MANILA, February 22, 2006
(MALAYA) AFTER a half-century of popularizing chess in the Philippines, the sport in the country is virtually in the pits, lamented Florencio Campomanes yesterday.

"We are now at the bottom of the heap," said Campomanes, who has been the main man for promoting the game in the country since 1956 when he captained the first RP team that saw action in the World Chess Olympiad in Moscow.

"At my age, I am entitled to frank and candid statements," added Campomanes, lifetime honorary president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) who turns 79 today.

He served as the president of the world governing body from 1982 to 1995 before yielding the post to businessman Kirsan Ilyumshinov of Kalmykia, who remains FIDE chief until now.

Appearing at the PSA forum at the Pantalan restaurant in Manila, Campomanes cited the dismal showing of the Filipino chessers in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games who were shut out for the gold in the competitions dominated by Vietnam.

"We used to teach countries like China, Vietnam and India. Now they have surpassed us," he said.

In a prepared statement, Campomanes pointed out "no serious training (of the national team) was undertaken despite a generous grant of P5 million from the First Gentlemanís Foundation."

He questioned the sending of some national team members to Europe for foreign exposure "but not in high quality tournaments to sharpen their skills in the SEAG."

Appointed as chairman of the jury of appeals in the World Olympiad set in Turin, Italy in May, "Campo" traced the countryís chess decline to lack of grassroots development, the prevailing "chess culture" among top players and the perennial seeding of the veterans in top local tournaments.

"We have no organized grassroots development, which is essential for us to advance. We have no new generation to replace the old ones," Campomanes said.

He noted that since he began actively promoting chess 50 years ago, the country has only produced six grandmasters, Eugene Torre, the late Rosendo Balinas Jr., Rogelio Antonio Jr., Bong Villamayor, Nelson Mariano II and Mark Paragua.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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