MANILA, Philippines – Either both the North and the South All-Star Teams are evenly matched or the former has mastery over the latter.
Whichever one believes, for the second time in the last two playdates, the first-ever Professional Chess Association of the Philippines All-Star Game last Sunday saw the results go down to the wire.
The Northern All-Stars squeaked past the South All-Stars, 3-2, in Armageddon and in the very last match that came down to one-fifth of a second.
With both squads deadlocked at two wins apiece with Grandmaster Rogelio Barcenilla Jr. and International Master Jan Emmanuel Garcia scoring for the North while GMs Mark Paragua and IM Joel Pimentel tacked on points for the South, it came down to the former’s GM Darwin Laylo and the latter’s National Master Gil Ruaya.
Both Laylo and Ruaya changed advantages with every move. However, Laylo boldly seized the win with a checkmate with 0.2 left on the clock.
The win gave the North and its head coach Dr. Alfred Paez the first-ever PCAP All-Star triumph.
It was Paez’ second consecutive finals triumph after the player guided the Laguna Heroes to a stirring victory in the finals of the recently concluded san Miguel All-Filipino Cup.
Camarines’ manager and coach Engineer Jojo Buenaventura absorbed his second straight setback to Paez but he remarked that more than ever, his team and his southern compatriots are determined to chart their own path to chess glory.
At first, it looked like the Northern Squad would coast to an easy triumph as they posted a 23-17 win in Game One.
The South came storming back to take Game 2, 23-19, to set up Armageddon.
It should be recalled that in the All-Filipino Cup Finals, the outcome had to be decided by the penalty shootout with Laguna’s Austin Jacob Literatus just easing out the Camarines Soaring Eagles’ Ellan Asuela.
Garcia, who competes for the north’s Caloocan LoadManna Knights, took All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honors as he won all five of his matches — two blitzes, two rapids and one Armageddon.
Once more choked up for words, Garcia could only say, “We got lucky.”
The second conference of PCAP, the import-laced tourney named the Wesley So Cup, will fire off on May 15.
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