Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where goest thou Philippine chess?

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

The future of Philippine chess is as dim as the moons of Pluto. Like a schoolboy who refuses to go to school, there is practically no hope in the horizon.

Back in the 60s to the 80s we were a regional power in Asia and at least belonging to the top 20 in the world. We placed once in the eighth position in the Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, remember?

It is ironic that the credit for making chess popular in the world goes to the former president of Fide, Florencio Campomanes, a Filipino. During his term as Fide president, Philippine chess was a miserable lot as it was hopelessly divided due to too much politics and greed.

Today, there is no world-class Pinoy player. Current sensation Mark Paragua does not have the talent and discipline that the young Eugene Torre had in the 70s. Also the much heralded Wesley So, the current 12-Under co-champion, is not as sensationally gifted as the child prodigies of today like Sergey Karyakin, Hikaru Naklamura and Magnus Carlsen. If properly guided, he might become a super GM, but it will be a long shot.

The just concluded Southeast Asian Games showed clearly that we have lost our dominant position in the Asean region to Vietnam. They won all the gold medals in both team and individual play and all we could show were two silvers and three bronzes. The Joey Antonio’s much-hyped five-gold bid was good for a solitary bronze.

I expected this kind of performance as the elimination tournaments were a complete disaster and there was a boycott by several players including GM Bong Villamayor. So, what else is new?

The only way we could regain our position in the chess world is to institute a chess-in-schools program. China, much of Europe including the United States have such a program and chess is part of the curriculum. It has been shown that chess improves the IQ of the child and instills patience, sportsmanship and rational planning that are much needed in everyday life.

If we have overseas foreign workers in all sorts of discipline, we also have OFWs in chess. Villamayor, Rico Mascarinas, Eric Gloria and a dozen other Filipinos including Cebu tournaments fixture Lincoln Yap are all currently working in Singapore as instructors and arbiters as part of that state’s chess-in-schooll program. Someday, Singapore might just overtake the Philippines and when that happens we will be a sorry lot indeed!

Cebu, just like the rest of the archipelago, is barren as chess tournaments are far in between. It badly needs corporate and local government sponsorship. The only visible corporate sponsor is Boojie Lim of Rose Pharmacy.

Philippine chess is like the Philippines in general. Great before but now no more.

Chess puzzle Solution to last week‘s puzzle: Rd7. There were 20 correct entries and after a raffle here are the five winners: James Bermas, Rodrigo Capahi, Arlene Lao, Arnel Montayre and Ruel Hortyelano. Claim your P100 Globe prepaid card each at Handuraw Café in Mabolo.

The puzzle-solving contest has been suspended indefinitely.

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