by Bobby Ang
Monday, 14 July 2008
After three months of eliminations involving thousands of players nationwide, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) concluded the cycle with an 18 player all-play-all (open division) and a 12 player all-play-all (women's division) held from July 1-13, 2008.
Three-time National Junior Champion IM John Paul Gomez stormed out of the starting blocks with a mind-numbing 9.5/10, earned for himself a GM norm by the 13th round, and coasted home the rest of the way to crown himself champion of this chess-crazy country.
Currently the youngest grandmaster in the world, 14-year old Wesley So finished half a point back and a further point back was comebacking (for the 4th time!) GM Bong Villamayor who left his teaching position in Singapore to try and regain the form which made him the Philippines' highest rated player in 2001.
The NCFP President, Congressman Prospero Pichay announced the composition of the national squad to the 2008 Dresden Chess Olympiad:
IM John Paul Gomez, GM Wesley So, GM Buenaventura Villamayor, GM Jayson Gonzales and GM Darwin Laylo
In addition to that the Philippine team to the Beijing Mind Games to be held later this year was also announced:
GM Mark Paragua, IM Chito Garma, Leonardo Carlos, IM Rolando Nolte and IM Julio Catalino Sadorra.
This breaks the consecutive-Olympiad streak of GM Eugene Torre, who did not participate in the Grand Finals. He was both Junior and Adult Champion in the Philippines in 1970 but gave way to the Asian Zone Champion Renato Naranja as top board player in the Siegen Olympiad. Eugene then registered a record by playing top board in 17 straight Olympiads, from Skopje 1972 up to Calvia de Mallorca in 2004. His 19 consecutive appearances in the Olympiad team (the 17 above plus 1970 Siegen and 2006 Turin) is also a record.
Cong. Pichay lamented GM Torre's inability to take part in the competition, but averred that the rules for the selection to the Olympiad team were announced several months ago and he did not want to be the one to break them.
For the Women's Team to the Dresden Olympiad the top five finishers were Catherine Perena, Shercila Cua, Daisy Rivera, Chardine Cheradee Camacho and Christy Lamiel Bernales.
For detailed results and the games, please go to www.ncfphilippines.org