MANILA, Philippines – Sander Severino no longer needs to dream of becoming a world champion. He's now one.
Thanks to a 30-second gap bridging success and failure.
The 34-year-old Fide Master from Silay, Negros Occidental, scored 8.5 points out of a perfect 9 to rule the first IPCA (International Physically Disabled Chess Association) Online World Championship late Wednesday, June 17.
Winning 8 games and drawing 1, Severino finished 1.5 points ahead of his closest pursuers in the tournament staged by the Israel Chess Federation via lichess.org.
Drawing inspiration from Filipino-born Grandmaster Wesley So's romp in the first World Fischer Random Chess Championship last November, Severino spent more time training, studying and analyzing games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
No wonder, Severino, who was diagnosed with muscle dystrophy at 8 and became wheelchair-bound for most of his life, made great strides from the form that made him a four-gold medalist in the 2018 Asian Para Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Severino clinched the overall title in the inaugural Cesar Orbe Memorial Chess 960 Series in April, topped several minor tournaments, and hinted of more success when he placed second to GM Martin Tazbar of Poland in the 1st FIDE Online Cup for People with Disabilities on May 22.
Given all the support by the coaching staff of the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (Philspada) and the Philippine Paralympic Committee headed by International Arbiter James Infiesto, Severino capped his domination by besting Ukrainian International Master Igor Yarmonov, the five-time world champion for person with disabilities.
Just 30 seconds after Yarmonov resigned and Severino shouted in joy, the lights went out.
Severino was stunned and then realized the blackout was, perhaps, divine intervention.
Had the power outage occurred when the game was in progress, he would have lost by time forfeiture and Yarmonov would have been the champion by virtue of the winner over the loser rule.
Israeli IM Andrei Gurbanov, Severino's victim in the second round, Russian IM Andrei Obudchuk, both former world champions, and Russian IM Ilia Liplin, the reigning world junior champion who also bowed to Severino, placed second, third and fourth, respectively, with 7 points each.
Two other Philippine bets, National Master Jasper Rom and Arena Grandmaster Henry Lopez, who yielded to Severino in the eighth round, finished with 6.5 points and landed sixth and eighth among 118 bets from 23 countries and 4 continents.
"This is a dream come true," said Severino, who said in November he wants to be a world champion like So.
"I want to be an inspiration to other players with disabilities. If you work hard and train well, you, too can be a world champion." – Rappler