Pinoy chessers face new challenge in Online Olympiad

August 11, 2020

THE sudden changes in the groupings and schedule will not distract the Philippines in its campaign in the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad on Aug. 14-16.

In fact, the Filipinos hope to make the most of the sudden changes and do better in their campaign in this first-ever world online rapid chess competitions.

Based on the recent announcement posted on the official FIDE website, the GM Mark Paragua-led Philippines is moved from Group C, a relatively modest bracket to Group A, the so-called “Group of Death” in the 50-team Division 2.

That's because Germany, currently the world No. 11 in the latest FIDE ratings and a heavyweight in international competitions, is in the group.

Also in the Group A are world No. 25 Belarus, No. 31 Bulgaria, No. 42 Australia, No. 43 Belgium, No. 58 Indonesia, No. 65 Turkmenistan, No. 69 Bangladesh and No. 96. Kyrgyzstan.

“I think we're in tougher group now. Germany, Belarus, Bulgaria and Belgium are all tough opponents," said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) executive director Atty. Cliburn Orbe in an interview with People's Tonight.

“There was no explanation for the new groupings. They reshuffled the original list. And instead of three qualifiers from Division 3, only one team was added to our group. And that's the top qualifier, Belgium,” added Orbe.

Orbe, however, shrugged off the changes.

"The same lang naman. Our players must still perform above their rating to qualify to the top division,” explained Orbe.

“Malalakas lahat yun mga kalaban. But they are not unbeatable. Laban pa rin tayo. I still think our chances are high, especially since the format is rapid.”

Originally, the Philippines is bracketed in Group C, along with the Netherlands, England, Croatia, Slovakia, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan plus three qualifiers from Division 3.

The complete Division 2 groupings:

Group A -- Philippines, Indonesia, Germany, Belarus, Belgium, Australia, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan.

Group B -- Singapore, Romania, Slovakia, Thailand, Austria, Israel, Latvia, Moldova, IPCA, Greece.

Group C -- Portugal, Switzerland, Albania, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Slovenia, Italy, Estonia, Jordan, Spain.

Group D -- Iceland, Chile, Sweden, Serbia, Turkey, Denmark, Guatemala, Ireland, Croatia, Norway.

Group E -- Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Montenegro, Scotland, England, Hungary, Ecuador.

The latest Division 2 groupings also put IPCA (International Physically Disabled Chess Association), headed by FM Sander Severino of the Philippines, in Group B.

This means IPCA and Severino will not cross paths with the Philippines.

Instead, IPCA and Severino will have a chance to play the Philippines' Southeast Asian rivals, Singapore and Thailand.

The Singaporeans and the Thais made it to Division 2 after strong performances  in Division 3.

Orbe also confirmed that all Division 2 games will now be played on Aug. 14-16, although the  FIDE  website listed the competition dates as Aug. 12-16.

According to the FIDE website, the 50 teams in Division 2 are divided into five groups of 10 teams of equal strength.

These teams play in nine-round robin tournament with the top three teams from each group, or 15 teams in all, advancing to the Top Division.

Already seeded in the Top Division are Russia, China, United States, Armenia and Ukraine and 20 other teams nominated by the different zones.

Aside from Paragua, the other members of the 12-player national team are GMs Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr., Darwin Laylo and Rogelio Antonio, Jr, WGM Janelle Mae Frayna, WIMs Jan Jodilyn Fronda, Catherine Pereña-Secopito, Bernadette Galas, and Kylen Joy Mordido, Michael Concio and Jerlyn Mae San Diego.