Pichay says he is confident sans Antonio in the team

DESPITE missing the services of one of its most dependable players, the RP chess team remains optimistic about its coming campaign in the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

With RP’s top Grandmaster Wesley So manning Board 1 and the unsinkable Eugene Torre providing leadership and experience, the Filipino wood pushers are eyeing a Top 20 finish for their modest goal in the Sept. 19 to Oct. 14 biennial event featuring the world’s best players.

“Malakas lakas itong team na ito,” admitted National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Prospero Pichay even though the team has been orphaned by veteran GM Joey Antonio.

“We’re hoping to barge in the Top 20 to 25th place,” he added.

Pichay accompanied the team in the weekly PSA Forum at Shakey’s U.N Ave. where he was joined by Torre, GMs John Paul Gomez and Darwin Laylo, International Master Richard Bitoon and NCFP director Willie Abalos.

Meanwhile, comprising the women’s team are Chardine Cheradee Camacho, Shercila Cua, Catherine Perena, Ellen Jose and alternate Jedara Docena.

But it’s the men’s side that is expected to give the rest of the field a competitive fight, having once finished in the Top 10 – seventh overall for the country’s best finish in the meet – during the 1988 Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Gomez has since been assigned to play in Board 2 following the major fall out between Antonio and the NCFP leadership. Laylo takes over Board 3, Torre will be moving in Board 4 and Bitoon in Board 5

“It’s a young but strong team,” noted Pichay in the same forum presented by Outlast Battery, PAGCOR and Shakey’s.

Torre, Asia’s first ever Grandmaster and seeing action in his 20th Olympiad, agrees with Pichay.

“Maganda ang chance ng team. Unang-una, mga bata ang players. Kundisyon ang mga katawan, hindi tabain at magaan ang mga galaw.

“Tayo pang-balanse lang, to be able to impart my experience with them.”

The country finished 46th in the 38th edition of the event in Dresden, Germany topped by Armenia.

Pichay again considers the defending champion as well as traditional powers Russia, Uzbekistan, Georgia, among others as the likely teams to beat.

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