So, Bitoon take early lead in Battle of GMs

THE super grandmaster and his master took the initiative in the National Chess Championships: 4th Battle of the Grandmasters on Saturday, July 16, at the National Press Club.

GM Wesley So took the scalp of GM Joseph Sanchez in 35 moves of Sicilian Defense while his former mentor International Master Richard Bitoon downed IM Yves Ranola in just 24 moves of English Opening.

Sanchez was slightly ahead in the opening, but the 17-year-old three-time defending champion deftly maneuvered the black pieces to gain positional advantage in the middle game.

The loss spoiled an otherwise good day for Sanchez. He and fellow “balik-bayan” GM Rolando “Banjo” Barcenilla earlier received P50,000 each from National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) chairman/president Prospero “Butch” Pichay, Jr. as incentive for reaching the GM status.

Bitoon, on the other hand, outplayed Ranola in the opening en route to an easy victory. The pride of Medellin, Cebu is hoping to get his second GM norm.

The other opening round matches in the men’s division ended in fighting draws: GM Darwin Laylo against GM Mark Paragua in 35 moves of Sicilian Defense; GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr. against GM Eugene Torre in 31 moves of Kings Pawn Game; GM Roland Salvador against IM Oliver Barbosa; IM Rolando Nolte against IM Jan Emmanuel Garcia; and Barcenilla against GM John Paul Gomez in 31 moves of Sicilian Defense.

Meanwhile, all matches in the women’s division ended decisively.

Defending champion Woman FIDE Master Rulp Ylem Jose opened her account with a victory over Mira Mirano; WFM Cherry Ann Mejia downed Shania Mae Mendoza; Jedara Docena toppled Jenny Rose Palomo; WNM Janelle Mae Frayna beat Rowelyn Joy Acedo; WIM Catherine Perena got the better of WIM Beverly Mendoza; and Jan Jodilyn Fronda topped WFM Marie Antoinette San Diego.

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