Chinese Embassy, Makati
June 10, 2014
Not all are apparently happy and supportive of the decision by soon to be American chess grandmaster Wesley So to switch allegiance from our beloved Philippines to the United States.
And surprisingly, he’s not the person named Butch Pichay, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president.
Guess who he is?
He’s no less than Jose “Peping” Cojunagco, Jr. Philippine Olympic Committee president. Ex-Phl fencing chief. Former Tarlac Congressman. Brother of our late President Cory Aquino. Uncle of our incumbent Chief Executive PNoy.
Guess what he said?
“If being Filipino means that little to him, I would be happier that he stops being a Filipino,” Cojuangco tells The Philippine STAR and Sportsmaryosep.
Peping’s stand is somewhat in contrast to what everybody else has voiced. Like Pichay’s secretary-general at NCFP, Bambol Tolentino. “We lost a national treasure,” he says. “We can’t do anything about it, it’s a family decision and, of course, we cannot give what the United States is offering. It’s really beyond our control,” he adds.
Eugene Torre, the face of Philippine chess for a long time being Asia’s first chess GM in 1974 and a quarterfinalist in the World Championship Candidates Matches in 1983, was more pronounced, intimating that the 20-year-old Webster U standout should be given his wishes.
“We can’t judge him (So) if his ambition is to become a world champion. It’s his personal decision, anyway,” says Torre, now 62 years old but still has some stinging chess punch in him. “The best thing to do right now is to agree to his (So) offer to play for the country one last time in the World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway this August and set him free,” he adds.
Peping’s Phl Sports Commission counterpart, Richie Garcia, was a little tamer, disclosing that it will take perhaps a lifetime to have someone like So. “It will take time to produce another Wesley So,” Garcia says.
Pichay, of course, has yet to respond to our calls so it means he remains steadfast in fighting off So’s insistence. As we all by now, failure to obtain the NCFP blessing would mean the So will have to shell out 50,000 Euros or a whopping P3 million to the NCFP or go over the two-year waiting period imposed by the international chess federation FIDE on players opting to change federations. It means he will also be barred from joining all FIDE-sanctioned events like the Olympiad and World Championship, thus slowing down his progress.
And then come’s Peping’s counter-attack.
Call it a gambit.
What’s your take?
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar