San Juan-Laguna Part II in Div Finals of Wesley So Cup

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
San Juan-Laguna Part II in Div Finals of Wesley So Cup

MANILA, Philippines – With the score at 8.5-all and two boards left playing, the San Juan Predators’ Narciso Gumila held positional advantage over the Antipolo Cobras’ Sherwin Tiu in the homegrown board of the second set of their semifinals series.

Come the second set and with under four minutes to play, Gumila made a series of good moves that had Tiu take time with the time advantage shrinking. Gumila continued to push and secured a win to give San Juan 10.5-8.5 lead.

The Predators’ WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda was in the midst of her own tight match with Antipolo’s WCM Christy Lamiel Berna. Had Berna won, the match would have gone on to Armageddon. Fronda secured the crucial one-point from the draw that sent her team to the division finals, 11.5-8.5.

In the first set — although the finally tally didn’t reflect the intensity of the match — San Juan topped the Cobras, 13-8.

The resounding victory sent San Juan into the Northern Division finals against a familiar foe — the Laguna Heroes. 

When these two squads also met in the division finals of the All-Filipino Cup of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines, Laguna emerged triumphant and went all the way to win the inaugural league title. 

In this Wesley So Cup, San Juan bettered Laguna’s 30-4 All-Filipino Cup elimination round record (tied with Camarines and Iloilo) with one more win, 31-3, and defeated the All-Filipino champions twice. 

However, it’s now a whole new ballgame. 

To quote the Chicago Bulls’ Ron Harper who once said, “It doesn’t mean a thing without the ring” …. there’s the rub.

On the road to the division finals, San Juan knocked out the Cavite Spartans and the Antipolo Cobras in two matches each.

Laguna also advanced by winning both their quarterfinals and semi-finals series against Pasig and Manila; the latter via Armageddon in set #2, solidifying their nickname as the “Armageddon Kings since they had lost only once in five tries. 

The Heroes have been greatly bolstered by GM Kiril Shevchenko (32-5-1) to go with their two other GMs in Banjo Barcenilla and John Paul Gomez plus FM Austin Jacob Literatus and WIM Karen Jeane Enriquez.

San Juan has been backstopped by Spanish Grandmaster Viktor Moskalenko (43-8-11), who has nicely complemented GM Oliver Barbosa, Fronda, IM Ricky de Guzman, FM Narquinden Reyes and Narquingel Reyes. 

The Northern Division Finals take place this Wednesday, July 28.

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