SMILE AND SAY CHESS
TWO FILIPINO TEAMS IN
2012 CHESS OLYMPIAD
GRANDMASTERS Eugene Torre, Mark Paragua, Wesley So and Oliver Barbosa represented the Philippines in the Istanbul Chess Olympiad held from Aug. 27 - Sept. 10 taking the country to a 21st place finish in the 11-round, 161-nation tournament ruled by Armenia.
But there is another Filipino team albeit representing another country in the tournament.
Yours truly, Bernardo Garcia, Menandro Manuel and Elizabeth Manuel represented the Pacific Island nation of Palau in its first ever participation in a World Chess Olympiad.
Now why did Filipinos, instead of the locals or Palauans, represented the small country in the prestigious biennial chess tournament?
"Walang Palauans sa team kasi ayaw nilang (locals) gumastos for airfare. At wala pang Palauan na may strength sa chess na puwede na sa Olympiad. Wala pa ring Palauan na may international rating." (There is no Palauan in the team because they don't like to spend on their own for airfare. And there are no Palauans with the chess strength that is at par with Olympiad players. There are no Palauans also with international rating.)
Some 5,000 Filipinos work in Palau including myself and my teammates.
When I organized the sports and Palau Chess Federation in the country in 2002, it was mostly Filipinos who played in tournaments.
In 2005, Palau became a member of FIDE or World Chess Federation allowing players to get ratings from the international chess body.
Every FIDE member federation can join the Olympiad as long as they don't have two years arrears in membership fee.
Two years before this Olympiad, I asked those who wants to go in the 2012 Istanbul Olympiad and told them to start saving for airfare because they have to buy their own -- $1,300.00 (Manila-Istanbul roundtrip) and $500.00 - Palau-Manila (round trip).
Two of our players, Tito Cabunagan and Bangladeshi Mohammad Manik Hossain, didn't make it because of Tito's job requirement and Manik's boss allowed him to go only 2 weeks before the start of Olympiad. It's really very late.
Jamie Kenmure is the team captain of Palau chess team in the Turkey Olympiad as well as in the 2010 Russia Olympiad. He is also the Rating Officer of Palau.
All our FIDE-rated tournaments have been rated because of him. He is Australian and listed under Australian Chess Federation so he can't play for Palau; he needs to change federation to be able to play for Palau.
I and Gary Bekker of Australia, an International Arbiter, collaborated in 2006 to have the inaugural 2006 Palau Invitational Chess Championship, where Palau's top six players got their international ranking. I scored 3 points in the invitational to get my FIDE rating of 1830.
For a backgrounder of the Filipinos in Team Palau, I am 56 years old and from Hagonoy, Bulacan. I have been working as a musician at Palau Royal Resort since June 01, 2007. I have been in Palau for more than 20 years (since Feb. 04, 1992).
Garcia is 36 and has been working as I. T. Manager at Palau Pacific Resort for three years.
Manuel has been in Palau since 2003 and was chess champion many times. He is the national champion in 2006 and 2010. A native of Marilao, Bulacan, he works as a geodetic engineer (surveyor) for Socio Micronesia/Surangel's and Sons Company, one of the largest firms in Palau.
Manuel's wife is 59. She is the Division Chief at Philippine Trade and Training Center in Makati City. She's been to Palau thrice that's why she was allowed to play for Palau in lieu of Cabunagan and Hossain. (There are some countries in Africa whose players didn't have ratings).
The 161 participating countries was an Olympiad record. The previous record was 155 in the 2008 Dresden, Germany Olympiad. The 35th seed Philippines placed 21st while Palau, ranked 145th, finished at 154th.
In the first 3 rounds of the Olympiad, Palau was swept by very strong opponents from Qatar, Iraq and Maldives. At Board 2, Mrs. Manuel, a neophyte in chess, was pitted against a GM from Qatar, Mohammed Al-Sayed (2517) and was beaten badly in just 13 moves. She also committed an illegal move in her first ever chess tournament participated in.
In Board 1, I (FIDE rating 1875) bowed to GM Mohamad Al-Modiahki (2542), who beat Ukrainian Vassily Ivanchuk, the gold medalist in the 2010 Olympiad in Russia, in the 2nd round.
