Friday, July 8, 2016

Pestaño: Prelude to the world championship

THE Bilbao Chess Grand Slam Masters Final 2016 will be held on July 13 to 20, a week earlier than usual to assure the participation of the world’s current best players, especially the world champion , Magnus Carlsen.
The tournament is a double round robin featuring six players. The tournament regulations use the Sofia Chess Rules, which forbids agreed draws before 30 moves, and the “Bilbao” scoring system of 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss (though for ratings purposes, the traditional scoring method is used). A soundproofed and air-conditioned glass “cube” was constructed in Bilbao, Spain to house the tournament, allowing spectators to watch closely the players inside.
Aside from Carlsen, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura have been invited by the organizers. The surprise sixth player is 16-year-old Chinese teenager, Wei Yei, though still far from the most select elite, he is considered by highly renowned chess specialists as the strongest candidate in the near future to dispute and even seize the world title from Magnus Carlsen.
Carlsen, in turn, is planning to become the best chess player in history.
It will be a major accomplishment though by Wei Yei if he does not finish in the cellar.
This tournament is unique because in November this year Carlsen and Karjakin will play for the World Championship in New York. So Bilbao can be considered a prelude to their encounter for the world championship as they will play two times. Thanks to this world exclusive encounter, Bilbao and its Grand Slam Masters Final is one of the top events in this year’s international chess calendar, along with the individual World Championship, the Olympiad in Baku and the Grand Chess Tour.
Wesley is the defending champion in this event and it will be interesting and exciting if he can repeat his performance last year.
Chess Olympiad. According to Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov everything has been ready and the Baku  Olympiad can be held right now. Ilyumzhinov said that the competition, which will be held on Sept. 1-14, will make history for the number of participating countries.
“Currently, a record number of applications have been received. I believe that all 178 countries will participate in the Olympiad. So, it will be second biggest competition after the Summer Olympic Games.”
Will Armenia participate? They are considered one of the contenders for the championship.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an ethnic conflict between the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan over the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a region in Azerbaijan populated primarily by ethnic Armenians. The present conflict began in 1988 and escalated into a full-scale war in the early 1990s. Tensions and border skirmishes have continued in the region despite an official cease-fire signed in 1994.
The Philippines has just finished the 2016 Battle of GMs to determine its lineup both for men and women . Rogelio Antonio, Jayson  Gonzales and Paolo Bersamina booked their tickets after finishing 1-2-3 in the elimination. They will be joined by the country’s highest rated player, who is presently based in the USA, Julio Catalino Sadorra. Eugene Torre will probably be the fifth player and maybe also the team captain of both men’s and women’s teams.
In the women’s division, Janelle Mae Frayna,  Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Christy Lamiel Bernales earned their slots. Among those being considered for the final two berths  are  Bernadette Galas, Mikee   Suede  and  Catherine Perena-Secopito.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Pestaño: Chess computers better than humans

