First pro chess league in PH gets GAB approval

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) - Aspiring and current Filipino chess players now have a chance to make their sport as a source of income after the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) approved the country's first professional chess league.

GAB Chairman Baham Mitra formally announced this in a press conference on Thursday the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP).

"The Philippines has close to half million chess enthusiasts, worldwide active players are about half billion. We want to place chess players in comparable stature as other professional athletes," said Mitra.

PCAP founding commissioner Paul Elaria emphasized the establishment of a professional chess league in the country will not only provide livelihood to Filipino woodpushers, but also advance the playing level of these players.

"We formed PCAP to respond to the needs of the players. Not all of our chess players are in the national team, that's why those talented players can now showcase their talents with assured sustainability in their lives," Elaria explained.

The PCAP will field 12 teams, each representing a local government unit. Each squad will have six players, two will be homegrown talents from the LGU-based team. The remaining four team members will composed of two masters, one female, and one senior chess athlete.

The league plans to hold a draft before they start their inaugural season in 2021 to balance the teams' composition.

When asked how the league will be held during the COVID-19 pandemic, Elauria is not ruling out the online chess format. But he prefers to hold over-the board matches in PCAP's first season.

"Once the pandemic stabilizes or we will be in a better situation, we would prepare over the board tournaments," he said.

Eugene Torre, the first Asian chess grandmaster, stressed the founding of PCAP is the realization of the dream of many Filipino chess players like him.

"We are the first in Southeast Asia to have a professional chess league," added Torre, who also graced the press conference.

Joey Antonio, a 13-time national chess champion, said this league will help chess players to strive hard in improving their abilities.

"This will inspire kids to play chess like the way the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) inspired kids to play basketball. It will be another motivation for them to get better and aim higher," explained Antonio, who is also a resource speaker in the presser.