Chess is fickle. Flushed with success after trouncing Iriga 14-7 which put the Palawan Queen’s Gambit at 50 percent with three wins and three losses, the all-women team looked forward to the encounter with Southern leader Cordova in Wednesday’s Wesley So Cup Conference of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines with optimism.
After Cordova narrowly won 4-3 in blitz, Palawan struck in the rapids. Palawan had very good positions in three endgames but the ladies could not convert, giving Cordova an aggregate 14-7 victory for its seventh straight win.
Top board Shania Mae Mendoza had a strong position versus grandmaster Nitzan Steinberg. Steinberg, whose two pawns were threatened with capture, sacrificed a pawn to create play in the queenside. Mendoza did not take the pawn and tried another tack, which gave Steinberg a chance to turn the tables.
In the 40th move, Mendoza (White) should have played Bxb3 and after Steinberg piles on the rooks to pin the bishop, 42. a5 was the key. Hard to find on the board but the computer had several good lines. One of these was 42…Ba4 43. Nc1 Bxb3 44. a6! forcing the rook at b7 to move and allowing Mendoza to recapture, giving her a better endgame.
Padmini Rout, Palawan’s import from India who holds the men’s International Master title, got a big advantage in a rook and pawn endgame against veteran Merben Roque. The winner of the women’s Asian Continental championship in Makati, 2018, should have won. One of Roque’s rook defended his b-pawn, the other watched Rout’s b-pawn. Roque was reduced to waiting tactics. But the Indian lady could not convert.
Catherine Secopito, played the Exchange Variation against Allan Pason’s QGD. It is a line Secopito knows so well. Sacrificing her q-side pawns, Secopito got a big advantage as she marched her King to help her advanced d pawn while her Knight guarded Pason’s a and b pawns. Inexplicably, Secopito could not force promotion and slowly Pason grabbed the initiative. But it was Pason’s turn to blunder and truce was later called in 109 moves, surely the longest in the PCAP.
Palawan rode the pendulum of emotions in a day. But Tuesday night showed, despite the Cordova result, that the all-woman team is no longer a pushover.