Youngsters rule National Chess championships

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Youngsters rule National Chess championships
Haridas Pascua, 25, and Shania Mendoza, 19, are crowned national chess champions

MANILA, Philippines – It’s the time of the young in Philippine chess. 

On Saturday night, crowned as national champion for the second time was Haridas Pascua. The 25-year-old edged Jan Emmanuel Garcia, also 25, on tiebreak and the 24-year-old Mari Joseph Turqueza after they scored 8 points out of 11 rounds.

In the women’s division, Shania Mae Mendoza, 19, ruled with a score of 7 points. Catherine Secopito, a 32-year-old mother of two and winner of the Philippine National Games standard chess, was second with 6.5 points followed by Antoinette San Diego, 19, at 3rd place with 5.5 points. 

Secopito’s strong positional play allowed her to squeeze advantage and convert them into wins against younger players. This aspect deserted many-time national champion Joey Antonio, who took 3 losses in the finals all with the black pieces. Antonio said fatigue took its toll despite an impressive first round triumph over Chito Garma.

Antonio played in the PNG and the semifinals of the nationals, which slowly sapped his strength. But the trend is on the wall.

“This is where it’s headed now. This is the time of the young players,” said Roel Abelgas, coach of the Dasmariñas team where some of the country’s strong young players are being honed.

Pascua and Mendoza did not receive any prize money for topping the event unlike last year where the men’s winner got P70,000 and women’s champ P30,000. Qualifying for the Batumi Olympiad in September is the prize, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) said.

Pascua in his Facebook page said: “It is an honor to qualify.” It will be the first Olympiad stint for Pascua, who must raise his Elo rating to 2500 to become a grandmaster, and Garcia. Garcia last joined the national eliminations in 2014 and Turqueza in 2015. 

But Garcia, now Ateneo chess program director, paired with Paulo Bersamina to win the silver in the under-23 rapid chess in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. He was also with the Philippine team that won a match with Indonesia in Jakarta.

NCFP treasurer Cliburn Anthony Orbe announced that two will be selected from the men’s division and 3 from the women’s division.

Foreign based players led by Julio Catalino Sadorra and Rogelio Barcenilla Jr in the US will be contacted to determine if they are available. If not, the NCFP will select the players from the national championships.

Eugene Torre, head coach of the Philippine team, said he is willing to play if asked. He will go to Batumi as a coach.

Speaking about the nationals, Torre said, “It is good to see young players coming up. There are several coming up, like (new International Master John Marvin) Miciano and Daniel Quizon, only 14,” he added.

The NCFP Board will be announcing the men’s and women’s lineups for Batumi when it meets in Davao on June 19. –

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