By Lynde Salgados

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WITH its top players joggling its way on top-board battle, it’s clearly now a three-way logjam among powerhouse Russia, Iran and the Philippines going to the 9th and final round of the 2010 Grand Asian Chess Championships at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In fact, Iran–represented by the Azad University–is poised to deny the Novosibirsk State Technological University (NSTU) of Russia this year’s team title after scoring heavily in the seven and 8th rounds.

What even more stunning was Iran’s untitled player Amin Nasri (2253), the only conqueror of Cagayan de Oro native Lennon Hart Salgados of RP’s Far Eastern University, pulling the rugs from under Russia’s super Grandmaster Maletin Pavel (elo 2636) in the penultimate 8th round.

And Iran’s second fiddle to GM Bagheri Amir–the equally-spectacular International Master Darban Morteza zooming up to the top with 7.5 points to virtually clinch the individual men’s title.

IM Morteza–who earlier held GM Pavel to a draw–bested FEU’s quick-surging John Ranel Morazo in 7th and made short work of Bin Zahur Nahim in the 8th frame.

Playing white, Morteza needs just a draw against the unheralded Isuru Alahakoon in the last round to finish ahead of the fancied GMs in the 92-man field.

“Without any doubt, the Asian chessers are now getting stronger we’re now a real threat to the best in the world. We’re also very proud to say that while Nasri defeated GM Pavel, Nasri suffered his only loss at the hands of a Filipino and one of our FEU teammates,” said Kagay-anon Christian Arroyo, referring to Morazo who made a strong head-start before losing steam in the midst of intense struggle against the big guns.

Very certainly, however, the young Filipino bets are already assured of great exposure and fruitful experience in this week-long international event as practically all of them made it to the upper notch of the final round action in both the men and women’s open brackets.

Round 9 pairing saw IM Morteza (7.5 pts) battling Alahakoon (6 pts) on board one, followed by Nasri (6.5) against FM Dahumagaliev Yan (7 pts), FEU’s Kevin Mirano (6 pts) looking for an upset win versus GM Pavel (6 pts) as well as Antonio Chavez Jr. (6 pts)–the other Cagayan de Oro pride at FEU’s frontline–opposite GM Amir Bagheri (5.5 pts).

“Harakiri (go or bust) na kining last round. Suwerte among mga kauban kay nice exposure kaayo against GM opponents. Chavez is a wild player so, posible nga maka-upset pa kay GM Bagheri,” Arroyo further told this writer via email messaging.

Completing the top-8 pairings are the FEU’s Arroyo, Sheider Nebato, Morazo and Salgados battling fellow 5.5 pointers Xin Hao Looi, Bin Zahur Nahim, Mohd Musa Al-Ashaari and Alexandr Crivoi in a no-tomorrow contest.

Despite the 8th-round loss of Jedara Docena to Woman Grandmaster Nebulsina Vera of Russia on top-board duel, the Filipinas are also in good position to raise the bar in the final round.

This, after Lovelyn Medina drew with Woman International Master Kharashuta Ekaterina, also of Russia, on board 2, and FEU mate Rulp Lem Jose beating fellow Woman Fide Master Mahini Mona Salman of Iran; Ronna Reig Ner Señora holding Mona Saeidpour to a draw and Jenny Rose Palomo overpowering Mohd Yusoff Noor Alwani on board 8.

The reigning UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) chess champions FEU Tamaraws, accompanied by National Master Alexander Milagrosa in Malaysia’s capital city in the absence of head coach GM Jayson Gonzales, have been divided into two teams in the GACC event.

Each team, under the championship format, shall be composed of three men and two women or vice versa.
GACC International Inter-Varsity Chess Championship is a chess tournament organized by Tuanku Bahiyah Residential College (formerly known as Second Residential College), University of Malaya.

It is open to undergraduates from all over the globe and it is held in cooperation with the Rakan Muda under the auspices of Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF).

Formerly, this event was known as The Grand Asian Chess Challenge and is open only for Asian region.

After receiving positive response from the participants since it was first held, it has fast become an international event.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 21, 2010.