International Master Paulo Bersamina sustained his fine form on a manic Monday as he put himself in a strategic position going to the final two rounds of the 2017 Battle of Grandmasters National Chess Championships at the City Club of Alphaland Makati Place.
The sixth-ranked Bersamina, with an ELO rating of 2397, seized the solo leadership with 6.5 points following a split in their Round 8 tiff with the unfancied Jonathan Jota (2101) and a big 76-move victory over fellow IM Ronald Bancod (2276) behind a Ruy Lopez Opening in the ensuing round.
Bersamina earned a bye in Round 10 on Tuesday when he was supposed to meet dethroned champion Joey Antonio, who already withdrew after three rounds.
However, Bersamina is expected to have his hands full on Wednesday when he takes on second-running, GM Rogelio Barcenilla, in a possible winner-take-all showdown in the country’s main qualifiers for next year’s Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.
The second-ranked Barcenilla (2457) kept himself in strong contention as he racked up a pair of points against two youngsters and hiked his total point output to 5.5, tying erstwhile leaders GM John Paul Gomez and IM Haridas Pascua in the process.
Barcenilla defeated reigning national juniors champion John Marvin Miciano (2212) in Round 8 after 60 moves using an English Defense then followed it up with another solid 59-move win over untitled Michael Concio Jr. (1688) behind a Benko Gambit Opening.
Up next for Barcenilla is the top-seeded Gomez (2463), who settled for half-a-point against Bancod after 30 moves using a French Defense in Round 8 then earned a bye in the next round in the absence of Antonio.
Also still in the thick of the fight is Pascua, who split the point with GM Darwin Laylo (2433) after 31 moves using a Sicilian Defense in Round 8 then made up for it with a victory in Round 9 against IM Chito Garma using 62 moves of a Slav Defense.
In the distaff side, WIM Bernadette Galas (2111), WIM Marie Antoinette San Diego (2130) and WIM Catherine Secopito (2120) created a three-way tie for the lead with 6.0 points each, assuring an equally thrilling finish for the coveted crown.
Also remaining in contention is WIM Mikee Charlene Suede (2096) who has 5.0 points ahead of her Round 10 showdown with WFM Shania Mae Mendoza (2066) on Tuesday and a Round 11 encounter against WFM Cherry Ann Mejia the following day. (Jerome Lagunzad)
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