Grandmaster Eugene Torre, Asia’s first grandmaster and the most senior among the country’s 16 grandmasters, proved that like vintage wine, he gets better as he gets older.
The 62-year old Ilonggo bested 11 other participants, including five fellow GMs and an intrepid 18-year old girl, to rule the 2014 National Chess Championships-Battle of Grandmasters held at the function room of the Philippine Sports Commision in Vito Cruz, Manila.
The week-long tournament serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2014 Olympiad in Tromso, Norway in August 1-15, along with runner-up GM John Paul Gomez and (hopefully!) US-based Wesley So.
This means that Torre, who became a full-pledged grandmaster at the age of 22, will join the Chess Olympiad for a world-record 22nd time.
“I just wanted to prove na meron pa naman kaming magagawa. Para ito sa mga tulad kong senior citizens na,” Torre half-jokingly said.
Torre’s feat was made more remarkable because he also became the oldest Filipino chess player to win a national championship, finishing with 23 points under the Pichay-Torre system or 4.5 points. He took the title via the tiebreak over Gomez.
“Wala na sigurong makaka-break ng record ni “Eugene as the oldest national champion. Grabe ang staying power niya,” said GM Jayson Gonzales, the Executive Director of the organizing National Chess Federation led by its chairman and president Prospero Pichay and secretary-general and Tagaytay Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolention. The NCFP organized the tournament in cooperation with the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
In the women’s side, Catherine Perena emerged as champion and also grabbed a spot in the women’s team for the Olympiad, while finishing second was Christy Bernales.
But the biggest revelation in the tournament was no other than WFM Janelle Mae Frayna, who finished fourth in the men’s side of the tournament with 18 points, behind only third-placer Fide Master Paulo Bersamina’s 19.5.
Already seeded in the women’s team for the Olympiad, the 18-year old Frayna, also last year’s women’s champion, capped her brilliant performance with a convincing win over IM Oliver Dimakiling in the 11th and final round. Her other prominent victim is no less than GM Richard Bitoon, whom she beat in the second round.
Torre, meanwhile, took home the top cash prize of P100,000, Gomez won P75,000 and Bersamina received P50,000
Perena, on the other won, took the top women’s cash prize of P20,000, while Bernales won 15,000.
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