Nigel Short's Philippines win

by Srinath Narayanan
11/12/2017 – It’s never an easy thing to be the rating favourite in a field where the 2nd seed is a 100 points below and the 4th seed, almost 200 points. Nigel Short was in such a scenario where there was a lot to lose and little to gain, in terms of Elo and reputation. However, he is no stranger to being in such a position. Having steamrolled through Bunratty Masters and Bangkok Open earlier this year, he just cruised through the field at the Negros International Open in Bacolod last month, to win the event one point clear. Srinath Narayanan reports. | Photo: Piaya Network Facebook page

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


City of Smiles

I was invited to the Piaya Network Negros International Open just a few weeks before the event. While I didn’t feel so impressed initially, it took a few seconds with Google to make me curious. A city named as the "city of smiles"? A tournament during the Masskara festival?

Short with Masskara dancers

Nigel Short with the Masskara dancers | Photo: Cliburn Anthony’s facebook page

I entered the event as the fourth seed, which reminded me of the Faroes Open I won a few months ago. Like Nigel in Negros, Julio Granda Zuniga was the first seed and rating favourite in that event. While I can fancy my chances in a one on one encounter, it’s usually not easy to keep up with these behemoths when they play the other lower rated players. Players of that stature are much more intimidating to others than your standard 2500 GM. There’s the obvious difference in playing strength as well.

It was quite clear that I had to beat Nigel to have any chances of winning the event. In the end, it came down to that, with me trailing Nigel by one point and facing a must-win encounter. I had the option to take a safe draw and net $1500, or go full tilt. I set out as courageously as brave Sir Robin


Attack with the Modern Italian

In recent years the Italian Game has undergone a renaissance, transforming it from the Cinderella of 1.e4 openings into a major system which offers excellent chances for White to gain the advantage.

In the end, Nigel took home $3000, while I had to be content with $900 — sharing the 4th to 9th place prize money. It seems to me that the Hort system of sharing prizes is the fairest system for Swiss Opens, as opposed to sharing equally or not sharing at all. However, I felt that the prize structure itself was quite equitable and high for an event of this strength.

Karen Grigoryan, the second seed in the event had a rather slow start. After being held to a draw in the first round, he went on to lose the third round to the unfancied local Edsel Montoya in a fantastic Sicilian Dragon game. However, this didn’t dampen his spirit in the slightest. Rejuvenated by the local atmosphere, the nightlife of the city and his Philippine friend Mara, the smile never disappeared from Karen’s face in the City of Smiles. He had a great time overall, and the cheerful demeanor obviously helped as he rose to the occasion in the important moments and won all his games except for a short draw with yours truly.

Armenia and Philippines friends

Armenia and Philippines continue to have friendly relations | Photo: Tran Tuan Minh

Grigoryan beat longtime leader GM Antonio Regelio Jr. in the last round to finish the second place with 7 / 9. Antonio played very effectively in the first half, and had better position against Short and was completely winning against me. After seven rounds, he was on par with Nigel at 6 / 7, but lost the last two games to finish an unfortunate fifth.


The Advance Caro-Kann 2nd edition

The Caro-Kann Defence, which arises after the moves 1.e4 c6 followed by d7-d5, is considered to be one of the most reliable defences to White’s 1.e4. Black fights for his share of the centre and patiently awaits his chance. Shirov’s preferred weapon against this solid setup by Black has always been the Advance Variation 3.e5 - with chances and risks for both sides.

GM Nguyen Duc Hoa also finished with 7 points, but lost his direct encounter with Grigoryan to place third.

Nguyen Duc Hoa

GM Nguyen Duc Hoa (2499) shared 2nd place and a prize of $2250 | Photo: Shin Azwan)

IM Tran Minh Thang came sixth but moreover he also took back fond memories from Bacolod and is sure to return next year.

GM Tran Minh Thang

3rd seeded GM Tran Tuan Minh (2558) scored only 5½ / 9 but had fun every single moment during his stay in Bacolod | Photo: Tran Tuan Minh

top five winners

The top five winners with the sponsor Tony Aguirre (center), and Tournament Director Leah Aguirre | Photo: Piaya Network Facebook page

Final standings (top 15)

Shin Azwan

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 SHORT Nigel D 8,0 0,0
2 GRIGORYAN Karen H. 7,0 1,0
3 NGUYEN Duc Hoa 7,0 0,0
4 NARAYANAN Srinath 6,0 0,0
5 ANTONIO Rogelio Jr 6,0 0,0
6 TRAN Minh Thang 6,0 0,0
7 YAP Kim Steven 6,0 0,0
8 DIMAKILING Oliver 6,0 0,0
9 MONTOYA Edsel 5,5 0,0
10 DABLEO Ronald 5,5 0,0
11 SALUBRE Jayson 5,5 0,0
12 TRAN Tuan Minh 5,5 0,0
13 MONTOYO Ted Ian 5,5 0,0
14 LAYLO Darwin 5,5 0,0
15 VERDUN Xavier John 5,5 0,0

...51 players (Right: Shin Azwan did a fabulous job with the live broadcast and the pictures)


For a nominal fee, about 50 spectators thronged everyday to watch the live games, discuss and take pictures with the stars | Photo: Shin Azwan

Rest day fun

It wasn’t all chess in Bacolod. The rest day trip to Lakawon | Photo: Piaya Network facebook

More rest day fun

Missing is me and IM Tran Marc Thang. We overslept courtesy a wild night the previous day | Photo: Piaya Network facebook

Although each player had varied results, no one left the City of Smiles without a smile. The ones who played here are sure to return the next year. The 2nd Piaya Network Negros International Open will take place at the same time, coinciding the end of the tournament with the beginning of the Masskara Festival.

Tony Aguirre and Hugo Villaneuva

The next year’s edition will be grander with an increased budget and better prizes. It would be wise for the title contenders to write for the conditions as early as they can. For those looking to combine holiday with a world class open, Negros Open is one of the few on offer.

The tournament took place primarily due to Tony Aguirre (right). Tony is an auditor for the United Nations, and an avid chess lover. He co-owns Piaya Network Broadcasting Corporation, along with Hugo Villanueva who also played a pivotal role in the tournament happening.

Tony has a vision in place and dreams to develop chess in the Bacolod and Negros region. Like all chess patrons, he is a boon to the people of Bacolod, Negros, Philippines and the chess fraternity itself.

sponsor logos


Srinath is a 23-year-old Indian Grandmaster. A former World Under 12 champion, at the age of fourteen he became an IM and had shown surprising and unswerving loyalty to the title ever since, until March 2017, when he crossed the 2500 mark and completed the requirements to become a grandmaster. He loves chess and likes to play in tournaments all around the globe.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register