Bitoon needs miracle; 5 Pinoys near title

SINGAPORE – The final round of competition in the Singapore International Chess Festival promises to test the limits of nationalism and sportsmanship.

Grandmaster Richard Bitoon drew his matches on Friday against International Masters Nguyen Duc Hoa of Vietnam in the seventh and Lim Yee-Weng of Malaysia in the eighth to fall in a tie for second place in the 2nd ASEAN Men Campomanes Cup at the Jurong East Sports Complex.

Bitoon has 5.5 points after eight games, the same output of ninth round opponent GM Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia and fifth round tormentor IM Nguyen Van Huy of Vietnam. They trail solo leader GM Cao Sang of Vietnam by half point.

Too bad for the chase group, Cao would face compatriot Nguyen (Duc Hoa) in the final round, virtually brushing off a possible collapse by the leader.

Known allies or players from the same nation are usually paired in the early rounds of a round-robin tournament like this one to avoid fixed results. Not this time, obviously.

“Richard is doing well in a very tight field. Alam naman natin na malalakas ang Vietnamese players and kasama pa si Megaranto, who won the gold sa long game during the last SEA Games,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Prospero “Butch” Pichay, Jr. “Whatever happens sa final round, I’d like to commend him for his very good performance.”

The NCFP in collaboration with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) made the trip possible for the Philippine delegation here.

Meanwhile, the Filipinos could help each other out in some fronts.

Reigning national junior champion Mari Joseph Turqueza held GM Eldar Gasanov of Ukraine into a fighting draw to share the lead heading into the final round of the Singapore Open. Turqueza earlier scalped FIDE Master Andrean Susilodinata of Indonesia for his fourth straight win.

Gasanov and Susilodinata also have 6.0 points.

Turqueza would meet Robert Suelo, Jr. (5.5 points) in the last round while his fellow frontrunners would have to contend against battle-tested Filipinos – Gasanov against Alex Milagrosa (5.5 points) and Susilodinata against Arlan Cabe (5.5 points).

The country’s youth brigade slightly crumbled down the stretch, but maintained at least a share of the lead in four out of eight divisions in the 2nd Singapore International Youth Championships.

Vince Angelo Medina dispatched Tan Han Liang of Singapore after getting stalled by three straight draws to regain solo leadership in the Open Under-17; Michelle Yaon bowed to Woman FIDE Master Danielle Ho of Singapore, but remained a half point clear of compatriot Nikki Erica Yngayo in the Girls U-17; Paulo Bersamina bounced back from a seventh round debacle to beat Mohd Faizal Roslan in the eighth round and maintain a full point edge over compatriot Jerad Docena and Aloysius Chia of Singapore; and Dennis Gutierrez III also responded with a win over FM Pham Phu Vinh of Vietnam after losing to Daniel Choo of Singapore to regain a share of the lead with another Singaporean and sixth round victim Alfred Chua in the Open U-8.

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