After a successful Tokyo Olympic stint, the Philippines is on target for another triumphant sports victory as a team of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) at the General Santos City Jail battles Mongolia for the right to be declared as champion of the 1st Intercontinental Online Chess Tournament for Prisoners on Thursday, Oct. 14.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) PDL team secured the finals slot with victories over their counterparts from Australia, Kirgizstan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Armenia in the elimination round on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

BJMP spokesperson Chief Inspector Xavier Solda said 42 teams from 31 countries were divided into six in the group stage where the top two teams from each bracket advanced to the championship round.

He noted that the tournament “aims to introduce chess as a tool for education and social inclusion in prisons of different countries and is carried out under the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov’s patronage.’’

The BJMP official disclosed that the chess tourney is open to four team members representing any correctional facility without any restriction on the age and gender of prisoners.

“Intercontinental Online Chess Tournament for Prisoners is organized by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) as a part of its #ChessForFreedom program,’’ Solda said.

The tournament was played online and live-streamed on Chess TV and FIDE’s Youtube channel from October 13-14, 2021.

Road to the international chess tournament

As a chess player, General Santos City Jail Chess team coach Jail Officer 1 (JO1) Cedrix Cabangal bared of being constantly updated with the FIDE’s online tournaments.

“Nakita ko nag post (online) sila ng article about #chessforfreedom at nagpost din sila na magpapa tournament sila para sa mga PDL. Ayun nag send ako ng registration (for the team), natanggap naman nila (I saw that they posted an article about #chessforfreedom and they also posted that they will hold a tournament for the PDL. That is why I sent a registration which they received),’’ Cabangal said.

With the FIDE’s confirmation last August 28, Cabangal revealed he immediately organized a chess tournament for the PDLs in the Gensan Santos City Jail.

“Nagpa chess tournament po ako sa mga PDL and yung Top 5 out of 22 participants yung pinili ko (I organized a chess tournament for the PDLs and I chose the top five out of the 22 players),’’ he added.

In preparation for the tournament, Cabangal shared that his team underwent extensive daily practice sessions to hone up their skills in preparation for the competition.

“We watch videos and tutorials of games; we also analyze and review our past games. I also guide and teach them what to do during the tournament,’’ Cabangal noted.

Meanwhile, BJMP chief Jail Director Allan Iral commended Cabangal for being a welfare and development officer of the facility.

“This is the first time in BJMP history that a team of PDL will compete in an international chess tournament,’’ Iral said.

“Ngayon pa lang, binabati ko sila at sobrang nakakaproud na bitbit nila ngayon ang bandila ng Plipinas sa isang international chess competition (this early, I congratulate them and I am proud that they are carrying flag of the Philippines),’’ he added.

In his message, Iral highlighted how the BJMP is exerting all its efforts to continue looking for the “different welfare and development programs in jails during the pandemic.’’

This is not the first time that the General Santos City Jail Chess Team competed in an online chess tournament.

Last June 30, the team emerged as the overall champion after defeating the PDL of Dagupan City Jail Male Dormitory during the 1st BJMP CARAGA Online Chess Tournament. (Chito A. Chavez)

Source: Manila Bulletin (