IN-FORM Grandmaster Oliver Barbosa tries to defend his title as the DYTM Raja Nazrin Shah International Open Chess Championship gets underway on September 17-23 at the Olympic Sports Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Barbosa, the top Filipino performer in the just-concluded World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, will face stiff challenge from compatriots GMs Rogelio "Joey" Antonio, Mark Paragua, Darwin Laylo and Richard Bitoon as well as GMs Sergei Tiviakov of the Netherlands, Thomas Luther of Germany, Wong Meng Kong of Singapore, Tahir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan, Deepan Chakkravarthy J. of India, and Cao Sang, Bui Vinh and Nguyen Ang Dung of Vietnam.
"It will be great to retain the title to prove that my victory isn't a fluke," said Barbosa. "But more often than not, luck plays a role in Swiss System tournaments."
Antonio, 12-time Philippine Open champion and fresh from winning the tough Malaysian Chess Open last month, believes that a Filipino will emerge victorious again in the competition.
"We will ride the momentum of the country's fine showing in Istanbul," Antonio said. "Our performance in the Olympiad goes to show that we can compete at a very high level."
The Philippines finished 21st overall in the biennial event while placing as high as fifth in the late rounds.
The FIDE-titled and rated event will be played over nine rounds with the time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes plus 30-second time increment per move for the rest of the game.