MANILA, Philippines — There’s going to be a new champion in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) — its second overall.
After a grueling two-month competition in the Wesley So Cup, the second conference of PCAP, it all comes down to the San Juan Predators and the Iloilo Kisela Knights.
San Juan, for their part, reasserted mastery over the All-Filipino Cup champions Laguna Heroes when they went 3-0 against them in the northern division finals, 12-9 in the first set, and 13.5-7.5 in the second set.
Iloilo in the meantime, upended the top-seeded Cordova Dutchess Dagami Warriors in their southern division finals, 13-8 in the first set, and 15.5-5.5 in the second set.
The Grand Finals between San Juan and Iloilo will pit the two squads who figured in the battle for third place in that last All-Filipino Cup in which the latter won.
During the first set of the San Juan-Laguna finals, the Predators’ NM Narquinden Reyes secured a crucial draw against Laguna’s red-hot import, GM Kiril Shevchenko. San Juan’s import, GM Viktor Moskalenko defeated his Laguna counterpart, GM Banjo Barcenilla while Oliver Barbosa took the crucial one point against the Heroes’ GM John Paul Gomez. This spurred San Juan to lead, 5-2 in blitz.
Come rapid chess, WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda and IM Ricky de Guzman chalked up huge wins when Reyes and Moskalenko were upended by Shevchenko and Barcenilla. The bottom half of San Juan’s order all forged draws to finish 7-7. But San Juan took the set, 12-9.
In the second set, Laguna fell apart with only Shevchenko taking a point in blitz as they fell 5-5-1.5.
Needing to win big in rapid play, Fronda and de Guzman each got wins that offset their loss and draw in the top two boards. The homegrown board saw another draw, 7.5-all
San Juan emerged triumphant and looked to cap a remarkable conference where they earned the league’s all-time best record at 31-3.
Iloilo also had a closely fought first set with Cordova where they took blitz play, 5-2, and rapid play, 8-6, for a 13-8 win.
In the second set, with Israeli import Nitzan Steinberg unable to get going (he lost three of four matches), and Merben Roque stymied, Cordova fell apart in rapid play, 11-3, for a 15.5-5.5 beating.
It was a sorry loss for Cordova that took great strides in this second conference where they finished with their best showing thus far, 28-6.
The Grand Finals of the Wesley So Cup is slated August 4.
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