In a wheelchair, Severino rules Surigao online chess tourney

FIDE Master Sander Severino showed his readiness to spearhead this week's Philippine para chess team as he ruled another tough online tournament that gathered the top pawn pushers around the country on Saturday, September 11.

A person with a disability and the first Filipino world chess champion, the Silay, Negros Occidental-born Severino finished ahead of Grandmasters (GM) Darwin Laylo and Rogelio Antonio Jr. in the 500-person field to top the two-day Surigao Open Fiesta Online Chess Tournament 2021.

Severino played around 34 games and notched 42 points on 21 wins and 9 points on 9 draws for a total of a 51-point first-place finish.

International Master (IM) Eric Labog and GM Laylo tallied 47 and 46 points, respectively, to emerge as second and third placers.

The 35-year-old Severino, diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age 8 and who has been in a wheelchair for most of his life, first broke into Philippine chess consciousness when he won 4 gold medals in the 2018 Asian Para Games held in Jakarta.

But his biggest feat came in 2020, when Severino racked up an unbeaten mark of 8.5 points on eight wins and a draw, including a victory against Igor Yarmonov of Ukraine in the finals, to capture the International Physically Disabled Chess Association World Online Chess Rapid Championship crown.

The Cavite-born Wesley So, reputedly the most accomplished Filipino chess player, was the first to crown himself as world champion in Fischer-Random or Chess 960. But it cannot be counted for the Philippines' cause since he represented the United States when he achieved it.

Severino will man the top-board position for the Philippine para chess team as a guest in the September 16 opening of the third conference of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP).

"I guess he's (Severino) more than ready to compete with the best in PCAP. He's such an amazing talent who always tried to excel despite his physical disability," said Rey Urbiztondo, who sponsored the Surigao Open as his thanksgiving event for obtaining the highest online chess title – the Arena Grandmaster – at the age of 58.

Rounding up the Surigao Open's top 10 moneyed circle were IMs Daniel Quizon (43 pts), Ronald Dableo (39), GM Antonio (38), IM Sherwin Tiu (37), National Master (NM) Henry Lopez (37), Kevin Arquero (37), and Alekhine Nouri (36).

Special prize winners were NM Jonathan Tan (top senior), Francois Marrie Magpily (top lady), Clarence Rendain (top kiddy), and National Arbiter Junjun Jabay, Rogelio Canoy, and Romuald Edillo as top three Surigaonons, and Ronel Pilan as top Surigao junior participant. –