THE Philippines faces its biggest test yet in the 42nd World Chess Olympiad, taking on world champion Magnus Carlsen and No. 12 seed Norway in the sixth round late Thursday (Sept.8).
With no less than Asia's first GM Eugene Torre leading the way, the Filipinos have already exceeded expectations by making it to the Top 10 halfway through the 11-round competition dubbed as the ‘Olympics’of chess.
But the Norwegians pose a totally different, some say scary, challenge.
To GM Julio Catalino Sadorra belongs the unenviable task of taking on Carlsen in a top board showdown that will be closely followed by Filipino chess fans worldwide.
The US-based Sadorra is given the herculean task of carrying the Filipino flag since the untimely transfer of super GM Wesley So to the United States in late 2014.
GM John Paul Gomez will battle GM Jon Ludvig van Hammer, Torre will play GM Aryan Tari and GM Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. will tackle GM Frode Urkedal.
Torre, who is making a record 23rd Olympiad appearance from 1970 to 2016, is expectedly the team’s leading scorer while manning board three.
The 64-year-old Filipino 'Living Legend' has four wins and one draws to lead the 53rd-seeded Filipinos to eight match points on four wins against only one loss.
That’s good enough for a tie for seventh to 25th places, the same record of top seed Russia, defending champion China, host Azerbaijan, sixth-round rival Norway and 14 other countries.
But even Torre and the rest of the team members, as well as NCFP executive director GM Jayson Gonzales and team captain James Infiesto, admit the remaining six rounds would be crucial.
“It only gets tougher from here,” said Infiesto, the Davao City-based player-coach-organizer who was personally tasked to handle the team by NCFP president Prospero “Butch” Pichay.
Said Gonzales: “It’s going to be a difficult match but we will give it our best to get a win,”
In the women’s division, the Philippines battles Mexico.
Janelle Mae Frayna, the team's best performer, will continue her bid for the elusive WFM title when she goes up a gainst WIM Alejandra Guerrero Rodriguez at the top board.
Jan Jodilyn Fronda, Catherine Perena-Secopito and Shania Mae Mendoza complete the Filipina squad against the dangerous but lower-ranked Mexicans.
It will be Fronda against WIM Lilia Ivonne Fuentes Godoy, Secopito against WFM Miriam Parkhurst Casas andMendoza against WIM Ivette Ale Garcia Morales.