Friday, May 19, 2006

Turin Olympiad

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

QUICKLY now, who is Michele Godena and Fabio Bellini? Never heard of them? Until lately, I also did not know these fellows. They are the two top players of Italy in the 37th Chess Olympiad held for the first time in Italy, specifically Turin, starting tomorrow.

Knowledgeable chess players know that despite its big population, Italy is the kulelat of European chess and has never been a factor in previous Olympiads. In fact it is rated No.46 in the world rankings, lower than Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.

I believe that Italians are not really sportsmen as they also do not have a track record in swimming, track and field, boxing, and almost all major sports except car racing, sometimes tennis and understandably football. What they are good at is entertainment and opera and maybe the mafia? Who doesn’t know Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Madonna, Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavarotti?

Incidentally, these entertainers are all avid chess players. Madonna gets special tutoring from an International Master whom I cant recall.

The reason why Turin bid for the Chess Olympiad is because it was the host of the recent Winter Olympics and the city officials decided to go for a double whammy as they already have the facilities. Also, most importantly, they wanted to popularize chess in their country.

The chess players and officials who will participate in this Olympiad are therefore very lucky in that they will stay in a real Olympic Village for the first time and enjoy good food, all for free! This is different from previous Olympiads in that the federations had to take care of their board and lodging. We are therefore sending a big, no correct that, huge delegation that is probably the biggest among all the participating teams.

Get this. Going to Turin are: Board 1. Mark Paragua 22 2617 2. Eugene Torre 54 2543 3. Rogelio Antonio 43 2539 4. Darwin Laylo 25 2406 5. Oliver Dimakiling 25 2452 6. Wesley So 12 2254. The Women’s team includes: Board 1. Sheerie Joy Lomibao 30 2163 2. Beverly Mendoza 25 2132 3. Catherine Perena 4. Sherily Cua.

Officials are Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay of Surigao del Sur, president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, who will head the RP delegation. Also going are NCFP secretary-general and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino Jr., Men’s team captain NM Samuel Estimo, Women’s captain NM Cesar Caturla, International Arbiter Wilfredo Abalos, NCFP spokesperson Jennifer Mayor, NM Almario Marlon Bernardino Jr. and assistant coach IM Jayson Gonzales.

Others also in the delegation are reportedly games analyst Rolando Nolte, Wiliam So, Wesley’s father, and reserves Roderick Nava, Shercila Cua and 14-year-old Kimberly Jane Cunanan, who will be properly chaperoned. I am not sure of the last three. It has not been confirmed yet.

I don’t exactly know how many federations are playing, one website says 140, while another another says 133. Countries or federations playing for the first time are Taipei, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Sudan and Syria.

The 77th Congress and elections of the officials of the World Chess Federation will also be held in this Olympiad under the following schedules: May 27-29, Fide Commissions and Committees; May 30/31 Executive/Presidential board; June 1,continental meeting; June 2-4, General Assembly and Elections.

If you have time and the money go see the Olympiad. Turin is not only the home of Fiat and the El Juventus football team but also one of the great cities of the world with a thousand-year history.

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