Mendoza stays full point ahead in ASEAN+ Age Group Chess Championships

Shania Mae Mendoza and Al-Basher Buto of the Philippines pulled off different results to keep their grip of the lead in their respective divisions after five rounds of the ASEAN+ Age Group Chess Championships at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City Thursday.

Shania Mae Mendoza, a 19-year-old Olympiad veteran and top board player of Far Eastern University, settled for a fighting draw with fellow Woman FIDE Master Vu Thi Dieu Ai of Vietnam to continue to lead the way in the premier girls' under-20 section with 4.5 points after five rounds.

Mendoza, who topped the Grand Finals of the Olympiad qualifier last week to secure a berth in the biennial event set this September in Batumi, Georgia, remained a full point ahead a three-player chase pack of Indonesia's WFM Dita Karenza and the Philippines's Ella Grace Moulic and Kylen Joy Mordido with 3.5 points apiece.

The seven-year-old Buto, for his part, sustained his impressive form as he nailed his fifth straight win with a quick, merciless demolition of Vietnam's Nguyen Vuong Tung to strengthen his grip of the solo lead in the open U8.

It was Buto's fourth win against a Vietnamese after he brought down Ho Dang Nhat Minh, Nguyen Manh Duc, Pham Viet Thien Phuoc and, recently, Nguyen one after the other in this nine-day event organized by Chess Events International, sanctioned by the NCFP under Butch Pichay and backed by the Philippines Sports Commission and Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte.

His only other win that came against a non-Vietnamese was at the expense of countryman Ruslan Pamplona in the third round.

Buto, the reigning U7 rapid and blitz Asian Schools champion who honed his playing skills in the side streets of Quaipo, will try to include another Vietnam bet Le Pham Minh Duc on his long list of victims as the they clash in the sixth round at press time.

In the open U18, another local bet Dale Bernardo zoomed to the top with a shock triumph over top seed International Master Tran Minh Thang with 4.5 points.

Half a point behind with four points were Filipunos Istraelito Rilloraza and Carl Zirex Sato, who halved the point, and FEU bet John Merill Jacutina, who downed Aeron Kiefe Charles Sinining also of the Philippines.