In the final two rounds of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) inter-division play, whatever momentum Palawan gained from its two wins and a near-win against Cavite vanished against Cagayan and Laguna. 

Against Cagayan, who are mostly home grown, Palawan suffered a 14-7 defeat. But facing Laguna, the ladies, especially top boards Shania Mae Mendoza and Catherine Perena-Secopito had good positions in blitz but were unable to convert due to lack of time.

Despite playing Black, Mendoza had an enviable position against national champ Rogelio Barcenilla Jr in blitz. Barcenilla was preparing to storm Mendoza’s position, when Mendoza sacrificed the exchange. The game became very sharp, which Mendoza likes, but fortune did not favor her. This game, one of the most exciting of the round, shows how dangerous Mendoza is to anyone. 

The top player in the two-round series was Marie Antoinette San Diego, who won  all four games. San Diego is thought of as a positional player but in the right position, she can wield the axe as sharp as many strong attacking players.

Rogelio Barcenilla Jr- Shania Mae Mendoza, Blitz. English: 1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Nge2 Nc6 7. d3 e5 8. h3 Nd7 9. g4 a5 10. O-O Nc5 11. f4 f5 12. exf5 gxf5 13. g5 Nd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Ne2 c6 16. Ng3 Qe8 17. Qf3 Qf7 18. Bd2 Bd7 19. h4 Rfe8 20. h5 h6 21. Bh3 Re7 22. Kh2 a4 23. Rg1 Kh8 24. Rg2 Rae8 25. Rag1 Re3 (As Barcenilla’s buildup was slow, Mendoza sacrifices the exchange for counter-attacking chances.) 26. Bxe3 Rxe3 27. Qf1 Nxd3 28. Re2 Rxe2+ (This is crucial.

28…Nxf4 was better. Of course 29. Qxf4 Re2 30. Ne2 Be5!, winning the Queen, is a blunder. Still Black has resources.) 29. Nxe2 Nxb2 30. gxh6 Bxh6 (30..Bf6, keeping the Bishop on the g7-a1 diagonal is preferred but with time winding down, choices are difficult) 31. Nxd4 Nxc4 32. Rg6 Bg7 33. Nf3 (Despite being two pawns down, White threatens Ng5) Ne3 (The engine recommends b5 or d5 and redeploying Queen to e7 or prepare for Be8 to attack the White rook) 34. Qe2 Ng4+ 35. Kg3 Bf6 35…Nf6, threatening Ne4 ch is a tougher defense but White has the initiative. Engines gave Black a very slight edge because she is two pawns up, but activity counts more) 36. Bxg4 (White mops it up) fxg4 37. Ng5 Bxg5 38. fxg5 b5 39. Qb2+ Kh7 40. Rh6+ Kg8 41. Rh8# (Though she lost, Mendoza can hold her head high after bringing the fight to Barcenilla)

San Diego extended her rule on third board for the PCAP elims with sharp play. In this game against Laguna’s top woman player, the manner how pressure is sustained is exemplary)

Marie Antoinette San Diego- Jean Karen Enriquez, Rapid, Benoni:1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Bf4 Nbd7 7. Qd2 O-O 8. Bh6 a6 9. a4 Ng4 10. Bxg7 Kxg7 11. h4 h5 12. Ng5 Rb8 13. f3 Ngf6 14. Be2 Ne5 15. O-O Bd7 16. Nd1 b5 17. axb5 axb5 18. Ne3 Qb6 19. f4 Neg4 20. Nxg4 Nxg4 21. Bxg4 hxg4 22. f5 f6 23. fxg6 c4+ 24. Kh2 fxg5 25. Qxg5 Rf6 26. h5 Rh8 27. c3 Rh6 28. Ra8 Qb7 29. Rg8+ Kxg8 30. Qxh6 g3+ 31. Kxg3 Rxf1 32. Qh7+ resigns