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Torre bags Olympiad bronze medal that glitters like gold

  • Written by Ed Andaya
  • Published in Other Sports
  • Read: 557

IN the 42nd World Chess Olympiad which the entire  chess  nation would  rather forget, Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre was still the man to remember.

Torre provided  the lone bright spot in the Philippines’ forgettable 58th-place finish in  the  men’s competition which ended with the usual pomp and pageantry in beautiful  Baku, Azerbaijan.

The 64-year-old Torre, who played an unprecedented 23rd Olympiad from 1970 to 2016, struggled long and hard to subdue IM  Moulthun  Ly  of  Australia and clinch the Filipinos’ lone victory in a lackluster 1.5-2.5 setback to No. 45 Australia in  the 11th and final round.
That  was more than enough to  secure the coveted bronze medal on board three for Torre, who finished with 10 points on nine wins and two draws in the tough 11-round competition dubbed as  the ‘Olympics’ of chess.
Torre’s remarkable 10/11 record  and  performance rating of 2836 is  good for third  behind only former  teammate  GM Wesley So (2896) of the  United States and  GM  Zoltan Almasi (2845) of   Hungary.
The Filipino champion actually emerged with the highest total by any participant, but settled with the bronze  based on tournament  regulation  that gives the gold to the chesser with the highest  performance rating.
But for Torre, it’s a bronze medal that glitters like gold.
Torre’s victory and  GM Julio Catalino  Sadorra's draw with GM David  Smerdon, however, failed to lift the Filipinos over  the Australians.
GMs John Paul Gomez and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. fell to GM Zhao Zong Yuan and IM Anton Smirnov on boards two and four, respectively.
The loss left the Filipinos with  only 12 points for 58th place, one of the worst finishes by the country in the biennial meet.
Two years ago, the Filipinos finished  46th.
Sadorra, who turned 30 the day after the   tournament,  held   his ground on  top board and finished with five points in eight games.         
His performance included a fighting  draw  with reigning world champion GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the sixth round.
The women’s team did better.
Led  by  newly-minted WGM Janelle Mae Frayna, the Filipinas finished in 34th place with 13 points despite   absorbing 1-3 loss to No. 12 seed Lithuania
The Jayson Gonzales-captained  Filipinos  surpassed their  64th- place   performance  in Tromso, Norway two years ago.
Actually, the Filipinas could have made it to the top 10 at best and 18th at worst with a final round win over the Lithuanians.
But only WIM Catherine Perena-Secopito survived  the  final-day storm  when she defeated WIM Salomeja Zaksaite  on board three.
Frayna, Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Shania Mae Mendoza gell to GM Viktorija Cmilyte, IM Deimante Daulyte and WFM Daiva Batyte on boards one, two and four, respectively.
Still, there’s hope for women’s chess.
Frayna’s historic feats of becoming the first Filipina to ever obtain the WGM and men's IM titles in the same event after scoring seven points in 11 games are enough reasons for celebration.
“We’re excited  of  the future, especially in women’s chess,” said Gonzales, the NCFP executive director and one of three officials in  the  team.
Torre,  Frayna and the rest of the 10-man  team are expected to arrive in  the country tonight.
A hero’s  welcome in Far Eastern University is  already waiting for  Frayna,  a  Psychology student and.cum  laude  candidate.   
Overall, the United States and China  shared the  limelight by winning the titles in the men’s and women’s divisions.
Led  by GMs Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So,  the United States edged Canada, 2.5-1.5, to capture the title with an 11-round  total of 20 points on nine wins and two draws.
Ukraine, bannered by GM Pavel Eljanov,  whipped Slovenia, 3.5-.5, to forge a two-way tie for the top spot with the US.
But the Americans,who have not won the title since 1976, edged the Ukrainians by the slimmest of margins in the tiebreaks.
Top seed Russia, led by former champion Vladimir Kramnik, whipped Italy, 4-1, to finish in solo third with 18 points.
India finished  fourth, followed by  record  performances by Norway, fifth;Turkey,sixth;  Poland, seventh; France, eighth; England ninth; and Peru, 10th.
Aside from the US,  Greece wound up as the only other undefeated team in the tournament in 18th place.
China defeated Russia, 2.5-1.5,on victories by Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi over Valentina Gunina and  Aleksandra Goryachkina to clinch the title with 20 points.
Poland routed Hungary, 3.5-.5, and Ukraine whipped Bulgaria, 3-1, to share second and third places with 17 points.
Poland  edged Ukraine on tiebreak.
Russia and India finished fourth and  fifth, respectively.
Thanks to their excellent performance   in both sections, Ukraine won the combined Gaprindashvili Cup.
In the special rating categories that  reward  lower-rated teams that overperformed, there were medals for India, Iran, the third team of Azerbaijan,  Sudan and Chinese Taipei, as well as for Russia, Belarus,  Malaysia, Syria and  Indonesia.
In all,  a  total   28 international title norms were scored in the event.