Our magnificent warriors

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

PH Chess team
Chess players Henry Lopez (L), Jasper Rom (C), and Sander Severino.

FIDE Master Sander de Erit Severino was born in June 30, 1985 in Silay, Negros Occidental. At a young age he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Both of his legs are paralyzed due to this condition. Sander started playing competitive chess at seven years of age and became a regional champion at nine and National Kiddies Champion at 11.

We had previously written about Arena GM Henry Lopez. He was born Nov. 27, 1980 in Panabo City and struck by polio at the age of two. His brother Christ Lopez taught him chess at the age of six and by eleven Henry was playing in the Panabo City Chess Club every weekend and soaking up chess knowledge like a sponge – the result was that he twice qualified for the Shell National Youth Active Chess Championship Grand Finals in 1998 and 2000.

In 2000, there was the life-changing Millennium Grand Prix chess tournament sponsored by the Philippine Chess Society. This was a knockout format tournament with a P1 million first prize. The Social Security System, through its EVP Horacio Templo, sponsored the participation of several chess players with disabilities and footed all the bills for their participation including transportation, food and accommodation in Manila. This was where Sander Severino, Henry Lopez and NM Jasper Rom (born 1972 in Danao City, Cebu, with congenital defect on both legs) first met. All three of them did especially well in the Grand Prix and henceforth they were recognized as the top players with physical disabilities in the country.

In late December 2000 Severino participated at the FIDE Asian Continental Under-16 Championships in Bagac, Bataan with his participation sponsored again by the SSS. The top Under-16 players of the country participated including John Paul Gomez, Oliver Barbosa and Catalino Sadorra, all of whom are now international grandmasters. Completely undeterred Sander won game after game and got himself the gold medal as well as the FIDE Master title which went with it.

Henry Lopez, Jasper Rom, and Sander Severino got together again recently and created some magic. Ever heard of the Para Games? This is a multi-sport event usually held after the Asian Games for athletes with disabilities. Indonesia hosted the event from Oct. 6-13, 2018 in Jakarta and it drew the participation of 43 countries competing in 18 sports, including archery, athletics, badminton, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, swimming, shooting and, for the first time in the Para Games, chess. And this is where our magnificent warriors came in.

In the previous edition of the Para Games, held in 2014 at Incheon, South Korea, the Philippines was ranked 24th out of 32 countries with a total of five silver and five bronze medals. This time our ranking jumped to 11th out of 43 with 10 golds, eight silvers and 11 bronzes, and half of the gold medals came from chess.

There are three classifications of chess players in the Para Games, there is P1, those with physical disabilities, B1 meaning totally blind and B2/B3 or partially blind. Then the games are played under standard (60 minutes for the entire game with 15 second increment after every move) and rapid (25 minutes for the entire game with 10 seconds added after every move) time controls. Here are the medal winners for the chess team:

gold Individual Standard P1 – FM Sander Severino; gold Individual Rapid P1 – FM Sander Severino; gold Team Standard P1 – Sander Severino, Jasper Rom, Henry Lopez; gold Team Rapid P1 – Sander Severino, Jasper Rom, Henry Lopez; gold Team Standard B2/B3 – Menandro Redor, Arman Subaste, Israel Peligro; silver Individual Rapid P1 – Henry Lopez; silver Individual Standard B2/B3 – Menandro Redor; bronze Individual Standard P1 – Jasper Rom; bronze Individual Rapid P1 – Jasper Rom; bronze Team Rapid B1 – Francis Ching, Rodolfo Sarmiento, Cecilio Bilog; bronze Individual Standard B2/B3 – Arman Subaste; bronze Individual Rapid B2/B3 – Arman Subaste; bronze Individual Rapid B2/B3 – Arman Subaste, Menandro Redor, Israel Peligro

Firdaus, FM Maksum (2193) — Severino, FM Sander (2363) [A08]
Asian Para Games 2018 P1 (2.1), 07.10.2018

1.d3 d5 2.g3 e5 3.Bg2 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.0–0 Nge7 6.Nc3

Sander of course knows how to handle the King’s Indian Attack from the Black side. There are so many Filipino players who play nothing else.

6…f6 7.e4 d4 8.Ne2 g5

White needs to get in some active play right away, especially since the Black King is still in the center. If he keeps a wait-and-see attitude Black is going to get buried in the kingside.

9.c3 Ng6 10.a3

I think White should already open up the center with 10.b4 dxc3 11.bxc5 Bxc5 12.Nxc3 and there is a lot of empty space around the black king.

