Iloilo Kisela Knights: A gamble pays off

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
Iloilo Kisela Knights: A gamble pays off

MANILA, Philippines – For the Iloilo Kisela Knights, they didn’t mind taking licks and nicks here and there. You could say that they were picking their sports and battles with the eyes on the bigger prize.

Two days away from the Grand Finals of the Wesley So Cup, Leo Sotaridona, team manager of the Kisela Knights, spoke of the team’s change in approach.

“It feels great to deliver a win after losing twice to both teams in the elimination round,” Sotaridona stressed following their win in the division semi-finals against Camarines and the division finals versus Cordova.

“For our top boards to deliver a win or at least a draw against the import of the opposing team (Cordova’s Israeli Grandmaster Nitzan Steinberg who only lost six matches in 52 games) is key,” the team manager pointed out. “During the last match (the southern division finals), our top board totally demolished their import opponent with a 5-1 score.”

The Kisela Knights’ Karl Viktor Ochoa and GM Joey Antonio took turns in playing him in both blitz and rapid chess keeping the Israeli guessing. 

Aside from Ochoa and Antonio, Iloilo’s GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan took four of the six available points from his match-ups. 

The homegrown players also won seven matches and drew on while losing only three games.

Added Sotaridona, “These factors delivered an overwhelming performance for the team with a 13-8 and 15.5-5.5 score. Having those scores in the division final is very difficult to get given we’re are playing the number one team in our division.”

“The whole team was preparing for Camarines and Cordova several weeks before the play-offs. Roughly towards the remaining third of the elimination round, we already decided that team standing is no longer a priority.”

Iloilo finished third in the south with a 27-7 record heading into the playoffs. 

With that mindset about not being overly concerned about their standing but a willingness to try new things that would help them in the stretch towards the finals, Iloilo trudged forward.

Summed up Iloilo’s team manager, “We used the matches as an opportunity to practice and explore some lines without being afraid of the consequences. There were other last minute adjustments in the games against Camarines that proved to be beneficial to the team.”

And now, they are in the Grand Finals of the Wesley So Cup against the San Juan Predators this coming August 4.

You can be sure that Iloilo is prepared for this too.

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