Laguna hurdles Camarines for PH pro chess league title

Roy Luarca
The Laguna Heroes draw prolific performances from Banjo Barcenilla and Austin Jacob Literatus to topple the Camarines Soaring Eagles

The Laguna Heroes banked on Grandmaster (GM) Rogelio “Banjo” Barcenilla Jr and FIDE Master (FM) Austin Jacob Literatus to down the Camarines Soaring Eagles, 2-1, in Armaggeddon and become the inaugural champion of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) All-Filipino Conference on Saturday, April 3.

The United States-based Barcenilla, a two-time Asian Juniors champion, trounced Christian Mark Daluz in 55 moves of an English Opening, while Literatus checkmated Ellan Asuela after 43 moves of a Modern Defense to compensate for GM John Paul Gomez losing to Camarines ace GM Mark Paragua earlier.

Living up to its top seeding, Laguna, the North Division champion, trounced Camarines, the South Division titlist, 14.5-6.5, in the first set matches of the Grand Finals.

Camarines, however, struck back in the second set, 11.5-9.5, to force the Armaggedon tiebreaker.

“It was a total team effort,” said Barcenilla, winner of the last two Olympiad qualifiers for the Philippine team.

Other members of the Laguna Heroes are Woman National Master Jean Karen Enriquez, FM Jose Efren Bagamasbad, Vince Angelo Medina, Kimuel Aaron Lorenzo, and Candidate Master Arjie Bayangat.

Fred Paez, who co-owns the Laguna Heroes with Benjamin Dy, Jonathan Mamaril, and David Nithyananthan, served as head coach.

The Iloilo Kisela Knights, led by GM Rogelio “Joey” Antonio, clinched third place over the San Juan Predators.

According to PCAP commissioner Paul Elauria, the second conference of the country’s first pro chess league will be known as the Wesley So Cup. –