'Ibabawi tayo ni Wesley'

August 18, 2020

THE Philippines’ campaign in the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad 2020 may have been over.

But the Filipinos are keeping their fingers crossed that GM Wesley So, now the top player of the United States, will do very well and in a way, redeem the Filipino pride.

So, after all, remains a Flipino at heart

“Hindi pa tapos ang laban. Sigurado ibabawi tayo ni GM Wesley kapag nagsimula na siya maglaro,” said one avid chess fan, who grew up idolizing the 27-year-old Bacoor, Cavite-born Filipino champion and remained a loyal fan even after So defected to the United States in 2014.

Even Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre claimed So remains a Filipino at heart despite playing chess for another country now.

“Wala naman duda na Pilipino pa din hanggang ngayon si Wesley. He still even wears a barong tagalog whenever he receives a trophy for winning a major championship,” said Torre during a recent  interview  at the TOPS “Usapang Sports on Air” via Zoom.

Aside from his strong, chess-loving fan base in the country, So will also get the prayers of his former fellow national team members, who barely missed the bus to the next round of the unique online chess competition  organized by FIDE  as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the Philippines out, Vietnam and Division 2 Group A qualifier Indonesia will now carry the fight for Southeast Asia.

Vietnam, bannered by GM Le Quang Liem and IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen, and Indonesia, led by GM Susanto Megaranto and IM Irine Kharisma Sukandar, are bracketed together in the 10-team Group A.

The Vietnamese are seeded outright to the Top Division, while the Indonesians made it as one of three qualifiiers from Division 2 Group A.

With Vietnam and Indonesia in Group A are 2018 Batumi Olympiad champion China, Germany, India, Georgia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Zimbabwe.

So will play the top board for the United States, which will play minus  GM Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura.

oining So will be  GM Sam Shaklan, IM Carissa Yip,  IM Anna Zatonskih, GM  Jeffrey Xiong, IM Annie Wang, GM Ray Robson and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan.

The complete groupings:

Group A -- China, Georgia,  India, Iran, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Zimbabwe. Germany, Indonesia.

Group B -- Ukraine, France,Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Spain, Hungary,  Slovakia, Norway, Netherlands.

Group C -- Russia, Armenia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Romania, Bulgaria, England, Turkey, Croatia.

Group D -- United States, Brazil,  Greece, Argentina, Italy, Poland, Peru, Canada, Paraguay, Cuba.

Actually, the 15 qualifiers  from Division 2 joined the 25 seeded registered teams in the Top Division.

Division 2 Group A top qualifier Bulgaria went to  Group C, along with qualifiers from  the other groups.

Germany and Indonesia, runner-up and third placer in Division 2, went to Group A.

Division 2 Group B top qualifier  Greece went to Group D, while Group C topnotcher Spain and Group C leader Hungary went to Group B.

Aside from  So  (ELO 2741), the other players to watch are GM Ding Liren (ELO 2836) of China, GM Anton Korobov (ELO 2794) of Ukraine, GM Alexander Grischuk (ELO 2784),  GM Levon Aronian (ELO 2781) of Armenia, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (ELO 2778) of Russia,  GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda (ELO  2774) of Poland, GM Daniil Dubov (ELO 2770) of Russia, Vladislav Artemiev (ELO 2769) of Russia, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (ELO 2761) of  Kazakhstan, GM Teimour Radjabov  (ELO 2758) of Azerbaijan, GM Wei Yi (ELO 2752) of  China and GM Viswanathan Anand (ELO 2751) of India.