Fit as a fiddle

July 27, 2020
Eugene Torre
Eugene Torre

AS FIT as a fiddle.

That’s what Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre said in describing the condition of the Philippine team set to see action in the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad 2020 which formally started last Friday.

Bannered by United States-based GMs Mark Paragua and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. and WGM Janelle Mae Frayna, the Filipinos look to make a difference when they plunge into action in Division 2 starting Aug. 12.

Paragua and Barcenilla will play the top two boards for the country in the six-player, mixed team competition organized by FIDE as a “celebration of diversity,  exchange of ideas, sportsmanship and the mutual respect between people and cultures” even during the pandemic.

Joining Paragua, Barcenilla and Frayna in the first team are WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, IM Daniel Quizon and WIM Kylen Joy Mordido.

“It will be a good team with a mix of experience and youth,” said Torre in an interview with People’s Tonight recently.

“We are preparing very hard right now with the help of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), headed by our president Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay and secretary-general Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino,” added Torre, who will serve as head coach of the team.

“Handang-handa na ang mga players. Sabi nga, they are fit as a fiddle.”

The 68-year-old Torre also expressed confidence that the Philippine Sports Commission -supported national team will also benefit a lot from the rest of the team members who will serve as reserves.

Also with the team are GMs Darwin Laylo and Rogelio Antonio, Jr.(male),  WIM Catherine Pereña-Secopito and Bernadette Galas (female),  Michael Concio (boy) and Jerlyn Mae San Diego (girl).

NCFP executive director Atty.Cliburn Anthony Orbe said they are also now reaching out to telecommunication giants Smart and Globe to ensure the players will have fast and adequate internet connections once the competition begins.

“We do not want the players to worry about their internet connections once the games begin on Aug. 12. It is very important in online tournaments like the Olympiad,” explained Orbe.

The prestigious online  tournament formally started last July 24 with no less than Russian President Vladimir Putin welcoming the participants and organizers.

“The initiative to hold such competition online was widely supported all around the world and brought together the national teams from 163 countries. I am confident that this momentous international tournament will be a worthy substitute to the 44th Chess Olympiad, which, unfortunately, was postponed due to a difficult epidemiological situation,” said Putin in his letter posted by FIDE.

“Chess on the internet has already gained wide popularity -- more than 16 million online games are being played daily-- but such a monumental event as Chess Olympiad will be held online for the first time. I believe that this tournament will earn a universal recognition by the chess community, will be held at the highest possible level, and will contribute to the further chess promotion through advanced information technologies.”

FIDE said a total of 163 teams and over 1,500 participants from all over the world will participate in the tournament which will run July 25-August 30 on the server.

While the over-the-board Olympiad has been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus, FIDE hopes  the  unique, online edition will unite the chess world over the course of five weeks.

Teams will play on in separate divisions, in a competition that leads up to a playoff phasescheduled  August 27-30.

Each team consists of six main players, including at least two women, at least one player who is 20 or younger, and at least one girl who is 20 or younger.

Each team may also have up to six reserves: two players in each of the first two categories and one player in each of the latter categories.

Based on the official website,  Russia  will be the top seed, followed by China, United States and Armenia.

In all, a total  of 223 grandmasters have signed up among over 1,000 titled players in total.

Some of the biggest names participating include GMs Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, and Wesley So.

The competition formally started July 25 with the Base Division  pitting the lowest-ranked teams.

“The Chess Olympiad is one of the oldest traditions in chess and one of the most prestigious sporting gatherings in the world,” said FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich.

“They are a celebration of chess, but also an example of how people from all the countries in the world join together, play together, and then they go back to their respective countries with an important message: that all peoples in the world are just part of one big family.