Collage 2020 10 10 20 32 35 1024x683 - PH chessers cruise to early lead in Asian Nations Online Cup
GM Banjo Barcenilla, left, and IM Paulo Bersamina

Grandmaster Banjo Barcenilla and International Master Paulo Bersamina won their first three round games as the Philippines blasted Palestine, Syria and Thailand and zoomed to the solo lead in the Asian Nations Online Chess Cup 2020 Saturday.

Barcenilla and Bersamina turned back Tinnakrit Arununtapanich and Tupfah Khumnorkaew on the second and third boards as the Filipinos escaped the upset axe against the Thais, 3-1.

Both also won their matches in the team’s 4-0 drubbing of Palestine and Syria in the first two rounds that helped Agila ng Pilipinas leapfrog to the top.

The PH are actually in a four-team logjam at first with Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Iran with identical six match points but the Filipinos had superior points on tiebreak.

The PH woodpushers hope to keep their No. 1 spot when men’s play resumes Friday next week.

While the Filipinos’ first two foes were a walk in the park, the match against the Thais wasn’t.

Thailand, which is traditionally one of the weaker teams in the Southeast Asian region, gave the Philippines a big scare before succumbing in the end.

Barcenilla and Bersamina showed experience and turned a quiet, almost equal position into victories while GMs Mark Paragua and John Paul Gomez clawed their way out of losing positions and escaped with draws.

The Philippines has so far looked sharp as it has performed a little better than the other big guns like top seed India and Indonesia, which were both half a point off the pace.

Meanwhile, the PH women’s squad of Janelle Mae Frayna, Jan Jodilyn Fronda, Shania Mae Mendoza, Bernadette Galas and Kylen Joy Mordido plunges into action Sunday.

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