DEFENDING champion Laguna Heroes open their title-retention campaign against Olongapo Rainbow in the 2022 Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) All-Filipino Conference starting Jan. 22.
PCAP Wesley So Cup (Second Conference) titlists Iloilo Kisela Knights will take on Palawan Queen’s Gambits, while PCAP San Miguel Corp.-Ayala Land (Third Conference) winners San Juan Predators will battle Caloocan Load Manna Knights in other featured opening-day matches.
Iloilo, which wrapped up the first season with one championship, one runner-up and one third-place finishes, will be again bannered by GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr., Karl Viktor Ochoa and Cherry Ann Mejia.
The Leo Sotaridona-owned team also drafted two homegrown players in Rolly Parondo and Horizon Villanueva.
Parondo, a native of Oton, Iloilo, currently works as a chess coach in Thailand. He also had his taste of PCAP action in the first season when he played for guest team Bangkok in the third conference.
Villanueva, a native of Zarraga, Iloilo, was a former Palarong Pambansa gold medalist.
San Juan, the most successful team based on performances in all three conferences, is reportedly bringing back the winning team of GM Oliver Barbosa, IM Rolando Nolte, WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, IM Ricky de Guzman and the Reyes brothers.
The Predators of PCAP Chairman Michael Angelo Chua and coach Hubert Estrella, are the winningest team in the league with 30-4 record in the All-Filipino, 31-3 in the Wesley So Cup and 29-3 in he Open Conference.
A total of 24 teams — 12 in the Northern Division and 12 in the Southern Division — are seeing action in the prestigious tournament billed as Asia’s first play-for-pay chess league.
PCAP founding president- commissioner Atty. Paul Elauria said three new teams will make their debut in the Southern Division.
The three new teams are the Davao Eagles, who reached as far as the quartefinal round as a guest team in the PCAP Third Conference; Tacloban Vikings, who took the spot of Cordova Dagami Warriors; and Cagayan de Oro, which replaced Lapu-Lapu Naki Warriors.
Elauria said another South team, Mindoro Tamaraws, moved to the Northern Division to help the league complete a 12-team cast for each divisions.
The Tamaraws played in the Southern Divisions in the first season.
In other opening-day matches, it will be Cagayan Kings against Rizal Towers, Cavite Spartans against Quezon City Simba’s Tribe, Isabela Knight Raiders against Pasig Pirates, and Manila Indios Bravos against Mindoro Tamaraws in the North.
Aside from Iloilo-Palawan tussle, South first-round action will also pit Cagayan de Oro against Zamboanga Sultans, Camarines Eagles against Toledo Trojans, Cebu City Machers against Tacloban Vikings, Davao Eagles against Surigao Fianchetto Checkmates and Iriga Oragons against Negros Kingsmen.
PCAP is sanctioned by the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), headed by Chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra, and supported by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), led by President/Chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay.