“These were beautiful wins decided in the endgame,” said Torre in Filipino. “I hope this (streak) will continue.” Feeling refreshed after a long vacation in the United States, Torre is off to his strongest start in years as he took a half-point lead over top seed GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev of Kazakhstan, who drew with Filipino GM Darwin Laylo in the third round before beating GM Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia. Laylo, reigning titlist GM Li Chao of China, GM Mark Paragua and International Masters John Paul Gomez and Julio Catalino Sadorra are also hot in the chase for the $6,000 top prize with 3.0 points.
The 19-year-old Li settled for back-to-back draws with Gomez, the three-time national junior champion, and Singaporean GM Zhang Zhong, respectively. Laylo also extracted a draw against third-seeded Georgian GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili in the fourth round to keep abreast with Gomez, who also split the point with No. 4 seed GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami of Iran. Paragua, spearhead of the RP team to the inaugural World Mind Games in Beijing next month, whipped compatriot Deniel Causo in the fourth round to make up for his defeat to Zhou in the previous round. Asean Grand Prix overall winner Sadorra gained the most by hurdling teener Karl Victor Ochoa and Noel de la Cruz in the third and fourth rounds. Also with three points were Zhang, Ghaem Maghami, Zhou, Mchedlishvili, Li, Wen Yang of China and Weiming Goh of Singapore.
Stunned by Gomez in Round 2 and held to a draw by unheralded Chinese Yang Kaiqi in the next round, GM Wesley So recovered by trouncing Vietnamese Nguyen Van Huy in the fourth round. The 14-year-old So improved to 2.5 points, the same total posted by GMs Jayson Gonzales and Bong Villamayor and IM Richard Bitoon. Gonzales drew his matches with Causo and David Elorta, while Villamayor won over Rhoebel Legaspi and halved the point with Vietnamese GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son. Bitoon split the point with Vietnamese Truong Son and Georgian GM Konstantin Shanava. A total of $40,000 is at stake in the nine-round tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines headed by Prospero “Butch” Pichay. Prizes have been broken down to the 32nd places, according to NCFP executive director and tournament director Willie Abalos.
Casto “Toti” Abundo is the supervising arbiter of the ranking event sanctioned by the World Chess Federation