10-year-old prodigy makes national youth squad
There are scenes in binge-favorite show “Queen’s Gambit” where the lead character, then a child prodigy, would imagine chess moves on the ceiling in the dead of the night.
The country’s very own young chess wizard, 10-year-old Al-Basher Buto, had finished watching the hit series. The candidate master claimed he can also maintain a mental model of the pieces’ positions well enough to replay past games or plan new strategies.
“I dream of chess moves every time. I always review my games whether I win or lose,” Buto said in Filipino on Wednesday. His father, Bong, said Buto would review the lost games even more: “He tends to get back at those who beat him.”
On this young, brilliant mind hinges the country’s campaign in the 2020 Fide Online World Cadets and Youth Rapid Championships slated Nov. 28-Dec. 23.
Joining him are 15 up-and-coming Filipino players who will try to qualify for the World Group. They include established teammates like International Master (IM) Daniel Quizon, WIM (woman international master) Kylen Mordido, Jerlyn Mae San Diego and Franiel Magpily.
Eugene Torre, the first Asian Grandmaster, will be one of the coaches of Team Philippines.
“I think we have a very good chance to do very well in the Asia Continental stage,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines secretary general Cliburn Orbe, a lawyer.
Buto suffered poor internet connection in the qualifying but clinched a wild card entry on account of his past achievements. They include Asian School title he won in China in 2017, and the Asean masters where he swept game, rapid and blitz events in Malaysia.
Buto cut his teeth playing street chess in Quiapo when he was 6. He and his father still look for small tournaments to play in every day but the coronavirus has forced him to stay at home.
“The talent is there, but now it’s even better because he’s got people to help him get better,” the elder Buto said, referring to Al-Basher’s coaches led by IM Chito Garma.
Now that he can’t go out of their Cainta home Buto said his parents would welcome walk-ins to play against him—his prizes include ice cream or a promise to go on a swimming trip.
“He is one of the best talents in our group of young chess players. He’s just 10 years old but already playing like a master,” Orbe said. “But there are others who can make it if they work hard at their game.”
Orbe said that in the Asian Continental stage, the Philippines will have to contend with heavyweights China and India.
“But we are confident that the Philippines can compete and fight toe-to-toe with their strongest players,” Orbe added.