MANILA, February 23, 2006
(BULLETIN) CHESS OFFICIALS got back at former World Chess Federation (FIDE) President Florencio Campomanes saying his behind-the-scene maneuvering forced the country’s top player Mark Paragua to miss the Southeast Asian Games by having the World Chess Championship matches coincide with the dates of the SEA Games last year.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) Secretary General Sammy Estimo said the world event was not originally scheduled in late November, but when Campomanes failed to secure appointment as part of the organizing commitee for chess in the SEA Games, he convinced the FIDE to have its event concide with the SEAG.

"This man-made disaster deprived us of the services of GM Mark Paragua, the lone Southeast Asian super GM and the most bemedalled Filipino athlete in the 2003 Vietnam SEA Games," said Estimo.

Estimo’s disclosure was in answer to the criticism levelled by Campomanes against the NCFP in Tuesday’s PSA Forum during which the 79-year-old Campomanes deplored the association’s lack of development program and put the blame squarely on the association for the country’s dismal SEAG performance.

Of the eight events contested, RP chessers were shut out in the gold medal race and settled for three silvers and three bronze medals and was considered the worst performing association among all RP teams.

"We are now at the bottom of the heap," said Campomanes during the forum. "There is no serious training undertaken despite the generous grant of the First Gentleman."

Estimo, however, dismissed Campomanes’ claims, saying the former FIDE president was responsible for the country’s nightmarish performance because of the conlficting schedules which he and the NCFP suspect was the handiwork of Campomanes.

"If Mr. Campomanes had the best of intentions for Philippine chess as he loves to peddle to the media, he should have helped our athletes train in stronger tournaments given his vaunted connections in Europe. But he didn’t lift a finger," said Estimo.

" On the contrary, he flew with GM Paragua on the same flight to Russia – thus depriving the Philippines of its best bet in the SEA Games."

Grandmaster Eugene Torre, who was also at the receiving end of Campomane’s tirade, also defended himself saying calls for his retirement were premature.

"I feel that I can still contribute to the cause of Philippine campaigns in the SEA Games, Asian Games and Olympiads. When the time comes for me to deposit my chess sets and clocks in a closet, I will assure Campo that he will be the first to know. But before then, I sincerely request him to favor me to decide the right time when I will go," said Torre yesterday.

Campomanes said Torre’s insistence on being seeded in every international tournament is a setback for RP chess.

"He has done his service to the country and must give way to others," said Campomanes.

But according to Torre, seeding of top players to their national teams has been the usual practice of some of the world powers like Russia, Armenia and Ukraine.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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