FIDE Asian Zonal chess tourney starts
Cebu one of hosts of chess championship; 5 Cebuanos, 1 Manileña aim for top 2 slots
CEBU CITY, Philippines—- In a very rare opportunity, Cebu has been chosen as one of the hosts of a major international wood pushing tournament, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) Asian Zonal 3.3 Chess Championships 2021 that officially unfolds today, May 1, at the Cebu Parklane International Hotel.
Due to the travel restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual FIDE Asian Zonal Chess Championships, which serves as the qualifiers for the World Championships in Sochi, Russia, this year is held on a virtual platform.
Thus, it paved the way for the Philippines to host five zonal hubs. The other zonal tournaments are in Malaysia (Penang and Kuala Lumpur), Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Laos.
Team Cebu is composed of six talented woodpushers. Five of them are Cebuanos in National Master (NM) Merben Roque, Richard Natividad, NM Rogelio Enriquez Jr., Jerish John Velarde, and Jave Mareck Peteros. Their lone female woodpusher is Women’s International Master (WIM) Bernadette Galas of Manila.
“I’m very happy but nervous at the same time. A lot of people have high expectations for me to win. I have to do my best to meet everyone’s expectations. I don’t feel any pressure at all in joining this tournament because I’ve joined many international tournaments before,” said 40-year old Roque from Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.
The other zonal hubs in the Philippines are in Dasmariñas, Davao, Pasig, and Cabuyao. The Cebu zonal hub is supervised by a newly-established chess group, the RiChessMasters, based in Cordova and founded by Cebuano woodpusher Ariel Potot who is one of the supervising officials of the tournament along with FIDE arbiter Odilon Badilles.
Other officiating arbiters are International Arbiters (IA) in Casto Abundo, the director of the Asian Chess Federation and Reden Cruz. They are joined by pairing arbiter Michael Pagaran, and Zoom arbiter Susan Neri.
The tournament follows a Swiss system nine-round competition under FIDE regulations using a hybrid format. The hybrid format is a combination of online chess that uses an actual chessboard and monitored by FIDE arbiters.
Only the top two in entire Asia will qualify for the world championship where they face the reigning champion, Grand Master (GM) Magnus Carlsen of Norway.
“Technically this zonal tournament is very important for chess players in the Philippines. Before, if you want to play in the zonals, you need to fly to other countries which is very expensive, unlike now, because of the pandemic, it became available for many Filipino chess players,” said Potot.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for them. Normally you need to spend a lot of money to fly to other countries for this tournament, but it is brought to our doorstep right now,” he said.
The zonal tournament is currently going on as of this writing.
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