GUANGZHOU — Even the country’s top chesser GM Wesley So could not get past the ‘Great Wall’ of China.

So settled for a draw with GM Wang Yue in 35 moves of the Petroff’s defense and the Philippines blew its golden opportunity of securing the elusive chess team medal with a crushing .5-3.5 setback to host China at the conclusion of the 16th Asian Games chess competitions here Friday.

Handling the advantageous white pieces, the 17-year-old Filipino champion threw caution to the wind in a bold and determined move to squeeze out a win against his higher-rated Chinese opponent (ELO 2756), but had to settle for a draw after repetition of moves.

So had a queen, rook, bishop and four pawns against Wang’s queen, rook, knight and six pawns when the game was agreed drawn. But the Filipino teener had a slight initiative with his more active pieces when the Chinese decided to offer a draw.

The beginning of the end came when GM Darwin Laylo bowed to GM Zhou Jianchao in 48 moves of the King’s Indian, leaving the herculean task of saving the day to GMs John Paul Gomez and Eugene Torre.

But facing do-or-die situations, Gomez and Torre also fell like pieces of dominoes against their higher-rated Chinese rivals.

Gomez succumbed to GM Wang Hao in 54 moves of the Slav defense and Torre fell to GM Ni Hua in 55 moves of the King’s Knight opening.

Despite the setback, the Filipino chessers will bring home a silver medal, enough to provide relief to the embattled national delegation.

Chess analysts said the silver medal finish was already phenomenal considering the stature of China and India as two of the world’s top chess-playing nations.

The setbacks by the three Filipino chessers also came after GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr., the hero in the Filipinos’ 2.5-1.5 upset win over India in their semifinal encounter Thursday, was scratched at the last minute. He hurriedly flew back home due to “unbearable pain caused by an inflammation on the back of his right ear.”

Antonio was diagnosed to be suffering from mastoiditis, an infection on a portion of the temporal bone of the skull behind the ear.

“Masakit na talaga kaya nag-paalam na ako (to team captain Willie Abalos). Kailangan na daw kaagad operahin,” said Antonio, who was examined by Dr. Alejandro Pineda, the delegation’s medical chief.

“Due to severe pain on his right ear, he is not fit to play,” Dr. Pineda was quoted as saying. – RCJ, GMANews.TV