GEORGIAN Grandmaster Levan Pantsulaia downed Filipino GM Oliver Barbosa in the fifth round yesterday to keep the solo lead in the Philippine International Chess Challenge at Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City.
Exploiting the white pieces, Pantsulaia won after 63 moves of a Reti Opening, raising his total to 4.5 points in the Open division of the tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission and Puregold.
Filipino GM John Paul Gomez shared the limelight when he stunned top-seeded Russian GM Ivan Popov, also with white, after 33 moves of a Slav Defense.
Gomez climbed to 4.0 points and shared second spot with Russian GMs Anton Demchenko and Mikhail Mozharov and Georgian GM Merab Gagunashvili.
The second-seeded Demchenko beat Indian International Master Narayanan Sunilduth Lyna, Mozharov subdued Fide Master Sander Severino, while Gagunashvili tamed FM Randy Segarra in the $30,000 event being supported by Asia United Bank Burlington, Celebrity Sports Plaza, Microtel and Harold's Hotel.
Pantsulaia was handling black against Gagunashvili in the top board tussle of the sixth round which was being played last night.
Other crucial matches pitted Demchenko against Mozharov, Grigoryan against Gomez and Popov against Laylo.
GM Darwin Laylo drew his match with countryman GM Rogelio Antonio Jr. to rise to 3.5 points in the company of Armenian GM Avetik Grigoryan, who won over Merben Roque.
Antonio was bunched with Popov, Barbosa, Segarra, Severino, Antonio, Sunilduth Lyna, GM Julio Catalino Sadorra, GM Richard Bitoon and IM Kim Steven Yap at 3.0 points.
The United States-based Sadorra trounced David Elorta to rebound from his fourth round loss to Sunilduth Lyna.
Thus far, the GMs are asserting their might in the 38-player field, including four females, occupying the top nine slots.