MANILA, Philippines – When you think of regional sports teams, there are the usual favorites and popular ones from the big city centers. However, because of the ongoing Professional Chess Association of the Philippines, the Laguna Heroes are giving this province of the Greater Manila Area a measure of pride.
The Heroes — named after its plethora of national heroes, patriots and notable people — currently sit atop of the Northern Standings of the All-Filipino Conference of the PCAP with a 23-4 record. Although they share the same win-loss slate as Caloocan and San Juan, they are slightly ahead because of percentage points.
Wherever it is, the people of Laguna are excited.
“The chess playing community in Laguna has been very excited since PCAP started,” bared team owner and playing coach AGM Alfred Paez. “They follow the games and get news updates after all our matches. They also regularly ask about our place in the standings of PCAP.”
One would think that having two Grandmasters in Rogelio Barcenilla and John Paul Gomez gives them a considerable advantage in any match or tournament. Paez is quick to dispel any such assumption.
“Having two GMs is attractive to look at but it is not a guarantee for the team to easily win since there are seven boards and the time controls are short,” he said.
Paez admitted that he was somewhat apprehensive about putting together a team during the formative stages of PCAP.
“It’s a big league,” shared Paez. “It took more than two months for me to decide (where to join or not). I was one of the last to confirm our participation.”
“With my friends Mr. David Nithyananthan of Greatech Philippines, Inc., Engineer Benjamin Dy of SDC Global Choice, and Engineer Jonathan Mamaril who is based in Arizona, USA, we agreed to be part of the team as co-owners. I invited GM Gomez and Vince Medina to be a part of the Laguna team.”
Barcenilla, FM Efren Bagamasbad, and WNM Jean Karen Enriquez joined up with FM Austin Jacob Litertus added in the draft with Kimuel Aaron Lorenzo and CM Arjie Bayangat coming in as homegrown players.
“The toughest match so far was Caloocan,” said Paez. “We played two games and have not beaten them. They have a good line-up as well with two strong IM in the top boards with the homegrowns all masters as well.”
“Though we aren’t physically playing in one venue, the team members are now closer to each other because of our regular pre and post-game huddles. Also, our GMs help the team in advice and formulating strategies.”