Nat'l chess team faces revamp

June 30, 2020
Paragua and Antonio
Paragua and Antonio: 1-2 finish.

THE smashing 1-2 finish of New York City-based GM Mark Paragua and GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr. in the recent Pichay Cup “Battle of GMs” rapid online chess tournament is forcing the hand of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) to consider a revamp in the national team.

Both Paragua and Antonio are not part of the team set to compete in the 44th World Chess Olympiad in Russia next year.

“We want to send the best team possible in the coming Olympiad, so it’s not a bad idea to  change the composition of the national team,” said Asia’s first GM-turned-national team coach Eugene Torre. 

Torre, who celebrated the 46th anniversary of his GM title last June 27, said the postponement of the Olympiad due to the coronavirus pandemic gives the NCFP a longer time to form a competitive team.

Torre’s opinion was echoed by  NCFP executive director Atty. Cliburn Orbe, who said there is still enough time to determine the country’s best representatives to the prestigious event, dubbed  as the “Olympics” of chess.

“Now that the World Chess Olympiad  has been moved from this year to next year due to the pandemic, we now have time to constitute a stronger team and determine who will best  represent us,” said Orbe during the one-day, 16-player competition  shown live on the official NCFP website last Sunday.

In the “Battle of GMs”, Paragua defeated Antonio, 1.5-.5, to  capture the title and the P25,000 top prize.

Antonio settled for P15,000 runner-up prize.

Interestingly, both Paragua and Antonio are not part of the five-man national team to the Olympiad.

United States-based GM Oliver Barbosa and GM John Paul Gomez also made the semis before losing to Paragua and Antonio, respectively.

Of the five national team members currently training for the Olympiad, only Gomez made it as far as the semis where he lost to Antonio, .5-1.5.

Aside from Gomez, the  other national team members are GMs Julio Sadorra, Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr.  and Darwin Laylo and IM Paulo Bersamina.

The 44th World Chess Olympiad is originally scheduled on Aug. 5-18 in Mocow, Russia.

But the outbreak of the  coronavirus disease, which has already affected more than  213 countries and territories, forced organizers to follow the lead of the Tokyo Olympics and also  re-schedule the competition.