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COVID-19 frontliner paces Zamboanga Sultans in PCAP tiff
The Zamboanga Sultans of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines

COVID-19 frontliner paces Zamboanga Sultans in PCAP tiff

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - January 22, 2021 - 11:51am

MANILA, Philippines – Zulfikar Sali is a COVID-19 frontliner by day and a chess player by night. Or perhaps more accurately, when time permits. 

“I work the graveyard shift at the emergency room so we are also on call,” clarified Sali.

Sali is the owner, manager and player for the Zamboanga Sultans in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP). When he isn’t competing, he works as an emergency nurse at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. And it is there that he received the title of Canada National Master.

“I graduated in the Philippines,” pointed out Zul as Sali is nicknamed (although in Canada, he is called “Kar,” which is taken also from his first name). “But I worked in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and moved to the UK 2001-09. After that I moved to Canada.”

“As a nurse who works in the emergency room, the fear of contracting the disease is always there but I cannot do anything because it is my profession. I can only protect myself and make sure that I am always in full battle gear and observe all the safety protocols.”

“The other day while on duty, we had six COVID patients in ICU. Then they have to be moved so as not to infect other patients.”

Aside from working in healthcare, Sali is a passionate chess player. When PCAP was put up, he decided to put up his own team.

“Initially, the nickname of the team was “amigos” because we want to be portrayed as friendly, Zul bared about the team’s origins. “Meron din Vintas, which is what the Mindanao region is also known for. Kaso marami gumagamit yung vintas as a name or in their logo. It is the same with the kris; the dagger and its sheath. We also wanted to be looked at as being fierce and we have to be fierce in a chess game although it is an intelligent and classy game. So we thought of ‘sultans,’ who are known to be fierce, and it is also paying homage to the Muslim heritage of Mindanao. And sultans were also known to have played chess so there is a relevance to it.”

The initial plans were to select players from within the region, but IM Chito Garma and NM Jenny Mayor who are both friends wanted to be a part of the Sultans team. Other Sultans members include NM Joey Albert Florendo (the gold medalist from the University of Santo Tomas), Sarah Mae Chua (an accountant by profession, but also a winner), Paulo James Florendo (a national juniors and Asean age-group champion), Jezreel Lopez (a champion from Pagadian), Jordan Gadayan (ayoung champion from Zamboanga), Dwight Dans (a multi-champion in Basilan and Dumaguete who is also a top-rated player at the Manhattan Chess Club of New York City), and AGM Rey Reyes (a blitz champion).

“I am excited about our team,” said Sali of the Sultans. “We have a good balance of veterans and up-and-coming talent.

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