LAOAG City, Ilocos Norte—Ties were renewed and warm pleasantries were exchanged when Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and Asia’s first Grandmster Eugene Torre crossed paths anew during the opening rites of the 2016 National Age Group Chess Championships Grand Finals at the Centennial Arena in this fast-growing city.
Torre, who was the first to speak to address the participants, parents and guests as they waited for the arrival of the governor, recalled that it was during the reign of the late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., that Philippine chess experienced its “golden age.”
“It was President Marcos who was instrumental in the phenomenal growth of Philippine chess at that time. Wala pa yung Vietnam, India at China sa larangan ng chess, dahil tayo ang naghahari noon. Marami tayong big tournaments noon, at nakarating pa nga sa bansa natin ang mga bigating chess players mula sa buong mundo dahil sa tulong ni Presidente Marcos, said the now 64-year old Torre, who added that the president, despite his busy schedule and much to the chess master’s surprise, graced Torre’s invitation to be one of the sponsors’ during his wedding to the Basilan native Marilyn at the Malacanang Chapel no less.
It was during this time that Governor Marcos arrived, with no bodyguard and security in sight and dressed simply in t-shirt and jeans.
Torre was visibly elated by Imee’s arrival, and much to the governor’s delight, extended his speech by recalling that during American GM Bobby Fischer’s visit in the country in 1973, the late president and the American chess genius opened the International Chess Tournament with a 15-move ceremonial opening moves.
Torre said Fischer later that when he and Marcos agreed to a “draw,” the president’s position was still “tenable,”
During her turn to speak, Imee confirmed the story and said that his father always regaled his children with the story and proudly bragged that “umabot kami ng 15 moves ni Fischer, pero hindi pa rin ako nauubos.”
Imee also described Torre during his younger years as a chess “rock star” because the GM at that time wore his hair long.
But turning seriously, Govenor Marcos said the province of Ilocos Norte under her administration will continue to support Philippine chess and warmly welcomed the participants to the province.
Both the Governor and the GM also agreed that more than the championship, what is more important are the lessons learned in the course of playing the game, not only by improving one’s skills, but also by molding the players’ character.
Gov. Marcos and Torre later performed the ceremonial moves, where they were mobbed by the young participants and later, the governor gamely posed for “selfies’ with the participants, their parents and even the tournament staff, led by GM Jayson Gonzales, the Executive Director of the organizing National Chess Federation of the Philippines.
Young chess player Mhage Sebastian, who topped the girls’ 10-under category in the ASEAN Age Group Chess Championship held last year in Singapore, led the oath of sportsmanship.
Sebastian happens to be the talented daughter of Gerriahzon Sebastian, the NCFP coordinator for the successful hosting of Ilocos Norte, and the Executive Assistant of Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut.
Gonzales later officially declared the tournament open. Later, after the drawing of lots, the participants transferred at the nearby Mariano Marcos State University auditorium, wher the games will be held until Friday, April 7.