Chessers drop close matches

The Philippines hopes to bounce back against lowly Guatemala in the penultimate round after suffering another heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Georgia in the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India Sunday.

International Master Paulo Bersamina lost with the white pieces in the last board as the 24th seed Georgia escaped with a 2.5-1.5 victory.

It was the Filipinos' third defeat in nine matches as they dropped to a share of 58th place in the standings.

Grandmaster Mark Paragua, playing black on the top board, was slightly ahead in position when he drew with GM Baadur Jobava via repetition in 23 moves of a Sicilian Defense Alapin Variation.
GM John Paul Gomez also halved the point with GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili in just 22 moves of a King's Indian Defense while GM Darwin Laylo settled for the same result with GM Luka Paichadze in 40 moves of a Petroff.

That left the Filipinos' fate in the hands of Bersamina who faced GM Levan Pantsulaia's Sicilian Defense.

The game proceeded with several inaccuracies from both sides, none worse than Bersamina's queen capture of the rook on the 17th move that led to Pantsulaia's winning the exchange — a queen for a rook and knight.

White's position further deteriorated as the Filipino hoisted the white flag after 35 moves.

With two rounds to go, the Filipinos need to win their last two assignments if they hope to duplicate their match points the last time the Olympiad was held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018.

Uzbekistan toppled Armenia, 3-1, to seize the lead with 16 points, a point ahead of Armenia and India 2 with the United States leading a big group with 14 points.

In women's play, the Filipinas also dropped a 2.5-1.5 heartbreaker to 12th seed Hungary.

WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda delivered the only win with white against WGM Ticia Gara on the second board.

Fronda essayed the Alapin variation against the Sicilian and traded queens early with Gara. She managed to create two queenside passed pawns, forcing the Hungarian to give up the exchange to remove one of the queening pawns.

In the end, Fronda trapped Gara's knight, leading to the Hungarian's resignation in 64 moves.

WGM Janelle Mae Frayna secured a draw with black on the top board with GM Hoang Thanh Trang in 54 moves of a Neo Grunfeld Defense.

Hungary won the last two boards.

IM Szidonia Lazarne Vajda outlasted WFM Shania Mae Mendoza in a bishop-against-knight endgame in 61 moves of a Queen's Pawn Opening.

WIM Zsoka Gaal, playing black, trounced WIM Kylen Joy Mordido after 39 moves of an English Opening.

The Filipinas dropped to joint 35th with 11 points on 5 wins and a draw against 3 losses.

They take on Southeast Asian rival Vietnam on Monday.

Poland forged a four-way tie for the lead after stunning top seed India, 2.5-1.5.

Poland has 15 points in the company of India, Kazakhstan and Georgia.

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