TRIVIA: The chess culture (and tournaments) in Araneta City

World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer, right, and former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., left, play a ceremonial game of chess during the opening of the Philippines International Chess Tournament in Manila, Oct. 16, 1973. (AP Photo)

Did you know that there’s a giant chess board in Araneta City that catches the attention of mall-goers amidst the bustling trance of commuters in Farmers Plaza?

A chess match between unfamiliar challengers is observed by spectators as players literally carry their moves from tile to tile on a sixteen-ft. chess board until a match is decided by a grueling result. One can hear applause from audiences in each show of precise moves and strategies.

The jeers and commotion pique the interest of passers-by to watch the game and even challenge a waiting opponent. Its accessibility to the public invites friendly yet exciting chess games that somehow introduce chess players to one another. Sometimes it even reunites old rivals and chess masters that happened to drop by in Araneta City.

Thrill seekers of mind games will definitely enjoy the availability of the giant chess board and the openness of the players to a challenge.

This thriving chess culture in Araneta City is rooted in a number of historical chess tournaments that happened in Araneta City. Here’s a rundown of these competitions:

Manila, 1973

When World Champion and Grand Chessmaster Bobby Fischer frequented the Philippines in 1972, the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. with Florencio Campomanes decided to host an International Chess Tournament in the country.

In October of 1973, Marcos and Fischer opened the event at the Araneta Coliseum before a crowd of 25,000 while being broadcasted on international TV. This marked the inaugural Philippine International Chess Tournament coined by the chess community as the first of its kind in Asia and a milestone in Philippine chess history.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr together with Grand Chess Master Robert James “Bobby” Fischer during the ceremonial opening of the first Philippine International Chess Tournament in 1973. (Google Image)

Bent Larsen, a Danish Grand Chessmaster dominated the competition after winning nine games in a row taking home $4,000 first‐prize money.

This historic feat of parading top-ranked international grandmasters in the country inspired the youth to follow their example. It opened a number of International Chess tournaments in the country as well as gave opportunities to young stalwarts to rise as Pinoy chess heroes like Eugene Torre who in the following years became the first Asian Grandmaster at the Olympiad in Nice, France.

Grand Hangout Chess Tournament, 2019

In September of 2019, a Grand Chess Tournament was held during the Grand Hangout, Grandparents’ day celebration in Araneta City in partnership with the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.

More than 260 chess rookies and masters flocked the Gateway Mall Activity Area to try their skills against one another in a rapid chess format. Entrants battled it out for a chance to compete against International Master (IM) Chito Garma.

After more than 10 hours of mind games and chess moves, IM Ronald Bancod emerged victorious against hundreds of rivals. Aside from the gold medal and a plaque, Bancod also won the Php 10,000 top prize

Chess Tournament, 2022

Create history at the City of Firsts on Sunday, September 18, in a one-day war of attrition and tactics between hundreds of rival chess masters in the much-awaited Araneta City Chess Tournament

Organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, the tournament will be open to all ages and levels of chess mastery. Head to Ali Mall Activity Area on the competition date from 10 AM to 11 AM and present a single receipt purchase worth Php 500.00 to qualify.

A grand prize of Php 10,000 awaits the grand winner of this competition.