by Marlon Bernardino
2-time Asian Junior Champion Grandmaster Rogelio "Banjo" Barcenilla Jr.and Fide Master Austin Jacob Literatus played the hero for the Laguna Heroes on Black Saturday (April 3, 2021) to emerge the National Finals Champion of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) All-Filipino Conference and the distinction of becoming the first champion of the country’s first professional league in the sport.
Barcenilla, a many-time Battle of the GMs champion, playing white defeated Christian Mark Daluz after 55 moves of English Opening while Literatus, playing black checkmated Ellan Asuela after 43 moves of Modern Defense.
Grandmaster Mark Paragua, playing black drew first blood in the Armageddon for Camarines after forcing fellow grandmaster John Paul Gomez to resign after 25 moves in the King's Indian Skirmish.
"It was a total team effort," said Barcenilla, winner of the last two Olympiad qualifiers.
"Our championship match against the Camarines Soaring Eagles was the toughest and most intense among the matches that we had especially when we reached the do-or-die armageddon match. It was anybody's match. We were just lucky in the last and deciding game. I would like to give thanks to all the fans, followers and supporters of Laguna Heroes." said Head Coach Arena Grandmaster Dr. Alfredo "Fred" Paez, one of the four co-team owner of the Laguna Heroes that includes engr. Benjamin Dy, engr. Jonathan Mamaril and Mr. David Nithyananthan.
According to 1996 Philippine Junior Champion Fide Master Robert Suelo who watch the game live thru online chess.com, Asuela was ahead on the quality of pieces captured and time as he looks poised to breach through Literatus' Modern Defense.
But a pawn check at f3 in his 37th move started Asuela's endgame fall down as he went full throttle on his time attack against Literatus.
A skewer in the 41st move allowing Literatus to capture the rook.
Asuela Ke4 in the 42nd move followed by Ne5 in the 43rd move overlook Literatus rook to d4 mating move.
In the regular sets, Laguna backed up by Greatech Philippines, Inc., SDC Global Choice, Jolly Smile Dental Clinic and Rotary Club of Nuvali, opened the National finals with a 14.5 to 6.5 victory over Camarines.
The engineer Jojo Buenaventura Camarines Soaring Eagles team, however, fought back in the second match got 11.5-9.5 triumph, to forced the Heroes an Armageddon tie breaker.
Other members of the Laguna Heroes who is also the over-all top notcher in the elimination round and Northern Conference team ruler were Woman National Master Jean Karen Enriquez, Fide Master Jose Efren Bagamasbad, Vince Angelo Medina, Kimuel Aaron Lorenzo, Candidate Master Arjie Bayangat, Engr. Benjamin Dy, Engr. Jonathan Mamaril, Mr. David Nithyananthan and head coach Arena Grandmaster Dr. Alfredo “Fred” Paez.-Marlon Bernardino-