MANILA – The Philippines drew strength from Grandmaster Banjo Barcenilla’s masterful effort as it pulled off an upset 2-2 draw with fancied Israel in the sixth round Wednesday night to stay in the hunt in the 44th World Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.

Barcenilla turned back GM Tamir Nabaty in 64 moves of a King’s Indian encounter on board two to save the day for the Filipinos, who were tied at 14th spot with 10 others with nine match points.

GM Mark Paragua was the last to finish as he tried his best to eke out a win but ended up splitting the point with GM Avital Boruchovsky in 59 moves of a Four Knights Game that sealed the stunning standoff.

Grandmaster Darwin Laylo earlier drew with veteran GM Ilya Smirin on board three, which came after International Master Paulo Bersamina lost his way right in the opening and never recovered to succumb to GM Evgeny Postny on the last board.

The 11-round, 12-day biennial event took a much-needed breather yesterday before plunging back into battle in the seventh round Friday when the Philippines, which is being sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, clashes with powerhouse fifth pick Poland.

National men’s team coach GM Eugene Torre is expected to field in an all-GM roster versus the Poles with GM John Paul Gomez expected to replace a shaken Bersamina in the lineup.

In the women’s side, the Filipinas battled the lower-ranked Ecuadorians to a 2-2 standoff, a result sealed by a defeat by Woman FIDE Master Shania Mae Mendoza to WIM Anahi Ortiz Verdezoto on board two.

WGM candidate Kylen Joy Mordido delivered the lone win on board four while WIMs Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Marie Antoinette San Diego were held to draws on second and third board, respectively.

The split sent them sputtering down a 13-country tie at 48th place with seven points and was scheduled to play Bolivia tonight in a match where WGM Janelle Mae Frayna is expected to be injected back into the roster in place of Mendoza. (PR)