Grandmaster Eugene Torre provided some sheen for the Philippine men’s team’s lackluster performance in the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, by snaring a bronze medal on board three.
The 64-year-old eked out a marathon win over International Master Moulthun Ly of Australia to finish unbeaten, as he scored 10 points out of the possible 11 on nine victories and two draws.
Torre emerged with the highest total of any participant in the 11-round biennial event, but settled for just a bronze, since tournament regulation gives the gold to the woodpusher who finishes with the highest performance rating.
Highest honors went to former Philippines team top board player GM Wesley So, who represented eventual champion United States, as he emerged with a performance rating of 2896, beating silver medal winner GM Zoltan Almasi of Hungary (2845) and Torre (2836).
Torre’s bronze, however, shone like gold, as the many-time Olympiad veteran took his first medal since snatching a silver in the 1974 edition in Nice, France, where he also became Asia’s first ever GM.
His mammoth effort couldn’t stop the Philippines from suffering a 1.5-2.5 loss to Australia that sent them skidding to 58th place overall with 12 match points. This was one of the worst finishes by the country in the meet.
GM Julio Catalino Sadorra, 30, split the point with GM David Smerdon on top board, but GMs John Paul Gomez and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. fell to GM Zhao Zong Yuan and IM Anton Smirnov on boards two and four.
Sadorra, who was unable to play in the third and fourth rounds after being confined in a hospital due to headaches, held his ground on top board and finished with five points in eight game,m including a shocking draw with reigning world champion GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the sixth round.
The women’s squad wound up with a better effort, as it landed 34th overall with 13 points, surpassing its 64th place performance in Tromso, Norway, two years ago.
The Filipinos, whose trip was bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission, however, could have made it to the top 10 at best and 18th at worst with a final round win, but ended up absorbing a 1-3 loss to 12th seed Lithuania.
Catherine Secopito delivered the lone win by stunning WIM Salomeja Zaksaite on board three, while Janelle Mae Frayna, Jan Jodilyn Fronda, and Shania Mae Mendoza fell to GM Viktorija Cmilyte, IM Deimante Daulyte and WFM Daiva Batyte on boards one, two and four, respectively.
But Frayna’s historic feat of becoming the first Filipina to ever obtain the Woman Grandmaster and men’s International Master titles in the same event, after scoring seven points in 11 games, made up for everything.
“We’re excited of the future, especially in women’s chess,” said GM Jayson Gonzales, the NCFP executive director and women’s captain.
The Filipinos are expected to arrive tonight, and although they will not be receiving the same hero’s welcome that Rio Olympics silver medallist Hidilyn Diaz got, they will get the appreciation not just from chess fans but also from the whole country in dire need of heroes.