Torre looms as top pick in pro chess draft

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    REVERED Grandmaster Eugene Torre looms as the top pick in the inaugural draft of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines on Sunday at the Quezon City Sports Club that will be shown on live video streaming.

    Torre, who became Asia’s first GM in 1974 when he garnered the silver medal in the 21st Chess Olympiad in Nice, France, heads an illustrious list of choices in the draft of what PCAP founding president Atty. Paul Elauria said is reputedly the world’s first pro chess league.

    Aside from Torre, 69, also the first player given a pro license by Games and Amusements Board, the other notable GMs in the field are US-based Julio Catalino Sadorra, Rogelio Barcenilla and Mark Paragua, plus local counterparts Joey Antonio, Darwin Laylo, John Paul Gomez and Oliver Barbosa.

    Also in the draft are GM-candidates Haridas Pascua and Ronald Dableo, International Masters Rico Mascarinas, Paulo Bersamina, Jan Emmanuel Garcia, Vince Alaan, Yves Ranola, Chito Garma, Ricky De Guzman, Cris Ramayrat, Angelo Young and John Marvin Miciano, among others, Elauria said.

    On the distaff side, those who have committed to the 24-team competition are Women’s International Master Jan Jodilyn Fronda, the reigning national women’s champion; fellow WIMs Shania Mae Mendoza and Catherine Perena Secopito, Women FIDE Masters Cherry Ann Mejia, Allaney Dory, Kajoy Acedo and Mira Mirano.

    “This will be the first draft of professional chess players anywhere in the world,” noted the bespectacled Elauria, who was coy about who would be the No. 1 pick, although teams are expected to scramble for the services of Torre, one of the country’s towering sports icons.
    He disclosed the PCAP had drawn lots to determine the draft order, with Antipolo drawing the No. 1 pick, followed by Iloilo and Quezon City as the Nos. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

    The rest of the draft order: Iriga, fourth; Negros, fifth; Cordova, sixth; Rizal, seventh; San Juan, eighth; Mindoro, ninth; Lapu Lapu, 10th; Surigao, 11th; Manila, 12th; Camarines, 13th; Olongapo, 14th; Cabuyao, 15th; Toledo, 16th; Cagayan, 17th; Zamboanga, 18th; General Trias, 19th; Isabela, 20th; Cebu, 21st; Caloocan, 22nd; Pasig, 23rd; and Palawan, 24th.

    “We have about 350 players who applied for the draft so we expect our draft session on Sunday to last up to four rounds,” said Elauria, adding that PCAP’s first conference will be held online starting Jan. 12, 2021.

    Preceding the draft proceedings, which will be shown live on PCAP’s YouTube and Facebook sites, will be simple opening ceremonies graced by GAB chairman Baham Mitra, who spearheaded the pro licensing of players in various sports so they could play and earn during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Also joining the occasion is former World Chess Federation secretary general Toti Abundo, currently the Asian Chess Federation executive director.