So, Topalov split points; RP out in the top 20 in Olympiad
KHANTY-Mansiysk, Russia – GM Wesley So put up a brave stand and drew with former world champion GM Veselin Topalov but the Philippines dropped another close 1.5-2.5 decision to highly-rated Bulgaria in the eighth round of the 39th World Chess Olympiad.
So, now one of the world’s top junior players with ELO of 2668, defended with his usual calm precision against the white-playing Topalov and claimed a moral victory with the draw achieved from the black side of the board after 52 moves of the Gruenfeld.
Experts agreed that Topalov’s chances in the endgame are slightly better, but that So managed to equalize with some adept rook and bishop moves.
In the final position, Topalov and So had a rook and three pawns each.
The Filipino champion from Bacoor, Cavite, who is playing in only his third Olympiad since 2006 Turin and 2008 Dresden, also placed the Bulgarian ’s king on f6 under check twice already when the game was agreed drawn.
“It’s a draw. Topalov has a slight edge, although it’s very difficult to exploit,” commented veteran chess journalist Ignacio Dee, who practically exhausted his mind analyzing the games shown live on the internet.
The Bulgarian champion, who held the world title in 2005, managed to seize the initiative after 22. Rc7 but missed the right continuation and allowed the 16-year-old Filipino to initiate massive exchanges that included the queens on the 33rd move and bring about a position that offered little prospects.
But even the hard-earned draw by So and the victory by Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre over IM Kiprian Berbatov on board four failed to save the day for the 37th–seeded Filipinos, who plummeted into a tie for 42nd to 66th places with only nine points on four wins, one draw and three losses.
Torre, who is making a record 20th Olympiad appearance in 40 years, came away with the much-needed victory over the lower-rated Berbatov (ELO 2461) on board four.
The pair of heart-breaking losses by GMs John Paul Gomez and Darwin Laylo on boards two and three did not help the Filipinos’ cause, however.
Gomez, who plays board two for the country in the absence of GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr,, went down to GM Ivan Cheparinov (ELO 2661) in only 29 moves of the English , while Laylo yielded to GM Aleksander Delchev (ELO 2623).
It was double black eye for the Philippines, which also lost in the women’s division.
The 52 nd-seeded Filipinas were wiped out by Southeast Asian Games rival Vietnam, losing all four matches in their worst showing in the tough 11-round tournament so far.