NEW ZEALAND BOUND. Filipino Grandmaster Rogelio "Joey" Antonio Jr. receives the champion's trophy during the RSM Tun Mustapha Championship in Sabah, Malaysia on Sept. 18, 2022. He is scheduled to join the Bob Wade Masters and Challengers in New Zealand from January 13 to 21 next year. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Filipino Grandmaster (GM) Rogelio "Joey" Antonio Jr. has expressed optimism about his participation at the Bob Wade Masters and Challengers in New Zealand next year.

Antonio is among three GMs invited to join the tournament scheduled at the Howick Community Church Complex in Auckland from January 13 to 21 next year.

"There is a chance to become champion but one game at a time. That is my strategy. The other GMs are also strong," the 13-time Philippine Open champion said in an interview on Thursday.

Antonio (Elo 2397) will see action in the Masters standard event with a single round-robin format. He is seeded No. 3 behind GM Elshan Moradiabadi of the United States (Elo 2514) and GM Samy Shoker of Egypt (Elo 2491).

Also participating are FIDE Master (FM) Ben Hague of New Zealand (Elo 2381), IM Gary Lane of Australia (Elo 2343), IM Herman C. Van Riemsdijk of Brazil (Elo 2265), FM Stephen Lukey of New Zealand (Elo 2130), FM Robert W. Smith of New Zealand (Elo 2130), and candidate master Felix Xie of New Zealand (Elo 2103).

Antonio, 60, joined 30th FIDE World Senior Individual Chess Championship at the Hotel Cenacolo in Assisi, Umbria, Italy last month. He also won the RSM Tun Mustapha Championship Tawau held in Sabah, Malaysia on September 17-18.

National Master Almario Marlon Bernardino Jr. (Elo 2035) and Woman National Master Antonella Berthe Racasa (Elo 1504) are joining the New Zealand trip along with Antonella Berthe's father and coach, Roberto, who will also serve as head of delegation.

Bernardino, a veteran sports writer and radio commentator, is the No. 2 second seed in the Challengers 2 division, behind Daniel Vanheirzeele of Belgium (Elo 2114). Fuatai Fuatai of New Zealand (1942) is No. 3 followed by compatriots J. Nigel Metge (1821), Daniel Wang (1653), Cadence Weiyang Yu (1502), Antonella Berthe Racasa (1428), New Zealand's David Junyang Zhu (1396), Yolanda Chang (1388), and Luna Yuexiu Xu (1322).

Meanwhile, Roberto Racasa thanked Hotel Sogo for supporting the team.

"We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Hotel Sogo by throwing its full support to PH chess team campaign to the 2023 Bob Wade Masters and Challengers to be held on January 13 to 21 at the Howick Community Church Complex in Auckland, New Zealand," said Roberto, a certified FIDE National arbiter. "We would like also to thank New Zealand Chess Federation, Inc. Vice President International Organizer Paul Spiller for inviting us to join." (PNA)