Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Fair Play: Chess is the star of SAC-SMC Sports Awards

(This was my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on March 5)
ON the night Cebu’s best sports stars gathered, nothing shone more than chess, the sport often ignored for more glitzy or manly pursuits like basketball, football or what have you.

But last Saturday at the Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu, it was chess’s turn to be highlighted. There was a video presentation of the Guinness World Record attempt of the Cebu City Sports Commission, and of course, the human chess dance presentation of the Dance Sports Cebu City.

And of course, it was the night that SAC handed the athlete of the year for the first time (at least, the first that I can remember) to a chess player, grandmaster Richard Bitoon, who flew all the way from Manila to join the event.

GM Bitoon, who is from Medellin, is now based in Manila and is regularly sent abroad by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.

He is the third GM from Cebu and I am confident that he won’t be the last. There’s Kim Steven Yap, quickly following in his footsteps, and there are scores of other youngsters out there, like Allan Pason, the Balbona siblings and a lot more.

Then there’s, of course, what CCSC did.

Though it’s been a couple of months since it concluded its Guiness World record attempt, that’s not really the end of it. What they started won’t end in a piece of paper, the legacy is not about the world record attempt, that was just the icing on the cake.

Years from now, the kids who first learned chess through that will still be playing chess. Some will get good at it, some will probably stay at the same level, while a few of them will probably get serious with the sport and sign up for college teams.

And when these guys grow old and start a family, they’d remember the benefits of the sport and will probably prod their kids to try chess at even an earlier age than they did.

Now that’s the legacy.

And perhaps, we’d see some of their kids in future SAC-SMC Cebu Sports Awards.

That would be a quite a thrill.

There’s another legacy that I foresee, and this time, it’s not for Cebu City, it’s for Lapu-Lapu City.
Sportsman of the Year awardee Harry Radaza was seated next to Ed Hayco and I’m sure he was paying attention closely to how Ed did the grassroots program for chess.

I’m sure Harry, who started a similar program for running in Lapu-Lapu City, was thinking, “We could do this too.” Especially if he learns that the grand champion of the world record attempt of Cebu City,
Allan Pason, who has been described by experts to be a naturally gifted player, is from Lapu-Lapu City.

Yep, Cebu City’s world record attempt unearthed a gifted player from Lapu-Lapu City, and with the way experts have been hailing him—he doesn’t read chess books but has learned the openings, moves—I’m confident he’s going to be a regular fixture in future sports awards.

And that’s only from the chess program and CCSC has a lot of grassroots programs, and so too, will Lapu-Lapu.


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