66-year-old Torre suits up again for PH in chess Olympiad

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 12 chess players, including the legendary 66-year-old Eugene Torre, will take part in training tournaments of the national team set to compete in the Batumi Chess Olympiad in August.

This was announced by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) after their board meeting in Davao where the 19th Asean Age Group championship is being held.

"One tournament does not determine the strength of a player. They will play against each other and we will determine who is the strongest," said NCFP treasurer Cliburn Anthony Orbe in a Facebook video of the federation.

Joining Torre are national champion Haridas Pascua, runner-up Jan Emmanuel Garcia and 3rd placer Mari Joseph Turqueza, plus US-based Julio Catalino Sadorra, the country's top player, and John Paul Gomez, the long-time second board who failed to land in the top 3 of the nationals.

Janelle Mae Frayna, the country's only woman grandmaster, will be facing national champion Shania Mae Mendoza, runner-up Catherine Secopito, 3rd placer Marie Antoinette San Diego and 2017 national champion Bernadette Galas. 

The top 5 men and women in these training tournaments will qualify for the Batumi Olympiad, the NCFP said.

Before, the national championship was the only qualifying tournament for the Olympiad. But, determined to erase the men's worst-ever Olympiad finish of 58th in 2016, the NCFP resorted to this mode.

"It may be Machiavellian. It may be harsh, " said Orbe, who pointed out the NCFP's aim is to hone the best team available.

Orbe did not say when the training tournaments will take place but it is assumed it will begin after Frayna and Asian Youth champion John Marvin Miciano will return from their European stint in July.

Torre, who wielded his magic once more by winning the bronze medal on board 3 in the 2016 Olympiad, has been the national coach for a year now. But he said he is open to playing if his services are needed.

Torre has played for the Philippines in the Olympiads since 1970s. Only in 2008 was he named captain. 

Torre was the first Asian to qualify for the Candidates matches, which selected the challenger to the world champion in 1982. He also led the Philippines to its best finish, a tie for 7th, in the 1988 Olympiad.

"We really need him. No question," said another NCFP official.

The women's team finished 34th in 2016, 16 notches higher than its 2014 finish. Frayna got the final norm for her grandmaster title and the Philippine women's team upset the powerful Georgian team in that Olympiad. – Rappler.com