Last Saturday’s end of the second phase of Professional Chess Association of the Philippines saw Palawan’s Queen’s Gambit with two wins and 21 losses in the Southern Division. It has the lowest win-loss record among the 21 teams but those who have spent years literally stooped over a chess board know that an all-women’s team will find things rough against men who are denizens of online chess.

The hype after the Queen’s Gambit Netflix series may have faded but not the reputation of the Palawan team of being dangerous to any player. Top board Shania Mae Mendoza upset many-time national champ and grandmaster Joey Antonio of Iloilo. She literally held 2019 national champion Rogelio Barcenilla Jr of Laguna at the precipice of their blitz encounter before losing.

On Saturday, she defeated Rizal’s International Master Rolando Nolte, one of the helpers of the legendary Bobby Fischer in his brief comeback in the early 1990s.

Mendoza-Nolte, French Defense (by transposition), Blitz: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 c3 Nf6 4 d3 d5 5 e5 Nfd7 6 d4 Nc6 7 a3 a5 8 Bd3 Qb6 9 Bc2 Qc7 10 O-O b5 11 Bf4 Ba6 12 Re1 Be7 13 Nbd2 h6 14 Nf1 Rc8 15 Rc1 Nb6 16 Ng3 a4 17 h3 Nc4 18 Rb1 g6 19 Qc1 g5 (The previous move appears to be a mouse slip. Nolte will never make this move. The loss of time gives Mendoza tempo to create an attack) 20 Be3 Nxe3 21 Qxe3 Na5 22 Bd3 Qb6 23 Nh5 Nb3 24 Rbd1 cxd4 25 Nxd4 Bc5 26 Nf6+ Ke7 27 Bb1

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(Missing 27. Nf5 ch! and the game becomes equal as Black creates counterplay by attacking the d4 and occupying the c-file) Bxd4 28 cxd4 Rc4 29 Qf3 Nxd4 30 Qe3 Qc5 31 Nh5 Nf5 (After winning a pawn, Black should have aimed for simplification with 31… Nc2.)  32 Qf3 (White grabs the initiative as the f6 square is targeted).  Rf8 33 Bxf5 exf5 34 Qxf5 Qc6 35 Nf6 d4 36 Nh7 Rh8 37 e6 (This move ensures White’s victory as she wins a rook and the Black king will not have any shelter)

… fxe6 38 Qf6+ Kd7 39 Qxh8 Bb7 40 Nf6+ Kc7 41 Ne4 Kb6 42 Qe5 Qd5 43 Qxd5 Bxd5 44 Nf6 Kc5 45 Nxd5 Kxd5 46 Rd2 e5

47 f3 Rc5 48 Kf2 Kd6 49 Kg3 h5 50 h4 gxh4+ 51 Kxh4 Kc6 52 Re4 Kd5 53 Kxh5 Rc1 54 Kg6

Rc4 55 Kf5 b4 56 axb4 Kd6 57 Rxe5 Rxb4 58 Re4 Kd5 59 g4 resigns

With Mendoza’s victory, Mikee Suede’s sweep, Marife dela Torre’s win and Cecilia Cuizon’s upset of veteran National Master Elias Lao, Palawan could have beaten Rizal. Once more, Palawan fell short, 10-11, just as it did against Cavite. Cuizon, a former Olympiad member, shows her coolness versus Lao.

Lao-Cuizon, blitz, Pirc:  1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f3 Bg7 5 Be3 c6 6 Qd2 h5 7 O-O-O Qc7 8 Nge2

b5 9 h3 b4 10 Nb1 a5 11 Nf4 Ba6 (This move, as Pirc practitioners know, is not thematic. Much better is 11…e5) 12 e5 (This shakes Black’s position and threatens to open the e file) Nd5 13 Nxd5 (White hesitates. 13 e6 was better disrupting Black’s position even after she castles.) cxd5 14 f4 Nd7 15 Bxa6 Rxa6 16 g4 (Slow. 16 e6 created more pressure. Now Black has a chance to create counterplay with 16…Qc4 followed by …Rc6) Nb6 17 Qf2 (After Black’s last move, it was too late for e6 and later play gxh5) e6 (Black blocks any attack but with his next move White persists. He has better development and Black is still uncastled.) 18 f5 Nc4 19 fxg6 fxg6 20 Bg5 (White throws away his chance to create an attack. 20. exd6 is better. With her next move  Black goes on a decisive attack, combining pressure on the c-file and opening the Bishop’s diagonal. White has no salvation ) dxe5 21 Qe2 Rc6 22 Qd3 e4 23 Qb3 Qb6 24 Nd2 Bxd4 25 Nxc4 Rxc4 26 Kb1 Qc6 27 Rc1 a4 28 Qg3 Qc7 29 Bf4 Qg7 30 gxh5 Rxh5 31 Rcd1 Bxb2 32 Bc1 Bxc1 33 Qb8+ f7 34 Rxc1 a3 35 c3 Rxc3, resigns

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