RP chessers finish strong in World Youth
() - November 4, 2003 - 12:00am
HALKIDIKI, Greece–The Philippines held its ground against strong opposition, winning four and drawing two of 10 games in the 11th and final round in the 2003 World Youth Chess Championships at the Athos Palace and Pallini Beach Hotels here Sunday.

NM Oliver Barbosa, Wesley So, Arianne Aguja and Jan Jodilyn Fronda carried the fight for the Filipinos on the final day of competition, posting inspiring victories over their higher-rated opponents in the 11-round tournament considered as the biggest and most prestigious sports event in Greece before the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Barbosa outduelled 28th seed FM Victor Alcaraz Jimenez (ELO 2363) of Spain in 64 moves of the Sicilian in the boys 18 years old and under category, while So checkmated Ilas Kazantidis (ELO 1460) of Greece in only 23 moves of a King’s Indian Defense in the boys 10 and under to emerge as the Filipinos’ leading scorers with six wins, two draws and three losses.

Overall, Barbosa finished in a tie for eighth to 21st places with seven points, three full points behind eventual champion and top seed GM Shakhriyaz Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan.

"Mabuti nakabawi sa
last four rounds. Masaya na din ako dahil na-improve ko yung performance ko sa World Youth sa Spain two years ago", said Barbosa, who at age 11 became the country’s youngest NM during the Far East Bank Open in 1998.

The 17-year-old pride of Taytay, Rizal, who also steered Letran College to three NCAA titles from 1999 to 2001, played almost flawlessly with the white pieces and forced his higher-rated Spanish rival into submission with his precise handling of the middle game.

Barbosa seized control of the game with 18. Nf5, giving him positional advantage and a strong pawn structure that proved difficult for Jimenez to break. An exchange of queens on the 23rd move, followed by a bishop swap on the 40th consolidated Barbosa’s advantage.

By 45. Rxh7, the Filipino succeeded in gobbling another black pawn and forced Jimenez to give up a rook for a bishop in a futile attempt to prevent the inevitable.

So, who is best remembered for winning both the Shell National Kiddies and the Manila Youth Games early this year, pounced on his opponent’s faulty handling of the opening and came up with a neat queen and rook attack that culminated with an inspiring mate.

The 10-year-old student of Jesus Good Shepherd School (Cavite) finished with six wins, two draws and three losses for a share of 15th to 27th places in the 132-player field.

Karl Victor Ochoa settled for a draw with Bakri Anas Nazreen of Malaysia in 45 moves of the Sicilian to join Barbosa and So with seven points in the boys 12 and under division.

The 12-year-old pride of Calumpit, Bulacan had five wins, four draws and only two losses for seven points, half a point better than in his initial appearance in this prestigious tournament held in Oropesa del Mar, Spain two years ago. He wound up in a tie for 14th to 23rd places.

The day’s only other winners for the country were Aguja, who crushed Emily Alfred of Ireland in 41 moves of the London system in the girls 18 and under and Fronda, who demolished Korlan Rysbayeva of Kazakhstan in 61 moves of the King’s Pawn in the girls 10 and under.

The nine-year old Fronda, whose campaign is also being supported by Manila Sports Council, BPI Foundation and Unilab-Nutroplex, closed out with the best record among the Filipinas with 6.5 points on five wins, three draws and three losses and a share of 20th to 26th places.

Aguja, who took up the cudgels for the country in the absence of national 18 and under titlist Ezra Alvarez, had 4.5 points on three wins, three draws and five losses.

The rest of the Filipino campaigners had mixed results on the final day.

Cheyzer Crystal Mendoza halved the point with Wan Khye Theng of Malaysia in 50 moves of the Catalan to finish with six points (four wins, four draws and three losses) and a share of 25th to 40th places in the girls 12 and under.

Julius Joseph de Ramos overlooked a winning move and lost to Jan Priborsky (ELO 2220) of Czech Republic in 40 moves of the French to remain with only 5.5 points on five wins, one draw and five losses in the boys 16 and under. The Malate-based campaigner was tied for 47th to 63rd places out of 108 participants.

Nelson Mariano III succumbed to Hrant Melkumyan (ELO 2343) of Armenia in 66 moves of the Sicilian Paulsen to settle for a share of 36th to 58th places with six points on 4-4-3 win-draw-loss record in the boys 14 and under.

Sherily Cua got waylaid by WFM Zehra Topel of Turkey in 29 moves of another London system to remain with five points on four wins, two draws and five losses in the girls 16 and under and Cindy Atayde fell to Asli Bayrak (ELO 1919) of Turkey to stay with 5.5 points on four wins, three draws and four losses in the girls 14 and under.

Cua finished in a tie for 41st to 51st places out of 69 players, while Atayde wound up in 40th to 55 th places out of 91 entries.

GM Eugene Torre expressed satisfaction with the Filipinos’ respectable showing considering that most of them are first-timers in international competitions.

Overall, the Filipinos chalked up 46 wins, 28 draws and 36 losses in five different age categories.

The Filipinos, whose campaign was fully supported by the First Gentleman Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission, will fly back home on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

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