Age of Empires II World Cup’s trump card: a chess grandmaster is the strategist of the Argentine national team

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There is no case. A World Cup that is going around the planet, a World Cup in which the Argentines are certainly in action. From those of the roast, of the alfajor and of the empanada to that of assembling the magic cube, solving math problems or writing stories. If there were a World Cup to shed your skin, build a bridge, draw water from stones, live on a dollar a day or tie your shoelaces with one hand, the blue and white flag would also wave. Why wonder then that Argentina still has a chance in World of Age of Empires II?

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Of course, there is reason for wonder in this event. Is that one of the members of the national team A of this competition on line it is nothing but Federico Perez Ponsaaccountant, born 29 years ago in Zárate and… chess grandmaster! Yes, the 2021 Argentine “game-science” champion shares a team in this real-time strategy video game with Leandro Salas, Nicolás Bruno, Lucas Fausti, Pablo Garibotto and Ignacio López.

“We’re amazed at how viral it all went”explains Pérez Ponsa a clarion. If he’s surprised, what can he say when he sees a 17-year-old who was the youngest chess master in the country play this World Cup.

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ON the boys got excited again because they just lost their semi-final undefeated against Finland. In the preliminary stage they beat Scotland and Colombia, in round 1 of the main draw they beat Poland and China B, in the round of 16 they beat Argentina B and in the quarterfinals France. This Friday at 18:00, for the loser group, there will be a South American classic against Brazil. And there are still chances to win the title.

Federico Pérez Ponsa, chess grandmaster, playing in the middle of the Age of Empires II World Cup.

Federico Pérez Ponsa, chess grandmaster, playing in the middle of the Age of Empires II World Cup.

To understand what an accomplished chess player does when playing Age of Empires II, you need to start with the basics. What is this video game whose first version was released in 1999 about? It is set in the Middle Ages and the idea is to defeat enemies and build an empire. You can choose from 13 civilizations to command and each one has strengths and weaknesses. And this tournament hands out $14,409, of which $3,602 goes to the champion.

“Esports is very trendy and the era is not one that moves more people and more money. Today Counter Strike, Valorant and League of Legends break it. But we would play Age even if it was freeheh,” explains Pérez Ponsa when he begins to discuss the reason for his passion.

It has many things similar to chess, because you always make decisions in real time. And in the team I am the one who deals more with the strategies, because you start with three villagers and an urban center but you have to create your economy and your army, and unite with allies to defeat the other”, explains the San Lorenzo fan .

Argentina is well placed in the Age of Empires II World Cup.

Argentina is well placed in the Age of Empires II World Cup.

The tournament has thirteen maps, and each crossover is played as a best-of-five: each team picks two, and the rest is what’s left after both teams discard. “All the time you define what to do and what’s more you don’t play alone. If the map has water, make boats. If there are more boars, you can hunt. Since you know what is special about each map, you play the first ten minutes almost by heart, as happens with the opening in chess. In addition, you study the rival team’s previous games to try to understand what they usually do and surprise them,” says Pérez Ponsa.

-Where does this passion for the game come from?

-I’ve always played Age since I was a kid, when nobody in Zárate had broadband and the internet was all fake. Now everything is super advanced and Age II graphics are very good. My old he had the game installed on his computer and I watched him play against the computer. As a hobby I started playing between the ages of 10 and 11, and later we fell in love with four of my classmates. Have left many times but returned during the pandemic.

For the World Cup duels, everyone connects on Discord, plans strategies and then competes in matches that can last between 20 and 40 minutes. And Federico is not the only athlete passionate about Age of Empires: the footballer Adrian Calelloex Independiente, Huracán and Banfield, and today in Quilmes, he also played this World Cup with Argentina B.

In the absence of a new Argentina-Brazil in football, all is well as long as we encourage the blue-and-whites and this Friday there will be a duel in Age of Empires II with Brazil. None take away from the illusion of the title.

The life of a great master

Federico Pérez Ponsa, between Carolina Luján and Alan Pichot, in a meeting with Magnus Carlsen, number 1 in world chess.  Instagram photo @fperezponsa

Federico Pérez Ponsa, between Carolina Luján and Alan Pichot, in a meeting with Magnus Carlsen, number 1 in world chess. Instagram photo @fperezponsa

“If there are chess tournaments, age is forbidden because it takes a long time. Maybe you spend 8 hours queuing playing”, Federico Pérez Ponsa is clear. After all, as a grandmaster he has to face championships that have good playing conditions or that grant seats to the most important events. And his main livelihood is lessons on line which gives a majority of foreign players. “Several people who play Age have written to me to give them lessons to get a little better,” she explains.

Pérez Ponsa was the Pan American champion Under 14 in Medellín 2007, prize Clarin revelation 2009 and South American Under 20 champion in Tarija 2011. He was about to win the Argentinian 2014, but lost the tiebreaker with Rubén Felgaer. The revenge was given to him with his first national title in June 2022, corresponding to the 2021 edition.

and last year won three medals At the South American Games in Asunción: individual bronze in rapid, team gold in rapid and team silver in blitz with Claudia Amura.

“Whenever there are strong tournaments, I like to play them. Next will be July 9, May 25 long weekend. Today I’m with my lowest ELO in years and I would like to get a little closer to the maximum I had. The first step will be to stabilize at 2,550”, says the seventh Argentine in the world ranking, with an ELO of 2,532.

Federico Pérez Ponsa, at the Chennai 2022 Chess Olympiad. Instagram photo @fperezponsa

Federico Pérez Ponsa, at the Chennai 2022 Chess Olympiad. Instagram photo @fperezponsa

THE olympiad It is the country tournament that all chess players want to play. Federico has played in the last four editions: in Tromso 2014 he scored 3.5 points in 7 rounds as a reserve; in Baku 2016 he made 5.5 in 9 as third board; in Batumi 2018; added 2.5 to 6 as reserve; and in Chennai 2022 he was the second board and scored 4 out of 8.

“Nothing compares to what we live in India, where chess is like soccer for Argentina”, he describes overwhelmed with memories. And this is how he argues: “No one knew who we were on the street, but as they saw us chess players they approached us with a booklet to sign autographs. In the hotel they were all there to serve you all the time. They revered us. They almost protected us”.

Of course, the personal conflict he left out of the team Sandro Mareco Already Alan Picot the weather has turned bad. “Everything was useless. A shame. We could have found a better solution, she says. With Alan and Sandro we played and said goodbye, but a strange feeling remained. What happened didn’t help anyone. The good thing is that they entered Leander Crissa AND Diego Flores”.

Pérez Ponsa has been a great master since he was 17 and after him Pichot followed him at the level of precocity. Now Federico thinks there might be more teen great masters because the new generation inspires.

golden faustin He has the projection that he can break all records and it would not be unusual for him to reach a grandmaster between the ages of 14 and 16,” he describes the best Under 10 in the world. And he doesn’t stay there. Joachim Fiorito He is already an international teacher, his brother pancho it’s great and Candle (Francisco Guecamburu) It will be the undisputed number 1,” he adds.

-And what would you recommend?

-It seems to me more pleasant that they will compete abroad, because there are not many strong tournaments in this region.

Source: Clarin

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