PHILIPPINES STRIKES GOLD IN 27th SUMMER UNIVERSIADE!
By Winchell Campos
Tue, 16 Jul 2013
THE Philippines' Wesley So struck gold by winning the chess title by triple tiebreak against the best students of the world in the 27th edition of the Universiade in Kazan, Russia Monday.
So finished with 6.5 points out of nine games and topped the event on tiebreak along with eight others in a hotly-contested event that was broken by a sudden change in rules--the Armageddon playoff.
How worthy, heavy and significant is the gold medal finish accomplished by So? For Russians, Europeans and practically every country batting for the "most brilliant mind" sub-title, the Philippines' So had to beat GM Zaven Andrasian of Armenia by a deciding extra game and won with flourish!
So tied with Andrasian and GM Li Chao of China in the first tiebreak but emerged with a higher Buccholz and performance score. Outright, he could have copped the gold medal and claim the first-ever gold for the Philippines.
However, Russian officials came up with a new rule (http://kazan2013.ru/assets/regulations_en-747b4432fad33e0d21fb5f826ebdd3e1.pdf) to resolve the tie--the Armageddon--which would give time odds to whoever won the toss. The "strange" new rule puzzled So's supporters but the Filipino gallantly fought on. Andrasian chose the white pieces but So beat him soundly to win the most coveted title.
The first edition of the Universiade started in 1959 in Turin, Italy. This year's edition has 27 sports disciplines from the track to the swimming pool and to the field and the hard courts.
The lone gold put the Philippines in the medal standings at 40th spot alongside the United Kingdom, Austria and Belgium with one gold apiece, among others. Russia lorded it over with a total of 126 gold medals.
So, who is the top player of the Webster University chess team in the US, was tied with five others prior to the last round. With a little stroke of luck, all the other games in the top three boards finished in similar hard-fought draws as his Sicilian game with Andrasian in the ninth round.
Second seed Evgeny Alekseev of Russia (Elo 2714) drew with GM Ma Qun of China, while defending champion GM Li also halved the point with GM Maxim Matlakov of Russia.
Other 5.5 pointers caught up and shared first place with victories in the lower boards. GM Zhou Jianchiao of China, GM Tomczak Jacek of Poland and GM Sanan Sjugirov of Russia all finished with 6.5 points.
So finished with four wins and five draws in the event which attracted a total of 24 grandmasters and a bevy of the world's top chess players even as he prepares for the bigger stage, the World Cup, taking place in the next three weeks.
The who's-who of world chess takes aim at the ultimate prize, with So and fellow Filipinos GM Mark Paragua and Oliver Barbosa vying in stiff competition.