Leyte typhoon victim conquers Connecticut Chess Open

Rebano (left) versus GM Joel Benjamin
Rebano (left) versus GM Joel Benjamin

NEW YORK CITY — Two months after winning the 17th Chess-in-the-Park Rapid Open at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on September 16, Filipino National Master (NM) Mario Lawsin Rebano brought home another chess title by topping the 11th Annual Fairfield County Open (U2200 division) in Norwalk, Connecticut November 18.

The 52-year-old Rebano (2094), a victim of super typhoon “Yolanda” in the Philippines in 2013, bounced back with four successive victories in the nine-round Swiss System tournament.

He absorbed two successive opening game defeats to three-time US Open champion, Grand Master Joel Benjamin and FIDE-rated Uri Moon-Rosha.

After yielding another match to GM Alex Fishbein (2555) in Round 7, Rebano, a civil engineer, won his last two matches to finish with six points.

“NM Rebano was really determined to win,” reported chess coach Rainier M. Labay, who acted as non-playing team captain of the Filipino contingent. “He worked hard for the victory.”

Una sa lahat, nagpapasalamat ako kay Lord. He really gave this tournament to me. Pangalawa, kay Dr. Gil Asoy, my adviser and chief supporter sa walang sawa na moral support even when I was still pursuing my national master norm in the Philippines,” said the New Jersey-based Rebano, who worked in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 10 years.

Rebano said he wanted to share the honor to Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Gonzalez-Romualdez and husband, former Mayor Alfred Romualdez, his family and all the victims of typhoon “Yolanda” in Leyte.

Rebano recalled that he nearly died in the typhoon that destroyed his property and nearly ripped apart his life.

“If not for chess, I couldn’t have made it to the United States,” he added. “I have been a player in the Open section. I only learned about categories in the US.”

Rebano, who has been campaigning in the US since 2014, targets next the Millionaire Chess Open in New Jersey and World Open in Philadelphia next year.

Rebano’s compatriot Benchly Buccat (986) topped the Under1400 division with 4.5 points. Robert Chen won the Under1600 division with 4.5 points

The Open section was won by GM Aleksander Lenderman (2667) with 8 points. GM Maxim Dlugy (2618) and FIDE Master Hans Niemann (2395) tied for second with 7.5 points. Third was Benjamin with six points.

Filipino GM Mark Paragua (2622) notched 5.5 and wound up tied in fourth with GM Alex Fishbein (2555).

Other Filipinos in the five-hour speed chess (10 minutes per game) tournament organized by the Chess Club of Fairfield County were: FIDE Master Rico Salimbagat (2327) and United States Chess Federation (USCF) National Master Vincent Umayan (2303) who both scored five points.