Saturday, August 1, 2009

Two Filipino GMs conquer Vietnam chess zonal

AFTER the smoke of battle has cleared in the Vietnam Zone 3.3 chess championship held in Ho Chi Minh City from 23rd to 29th July, two Filipinos got the two qualifying berths to the World Chess Cup.

Grandmaster Darwin Laylo (FIDE rated 2494), who already qualified with a round to spare, wound up his impressive performance with yet another win in the final round and emerged as Zone 3.3 champion, one and a half points ahead of the other qualifier—compatriot grandmaster Wesley So (2646).

Needing only a draw to secure first place, Laylo conquered GM Zhang Zhong (2613) in the last round to register eight points (7 wins-2 draws-0 losses) in the 9-round Swiss System event. Laylo’s win enabled So to take the undisputed second spot following a draw with Vietnamese GM Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen (2592). This is Laylo’s second trip to the World Chess Cup.

Meanwhile, GM Mark Paragua (2487) also won over Vietnamese CM Hoang Nam Nguyen (2320) to grab the share of third to seventh spots, with six points.

IMs Richard Bitoon (2495) and Rolando Nolte (2458) both scored 5.5points for a of share 16th to 24th positions. Bitoon registered 4 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses, while Nolte had a very solid performance of 1 win, 8 draws (!) and without a loss.

Philippine chess living legend GM Eugenio Torre (2560) regrettably ended up last among the members of the Philippine contingent, following two losses against lower rated rivals–Singaporean FM Timothy Chan Wei-Xuan (2344) in round 6 and Vietnamese untitled Le Quang Long (2279) in round 9. He scored four and a half points (2 wins-5 draws-2 losses) for a share of 25th-32nd places.

Both Laylo and So will join countryman GM Rogelio Antonio Jr in the World Cup. Antonio had qualified earlier through his 6th place finish in the Asian Individual Chess Championships held in Subic, Philippines in May 2009.

The best ever performance of a Filipino woodpusher in the world championship was accomplished by Asia’s First GM Eugene Torre who made it to the candidates matches in 1983 but lost to Hungarian Super GM Zoltan Ribli in the quarterfinal. Torre also made it to the main draw of the World Chess Championships after topping the 1982 Interzonal in Toluca, Mexico.

In last year’s World Chess Cup, Laylo succumbed to French champion and super-GM Etienne Bacrot in the second round.

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