MANILA, Philippines – Undaunted by his third place finish in the first HD Bank Chess Championships over the weekend, Filipino Grandmaster (GM) John Paul Gomez is now looking forward to his next big tournament – the 2011 Aeroflot Open chess championship February 7-18 in Moscow, Russia.

“It’s a new challenge for me,” said La Salle Taft ace Gomez, who is set to arrive in Russia Tuesday from his stint in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. “It’s like in other chess tournament. Madami ding magagaling at mahuhusay na mga players ang kasali dito sa Aeroflot.”

Gomez failed to secure the top chess title in Vietnam after losing his ninth and final round assignment against local hero GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, who bagged five golds in the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games.

He will be joined in Aeroflot by compatriots GMs Darwin Laylo and Roland Salvador, International Masters (IM) Richard Bitoon and Oliver Barbosa and reigning junior champion Paulo Bersamina.

Meantime, Prospero “Butch” Pichay Jr., president and chairman of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, is very confident that the country’s chess team will perform well in the Aeroflot chess tournament.

Gomez, Laylo and Salvador will compete in the centerpiece Category A for players with ELO rating higher than 2549.

The total prize fund in the Aeroflot tournament is 70,000 euros, with the champion getting the lion’s share of 20,000 euros. Aside from the cash prizes, the champion will also get outright invitation to play in the prestigious Dortmund round-robin tournament.

The runner-up will receive 10,000 euros and the third placer will pocket 7,000 euros . Cash prizes will also be given from the fourth up to the 30th placers.

Country’s top player GM Wesley So has won the junior plum.

Among the early entries in the competition are:

  • GM Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia (2723);
  • GM Baadur Jobava of Georgia (2710);
  • GM Gata Kamsky of the United States (2705);
  • GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam (2694);
  • GM Viktor Bologan of Moldova (2690);
  • GM Artyom Timofeev and GM Alexander Rianzantsev of Russia (2686); and
  • GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan (2685).

– Marlon Bernardino