By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
The 12-member Philippine team left the country Wednesday to participate in the 44th World Chess Olympiad that begins Friday and ends Aug. 10 in Chennai, India.
Members of the men’s team are Grandmasters Mark Paragua, Banjo Barcenilla, Darwin Laylo and John Paul Gomez and International Master Paulo Bersamina while comprising the women’s side are WGM Janelle Mae Frayna, WIMs Jan Jodilyn Fronda, Marie Antoinette San Diego and Kylen Joy Mordido and WFM Shania Mae Mendoza.
GM Eugene Torre will coach the men’s team and GM Jayson Gonzales the women’s squad.
Barcenilla, who was joined by wife and former Olympiad PH team standout Lilibeth, arrived Wednesday morning from Arizona while Paragua was scheduled to land the same night from New York.
The rest left the country Wednesday afternoon via Malaysian Airlines.
The country is looking to improve on its performance in the last over-the-board staging of the biennial meet in Batumi, Georgia four years back when the men’s team finished 37th and the women’s squad at 67th.
The 11-round, 12-day tournament has drawn participation from 188 teams from 186 countries in men’s and 162 from 160 squads in the women’s with the host fielding three teams in both divisions.
Philippine-born Wesley So will also be there as he will spearhead title-favorite United States.
Other members of US squad are Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura – all top-ranked players.