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Philippine women's team comes up short vs Hungary in Chess Olympiad

Joey Villar - Philstar.com
Philippine women's team comes up short vs Hungary in Chess Olympiad
Chess stock.
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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine women’s team came close to stunning heavily favored Hungary and barging into the top 10 but blew its golden chances with critical mistakes in the end, resulting to a heartbreaking 2.5-1.5 defeat in the eighth round Sunday night that sent crashing out from the top 30 of the 44th World Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.

With the match knotted at one apiece following a win by Jan Jodilyn Fronda on board two and Kylen Joy Mordido’s loss on board four, Janelle Mae Frayna was on her way to beating an old rival in Hoang Thanh Trang with what appeared to have been a winning position and Shania Mae Mendoza clawed her way from a losing game and a pawn down by sending it to what was a clear drawn game with Zsoka Gaal on board four.

A win by Frayna and a draw by Mendoza would have sealed the Filipinas a stunning victory against the same Hungarian squad that beat them in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016 and a place in the top 10 after nine rounds of this 11-round biennial event.

But in a snap of a finger, Frayna missed the winning line against the same player who eliminated her in last year’s World Cup in Sochi, Russia and drew their game while Mendoza completely blundered away her drawing opportunities to concede a defeat.

That sent the country, which was being backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, stumbling down to a share of 31st place with 16 others with 11 match points instead.

But they would have a chance to redeem themselves as they battle Southeast Asian powerhouse Vietnam in the 10th and penultimate round at press time for a chance at a top 20 finish that would eclipse their forgettable 67th-place effort in the last over-the-board edition of this biennial event in Batumi, Georgia four years ago.

“It was a heartbreaking loss because Janelle was winning and Shania should have drawn. We could have beaten the strong Hungarians,” said national women’s team coach GM Jayson Gonzales.

The men’s, for their part, saw IM Paulo Bersamina losing to GM Levan Pantsulaia on board four while GMs Mark Paragua, John Paul Gomez and Darwin Laylo all carving out fighting draws on the first three boards.

It sent the Filipinos to a 24-country tie at 58th spot with 10 points but they could move up from there if they could beat the lower-ranked Guatemalans in the 10th and penultimate round at press time.

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