By Kristel Satumbaga
Grandmaster Banjo Barcenilla produced a brilliant and helped lift the Laguna Heroes to a 2-1 win over the Camarines Soaring Eagles in Armageddon play to emerge the first Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) champions Saturday.
Barcenilla, many-time Battle of the GMs champion, smashed Christian Mark Daluz in the pivotal match as the Heroes claimed the crown in the All-Filipino Conference of the country’s first pro chess league.
FIDE Master Austin Jacob Literatus delivered the other triumph for Laguna, winning over Ellan Asuela while GM Mark Paragua recorded Camarines’ lone win at the expense of fellow Olympiad veteran GM John Paul Gomez.
“It was a team effort,” said Barcenilla.
The Heroes took the first of a two-set match, 14.5-6.5, but the Eagles fought back and snared the second with a pulsating 11.5-9.5 win that forced the three-game playoff duel.
Laguna was pushed to the limit as Paragua gave Camarines the early 1-0 lead with his quick win over Gomez.
But Barcenilla and Literatus saved the day for Laguna with clutch victories.
“It was an intense match, we were just lucky in the end,” said Laguna coach Alfredo Paez, who also co-owns the team with Benjamin Dy, Jonathan Mamaril and David Nithyananthan.
Jean Karen Enriquez, FM Jose Efren Bagamasbad, Vince Angelo Medina, Kimuel Aaron Lorenzo and Arjie Bayangat were the other members of the team.