THE Manny Pacquiao Cup Asian Continental Chess Championship reels off 2pm today with men's and women's champions from leading chess countries in Asia seeing action at the Midas Hotel and Casino in Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.
The Philippine bid is spearheaded by GMs Oliver Barbosa, Julio Sadorra, Mark Paragua, Rogelio Antonio Jr., John Paul Gomez, Darwin Laylo and Richard Bitoon. Other Filipino hopefuls are IMs Rolando Nolte, Oliver Dimakiling, Emmanuel Senador, Petronio Roca and Chito Garma who are chasing the elusive Grandmaster title.
Top seed is GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam with a rating of 2714. Chinese champion Li Chao is second seed at 2686. Two Indian GMs are among the favorites, GM Krishnan Sasikiran (2669) and GM Parimarjan Negi (2651). Southeast Asian zone champion GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son of Vietnam (2631) and Iranian champion GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami are also strong contenders for the top five places qualifying to the World Cup.
Chinese players are top seeds in the women's division. WGMs Tan Zhongyi, Huang Qian, Guo Qi and Wang Jue are among the first five in the field of some 40 players. Third seed IM Batkhuwag Munguntuul of Mongolia breaks the Chinese monopoly.
The Philippine women's bid is spearheaded by WIM Catherine Perena, Janelle Mae Frayna and Bernadette Galas of Makati City who created a sensation in the Zonal championship last January in Tagaytay City, and WFM Marie Antoinette San Diego, 20-under national age group champion.
IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen of Vietnam, Indian women's champion IM Eesha Karavade and WGM Mary Ann Gomes, Guliskhan Nakhbayeva of Kazakhstan, WGM Le Than Tu of Vietnam and WIM Warda Aulia Medina of Indonesia are among the strong contenders for the title.
The tournament is held under the auspices of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines headed by Chairman/President Prospero "Butch" Pichay Jr., World and Asian Chess Federations, and organized by the Eugene Torre Chess Foundation. Games are scheduled 3pm daily in the 9-round Swiss System event.
The top five qualify to the 2013 World Cup scheduled August 10 to September 5 in Tromso, Norway. Filipino Grandmasters Wesley So and Oliver Barbosa are the early qualifiers. Barbosa finished in the top five in last year's Asian Continental in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam while Wesley qualified from the Zonal Championship organized by NCFP Secretary-General Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino last January in Tagaytay City. The Asian Women's champion advances to the 2014 Women's World Championship tournament.
Expected to attend the opening ceremonies are Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, NCFP president/chairman Prospero "Butch" Pichay Jr. and FIDE Asian Zone 3.3 president NCFP secretary-general and newly-elected 7th district Cavite Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino Jr., Asian Chess Federation Deputy President Casto Abundo, NCFP Executive Director GM Jayson Gonzales, NCFP deputy-secretary general and treasurer Red Dumuk and Asia's first IM Rodolfo Tan Cardoso.