Filipino para chessers paced three divisions in both individual and team standings Wednesday, inching closer in delivering the country another potential golden windfall in the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games chess tournament at the Hangzhou Qi-Yuan Chess Hall here.
FIDE Master Sander Severino, Atty. Cheyzer Crystal Mendoza and Menandro Redor showed the way after the fifth round of the standard event in the individual contests of the men’s and women’s PI (Physically Impaired) and B1-B2 (Blind) categories, respectively, with two rounds remaining.
A quadruple gold medalist in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Para Games, Severino beat compatriot Henry Roger Lopez, both sharing identical 3.5 points each, with the former on top due to the winner-over-the-other rule, in the stint backed by the Philippine Sports Commission.
As the top two chessers for the country in the category, they combined for seven points in pacing the division and were ahead of Indonesian squad of Tirto and Kutwal Appaso Shashikant by a half-point, according to national para chess coach James Infiesto.
Mendoza, who passed the bar last year but took time off to focus on her chess career, lost to Indonesia’s Nasip Farta Simanja but maintained her top spot with 3.5 points while teammate beat Cheryl Angot evened matters up in defeating Indon Rachel Aby Sharon to boost her score to three points.
Mendoza and Angot likewise kept the Philippines on top with six points, a half-point ahead of the Indon side of Sharon and Yuni, Infiesto said.
Menandro Ridor drew with Iranian Khosgani Amir Rabbi to raise his output to a pacesetting 3.5 points while Armand Subaste battled Indonesia’s Gangooli Kishan to a fighting draw and raised his score to three points.
Infiesto said that Ridor and Subaste, who had 6.5 points, were a full point ahead of field in the men’s B1-B2 division.
“The sixth round will be critical for us but so far we are in a promising position in all three categories,” Infiesto said, adding that the outcome will be known after the seventh and final round Thursday morning.
Making a surprise visit to the PH para chess team members before they saw action in the sixth round was Philippine Paralympic Committee president Mike Barredo, who gave them encouraging words.
“While I don’t want to pressure you given what you accomplished in the 2018 Asian Para Games, my prayer is that you continue do your best and display the same mental fortitude five years ago in Indonesia,” said Barredo.
The PH para chessers were the sensations of the national contingent in the Indonesian capital in 2018 with five gold, two silvers and six bronze medals, with Severino emerging as the most bemedalled athlete with four mints.
The promising outlook in chess was in contrast to the disappointing showing of the rest of the other athletes on Wednesday.
This was underscored by the disqualification of lone one-armed taekwondo jin Allain Ganapin, who was disqualified in the men’s -80kg quarterfinals for hitting Norlan Dombayev of Kazakhstan twice, costing him a chance of playing for a medal.
Also bowing superior opposition were wheelchair throwers Cendy Asusano and Jesebel Tordecilla, who finished fourth and seventh in the women’s discus throw F54-F55 with heaves of 13.87 and 13.24, respectively.
In cycling, Nikko Peralta placed 10th out of 16 entries in the men’s C4-C5 4,000-meter men’s individual pursuit.