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Can any team topple the Pasig Pirates in PCAP?

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a new fourth season for the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines. There are 18 teams competing — eight in the North Division and eight in the South. The leaner team composition means that squads can build up getting some of the best players without teams.

As it has for the better part of two years now, the team to beat are the four-time champions — the Pasig King Pirates.

They have collected all the trophies there are in the country’s only professional chess league — the All-Filipino Conference of 2023, the Wesley So Cups of 2022 and 2023, and the Open Conference of 2022.

As the King Pirates head into the new All-Filipino tournament, they do so with the adage “If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it.”

With GM Mark Paragua, IM Idel Datu, WFM Sherily Cua, IM Cris Ramayrat, Marc Kevin Labog, Jerome Villanueva, AGM Rowelyn Joy Acedo, FM Nelson Mariano III, Omar Bagalasca, Carl Espallardo, Cromwell Sabado and Gerry Paul Nudalo, they are pretty much an all-star squad. They are the favorite to annex their fourth straight title and fifth overall. 

There’s movement though as teams look to strengthen their squads. 

The Manila Indios Bravos, San Juan Predators and Cavite Spartans have built their squads in a good position to take down the King Pirates, who have ruled the landscape. 

Manila has already had a tough lineup with IM Chito Garma Sr., Arvie Lozano, NM Daryl Samantila — the returning two-time Palarong Pambansa champion — USNM Ryan Dungca, NM Julius Sinangote, CM Genghis Imperial, and Aljie Cantonjos. And they have new weaponry in IM Paulo Bersamino, IM Jem Garcia and FM David Elorta.

Cavite features IM Michael Concio, Kevin Arquero, WIM Antoinette San Diego, GM Joey Antonio Sr., IM Daniel Quizon, IM Roderick Nava and FM Roel Abelgas.

San Juan brought in GM Banjo Barcenilla and Karl Viktor Ochoa to join WIM Jodilyn Fronda, IM Ricky de Guzman, FM Arden Reyes, Archie Reyes Narciso Gumila, GM Gavin Ong and FM Randy Segarra.

Southern squads Camarines and Toledo are favorites in their division but hope to go farther when they battle Pasig. 

“This is shaping up to be a competitive season. It’s going to be really exciting for chess