Leading ladies

September 29, 2018
Marie Antoinette and Shania Mae Mendoza
WIM Marie Antoinette San Diego of La Salle (left) and WIM Shania Mae Mendoza of Far Eastern University are the top performers so far for the Philippine women’s team in the Batumi Olympiad. Photos courtesy of GM Jayson Gonzales/NCFP

IN chess, a 2-2 result may not be enough reason to celebrate.

But achieving it against highly-rated England, the Philippines can surely do so.

Triumphs by 2018 National Women's champion WIM Shania Mae Mendoza and Bernadette Galas enabled the 43rd-seeded Filipinas to eke out an inspiring 2-2  draw  with  England in  the fifth round of the 43rd World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.

Mendoza, the 20-year-old Sports and Recreational Management student of Far Eastern University, shocked WFM Louise Head in 35 moves of a Slav Defense on board three, while Galas, a graduating psychology student of De La Salle University, toppled WIM Sue Maroroa in  43 moves of  the English opening on board four.

Up 2-0 and needing only a draw in the two higher boards to compete an upset won over the 25th-seeded English team, WGM Janelle Mae Frayna and WIM Catherine  Perena-Secopito both went down in defeats to IM Jovanka Houska and FM Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, respectively.

Frayna, who went 3/3 in the early rounds, failed to keep up and lost badly to Houska, a five-time England champion and noted chess writer-author.

Secopito was also badly beaten by Kalaiyalahan, the 17-year-old sensation ranked No. 1 in the 18-under.

Overall, the GM Jayson Gonzales-coached Filipinas remained in the thick of the fight with seven match points on three wins,  one draw and one loss.

That’s good for a share of 23rd to 32nd places at the halfway mark of the prestigious 11-round competition which attracted 1,665 players from 185 countries.

After a one-day break, the Filipinas resume their campaign when they meet another heavyweight No. 15 Spain.

While the women’s team kept its impressive showing,  the men's continued its disappointing run no thanks to a shock 2.5-2.5 setback to Mo. 102 seed Lebanon.

IM Haridas Pascua provided the lone victory  for the 54th-seeded Filipinos, downing Maroun Tomb on board three.

United  States-based GM Julio Catalino Sadorra blew several winning chances and settled for a draw with IM Fadi Eid on board one.

GM John Paul Gomez blundered a piece early and lost to FM Amro El Jawich on board two while FM Mari Joseph Turqueza failed to gandle the pressure and bowed to Mhadi Al Kaoury on board four.

The Filipinos' third straight setback pushed them all the way down to 101st place -- a rarity for a nation with a long and  rich history of chess that started during the days of the late FIDE president Florencio Campomanes up to the time of  Asia's first GM Eugene Torre and super GM Wesley So.    Supporting the 10-man Filipino delegation are   the Philippine  Sports Commission  (PSC), headed by Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, and National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), led by president Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay and secretary-general Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.