San Juan stuns Pasig, returns to PCAP finals vs Iloilo

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
San Juan stuns Pasig, returns to PCAP finals vs Iloilo

MANILA, Philippines – During last month’s chess awarding ceremony at the Pasig City Hall, when told that the Pasig King Pirates look to be a lock to win the San Miguel-All Filipino Cup of the Professional chess association of the Philippines, Kevin Arquero, the homegrown stud of the team postulated, “But the playoffs are entirely different game. We haven’t proven anything.”

In one night, what had the makings of a record-breaking conference laid in shambles. Tied for the most wins in the elimination round, the most points accumulated, and three players in the top four rankings… suddenly, it’s like the 16-0 New England Patriots, the 116-win Seattle Mariners, or the 18-0 San Beda Red Lions. 

To paraphrase NBA basketball great Ron Harper, “It ain’t a thing without a ring.”

Thus, the embarrassed San Juan Predators upended their erstwhile tormentor — the King Pirates — with a pair of stirring 11.5-9.5 wins in the northern division finals to return to the Grand Finals.

In their three previous elimination round matches, San Juan got clobbered on the homegrown boards.

This time around, they were ready. 

With the top two boards drawn between both squads, it was now incumbent on the rest of the squad members. 

On Board 3, Pasig’s Sherily Cua took blitz play in both games, but in rapid chess, San Juan’s Jan Jodilyn Fronda turned the tables on her for a massive 4-2 difference. 

That also allowed San Juan to offset their losses on the senior Board 4 where IM Cris Ramayrat held sway against the Predators’ Ricky de Guzman, 4.5-1.5.

And like their three previous matches, it came down to the homegrown players.

Narciso Gumila, who along with FM Arden Reyes were the acknowledged studs in the lower boards but had faltered previously against Pasig, stood tall. 

Gumila took three of the six points from his match-ups with Kevin Arquero, Jerome Villanueva and Eric Labog.

FM Arden Reyes took 3.5 of the six points against his opposite number while his brother, Narquingel, won five of the six points. 

The two set wins were stunning and at once deflating. 

For San Juan, it reaffirms their greatness as they set up a third consecutive Grand Finals match with southern division champions Iloilo Kisela Knights.

For Pasig, this is a devastating and debilitating defeat. Their offseason build-up where they acquired GM Mark Paragua from Camarines and Ramayrat from Manila had paid handsome dividends. However, as Arquero noted, the playoffs are a different animal. 

Over at the southern divisional finals, Iloilo held off a strong challenge by the Davao Chess Eagles in the first set, 12-9. That loss too was deflating because in the second set, the Kisela Knights ran roughshod on the Chess Eagles, 17-4.

And now, it’s the trilogy — San Juan versus Iloilo for the crown jewel in PCAP’s troika of silverware.

April 9, Araw ng Kagitingan, will be explosive. 


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