Sunday, February 17, 2008

FCPL-UAE successfully holds 2008 season opener
by Jobannie C. Tabada, 1 February 2008

In a weekend competition spiced up by bitter-sweet results and exciting photo-finishes, the 2008 FCPL Reef Mall Rapid Chess Tournament proved to be a successful opening salvo to another season of chess activities under the umbrella of the Filipino Chess Players League in UAE.

In a surprising finale to the seven-round, 15-minute battle of wits, Mohamad Nasser of India pulled the rug from under a bevy of heavily favoured rivals to capture the coveted championship, capitalising on the sub-par performance of the fancied Filipino bets and of a top-seeded international master from Egypt.

Nasser, who hails from the Indian state of Kerala, capped his lucky run with a final-round win over second-seed M. Sabri, taking advantage of a costly tactical error in the endgame to ram through the Syrian's Caro Kann Defence and up his overall tally to a near-perfect 6.5 points.

Wielding the white pieces, Nasser actually only needed a draw to secure the championship, but Sabri twice declined the Keralite's truce offer and relentlessly pushed for the initiative in an otherwise drawn position. The Syrian's over-extended play eventually led to a fatal blunder that left him on the wrong side of a rook-and-pawn endgame.

The loss dropped Sabri to fourth place with five points, half a point behind Filipino players Rey Joy Bartolay and Arnel Matildo, who both pulled off tough wins with the black pieces.

Bartolay, who was awarded the first runner-up prize by virtue of a superior tiebreak score, tentatively Mohammed Nasser (Photo by: Kahlil de Pio) employed the rarely used, hyper-active Albin Counter Gambit against Jose Matutino, which resulted to a cramped position in the middle game. However, a mass communication graduate from Puerto Princessa, managed to wriggle out of the tight middlegame squeeze to score the full point over Matutino.

Matildo, an Iligan Institute of Technology engineering alumnus who now works for a TV network in Dubai, put up a gallant defence in an otherwise lost position against Bahneh Tabada, holding out until their high-strung Sicilian Defence encounter developed into a classic down-the-wire, lightning-chess showdown. The eventual second runner-up took all his chances in the mad time scramble and was rewarded when Tabada breached the 15-minute time limit first with Matildo having exactly one second left on his clock.

Matutino was relegated to fifth place, while Tabada slid to ninth. Abdul Hameed El-Arousy, the top-seeded Egyptian IM, failed to bring his A-game to the seven-round competition, managing just seventh place after a hard-earned, final-round win over Filipino player Gardy Sorita. The Abu Dhabi-based Pinoy, seriously in time trouble, failed to convert an overwhelming queen advantage and eventually lost by time forfeit to El-Arousy.

The rest of the top 10 finishers were the Philippines' Al Valencia at sixth, India's N. Jyothlal at eighth and Filipino Rogelio Taopa at 10th.

Asian Chess Federation (ACF) Secretary General Hosham Ali Al Taher of the UAE was the guest of honour during the awards ceremony. The tournament was held at Reef Mall in Dubai, which has been a regular meeting place of Filipino chess enthusiasts in the UAE.

'The FCPL is pleased to have gathered a strong response from the chess-loving people of the UAE. We are also thankful to the chess officials of the UAE and the ACF for their continued support to our programs. This event ushers in a new season of year-round activities that aim to promote chess in the country,' said tournament director Joey Tiberio.

Tournament Photo

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