No one would allege that Manny Pacquiao’s fights resemble classic chess matches, but apparently the eight-time champion is trying to affect just that, in the literal sense.
Pacquiao, who actually enjoys playing the game, has signed on to be a sponsor and presenter in the Asian Continental Chess Championship, which is about to take place in Pasay City (Philippines) from May 18 through May 27.
The tournament has taken on the former champion’s name, and will be promoted as the “Manny Pacquiao Chess Cup.” And while there is generally not thought to be a lot of money in the game of chess, and certainly doesn’t yield anything that would approach the $20 million or Pacquiao will make for his next fight (minus very negligible taxes, of course), there will be $100,000 available to win in the contest.
The tournament is scheduled for nine rounds of competition (with each round considerably more than three minutes) and will be conducted on the basis of the Swiss-system, which means there will be no early knockouts. Players move along in an attempt to gather points in pursuit of a favorable placement in the final round of competition.
The top five finishers will advance to the World Cup, which will take place in Norway in August. The women’s champion will go to the 2014 Women’s World Championship. So this event has some real significance. And the money, presumably enhanced by an infusion by Pacquiao, makes it even better.
A grandmaster named Eugene Torre (Asia’s first) is running the tournament, and hopes that someone from his country can make his or her way through to the World Cup.
According to Butch Pichay, president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, “He (Pacquiao) is an avid chess player and will give many Filipinos the chance to participate and see top grandmaster in action.” That organization will be one of the sanctioning bodies for the event, along with the Asian Chess Federation and FIDE (a French acronym for the World Chess Federation).
Indeed, it appears that there is no public relations baloney here; Pacquiao does truly enjoy playing chess. There have been a number of stories in the Filipino press about his enthusiasm for the game. It was mentioned in the Philippine Daily Inquirer during his preparation for the Ricky Hatton fight that he played a lot to relax after his taxing sessions and that “With no dart boards around, Pacquiao has turned to chess which he plays quite well.”
Pacquiao engaged in a three-game match with former business manager Rod Nazario in 2008 before his fight with David Diaz for the WBC lightweight title, and lost two games to one, although he claimed (with a snicker) that he let his old associate win. That same year, as he was getting ready to face Oscar De La Hoya in what was a big breakthrough fight for him, he played against Doug Secuya, the publisher of a Filipino boxing site, PhilBoxing, and lost all three games, although Secuya, who had a lot more experience, did refer to him as a “good chess player.”
All of this talk is kind of ironic, because the latest fight that has been set for Pacquiao, which is on November 24 in Macau against Brandon Rios, figures to be anything but a game of pure strategy. Pacquiao has a whirlwind, aggressive style and there has been no indication thus far in Rios’ career that he is interested in anything but a Pier Six brawl.
So perhaps to embrace his more cultural side, PacMan will enjoy a little subtler form of “warfare” first before getting into serious training.