MANILA, June 6, 2005 
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - There’s trouble brewing in Philippine chess.

Faced with a boycott by a big group of players, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines yesterday decided to cancel the men’s tournament altogether in the ongoing National Open chess finals at the Tagaytay City International Convention Center.

Go Teng Kok, the NCFP president, made the decision to call off the tournament, which would select the composition of the RP team to this year’s SEA Games. The third round was supposed to be played yesterday.

To shed light on the matter, Go will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today at Century Park Sheraton Hotel.

A group of players, led by Grandmaster Bong Villamayor and International Master Chito Garma questioned the "preferential treatment" being accorded the country’s top GMs like Joey Antonio and Nelson Mariano II.

Antonio and Mariano recently competed in the US and failed to book a return flight to Manila in time for last Friday’s opening. They arrived Saturday evening and sought a rescheduling of their first two matches.

Villamayor and company, however, insisted that Antonio and Mariano should be defaulted in the first two rounds. They said they would boycott the rest of the tournament if NCFP officials decide otherwise.

International Master Ronald Dableo also competed in the US tournament but was able to see action in the first two rounds of the chess finals. Antonio showed up for the third round yesterday but was met with the news of its cancellation.

Insiders believe that it is very unlikely for the tournament to resume since the NCFP will be torn between defaulting or rescheduling the opening matches of Antonio and Mariano.

In this case, the NCFP might be forced to drop the elimination process and just pick the members of the RP team – regardless of the consequences.

The protesting group, which includes IMs Ronald Dableo and Richard Bitoon, and FIDE Masters Fernie Donguines and Oliver Dimakiling, also lashed at a new NCFP rule regarding the selection process for the SEAG standard chess team.

Under the old NCFP format, all five slots in the standard chess team will have to be disputed during the National Open where the qualifiers from the different tournaments nationwide are competing.

But before the tournament started, NCFP secretary-general Sammy Estimo announced that only four slots would be contested this time — the other one being seeded or reserved for GM Eugene Torre.

Antonio said it’s just proper for Torre, for his stature as Asia’s first GM and his past records, be seeded to the team. But again, this did not sit well with the protesting group, which insisted that NCFP should follow its old rule.

At the height of the discussion, Torre reportedly stormed out of the playing hall.

"The problem with the NCFP is that sometimes, it changes the rules without consulting the players. Democracy is dead in chess," Villamayor told a scribe yesterday.

Five other players will form the active chess team while four will form the blitz team where Antonio and Paragua have been seeded upon the consent and approval of the players themselves.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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