BAGUIO CITY – The online tournament of Baguio’s lone International Master (IM), who has won the national title twice and is on his way to a second Chess Olympiad, has attracted more than 230 players not just from the Philippines but also from Southeast Asia (SEA) including a Grand Master and several IMs.
IM Haridas Pascua will be competing against fellow woodpushers in the IM KingHarii Arena starting at 7 p. m. April 10 in a rare competition especially during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic that has either postponed or canceled tournaments.
Played on the free chess online server Lichess, Pascua will be competing against players from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“Baka may mga iba pa pong foreigners pero sila pa lang po nag-inquire sa akin (Maybe there will be more foreigners, but so far they are the only foreigners who have inquired),” said the 26-year-old Mangatarem, Pangasinan born chess master.
Pascua is the highest-rated player entered so far in said server with a rating of 2800 but he will be playing against a tough field that includes GM Darwin Laylo, fellow IMs Paulo Bersamina, and Daniel Quizon, FIDE (Federation Internationale des Eshekes) Master Cuaso and FM (FIDE Master) Alekhine Nouri.
Bersamina, or “fastest man alive” in Lichess, is seeded second with ratings of 2707, Quizon whose username is gon_freecs123, is sixth with ratings of 2485, while the youngster Nouri is eighth at 2449.
Laylo, the highest rated among the players, is just 11th ranked with 2440, while Cuaso, who goes by the name “twofoxniel”, has ratings of 2435 which is good for 12th seed.
Pascua said that the tournament is an arena format where players must earn wins within 90 minutes, the player with the most wins winning the title.
“So mas maganda pag matapos agad game nila para makadami sila ng laro and possible more points din (It is better when you finish fast so you can play more games in the tournament and if possible earn more points),” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) via Facebook message.
Pascua said that the winners, top 10, will be receiving cash prizes that will be sent through GCash.
He is also expecting more players to join the event which is but several hours before this writing as players would want to flex their mind especially with the absence of tournaments due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pascua and Bersamina are members of the national team which is supposed to represent the country in the 44th Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiyak, Russia this August, but the tournament was moved to August next year.
Quizon was the only player to beat him in the two-round Chess Olympiad play-off for the fifth slot to the national squad last February but still went on to win with his five points of a possible six beating Laylo in the process, who wound up with 3.5 points.
The 14-year-old Nhouri from Negros is the youngest ever FM, a feat he did when he was merely seven years old. Named after the Russian legend Alexander Alekhine, the wunderkind is the country’s reigning 14-under champion.
Pascua is the second Baguio resident to reach the IM level after the late Andronico Yap in the late 80s.
Yap, who is also a University of Baguio alumnus like Pascua, died in a drowning accident in 1990.
The online tournament is but one of the training grounds for Pascua in his pursuit for the elusive GM level which has been his goal when he earned his third and final GM norm in 2015.
The two-time national champion (2017 and 2018), who is supposed to play in Thailand this month, does online tutoring to earn for his GM campaign.
It will also be his second straight Chess Olympiad after the 43rd staging in Batumi, Azerbaijani in 2018 where the country finished 37th over-all. (PNA)