A DAY after its celebrated 2-2 draw against world champion Magnus Carlsen-led Norway, the Philippines was given a rude reality check.
The Filipinos dropped a heart-breaking 1.5-2.5 decision to Italy despite another exceptional showing by Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre in the seventh round in the 32nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Torre provided the lone bright spot in the Filipinos’ sorry performance against the higher-rated Italians as he outduelled fellow GM Axel Rombaldoni in a board three encounter that attracted a lot of chess attention.
The 64-year-old Filipino champion, who is again playing like the Torre of old in his record 23rd Olympiad appearance, now has a team-best six points on five wins and two draws.
GM Julio Catalino Sadorra followed up his respectable draw against Carlsen in the sixth round with a similar effort against GM Daniele Vocaturo on top board.
Sadorra, the University of Dallas-Texas graduate, had one win and three draws.
But GMs John Paul Gomez and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. failed to keep up and lost to GMs Danyyil Dvirnyy and Sabino Brunello on boards two and four, respectively.
The 53rd-seed Filipinos crashed out of the Top 20 and into a tie for 26th to 49th places with nine points with still four rounds left.
The Philippine Sports Commission-supported Filipinos are four points behind solo leader United States, which has GM Wesley So in its line-up, and three points behind top seed Russia and five other countries.
In the eighth round, the Philippines gets another acid test against No. 14 Spain in what many experts said a “make-or-break match”.
The GM Francisco Vallejo Pons-led Spain is also coming off a 1.5-2.5 loss to Slovenia in the seventh round.
Team captain James Infiesto is fielding Sadorra, Torre, Barcenilla and IM Paulo Bersamina against the Spaniards.
In the women’s section, WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda pulled the rug from under IM Szidonia Lazarne Vajda for the Filipinas’ lone victory in their 1-3 setback to No. 8 Hungary.
Fronda, the pride of De La Salle University, has won her last three assignments to emerge as the team’s leading scorer with five points in seven rounds.
World Junior campaigner WIM Janelle Mae Frayna, Christy Lamiel Bernales and Catherine Perena-Secopito all lost their matches.
Frayna succumbed to GM Hoang Thanh Trang, Bernales yielded to WGM Ticia Gara and Secopito bowed to IM Anita Gara.
“Janelle (Frayna) missed the winning line that would have given us a 2-2 draw,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) executive director GM Jayson Gonzales.
With the loss, the Filipinas dropped to a tie for 20th to 49th places with nine points.
Up next is No. 62 Belgium, 3-1 winner over Egypt.
Overall, the United States and Russia now both lead in the men’s and women’s divisions.
US, led by FM Hikaru Nakamura and So, whipped India, 3.5-.5, and Russia, bannered by GMs Sergey Karjakin and Evgeny Tomashevsky, crushed Czech Republic, 3.5-.5, to set up a much-awaited eighth round showdown.
It will be GM Fabuano Caruana against Karjakin, Nakamura against GM Vladimir Kramnik, So against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and GM Ray Robson against GM Alexander Grischuk.
The Americans have 13 points while the Russians have 12.
In the women’s division, it will also be US-Russia in the top board encounter.
US edged Romania, 2.5-1.5, while Russia drew with Poland, 2-2, to join China, Azerbaijan and Netherlands in a five-way tie for the lead with 12 points.
E. Torre (Phi) vs. A. Rombaldoni (Italy)
1. d4 e6 2. Bf4 f5 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nf3 d6 5. h3 h6 6. Be2 g5 7. Bh2 Bg7 8. c4 b6 9. Nc3 Nbd7 10. O-O O-O 11. Rc1 Bb7 12. b4 a5 13. a3 axb4 14. axb4 Ne4 15. Nxe4 Bxe4 16. Nd2 Bc6 17. c5 Ba4 18. Nb3 bxc5 19. bxc5 d5 20. Qd3 c6 21. Bd6 Rf7 22. Bh5 Bb5 23. Bxf7+ Kxf7 24. Qc3 Bxf1 25. Rxf1 Ra4 26. Ra1 Qa8 27. Rxa4 Qxa4 28. Qa5 Qxb3 29. Qc7 Qb1+ 30. Kh2 Qe4 31. Qxd7+ Kg6 32. Qxc6 f4 33. Qe8+ Kh7 34. Qf7 fxe3 35. fxe3 1-0
S. Vajda (Hungary) vs. J. Fronda (Phi)
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Qb3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. g3 Nd7 8. Nbd2 Be7 9. Bg2 O-O 10. O-O g5 11. h3 h5 12. e4 g4 13. hxg4 hxg4 14. Ne5 Nxe5 15. dxe5 Qg5 16. Rfd1 d4 17. Nf1 Qxe5 18. Nh2 f5 19. Qd3 Bc5 20. Rd2 Bd7 21. Re2 Qg7 22. exf5 exf5 23. a3 f4 24. gxf4 Rxf4 25. b4 Bf5 26. Be4 Rf3 27. Bxf5 Rxd3 28. Bxd3 Bd6 29. Re6 Bxh2+ 30. Kxh2 Kf7 31. Rae1 Rh8+ 32. Kg2 Qg5 33. Bg6+ Kg7 34. Bc2 Rh6 35. Rxh6 Qxh6 36. Re7+ Kf6 37. Rxb7 Qh3+ 38. Kg1 g3 39. fxg3 Qxg3+ 40. Kf1 Qf3+ 41. Ke1 d3 42. Bd1 Qe3+ 43. Kf1 d2 44. Be2 Qg3 0-1