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Torre, on 23rd stint, leads PH in Chess Olympiad.

The Philippines begins its campaign in the 42nd Chess Olympiad today, hoping to improve on its previous 46th place finish in the men’s division of the biennial event that will be played in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Led by Asia’s first grandmaster, Eugene Torre, the men’s team also has three GMs in the lineup and the current national junior champion International Master Paulo Bersamina.

The 64-year-old Torre, who will mark his 23rd stint, has appeared in more Olympiads than anyone for his country. He will play the third board.

Used to be ranked among the Top 50 during his prime with an ELO of 2580, Torre’s rating has plummeted to 2447, but still commands respect among his peers.

Playing the top board for the second straight time is United States-based Catalino Sadorra who has an ELO of 2560.
Sadorra, who will turn 30 on Sept. 14, won the recent Southern Chess Congress Open in the US, ahead of American GM Gata Kamsky.

Playing board two is GM John Paul Gomez whose first and only Olympiad appearance was in 2010 where he scored 4.5 points in nine matches. He has an ELO of 2492.

At board four is another US-based player, GM Rogelio Barcenilla who at 44 is the second most senior member of the team.

Barcenilla made his Olympic debut at the age of 16 and is best remembered for playing a key role in the country’s best-ever finish, seventh place in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1988.

A three-time Olympian, Barcenilla has an ELO of 2455.

Bersamina is the youngest member at 18 years old and will be making his second Olympiad appearance. He has an ELO of 2408.

Not much is expected from the squad which will miss the services of former top board player GM Wesley So, now playing for powerhouse United States.

But James Infiesto, the men’s team captain, is confident that his players will play above expectations.

Infiesto, an international arbiter and certified trainer, is hoping to draw the best from his players by instilling team spirit and camaraderie.

Many-time champion Russia, with four players rated in excess of 2700, is the men’s top seed followed by the United States and defending champion China.

Also seeing action is the women’s team, led by woman International Master Janelle Mae Frayna. The other members are WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, WNM Cristy Lamiel Bernales, WFM Shanai Mae Mendoza and WIM Catherine Perena Secopito.

GM Jayson Gonzales, the women’s skipper, said they have assembled one of the strongest squads and is looking forward to pull off a surprise.

The delegation, led by lawyer Ruel Canobas, arrived in this city of two million following a long trip that took them first to Turkey.

Site of the two-week long tournament that drew 183 teams from 176 countries is the Baku Crystal Hall, a 25,000-seat indoor arena built in 2012.

A team captain’s meeting will be held at 10 a.m. for the submission of lineups and pairings for the first round.
The first round will be played at 3 p.m. (7 p.m. Manila time).

The team with the best win-loss record after 11 rounds will be declared champion. (REY BANCOD)