NEXT to basketball, what other sport in the country do you think has the biggest pool of players?
Football? Volleyball? Naaah.
Millions—old and young—from all demographics play the game. We have professionals, students, senior citizens, heck we even have professionals from other sports who are proficient with the game.
When he was still alive, chess columnist Boy Pestaño regularly received hundreds of replies to his weekly puzzle, a proof of how solidly engaged chess fans are in Cebu.
And chess fans in Cebu will have more reasons to be engaged with their game as the Games and Amusements Board has given the go signal to the planned Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP).
With such a broad base of players and followers, this pro league is sure to take off.
Plus the setup of the league will also tap into the regionalistic identities of both players and fans as it’s going to have 12 regional teams. Unfortunately, of the 10 identified—Cagayan, Palawan, Subic/Zambales, Tarlac, San Juan, Pampanga, Pasig, Mindoro, Manila and Makati—Cebu isn’t one of them but I hope that will change in the future.
I mean, having attended a few meetings with chess players, they are not unlike players from other sports, who attribute a certain characteristic to players from a certain place.
If it had followed other chess leagues, where players play individually, I think it would still be successful but using the regional format is a master stroke. It allows the teams to tap into local companies and even local government units for financial support.
Game changer for Philippine chess
And the teams will need them since the PCAP wants players to sign contracts and will have a minimum and maximum salary in place plus a salary cap. That will make sure there will be some parity across the league.
We have a lot of masters—Grandmasters and International Masters—who have tried their luck abroad as chess tutors since they can’t find a decent living playing chess in the country. Let’s be honest, over the decades, we’ve had only what, a couple or three at most, full time chess players at a given time?
The planned pro league will change all that and I’m sure some of these players are answering queries from the 10 teams on plans to go home.
Then there are the student athletes, who normally see chess as a way to a professional career thanks to an athletic scholarship. This league gives them another option.
I can’t wait to see the league make its first move.