New Philippine team to vie in Chess Olympiad

MANILA, Philippines – A new national team will be formed for next year's Chess Olympiad.

Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr, president and chairman of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, said this on Friday, July 3, as he stressed the country will be sending the strongest team possible for the biennial meet originally slated August 5 to 17 in Moscow, Russia, but was postponed for next year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That's the reason why the NCFP is having constant tournaments," said Pichay, who is in quarantine in Baybay, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur. "So that we'll find the strongest players. We want to send the best."

By best, Pichay clarified, he's also referring to those without attitude problems. Those who will always follow the instructions of the coaching staff.

NCFP executive director Atty. Cliburn Anthony Orbe broached the idea of revamping the national team after the Battle of Grandmasters won by New York-based GM Mark Paragua over 13-time Philippine champion GM Rogelio "Joey" Antonio on June 28.

National head coach GM Eugene Torre, who came out of semi-retirement to play in the one-day, online event that drew 11 Filipino GMs and Woman GM Janelle Mae Frayna, concurred with the suggestion which will be tackled by the NCFP board of directors headed by Pichay as soon as travel and social distancing protocols ease up.

Apart from Paragua, who has announced his intentions to return to Team Philippines, other foreign-based GMs who took part were Julio Catalino Sadorra, Oliver Barbosa and Rogelio Barcenilla, all of the United States, and Italy-based Roland Salvador.

According to Deputy Speaker Pichay, there's no need for a revamp because the national team members have forfeited their slots following the postponement.

Members of the men's team to the Moscow Olympiad were GMs John Paul Gomez, Darwin Laylo and Barcenilla and International Masters Paulo Bersamina and Haridas Pascua.

In the 2018 Batumi (Gerogia) Olympiad, the Filipinos wound up 37th in the open division while the Filipinas tumbled to 67th place in the women's division.

A Torre-led team, with IMs Rico Mascarinas and the late Ruben Rodriguez playing boards 2 and 3, Antonio manning board 4, and Eric Gloria and Barcenilla as reserves, placed 7th in the 1988 Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, its best performance in 31 stints. –