FOR the first time in a long while, the Philippines will host its richest chess tournament in via the Maharlika Pilipinas Chess League’s Manny Pacquiao International Open Festival slated Dec. 13 to 17 at the Family Country Hotel in General Santos City.

Expect top caliber Grandmasters (GM) in the world to descend to General Santos City where the five-day event will stake a total cash pot worth $100,000, or a cool P4.2 million.

The champion gets to pocket a whopping P1.14 million, the biggest in the country since the Philippine National Bank hosted a local event that gave P1 million to eventual winner GM Joey Antonio in 1998.

Apart from the top purse, the event also gives P300,000 to the titlist in the side event of this meet that coincides with the 44th birthday celebration of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.

“I am heartened to see that we are finally back to over-the-board events so that we can mingle with each other and play the game we all love,” said Mr. Pacquiao, who thanked President Bong Bong Marcos, Philippine Sports Commission chair Noli Eala and National Chess Federation of the Philippines chief Butch Pichay for their support.

Super Grandmaster Vitalii Bernadskyi (2615) of Ukraine along with GMs Gaburzyan Hovhannes (2586) of Armenia and Vitaly Sivuk (2568) of Ukraine were among the early registrants as they seek to make it the top 20 finishers who will get a share of the P3.4 million purse in the Open.

Also entering were Malaysian Tee Wee Zhun and Filipino International Masters Kim Steven Yap and David Elorta while Mr. Antonio vows to also join.

MCPL organizers IM Hamed Nouri and Alex Dinoy both said they are planning to host such event at least thrice next year.

“We are truly convinced that the MPCL will become a truly global festival of chess,” said Mr. Pacquiao.

Apart from the champion and the top 20 placers the top kiddies (Under-14), ladies, juniors (U20), seniors (60 and above) and local General Santos player gets a prize in the Open along with the best local government unit (LGU), government agency, college, General Santos native and private company in the side event. — Joey Villar