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.

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