He is to Blame!

I am here in Tagaytay as a guest of Casto "Toti" Abundo Jr, currently the Deputy President of the Asian Chess Federation based in Al Ain, UAE, but who is also the Phillippines's FIDE Delegate and supervising the Zone 3.3 Championships as the Chief Arbiter.

This is the third time I have been Toti's guest in the Philippines. We have known each other for a long time, in fact since 1980 where as a young player and winner of the MSSM and finishing third in the National Championships behind our two professionals Jimmy Liew and Christie Hon,  I represented Malaysia in the Asian Junior Championship held in Baguio that year.

In the 70's and 80's, the Philippines was amongst the most advanced of Asian nations and when Baguio and Manila were hit by a typhoon, I took the opportunity to stay on. Florencio Campomanes ("Campo") was then FIDE Deputy President (Asia) and Toti was his right hand man as Executive Director of the Philippine Chess Federation and he took the opportunity to turn me from chess player to chess organiser (like Campo had done before to him!)

It was from Toti in the two weeks that I was stuck in Manila, staying at his home and hanging out with him daily, that I learned first hand about organising, experience Campo first hand, how to do ratings, even write for a magazine and these lessons remained all my life. In chess, Philippines was undisputed No.1 in Asia and it was an unbelievable opportunity. I also started a friendship with too many to mention including the golden society couple that was Eugene and Marilyn Torre then and which has endured until today.

When I was asked to give something back  to chess at the end of 2006 after practically 12-15 years away from the game, it was again sparked by Toti who invited me to Cebu to attend the Asian Individual Championships.

On arrival I was roped in as an Assistant Arbiter (there is no free lunch in chess!), and after one more day I was persuaded (challenged?) to also attend the FIDE Arbiters Seminar being conducted by an all star line-up of senior and experienced FIDE officials giving lectures including Campo who had become Honorary Life President of FIDE, Toti, Ignatius Leong, Merhdad Pahlevanzadeh and Andrzej Filipowicz. To my surprise and Campo's horror I topped the exam well ahead of the many Filipinos attending and I remember well Toti explaining to him the reason was because as a player who has been there I could understand the rules and provide context better than those who were mainly just officials.

Twice before Toti has changed my life, arguably not for the better, and I wonder if third time will be lucky instead!


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