Grandmaster Darwin Laylo battled closest pursuer International Master Jan Emmanuel Garcia to a 36-move draw of an English Opening in the eighth and penultimate round Monday, Feb. 6, to move on the verge of claiming his first title victory in the National Chess Championships in 17 years in Malolos City, Bulacan.
The 42-year-old Army man went for a quiet variation and engaged Garcia, a fellow Olympiad veteran, into a series of minor and major-piece exchanges that led to an equal knight-and-pawn endgame and eventually a truce via three-fold repetition.
This kept Laylo at the helm with six points while Garcia was half a point behind at No. 2 with 5.5 points.
With a round to go, Laylo is closer to claiming his first national crown since winning it all in 2006 and the top purse worth a cool P100,000 courtesy of Malolos City Mayor Christian Natividad.
If he accomplishes it, he will claim his third national title overall as he also reigned supreme in 2004 in this annual event backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee and National Chess Federation of the Philippines.
Laylo was battling IM Daniel Quizon, the titlist in this event’s last staging two years ago in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu, in the final round at press time while Garcia was up against Woman GM Janelle Mae Frayna.
Laylo had a jackrabbit start as he zoomed to five points in the first six rounds that included rousing victories over Frayna, Woman IM Marie Antoinette San Diego, IM Paulo Bersamina and GM Joey Antonio.
His first three draws came against Mark Jay Bacojo, IM Michael Concio, Jr. and GM John Paul Gomez.
Also being staked are P80,000 to the second placer and P50,000, P30,000 and P20,000 to the third to fifth placers.
The rest will receive P15,000, P10,000, P7,000, P5,000 and P5,000, respectively.