Gomez gives up Olympic chess qualifier spot to Antonio

MANILA, Philippines – For Grandmaster John Paul Gomez, the country's glory is paramount.

After weighing things over, Gomez on Thursday, July 8, opted to give up his Fide Online Olympics qualifier slot in favor of GM Rogelio "Joey" Antonio, who he feels is well suited for the rapid format to be adapted in the tournament put up to compensate for the 2020 Chess Olympiad derailed by the COVID 19-pandemic.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) executive director praised Gomez for his "unprecedented gesture of sportsmanship, humility and unselfishness" that will enable Antonio to vie for the two men's slots in the six-player mixed team with GMs Mark Paragua, Darwin Laylo and Rogelio Barcenilla Jr and International Masters Paulo Bersamina and Haridas Pascua this weekend.

Paragua is the highest-ranked Filipino player available, while Laylo, Barcenilla, Bersamina and Pascua were supposed to be Gomez's teammates in the canceled 44th Chess Olympiad in Moscow, Russia.

According to Gomez, a fixture of Team Philippines in the last 5 Olympiads, while he has beaten Antonio in the last two games they played in standard time control, Antonio prevailed in their last two rapid games.

Antonio lauded Gomez's decision.

"I was really surprised but I'm really thankful," said Antonio, a 10-time chess Olympian and 13-time Philippine Open champion.

"Now I have to prepare for two tournaments," added Antonio, who will also be competing in the Asian Seniors Online Chess Championships slated July 13 to 21.

"When it's for flag and country, we will not back down," said Antonio, who last played board 2 for Philippines in the 2006 Turin Olympiad.

The qualifier will be a 2 round-robin affair with the 2 highest scorers to man boards 1 and 2 for Team Philippines which will also include 2 women, 1 male and 1 female junior players. The 3rd and fourth highest scorers in the men's qualifier will serve as alternates. 

Mariano ban lifted

The NCFP, meanwhile, lifted a three-month ban on Nelson Mariano III, who drew a verdict from a chess portal that he used computer assistance in the eliminations for the Battle of the Grandmasters.

On June 22, Mariano had drawn a three-month ban from the NCFP after lichess.org said he used computer assistance. 

Mariano appealed his case to the NCFP, saying he was not assisted in topping the eliminations for the Battle of Grandmaster.

He said he prepared the opening lines against his opponents.

“After looking at his games as well as his previous games in the opening lines that he played, the NCFP finds the appeal to be meritorious. Accordingly, the three-month ban on Nelson Mariano is hereby lifted immediately,” said NCFP executive director Cliburn Anthony Orbe in the official NCFP Facebook page.

Asked if this means those who were flagged by chess portals lichess and chess.com as using some form of assistance in winning tournaments can now go to the NCFP to appeal, a federation source said: “They can always appeal and we decide if it has merit.”

More than 15 players have been banned for 3 months by the NCFP after lichess.org and chess.com found they were using computer assistance. 

Some players earlier banned by the NCFP in March, which included a 15-year-old, are back in action in the online events that sprout like mushrooms since the government imposed enhanced community quarantine on March 17. – Rappler.com