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Laguna is PCAP champion


LAGUNA Heroes are the first-ever champions in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) All-Filipino Conference.

Bannered by two-time Asian junior champion GM Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. and FM Austin Jacob Literatus, Laguna completed its rise as the country’s top professional chess team by beating Camarines Soaring Eagles, 2-1, in their three-game Armageddon battle for supremacy in this prestigious competition organized by PCAP and sponsored by San Miguel Corporation.

Barcenilla, who is best remembered as a member of the star-studded Philippine team which finished seventh in the 1988 World Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Literatus produced the much-needed victories over Christian Mark Daluz and Ellan Asuela to power the Heroes of PECA president Dr. Fred Paez to victory.

Camarines’ lone victory came from United States-based GM Mark Paragua, who outduelled fellow Olympiad veteran GM John Paul Gomez.

It was really team effort,” said Barcenilla, who was pitted against Daluz on board three as part of the team strategy despite playing the top board in the earlier rounds.

The strategy also put Gomez on board one against Paragua and Literatus against Asuela in the playoffs.

The Heroes dominated the first of the two-set match, 14.5-6.5, but the Soaring Eagles battled back to eke out a tense 11.5-9.5 win that forced the three-game playoff encounter.

But Laguna, which earned the right to play in the championship following a similar fight-to-the finish battle against the San Juan Predators last Wednesday, was pushed to the brink following Paragua’s victory over Gomez.

But Barcenilla, who topped the las two “Battle of GMs” tournament, and Literatus saved the day with clutch victories over Daluz and Asuela.

Barcenilla wisely used his vast experience against Daluz, while Literarus caught a break when Asuela missed the right continuation and eventually lost.

Paez, who also co-owns the team with sports patrons Benjamin Dy, Jonathan Mamaril and David Nithyananthan, lauded the Heroes’ efforts in the 24-team, three-month-long competition.

It was an intense match (against Camarines). I think we were just lucky in the end,” said Paez in a statement after the victory.

He also thanked the other members of the team — Jean Karen Enriquez, FM Jose Efren Bagamasbad, Vince Angelo Medina, Kimuel Aaron Lorenzo and Arjie Bayangat – for their contributions to their success.

Before battling Camarines in the finals , Laguna topped the Northern Conference with a 30-4 win-loss record.

The Heroes went on to beat the Antipolo Cobras in the quarterfinal round, the Manila Indios Bravos in the semis and San Juan in the North finals.

Camarines, on the otherhand, finished No. 2 in the Southern Conference with a 29-5 record behind the Iloilo Kisela Knights ( 30-4).

But after beating the Mindoro Tamaraws in the quarters and Negros Kingsmen in the semis, Camarines pulled the rug from under Iloilo to rule the Southern Conference

The tournament was organized by PCAP, headed by President/Commissioner Atty. Paul Elauria and Chairman Michael Angelo Chua, and sanctioned by the Games and amusements Board (GAB), led by Chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra.