Mindanao chessers seek measures vs online cheating amid scandal

Lynde Salgados
Mindanao chessers seek measures vs online cheating amid scandal
‘Apart from our great embarrassment in the international scene, it's very demoralizing on our part who labored hard to promote chess’

Organized Mindanao chess masters and players on Tuesday, September 7, called on the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) to raise the standards and crack down on those who resort to engine use during online tournaments.

The appeal came after the Philippine team was disqualified from the ongoing World Olympiad online tournament because a 13-year-old allegedly cheated during a game.

“This shocking news is a big blow to Philippine chess. I personally feel the disgust and frustration of Filipino chess players who are affected by this online cheating,” Iligan City native Woman National Master (WNM) Lilibeth Lee-Barcenilla told Rappler.

“We need to realize that there are no shortcuts to success. This COVID-19 pandemic is a big test to our honesty and pride. The NCFP needs to set strict rules and impose them no matter what the cost is so that players will have second thoughts about cheating,” said Barcenilla, whose husband Rogelio is a grandmaster and one-time Cagayan de Oro top-board player.

Both former Philippine team mainstays, the Barcenillas are now based in the US but are still actively campaigning in the international chess circuits, proudly brandishing their Filipino roots.

The Philippines finished second overall in Pool A category behind Indonesia to advance to the top division of the 2021 FIDE Online Olympiad, but was disqualified for violating the rules of play, a decision that the country’s governing chess body NCFP appealed.

NCFP chief operating officer Grandmaster Jayson Gonzales, also head coach of the Cagayan de Oro-powered FEU Tamaraws’ historic title run in the UAAP chess war, said he has already submitted an appeal to FIDE, the world governing body of chess.

While not condoning the act, Gonzales said the 12th member of the 12-person team is just a child and that her wrongdoing should not be blamed on the other 11 team members and the coaching staff.

Gonzales said the team members were playing in their respective homes before the decision was made by FIDE.

He said FIDE’s algorithm on detecting possible online chess cheating did not find inappropriate moves or any misconduct from Boards 1 to 11 for Team Philippines.

“So why make the whole team suffer?” he argued.

Nevertheless, others in Mindanao like lawyer Jong Guevarra Jr. of the Davao Executives Chess Society, faulted the guardians and coaches of the young chess player.

“She’s too young to be taught something like that,” Guevarra said. “We will not have a future in chess if that’s the case.”

“Apart from our great embarrassment in the international scene, it’s very demoralizing on our part (organizers) who labored hard to promote chess. Online chess cheating is becoming rampant nowadays that NCFP must take drastic action to penalize the offenders,” Guevarra said.

Professional Chess Association of the Philippines’ Surigao Fianchetto Checkmates team owner Engr. Rey Urbiztondo said the problem with online cheating during chess tournaments is that it cannot be resolved through court litigation because it is hard to establish.

“It’s all public humiliation,” said Urbiztondo.

Cagayan de Oro-based national chess arbiter Lorenzo Cuizon said the child’s parents or coach must take the blame for the controversy that smeared the NCFP’s reputation in the international chess scene.

“It’s difficult to believe that a child would do that without being influenced by elders,” Cuizon said.

His former Olympiad daughter, Woman National Master Loreshyl Cuizon, however expressed optimism that Filipino chess players would remain strong and be resilient to overcome the predicament.

“It’s a wake-up call because this also happens even in local chess events,” she said.

PCAP president-commissioner Paul Elauria declined to comment about the child because she has no ties with his group, but he added that “this incident is easily one of the worst news about Philippine chess.”

Elauria said PCAP’s upcoming tournament will have at least four foreign teams – China, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia, and “we intend to show our foreign friends how online chess should be properly played by the Pinoy chess players – with honesty, sportsmanship, professionalism, and integrity.” – 

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