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Unheralded Pinoy chesser shines

Underdog Roel Abelgas turned back fellow FIDE Master Fran Minh Thang of Vietnam yesterday to gatecrash into a six-way tie at fourth place after seven rounds of the Philippine Sports Commission-Puregold International Chess Challenge at the Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel.

The 36-year-old Abelgas, who eyeing his third and final norm to clinch the International Master title, leaned on a well-played opening variation to overcome Tran in 47 moves of a Gruenfeld.

The victory came after Abelgas, who is coaching several college squads including Perpetual Help in the NCAA, humbled IM Oliver Dimakiling in the longest match of the tournament – a 126-move marathon – in the sixth round the day before.

With two rounds left, Abelgas has improved to 4.5 points, good enough to share No. 4 alongside a phalanx of GMs in countryman Mark Paragua, No. 8 Kirill Stupak of Belarus, No. 4 Levan Pantsulaia of Georgia, No. 2 Anton Demchenko of Russia and No. 5 Mikheil Mchedlishvili of Georgia.

Demchenko fought top seed GM Wang Hao of China to a 42-move standoff of a Ruy Lopez; Stupak and Pantsulaia halved the point in 92 moves of a King’s Indian duel; and Paragua and Mchedlishvili agreed to a quick 20-move deadlock of a Trompovsky.

No. 6 GM Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus bested No. 3 GM Boris Savchenko of Russia in 37 moves of a Ruy Lopez to catch Wang on top with 5.5 points apiece in this event sponsored by the PSC, Burlington, Marc Adventures Mining Inc. and Puregold.

At solo third with five points was No. 7 GM Merab Gagunashvili, who waylaid WGM Lei Tingjei of China in 79 moves of an Old Indian.

IM Jan Emmanuel Garcia blasted Hamed Nouri in 27 moves of a Ruy Lopez game to barge into the top 10 with four points.

Garcia is currently tied at ninth with Lei, Savchenko and Indian IM Abhimanyu Puranik, who trounced WIM Janelle Mae Frayna in 36 moves of a Larsen Opening.