is providing a ray of hope on the team’s fading campaign.
World junior campaigner IM Paulo Bersamina did his part by drawing with GM Jose Carlos Ibarra Jerez on fourth board, but United States-based GMs Julio Catalino Sadorra and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. stumbled and fell to GMs Francisco Vallejo Pons and David Anton Guijarro on first and third boards.
It was the second straight defeat by the 53rd-seeded Filipinos, who also absorbed a similar 1.5-2.5 loss to Italy the round before.
And with only three rounds left in this ‘Olympics’ of chess, the Filipinos are tied for 49th to 71st places with nine points on four wins, one draw and three losses.
Two years ago, the Filipinos finished 46th overall with 13 points on five wins, three draws and three losses in Tromso, Norway.
In Sunday’s ninth round, the Philippines plays No. 26 Argentina.
The Filipinas are much better, so much better.
A day after losing to No. 8 Hungary, the Filipinas vented their ire on lowly No. 62 Belgium and completed a 4-0 sweep.
WIMs Janelle Mae Frayna, Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Catherine Secopito and WFM Shania Mae Mendoza delivered the goods and went up to an eight-team tie for 13th place with 11 points.
Frayna humbled WFM Hanne Goossens, Fronda dimped Wiebke Barbier, Secopito smothered Sarah Dierckens and Mendoza demolished Astrid Barbier.
The lopsided triumph lined up the 46th-ranked Filipinas against No.15 Mongolia in the ninth round.
Fronda, the three-time UAAP MVP from La Salle, has won her last four games and six of eight to emerge as the team’s leading point producer.
Frayna and Secopito both have 5.5 points while Mendoza, a 19-year-old sensation playing in her first Olympiad, won three of four matches.
“We’re just proud of what the team is doing and we hope to sustain the form until the end,” said GM Jayson Gonzales, executive director of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and women’s team coach.
Overall, India edged England, 2.5-1.5, and Ukraine bested Georgia, 3-1, to forge a three-way tie for the top spot with 14 points.
Erstwhile solo leader United States settled for a 2-2 draw with Russia despite the victory of GM Wesley So over GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Russia is tied for fourth to sixth places with host Azerbaijan and Norway with 13 points.
E. Torre (Phi) vs. I. Salgado Lopez
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 g6 3. Bxf6 exf6 4. e3 Bg7 5. Ne2 f5 6. g3 d5 7. Bg2 c6 8. O-O h5 9. c4 dxc4 10. Na3 h4 11. Nxc4 hxg3 12. hxg3 Be6 13. Qd3 Bd5 14. Rfe1 Na6 15. Rac1 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Qd5+ 17. f3 O-O 18. Nf4 Qb5 19. a3 c5 20. d5 Qd7 21. d6 b5 22. Na5 Rab8 23. Rcd1 Rfd8 24. e4 fxe4 25. Qxe4 Rb6 26. Nd5 Rxd6 27. Ne7+ Kf8 28. Rxd6 Qxd6 29. Nb7 Qd2+ 30. Re2 Rd4 31. Nxg6+ Kg8 32. Qe8+ Kh7 33. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 34. Kh3 fxg6 35. Qxb5 Rxb2 36. Qxa6 c4 37. Nc5 c3 38. Qxa7 Re2 39. Qc7 c2 40. Nd3 1-0