Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So, Antonio, Laylo off to Russia tomorrow

GMs Wesley So, Rogelio Antonio and Darwin Laylo- their baggage are all ready and will be flying tomorrow for Khanty Mansiysk, Russia to compete in the 2009 Chess World Cup. After weeks of tension and suspense that the Philippines might fail again to send a representative to an important international competition, I say everybody can now heave a sigh of relief.

For the chess world cup, what we have here is three different generation of chess players. Antonio, 47, one of the "Old Guard" of Philippine chess, is living up in an old school but still very effective style of playing. Darwin Laylo, 28, who bridges the old school and the tech savvy new generation of chess in the country, is over all, more of an independent type of player. Then Wesley So, 16, a certified computer savvy and is very vocal in admitting that all his secrets to his success is mostly through the guidance of Fritz programs alone, belong to this group of young Filipino chess players who rely on the perfection of the machines. Of the three, and in a personal note, it is okay to say that it is Wesley who has the best chance of making it to the second round. There is no bad news though, if ever So and Antonio will ever meet in the second round should they both get past their opponents. Especially Joey Antonio who is up against Gata Kamsky.

Report by NM Marlon Bernardino

THE Philippine Chess Team is schedule to leave the country today, Thursday, with one mission to perform well in the prestigious 2009 World Chess Cup slated on November 20 to December 15 in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia.

Supported by National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay Jr., the RP chess team is composed of Grandmasters Wesley So, Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr., and Darwin Laylo. Off the three, 15-year-old So, the highest-rated Filipino player with an ELO of 2640, is seeded 59th in the 128-player event is the first time in World Chess Cup, formerly World Chess Championships.

So, will have GM Gadir Guseinov of Azerbaijan, 23, is seeded 70th with his ELO of 2625 as his first opponent.

If So, the youngest Filipino GM, succeeds in his first-round match, he will face either GM Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine or GM Alexei Bezgodov of Russia in the second round.

However, the bad news is that the Bacoor, Cavite kid So is possible to face compatriot Sta.Mesa, Manila born Antonio in the third round if both of them will progress.

“Magkasama kami ni Wesley (So) sa bracket at posible kaming magtapat sa third round kung pareho kami mananalo sa 1st at 2nd round. Pero gaya ng una ko ng nasabi, (may) 30 percent (ang) chance manalo kay Kamsky, pero lalaban tayo,” said Antonio, who is fresh from an impressive outing in the recently concluded Asian Indoor Games blitz chess competition.

“Sana ipagdasal n’yo po kami,” added the pride of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro Antonio, who is also aiming to break the current Guinness simultaneous chess world record held by Iran’s GM Morteza Mahjoob on January 22 and 23,2010 at the historic Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila as dubbed 1 vs. 600: Pinoy Ironman.

The 12-time national open champion Antonio, sergeant from HSSG in Philippine Army under the baton of Commanding Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, toting an ELO of 2574, will be the underdog against defending champion GM Gata Kamsky of the United States who topped the 2007 edition at the expense of Spanish GM Alexei Shirov.

The former Russia stalwart Kamsky who defected in the United States in 1989 reached a peak rating of 2746 and is the top board player for the United States with an ELO of 2695.

Antonio first met Kamsky in the 2005 HB Global Challenge in Minneapolis, USA. The game, where Antonio employed his pet line caro-kann defense, ended in a draw.

Should Antonio pull an upset this time against Kamsky, he will face the winner between GM Emil Sutovsky of Israel and GM Zhou Weiqi of China in the second round.

Laylo, meanwhile, will test the mettle of GM David Navara of Czech Republic. “[May] 25 percent naman ang chance natin kay Navara,” said Laylo in a recent interview.

It shall be recalled that Antonio first seeing in action in the World Chess Championships in1999 losing to eventual runner-up Armenian GM Vladimir Akopian in their second round matches was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA while the Marikina City native Laylo also bowed in the second round against French GM Etienne Bacrot in the last edition.

Prospero “Butch” Pichay Jr., National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) chief, said he is confident that the three Pinoy pawn pushers will give a good performance.

“Umabot lamang sa fourth round magandang achievement na po ito,” said Pichay.

Top seed GM Boris Gelfand of Israel opens his bid against International Master Andrei Obodchuk of Russia in the knockout matches organized by the World Chess Federation.

The players, most of whom advanced through worldwide qualifiers, will play two games each on Nov. 20 and 21 with the winner gaining the second round on Nov. 24. Tie-breaks, if necessary, will be played on Nov. 23.

The total prize fund is USD $1,600,000

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