GRANDMASTER Wesley So will spearhead the Philippine campaign in the Asian Zonal 3.3 Chess Championship starting today at Tagaytay International Convention Center.
The 19-year-old So, the country’s highest-ranked player and the tournament’s top seed with an Elo rating of 2682, took a break from his studies at Webster University in the United States to compete in the event hosted by Tagaytay Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and the city council.
At stake are cash prizes and two slots to the World Chess Cup 2013 slated Aug. 10 to Sept. 5 in Tromso, Norway.
Out to crowd So, ranked 66th in the world, for the title is the foreign contingent led by Indonesian GM Susanto Megaranto, winner of the 2011 Asian Zone 3.3 edition.
Other Filipino contenders are GM Mark Paragua, winner of the recent PSC Cup International Chess Championship, and GM Oliver Barbosa, who is assured of a World Cup berth by virtue of a fifth-place finish in the Asian Chess Championship held in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, last May.
Paragua placed second to Megaranto (Elo 2529) in 2011 and also advanced to the World Cup.
Vietnamese GMs Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (Elo 2631), Dao Thien Hai (2531) and Cao Sang (2497) and Mongolian GM Tsegmed Batchuluun (2494) are also expected to contend.
Also in the fold are GMs John Paul Gomez, Rogelio “Joey” Antonio, Darwin Laylo, Richard Bitoon and Eugene Torre.
Tolentino, also the president of Asian Zone 3.3, said he is hopeful of a good finish by the Filipinos, especially with So in the fold.
The top finisher in the women’s field, to be headed by Mongolian GM Monguntuul Batkhuyag, will qualify for this year’s Women’s World Championship.