By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Darry Bernardo scored a miraculous victory over Kumar Naveen of India and the Philippines salvaged a 2-2 draw to claim a historic podium finish in the 1st FIDE Olympiad for People with Disabilities in Belgrade, Serbia Saturday, Feb. 4.
Down 1-2 after FIDE Master Sander Severino and Henry Lopez drew on the top two boards and playing skipper James Infiesto fell on board three, Bernardo plodded on and found a way to turn what appeared like a drawn position into a 79-move win on board four of a Caro-Kann Defense.
The result sent the Philippine Sports Commission-bankrolled Filipinos in a four-way logjam at No. 3 with India, host Serbia 1 and Uzbekistan with eight match points each.
But the Filipinos emerged with the highest tiebreak score to claim the bronze medal in the very first edition of the event for the differently abled.
Capping off the country’s memorable effort was the individual gold medal won by Bernardo on board four and Severino’s silver on top board.
In all, the team went home with a trophy, a bronze for all members including Cheyzer Mendoza, individual board medals of Bernardo and Severino, and the accolades and admiration of the whole country back home.
“We thank God, our countrymen and our sports officials who helped and supported us from the start, this is for the country,” said Infiesto.
This same team has also brought glory in other international arenas like the ASEAN Para Games and Asian Para Games and produced a world champion for the physically disabled in Severino a few years back.
Poland routed Israel, 3-1, to sweep its way to the crown with 12 points while International Physically Disabled Chess Association (IPCA) edged Hungary, 2.5-1.5, to pocket the silver with 10 points.