THE country will play host to at least two international chess tournaments this year to give Filipino players the much-needed exposure in first-rate competitions.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) President and Chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay said the country will stage the $55,000 Asian Continental Individual men’s and women’s championships on April 20 to 30 and the Asean age-group chess tournament on June 4 to 13 both at the Subic Exhibition and Convention Center.

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Pichay said in a statement that top players from all over Asia, including world leaders China, India, and the former Russian republics are expected to display their wit in the nine-round tourney.

Aside from cash prizes totaling $40,000 for the men’s side and $15,000 for the women’s, the 2010 Asian Continental Individual Championships will stake four berths to the 2011 World Chess Cup scheduled in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

This will be the third time in four years that the Philippines will play host to the Asian tilt.

The Asean age-group championship, meanwhile, features the region's brightest boys and girls - future GMs and WGMs. Now on its 11th year, the Asean tournament is divided into six categories: 18-years-old and under; 16-under; 14-under; 12-under; 10-under; and 8-under.

Filipinos to shine

Pichay expects Filipino players to perform well in the 2010 edition, like they did in the two previous occasions that the country hosted the prestigious event.

Last year, GM Rogelio Antonio Jr. earned a place in the World Cup when he finished fourth overall in the Asian Championships held in Subic. Antonio finished with an 11-round total of 7.5 points on five wins, five draws and only one loss to earn one of 10 slots to the 2009 World Cup.

In 2007, GM Darwin Laylo also got his World Cup berth when he wound up tied for third to eight places during the Asian meet held at the Cebu International Convention Center. The business management graduate of

San Sebastian College also earned his GM title during that year's Asian contest.

Chess sensation GM Wesley So will also lead the Filipino charge as the 16-year-old Cavite native zoomed into No. 76 in the world in the newest FIDE (World Chess Federation) quarterly list with his highest-ever level of excellence rating of ELO 2656, a Philippine record.

So also moved up to No. 6 among the world's top junior players, No. 8 overall in Asia and retained No. 1 position in the world in the under-16 category.

The high school student from St. Francis College-Bacoor was recognized last year in the chess world when he scored upset victories over former world championship candidates GMs Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Gata Kamsky of the United States. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)