National Chess Championship kicks off at NPC

GRANDMASTER Wesley So and Woman FIDE Master Rulp Ylem Jose begin their title retention bid on Saturday, July 16, in the National Chess Championship: Battle of the Grandmasters at the National Press Club.

So will meet GM Joseph Sanchez while Jose will face Mira Mirano in the opening round of the round robin tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) headed by its president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay, Jr.

With a record nine GMs in the men’s division, this year’s national championship sponsored by Pilipinas Shell, Manila Pavilion Waterfront Hotel and Casino, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), NPC, Remate and Hataw is considered the toughest ever. The average rating of 2508 can attest to that.

Despite that, So remains the overwhelming favorite to capture his fourth straight Battle of the Grandmasters title.

“My chance to win is as good as anybody not named Wesley,” said GM John Paul Gomez, runner-up to So in last year’s edition of the event. He will battle GM Rogelio “Banjo” Barcenilla in the first round.

Even 12-time national champion GM Rogelio “Joey” Antonio readily installed So as the player to beat.

“Wesley always says that he enjoys playing chess. Well, hindi kami nag-e-enjoy pag s’ya ang kalaban namin,” said Antonio, who finished in a tie for third last year. “He is definitely the favorite to rule this tournament.”

Antonio and Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre will cross path in the marquee match-up of the opening round.

The other first round matches pit GM Mark Paragua against GM Darwin Laylo, GM Roland Salvador against International Master Oliver Barbosa, IM Richard Bitoon against IM Yves Ranola and IM Rolando Nolte against Ateneo High School standout IM Jan Emmanuel Garcia.

According to tournament director and new NCFP executive director GM Jayson Gonzales, the five IMs in the field can get a GM norm by scoring at least 8.5 points. Supervising the tournament proper is International Arbiter Gene Poliarco.

In the distaff side, the country’s youngest WFM 12-year-old Marie Antoinette San Diego gets her baptism of fire in the biggest stage of Philippine chess against Jan Jodilyn Fronda while reigning national girls champion Janelle Mae Frayna of Far Easter University takes on Rowely Joy Acedo. The other matches pit WFM Cherry Ann Mejia against Shania Mae Mendoza, WIM Catherine Perena against WIM Beverly Mendoza and Jedara Docena against Jenny Rose Palomo.

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