THE Philippines formally joins the family of nations in the 39th World Chess Olympiad and 81st FIDE Congress scheduled Sept. 19-Oct. 4 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
Ten players — five each in the men’s and women’s division — left the country at 6:30 p.m. Sunday to take part in the biennial team competition widely regarded as the ‘Olympics’ of chess.
The Filipinos, led by GM Wesley So and Eugene Torre, flew in to Doha, Qatar via Qatar Airways before travelling to Dubai, where they will join fellow Olympiad participants for a seven-hour chartered flight to the oil-producing autonomous region in Western Siberia.
In Khanty-Mansiysk, the Filipinos will join close to 1,400 players from 158 countries.
No less than Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend the colorful opening ceremony on Sept. 20 at the Ugra Sports Complex.
FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, head of the Republic of Kalmykia, and Natalia Komarova, the governor of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug , will welcome them during the ceremony.
The first round is scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 21, while the 11th and final round will be played on Oct. 3.
“It’s a young but talented team led by the country’s top player (So) and most-experienced player (Torre). We’re confident we will do well in this tournament,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay during a dinner he hosted for the members of the Russia-bound national team.
“With Wesley playing his best games so far and Eugene providing the much-needed leadership in the team, the Filipinos are capable of surpassing our 46th-place finish during the 38th World Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany two years ago,” added Pichay.
Pichay and NCFP secretary-general and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino will travel to Khanty-Mansiysk later next week.
Aside from So and Torre, the other members of the men’s team are GMs Darwin Laylo and John Paul Gomez and IM Richard Bitoon.
The women’s squad is made up of veteran campaigners Cheradee Chardine Camacho, Catherine Perena, Shercila Cua, Rulp Ylem Jose and Jedara Docena.
Accompanying the 10-man Filipino delegation are NCFP executive/events director Wil-lie Abalos and coaches Atty. Edmundo Legaspi (men) and Cesar Caturla (women).
Armenia, one of several former Russian republics, will seek its third straight title in the men’s division.
The Armenians have won the last two Olympiads — Turin, Italy in 2006 and Dresden, Germany in 2008. Ukraine, another former Russian republic, topped the event in Calvia in 2004.
Leading Armenia’s bid are GMs Levon Aronian (ELO 2783), Vladimir Akopian (ELO 2691) and Gabriel Sargissian (ELO 2677).
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