Paragua, 5 others go for it

July 08, 2020
Mark Paragua
Mark Paragua

WHO are the country’s strongest representatives to the inaugural FIDE Online Chess Olympiad scheduled July 22-Aug.30?

The National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), headed by Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay, would like to know.

And the NCFP is conducting a two-day qualifying tournament featuring New York City-based GM Mark Paragua and the five original members of the Olympiad-bound national team -- GM Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr., IM Paulo Bersamina, GM John Paul  Gomez, IM Haridas Pascua and GM Darwin Laylo.

The two-day double-round robin qualifying tournament will be played online on July 11-12.

NCFP executive director Cliburn Anthony Orbe said the decision to limit the qualifying tournament to Paragua and the five original Olympiad qualifiers was made upon consultation with Pichay, NCFP officials and national team coaches.

One major concern is the deadline given by FIDE to all participating countries, which is  July 13.

Orbe claimed Barcenilla Jr. and the four other players who originally qualified to the team based on their showings in the “Battle of GMs” last November, have agreed to undergo another elimination tournament since the Olympiad will now be played online.

Orbe said Paragua was  the only one invited to play in the new qualifying tournament since “he is the highest-rated player available to play.”

“All the Olympiad-bound players have agreed to the process. I'm proud of them because they know what’s best for the team. They accepted that two of them will be eliminated and they’re not complaining,” said Orbe in his reply to questions being raised on the selection process.

“Before we made the announcement, we asked each one in writing. OK  sila even after I explained that  two players will be eliminated as we can only name four players in this FIDE Online Olympiad.”

Orbe also claimed the  NCFP decision to add only Paragua was accepted by the five original national team members.

“No one among them questioned Paragua’s inclusion the same way they welcomed (GM Julio) Sadorra’s inclusion in Batumi. And whether Paragua joins them or not the playoff will happen because only four will be included in the team and there are originally five of them.”

On the failure of the NCFP to invite 13-time national champion GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr. and other leading players to the new selection tournament this weekend, Orbe admitted the NCFP wanted to give weight to the national championship, which was done in an all-play-all round-robin format.

“We have nothing against Antonio and the other players, but none of them played for the National Championship Grand Final,” explaied Orbe.

“It's a pity that he (Antonio)  was not able to compete in last year's national championship.  But to include him will also be favoritism on our part. Then the fans of IM Daniel Maravilla Quizon, IM Jan Emmanuel Garcia, FM Sander Severino will be in uproar. They are the next in line in the National Championship standings.

Orbe said the NCFP will also invite IM John Marvin Miciano, IM Daniel Quizon, FM Alekhine Nouri IM-elect Michaeljako Concio, Jr., IM-elect Eric Labog, and Chester Neil Reyes to play a double round-robin tournament to determine the regular members of the national junior team.

The six leading junior  players  will also play a double-round robin tournament on July 11 and 12 starting at 10 a.m.

The selection tournament for the female players in the team will be announced soon.