Mindanao chess legend Cesar Caturla dies at 71

Lynde Salgados
Mindanao chess legend Cesar Caturla dies at 71

IN MEMORY. Mindanao native Cesar Caturla (1950-2021) was an Olympiad campaigner, national coach, national master, and ASEAN age-group gold medalist.

Mindanao Chess Files

An icon in Mindanao chess, Cesar Caturla played for the Philippine team in the 1976 World Chess Olympiad

Mindanao’s National Master (NM) Cesar Caturla, a member of the Philippine men’s team that competed in the 1976 World Chess Olympiad in Israel, died on Friday, October 22, at his rented house in Sampaloc, Manila. He was 71.

Caturla was among the original members of the Surigao Fianchetto Checkmates, a team now contending in the season-ending 3rd Conference of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP).

“It’s definitely sad news for the chess community in Mindanao to learn of Caturla’s passing at this most difficult time of the pandemic,” Surigao team owner and Caturla’s townmate in Arena Grandmaster Rey Urbiztondo told Rappler.

Bedridden, Caturla died of complications due to kidney problems. He also had arthritis, and was confined to a hospital weeks before his death.

Caturla was known for organizing the biggest chess tournament in Mindanao in terms of prizes, but the Surigao native was more than that. He was back in the chess spotlight in 2019 as a senior citizen, winning the first gold for the Philippines in the 20th Asean+ Age Group Chess Championships at the Golden Mandalay Hotel and Hotel Hazel in Mandalay City, Myanmar.

In that event, Caturla was unbeaten in eight games, good enough to secure the top honors in the Senior 65 years old and above of the standard nine-round Swiss system tournament.

Shortly before Caturla died, veteran chesser Clement Valledor of Cagayan de Oro broke the news of the septuagenarian’s depressing condition in Manila away from his two children in Surigao and the other one now living abroad.

“He was really in bad shape,” Valledor said.

Immediately, his long-time chess buddy, International Master Domingo Ramos of Manila, sponsored an online chess tournament on October 16 to help Caturla with his medications after he was discharged from the hospital.

“Sarce (Caturla) was an icon in Mindanao chess. We can’t forget him for organizing the big tournament in Cantilan, Surigao del Norte a decade ago,” recalled National Arbiter Lorenzo Cuizon, referring to the Prospero Pichay Sr. Memorial Cup that saw the late NM Ernesto Fernandez of Pagadian City running away with the champion’s P100,000 prize.

He was a former coach of the Philippine women’s team in the Olympiad.

Urbiztondo said Caturla was a warrior in the 64-square board game that he begged to play for the Surigao team in PCAP challenge last year. He was already 70 years old at that time.

“With his departure, we lost a pillar of chess in Mindanao,” Urbiztondo said. –