Garcia (1663) and Mr. Manuel (1922) suffered the same fate to International Master (IM) Nezad Hussein Aziz and FIDE Master (FM) Ghanem Al-Sulaiti, respectively.
Against Iraq in the 2nd round, I held my ground against FM Abdulsattar Abdul Ahmed (2314) until the middle game when I missed an exchange sacrifice.
As usual, Mrs. Manuel lost again in less than 20 moves against FM Ali Layth Ahmed (2360). Garcia missed some winning lines against IM Hussein Al-Ali (2329) while Mr. Manuel couldn't sustain his attack against CM Ismael Namir (2189).
Palau suffered its 3rd sweep to the lowly-rated Maldives. Some inaccurate moves exposed my king and I lost to Mohamed Hassan (1790). Mrs. Manuel was mated early by Ahmed Fuad (1830). Garcia lost in a French Defence to Ibrahim Abdulla (1851) and Mr. Manuel lost to the highest rated Maldives player Ali Abdul Rahman (1912).
In the 4th round, Garcia avoided another sweep to Palau by drawing his game against Hong Kong's Board 3 player.
In the 5th round, Palau scored its first match win by nipping U. S. Virgin Islands 2.5-1.5 with a draw from Hernandez and wins from Garcia and Mr. Manuel at Board 4.
Palau lost to Bermuda 1.5-2.5 but Garcia won his 2nd straight and Mr. Manuel drew his winning due to health reason on the 30th move, the minimum number of moves before a player can offer a draw.
In the 7th round, although Palau lost again this time to Macau by a 1-3 margin, Garcia scored his 3rd straight for a total of 3.5 points in his first 7 games to earn a Candidate Master (CM) title.
Garcia didn't know yet that he got a CM title before Palau's 8th round match up with Rwanda which ended in a 2-2 tie. He was informed by team captain Kenmure and it somehow affected his game and snapped his 3-game winning streak.
Despite the loss, his bigger achievement of getting a FIDE Master title accomplished Palau's objective of getting the first FIDE title in its Olympiad debut.
Before this Olympiad, Palau don't have a titled player yet. That's why it's an achievement already that Garcia got a CM title in our first Olympiad. In 2010 World Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, me and Tito were not allowed to play because of a 3-player minimum requirement.
In the 8th round, I've got my first whole point with a win over Rwanda's Theotime Rutaremara. Mr. Manuel also won to get 2.5 points but he had a little chance to get a CM title, which required a player to score 5.5 points in 11 games.
A total of 75 players obtained CM, FM, International Master (IM) titles during the Olympiad before the start of the final round on Sept. 9.
My performance was 3-7-1 (win-loss-draw). Mrs. Manuel 0-11-0, Garcia 4-6-1 and Mr. Manuel at 4-6-1 likewise.
Garcia lost his first 3 games, drew the 4th, won the 5th, 6th and 7th game for a total of 3.5 points in 7 games or 50% performance that got him the CM title, the very first titled player of Palau.
We played all 11 rounds because we don't have a reserve player. Under Olympiad rules, each team must have 4 players and one reserve. If a reserve player is a woman, she can play in the Open division. But if the reserve player is male, he cannot play in the women's section.
Palau men's chess team who will see action in the next World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway are Manuel, Cabunagan, Hossain, Garcia, Jeff Balbalosa, Paquito Suringa, Jr. and me as reserve, so I can attend the trainers/arbiters seminar to become a trainer/arbiter someday.
The partly complete women's team are composed of Angie Parrado, my wife Flor, Paz Ngiratechekii -- a 65-year old retired Filipina and Elizabeth Manuel. The slot for reserve player is still available after Adele Anzawa informed Hernandez that she cannot commit to 2014 Olympiad.
There are actually more that two Filipino teams in the Olympiad. Macau has 3 players who are Filipinos. In the 2010 Olympiad, Macau had 4 Filipino players.
In the 2010 Olympiad, other teams that have Filipino players are Hong Kong with 1; Papua New Guinea, whose top player was Joselito Marcos with Australians as his teammates.
And Fiji, which had Rey Bancod, a Filipino, at Board 1. The President of Fiji Chess Federation now is a Filipino, Dr. Virgilio de Asa, whom I met personally at last in Istanbul.
Source: The Superstar Section
The International Filipino
Smile and Say Chess by Roberto Hernandez
Issue of September 2012