THE Philippines hopes to produce more young and talented players in the mold of GM Wesley So and further boost the popularity of chess in the country with the hosting of the 17th Asian Continental Chess Championship-2nd Manny Pacquiao Cup at the Tiara Hotel in Makati on Dec. 10-20.
Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre said the staging of the prestigious competition, which also serves as qualifying tournament to the World Chess Cup 2019, is “good for chess, good for the country and good for the players”.
“Our players need this kind of exposure of playing against world-class players from China and other top Asian countries, especially with the Southeast Asian Games in Manila coming up next year,” said Torre during the Tabloid Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) 3rd “Usapang Sports” at the National Press Club in Manila.
“We need more Wesley So, so we need more tournaments like this Asian Continental Championships,” added Torre.
GM Jayson Gonzales said at least 126 players from 16 countries in Asia, including host Philippines, are expected to see action in the nine-round tournament, which the country will be hosting for only the second time since 2013.
“Our top players, led by GMs Rogelio Antonio, Jr. , Darwin Laylo and John Paul Gomez, newly-crowned Asian seniors champion IM Chito Garma and WGM Janelle Mae Frayna will be there to spearhead the Filipinos’ campaign,” added Gonzales, who appeared with Torre during the weekly forum also supported by the NPC.
Gonzales said players from traditional chess powers China, India, Vietnam and even Central Asia are expected to vie for honors and the total cash prize of $50,000 with the men’s champion getting the lion’s share of $10,000 and the women’s titlist winning $6,000.
“But I expect our players to do well playing at home,” added Gonzales, adding China is reportedly sending a huge contingent bannered by defending champion GM Wang Hao.
“This is really one of the biggest tournaments to be held in the country since this will give Filipino chess players another venue to showcase their skills, and at the same time earn norms for Fide, IM and GM titles since the tournament offers twice the number of norms in but a single tournament,” he said.
Both Torre and Gonzales thanked Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Chairman Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), headed by President/Chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay for their wholehearted support to the staging of the tournament.
They also lauded Sen. Manny Pacquiao, a long-time supporter of chess, for his assistance.
“I would like to personally thank Sen. Pacquiao. When I personally went to him, hindi na ako nag-dalawang salita at pumayag kaagad siya na mag-sponsor,” explained Torre.
Torre said Pacquiao, who is in the thick of his training for his upcoming title fight against Adrian Broner in Las Vegas, has agreed to shell out US $50,000 (roughtly P2.5million) as co-sponsor of the event.
Also to be held is a Challengers tournament for lower-rated local chess players and a blitz tournament in the last day of the tournament.