Caloocan needs to rise above this

AS a sports fan, one wonders why the Los Angeles Lakers, Real Madrid and other top clubs all have championship gold, the Hall of Famers (GOATS in the discussion even), and the best fan bases.

Some teams give chase and put up great teams that can win it all, but haven’t had that luck. I can actually think of the Sacramento Kings that had the misfortune of playing in the same era as the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. The New York Knicks who were oft foiled by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

In world football, Barcelona is every bit as good and bemedalled as Real Madrid so that leaves the others like Atletico Madrid and the others to give chase. There’s more.

However, let’s look at Philippine professional chess.

After the division semifinals last Saturday, the Caloocan LoadManna Knights, who finished second in the north—one win behind leader Pasig King Pirates—was rudely sent packing out of the Wesley So Cup by the San Juan Knights.

Caloocan is acknowledged as one of the best teams in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP).

From the very beginning of PCAP, they have challenged for a championship and have been very good. They have made the northern division semis four times.

Only two other teams have made the semifinals of their respective divisions all five times—San Juan in the north and Iloilo in the south.

The LoadManna Knights have a pair of wondrous IMs in Paulo Bersamina and Jem Garcia who was named Best Player of the league’s inaugural All-Filipino Cup one year ago.

They added their lucky charm IM Chito Garma who has certainly lit a fire under the LoadManna Knights. They have two-headed monstress in the women’s boards in Arvie Lozano and Woman International Master (WIM) Luong Phuong Hanh, and the homegrown aces of Alexis Maribao, IM Barlo Nadera, Paul Sanchez, and National Master Emmanuel Emperado, as well as Prince Mark Aquino.

Granted that both Caloocan and San Juan were missing players (Bersamina and San Juan’s Jan Jodilyn Fronda are currently at the 44th Chess Olympiad in India), Caloocan has enough firepower to overcome their nemesis.

And that brings to mind something that Pasig’s homegrown stud, Kevin Arquero remarked on the eve of the last All-Filipino Cup’s play-offs wherein the King Pirates were the prohibitive favorites to get past San Juan and win it all (even against Iloilo).

Iba ang San Juan pagdating sa play-offs.”

Pasig, like Caloocan this conference, won both their elimination round matches against the Predators. And yet, come the northern division finals, they were waylaid in two sets by San Juan that went on to win the title.

Every champion—the Laguna Heroes in the first ever All-Filipino and Iloilo in the first Wesley So Cup last year—has to go right through San Juan.

I wonder though—what if Bersamina had played last Saturday evening for Caloocan? Yes, Jodi Fronda—who is in India—also did not play for San Juan, but still…. GM Darwin Laylo found a way to play for Davao. As did FIDE Master Sander Severino who is also out on national team duty.

Of course, we aren’t insinuating anything. How one prepares or focuses on the Chess Olympiad is different from others.

Then again, it did not make any difference for Davao as the Negros Kingsmen ousted them in two Armageddons—one for each of the two sets.

The analogy is apt. Davao is the Caloocan of the southern division. In their three conferences, the Chess Eagles have made the play-offs all three times. They have undergone manpower build-ups in the last two conferences.

First they absorbed the best of the Philippine Paralympics Team in the last conference. And in the Wesley So Cup, they added GM Laylo.

If anything, these painful setbacks should serve as motivation in leading Caloocan to the Promised Land.

Do I believe in championship windows? Yes, I do. Not every window remains open forever. Caloocan has to make the most out of every opportunity because when that window is closed, you could be like the Sacramento Kings or even the New York Knicks.