THIS year marked some new beginnings for the “King’s Game” in Cebu.
Ambitious undertakings, bigger tournaments, new approaches, homecomings, and the crowning of a new grandmaster highlighted the year that is about to close.
Chess opened big in 2011 with the 1st Matias “Bombi” Aznar Memorial Chess Open that drew players from out of town and was followed by the cash-rich Cebu City Charter Day Open tournament.
The country’s best including GMs Wesley So, Joey Antonio, John Paul Gomez, Darwin Laylo and would-be GMs Cebuano Richard Bitoon and Oliver Barbosa joined the tourney.
It was the first time Cebu had four GMs and top-caliber IMs playing in a local tournament, which was organized by the Cebu Chess Association (CCA) headed by patron Boojie Lim and supported by the Cebu City Sports Commission.
As Cebuanos enjoyed big tournaments, Cebu also witnessed another first: a Human Chess Game between IM Kim Steven Yap and Fide Master Anthony Makinano at the South Road Properties.
The match, held during the SRP Sports Festival.,used child players as pawn pieces and members of the Univerasity of Cebu Dance Company playing the officials.
The game went smoothly and went as far as 43 moves before the game ended.
Long-missed Cebuano chess masters came home unexpectedly.
IM Enrico Sevillano, GM Joseph Sanchez and GM Rogelio Barcenilla returned to the Philippines for varied reasons.
The United States-based Sevillano arrived in June together with Singapore-based Fide Trainer Eric Gloria, Sanchez and Barcenilla in August.
Sanchez came home to visit his aging mother and to join the Battle of Grand Masters, just like Barcenilla, who also received invitations from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) to play in the National Men’s Chess Open tournament.
While in Cebu, CCA quickly organized an event that would enable Sevillano and Gloria to play, and so paving the way for the first Cebu City Masters tournament, the first Fide-rated competition in Cebu in recent memory.
Sevillano and Gloria played against IM Yap, FM Makinano, NM Rogelio Enriquez Jr., NM Merben Roque, Voltaire Sevillano, Eden Diano and Richard Natividad in a round robin tournament format, where Yap claimed the crown with 7.0 points.
Guinness World Record
Inspired by the active chess events, the Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) has trained its sights on an ambitious project: the Guinness World Record for the Largest Number of participants in a tournament.
The project, which involves the entire public schools in Cebu City, was projected to reach at least 120,000 participants in both public elementary and high schools, as well as chess clubs from private schools and organizations.
However, not only schools in Cebu City have shown interest to participate as out-of-town schools as far as Dalaguete have signified their intention to join.
Classroom-level and school-wide-level competitions have been held and only the top eight players from every school, organization or club will be allowed to join the Grand Finale on Jan. 21 and 22 at the Cebu City Sports Center.
Bitoon acquired his second GM norm in August during the Battle of GMs in Manila.
Pressured and almost running out of time, Bitoon then captured another GM norm in Malaysia three weeks later and got his confirmation as a full-fledged chess grandmaster in October.
Bitoon, along with Barbosa, became the 15th and 16th GMs of the Philippines.
More Fide-rated tournaments
The year ended with two more Fide-rated tournaments: the 2nd Matias “Bombi” Aznar Memorial Chess Open and the Cebu City Chess Classic.
The two tournaments came at the heels of the NCFP-rated tournament organized by the Cebu Executives and Professional Chess Association in October.
By next year, more Cebuano players are expected to earn their Fide ratings as more tournaments are expected starting with the Sinulog Chess Tournament in SM City on the second weekend of January.