Sunday, April 06, 2008


Wesley So becomes youngest player to top RP rankings; Sadorra, FCPL stalwarts join Pinoy whiz kid in 10th Dubai Open
Jobannie C Tabada, 6 April 2008

Wesley So, currently the world's youngest international chess grandmaster, has achieved another important milestone when he became the Philippines' No. 1-ranked player, according to International Chess Federation's (FIDE) new rating list which was released on April 1.

The 14-year-old whiz kid dislodged the country's erstwhile No. 1 player, GM Rogelio "Joey" Antonio, who dropped to third as his rating remained unchanged at 2529 since the January 2008 edition of the FIDE rating list. Moving up to second place from third is former RP No. 1 GM Mark Paragua (2537), who recorded his biggest gain in rating points in two years to rebound from a sharp decline that followed his meteoric rise to the world's elite crop of "supergrandmaster" in the 2006.

So's top ranking breaks the monotony in RP's chess hierarchy, whose No. 1 position had in the past several years changed hands among only three players: Antonio, Paragua and former long-time RP No.1 GM Eugene Torre.

Earning a modest 13.8 points from the 3rd Pichay Cup International Open in Manila late last year, where he secured his third and final GM norm, and the 1st Leg of the Asian Circuit in Indonesia early this year, So, who previously occupied the second spot, hiked his Fide rating to a new personal best 2540, making him the youngest player ever to hold the distinction of RP No. 1.

His elevation to the pinnacle of RP chess has been part of a series of groundbreaking performances for the past two years. In 2006, at the tender age of 12, So became the youngest chess Olympian to join the RP Men's Team to the 37th World Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. In December of the same year, he also became the country's youngest National Open Champion, and in May 2007, he succeeded in becoming the youngest National Junior Champion.

Aside from being the current youngest grandmaster, So is also the seventh youngest to have achieved the title in chess history when he completed the required three GM norms at the age of 14 years, one month and 28 days.

In his first outing since becoming the country's No. 1, So will be competing against a field that includes over 20 grandmasters and a battery of IMs in the 10th Dubai Chess Open, which will commence today at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club in Dubai, UAE.

It will be So's second campaign in Dubai after a highly successful debut in 2006, which saw the then 12-year-old Fide Master claim his first IM norm. So will join Singapore-based IM Julio Catalino Sadorra, who is seeking his second GM norm in the Dubai event.

So arrived with his father William in Dubai at 3:30 this morning, while Sadorra flew in at midnight. They were welcomed at the airport by a delegation from the Filipino Chess Players League-UAE, which consisted of Joey Tibertio, Emman Marbella, Jerry Lababo, Ernie Yap, Willie Laceste and Francis Aldeguer, along with Fide Ratings Administrator Casto "Toti" Abundo, who in coordination with the FCPL facilitated the visiting players' requirements in the UAE.

The visiting Filipinos are now staying at the flat of FCPL member Jerry Lababo, Manager of Pag-ibig Fund Philippines in Dubai, who generously offered to help despite the short notice.

Apart from So and Sadorra, members of the FCPL will also be participating in the annual chess tournament, led by Fide Master Antonio Molina Sr. and former UST stalwart National Master Robert Arellano. Also competing are FCPL President Ernesto Yap, Rafael Natividad, Gilbert Taopa and Jobannie Tabada.

Meanwhile, the new rating list also saw IM Joseph Sanchez finally break the elusive 2500 barrier when he posted a rating of 2507 to place fifth in the list. The France-based Cebuano joins the four GMs and IM Rogelio "Banjo" Barcenilla (2503), who has been delisted from the official list because of inactivity, as the only Filipino players with ratings over 2500. Cebu's former child prodigy IM Enrico Sevillano is rated 2508 but the US-based former Asian Junior Champion and RP Champion now plays under the banner of the US Chess Federation.

The rest of the top 10 players in the RP list are GM Darwin Laylo (2496), IM Oliver Dimakiling (2479), GM-elect Jayson Gonzales (2467), IM John Paul Gomez (2464) and IM Idelfonso Datu (2457). The rest of the list of top 100 Filipino players can be found on this link (click

The FCPL likewise produced new entries to the Fide ratings list, which included Jobannie Tabada (2057), Robert Arellano (2023), Rafael Natividad (2012), Gilbert Taopa (2001), Emmanuel Marbella (1970), Francis Aldeguer (1970), Rolly Arlante (1958), Marcelo Payoket (1889), Mario Alfonso (1871), Joey Tiberio (1816) and Lino Fabrigas (1760). FCPL members who already have Fide ratings are Fide Master Antonio Molina Sr. (2150), Danny Baltazar (2068), Ernesto Yap (2038), Augusto Marcial (2030), Antonio Marbella (1993), Antonio Molina Jr. (1972), Abdulla Tato (1948), and Axel John Valerio (1851).

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