10…Be6 11.cxd4 cxd4 12.b4 Be7 13.b5 Na5 14.Rb1 b6

The White queenside offensive is at a dead end he should turn his attention to defending his king.

15.Nd2 g4 16.f4 Nf8 17.Bb2 Rc8 18.Rc1 h5 19.Rf2 Nd7 20.Rxc8 Qxc8 21.Bf1 Nc5 22.Qb1 Na4 23.fxe5 fxe5 <D>


White’s passive play has left him with 2 knights and 2 bishops which have no scope. A direct attack on his king should carry the day.]

24.Kg2 Nxb2 25.Qxb2 Qc5

This is typical of Severino’s play, which is across the entire board. Black puts pressure on the queenside and then, when the time is right, he will suddenly switch to the kingside.


Defending the a3 pawn, but what for? If Black takes the pawn then queens are exchanged and white should count himself lucky that he has survived to the endgame. I believe instead of another passive move White should try to coordinate his pieces starting with 26.Ng1.

26…Kd7 27.Nc1 Rc8 28.Na2 h4!

The switch is on. With his queen and two knights bottled up in the far corner White has no defense.

29.gxh4 Bxh4 30.Re2 Qf8 31.Nd2 Qf4 32.Nb4 Rh8

Threat is …Bf2.

33.Kg1 g3 34.h3 Bg5 35.Nd5 Qf8 36.Qc2 Bxd5 37.exd5 Be3+ 38.Kg2 Qf5 39.Kxg3 Qf4+ 40.Kg2 Rg8+ 41.Kh1 Rg1# 0–1

Jasper Rom annotated some games for us. Here is one of them.

Rom, Jasper (2202) — Soltanov, FM Serik (2266) [B06]
Asian Para Games 2018 P1 (7.2), 10.10.2018 [Jasper Rom]

Going into the last round, Sander, myself and Henry have already secured the team gold — which was our main target for this Asian Para Games. We have been playing the event (after being re-united after 18 years) with a great teamwork and a team-first mentality. As Sander has also secured the individual gold with a last-round draw, it was time to go all out for a win. I’m sure my opponent, a strong FM from Kazakhstan had the same mentality.

1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Be3

Prior to this game I studied Soltanov’s openings and noticed that he has a proclivity to play the Pirc/Modern defense and so I specifically prepared this line based on one of GM Roman Dzindzichashvili chess lectures.

4…a6 5.f4 Nf6 6.Nf3 b5 7.e5 Nfd7

Perhaps better was Ng4 as after the text move, White just gains a strong position.

8.Bd3 Bb7 9.0–0 0–0 10.Ne4

Pushing my e-pawn to e6 followed by Ng5 (if fxe6) is an idea here. But I just wanted to keep control of the position and continue building up.

10…Nb6 11.Qe1 Nd5 12.Bd2 e6 13.Qg3 Nc6 14.c3 Nce7 15.Qh3 h6 16.Rae1 Nb6 17.Re2 Bxe4

Here my opponent offered a draw which I simply ignored by making a move.

18.Bxe4 Ned5 19.g4

Now is the time to attack!

19…Nc4 20.Bc1 c6 21.Bd3

Here I could just have played f5 directly but I wanted to make sure there was no counterplay.


The opponent, perhaps very uncomfortable with his position, just started to crack.

22.fxe5 g5 23.Bxg5

Simple chess.


[23…hxg5 24.Qh7#]

24.exf6 Nxf6 25.Bxh6 Ra7 26.Bc1

Keeping it simple. Threat is g4–g5 followed by Qxe6+

26…Bh8 27.g5 Rg7 28.Rg2 1–0

After 28.Rg2 Black is losing at least a piece. For example after 28…Nd5 there is the sequence 29.Qxe6+ Rff7 30.g6. With this win, I managed to grab the individual bronze medal in addition to the team gold and individual gold by Sander. Our teamwork is paying off!

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez confirmed that financial incentives will be awarded with P1 million for gold, P500,000 for silver and P200,000 for bronze as mandated by law. This means Severino will get P2.66M for his four-gold feat (remember, in a team event the P1M is divided by the number of members of the team, which is three). Henry Lopez is set to receive P1.66 million for two team golds and two individual silvers in chess while Jasper Rom will be going home with an additional P1.07 million in his pocket.

Nice incentives, but now we have to look forward and prepare for World Chess Championships for the Disabled in October 2019 in Moscow, and the ASEAN Para Games in January 2020 in the Philippines. Keep the momentum going!


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.