Shocking start: Bersamina stuns 13-time National Open champ Antonio

Lynde Salgados
Shocking start: Bersamina stuns 13-time National Open champ Antonio

UPSET. Youthful IM Paulo Bersamina draws first blood, beating GM Joey Antonio in the opener.


Paulo Bersamina outwits Grandmaster Joey Antonio, the oldest campaigner in the field who’s vying for a 14th crown in the national chess championship

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Uncustomary for Grandmaster Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr., he did not hold back in citing young rivals International Masters Paulo Bersamina and Jan Emmanuel Garcia as the players to beat days before the start of the 2021 Philippine National Chess Championships in Mactan, Cebu.

In the opener of the 12-player round-robin affair on Thursday night, December 9, at the Solea Hotel and Resort, the 13-time Philippine Open champion Antonio apparently got tripped off his “wishful thinking.”

In a shocking start, the 23-year-old Bersamina waylaid the 59-year-old Antonio, outwitting the oldest campaigner in the field with white after 37 moves in the latter’s own favorite Caro-Kann defense.

“I think the two (Bersamina and Garcia) have what it takes to become champion in  this tournament. The young ones are really strong and fast,” Antonio told Rappler.

Seeking a 14th crown in his 38th appearance in the national championship, Antonio however remains optimistic of his chance, especially with the standard time control of 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment where the older ones are comfortable with.

“It’s still in the preparations that our fates can be decided in a marathon event like this. Of course, experience is a factor that will always count,” Antonio said. “I’ll just give my best, it’s too early to entertain any expectation.”

The other ageless combatant, IM Ricardo de Guzman, took a different route as he defeated youthful IM Michael Concio Jr. in 63 moves of the Trompowsky Opening.

Other matches saw young IMs Daniel Quizon and Joel Pimentel prevailing over IM John Marvin Miciano and the non-titled Allan Pason, respectively.

The country’s lone Woman Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna drew with IM Garcia, as well as GM Darwin Laylo opposite the experienced IM Ronald Dableo.

The 11-round tournament also stakes a berth to the national squad bound for the 2023 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Thailand, plus a champion’s purse worth P80,000.  

Meanwhile, the top-seeded Johnnel Balquin from Cagayan de Oro led the opening-day winners of the Philippine National Mactan Open Chess Championship held at same venue.

Balquin’s compatriots from the City of Gold – Antonio Chavez Jr., Alfredo Rapanot, Carlomagno Rosaupan, and Jaime Joshua Frias ll – also hurdled the preliminary matches along with IM Angelo Young, Fide Master Roel Abelgas, Woman International Master Bernadette Galas, and 11 others. –