By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
San Juan blanked Iloilo, 2-0, to capture the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) third conference title held online over the weekend.
The Predators unleashed their might right in their first duel, 19-2, before surviving the spirited challenge of the Kisela Knights, 11.5-9.5, to rule the 24-team tournament.
It was a sweet revenge for San Juan after losing the title to Iloilo in the second conference dubbed as the Wesley So Cup.
Grandmaster Oliver Barbosa fueled San Juan’s victory by sweeping his four matches in the blitz and rapid events against Karl Victor Ochoa on Board 2, while International Master Ricardo De Guzman and Narquingel Reyes also crushed their opponents to provide reinforcements.
Also stepping up for San Juan were IM Rolando Nolte, Woman International Master Jan Jodilyn Fronda, FIDE Master Narquingden Reyes and Narciso Gumila.
Though it trailed 5.5-1.5 in the second blitz duel, Iloilo threatened to force an Armageddon playoffs after dominating the rapid, 8-6. But the Kisela Knights fell short of a single board win needed to extend the series with Ochoa, NM Cesar Mariano and Lloyd Lanciola yielding their matches.
San Juan advanced to the Grand Finals after topping the Northern Division crown at the expense of Caloocan, 2-0.
The Predators also beat Laguna and Isabela with identical 2-0 scores in the semifinals and quarters.
Prior to the playoffs, San Juan finished the Northern Division eliminations at second behind Pasig with a 21-2 record.
Meanwhile, Caloocan blasted guest team Penang, 14.5-6.5, in their battle for third place.
Jan Emmanuel Garcia keyed in the Loadmanna Knights’ triumph with twin wins over Poh Yu Tian on Board 2, while help also came from Barlo Nadera on Board 6 and Paul Sanchez on Board 7.