A LONG time ago I had a dinner date with GMs Eugene Torre and Jaime Sunye–Neto of Brazil. Eugene then was still considered the best player in Asia and Jaime was a mainstay on the Brazilian chess Olympiad team, and was at that time President of the Brazilian Chess Federation.
Jaime was one of the most influential persons in chess then and later ran for president in 1996. He assembled a powerful team and won the support of almost all of the chess-playing countries of Europe. Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov exerted a lot of influence and pressure on the delegates especially from the Latin-American and African federations with the help of Singapore`s Ignatius Leong who held a lot of proxies. Jaime lost by 87 votes to 44.
As I recall, our main topic of discussion was chess in general all over the world ,Garry Kasparov and the increasing popularity of chess computers.
Going back, I was introduced to chess computers in the early 1980s while playing regularly at the Luneta on weekends and the earlier versions were easily beaten. However, sometime in the mid-80s a foreigner brought a portable chess computer to Luneta that was a revelation at that time. He challenged all the strong chess players then to play against the machine with a bet and won most of them.
In the 1982 North American Computer Chess Championship, Monroe Newborn predicted that a chess program could become world champion within five years; tournament director and International Master Michael Valvo predicted 10 years;  Ken Thompson predicted it would take more than 20; and others predicted that it would never happen.
During our discussion, Eugene had the opinion that a computer will never be able to defeat the world champion, while Jaime said it will happen much sooner than later probably within a decade.
Garry Kasparov, in a 1996 match with IBM’s Deep Blue, lost his first game at tournament time controls in Deep Blue vs. Kasparov, 1996, Game 1. This game was, in fact, the first time a reigning world champion had lost to a computer using regular time controls. However, Kasparov regrouped to win three and draw two of the remaining five games of the match, for a convincing victory.
Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded to calculate up to 200 million positions per second , and played Kasparov again in May 1997. Deep Blue won Game six, therefore winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½ and becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch. IBM refused and retired Deep Blue.
While world champion Magnus Carlsen is rated 2835, chess computers are now rated well over 3000. The top five are: 1.) Komodo (3340), the leading commercial program, was the undisputed champ of 2014 before being briefly eclipsed by the new version of Stockfish this year. Its developers then released Komodo 9, which is about 50 rating points better than its predecessor.
2. Stockfish (3318) and Komodo are easily the two strongest in chess history. The best thing about Stockfish is that it is completely free, open source, and cross-platform.3. Houdini (3277), a commercial engine, used to be the strongest in the world, and remains a very formidable chess program.
4. Fire ( 3229) In development since 2010 is another fast-riser in the world of computer chess. It gained 16 rating points in the CCRL pure list compared to its normal database rating, the most of any engine in the top 15.
5. Gull (3214)is the fifth-ranked of the world’s best chess programs.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pestaño: Chess memorial tournaments

MEMORIAL tournaments are more common in chess unlike other sports. Almost every country has one and there are probably close to 100 worldwide. Here in Cebu, we have two—the Roger Abella and Loloy Ruelan memorial tournaments.
I am featuring only the major ones which have bigger prizes and attract mostly the international top players.
The Capablanca Memorial has been held annually in Cuba since 1962. José Raúl Capablanca (1888–1942) was a famous Cuban chess master who was World Champion from 1921 to 1927. The Capablanca Memorial became at that time the best paid tournament in the world.  Since 1974 B and C tournaments have been held. The champion of the 2016 edition, which concluded the other day, s Vassily Ivanchuk .
The Rubinstein Memorial is held in Polanica-Zdrój, Poland in honor of the chess legend Akiba Rubinstein, who died in 1961 and the tournament had its first edition in 1963. The main tournament is usually a closed round-robin tournament, while the other side events are open Swiss system tournaments.
The Carl Schlechter Memorial Tournament  is a competition initiated to honor the memory of the leading Austrian chess master Carl Schlechter (1874–1918), who died as a result of injuries suffered in the immediate aftermath of World War I.
The Torre Memorial commemorates Carlos Torre Repetto (1905–1978) and is played in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. The first edition was played in 1987, and from a relatively weak tournament, it has now grown into a strong international tournament.
The Chigorin Memorial is held in honor of Mikhail Chigorin (1850–1908), founder of the Soviet Chess School and one of the leading players of his day. The first and most important edition was the one played in 1909 in St. Petersburg. Later on, the tournament was played in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. From 1993, the venue for the tournament returned to his hometown.
The Leopold Trebitsch Memorial Tournament was organized by the family of Austrian silk manufacturer Leopold Trebitsch. Twenty tournaments were played inVienna between 1907 and 1938. Leopold Trebitsch’s son, Oskar, made more funds available, enabling 11 additional competitions to be held until 1938, when Germany’s annexation of Austria ended the event.
The Max Euwe Memorial Tournament was played mainly in Amsterdam. The last edition of the memorial was held in 1996. It ended because the main sponsor Verenigde Spaarbank (VSB) lost interest.
The Paul Keres Memorial Tournament is played in honour of chess grandmaster Paul Keres (1916–1975) and usually takes place in Vancouver, Canada and Tallinn, Estonia. It is an annual international chess tournament that has been held in Tallinn every other year since 1969. Since 1999, this tournament also had a women’s section.
The Milan Vidmar Memorial commemorates Milan Vidmar (1885–1962), a leading Slovenian grandmaster. The first Vidmar Memorial was held in June 1969 in Ljubljana. In subsequent years, the tournament has been held in several different Slovenian cities.
LEUVEN TOUR. Magnus Carlsen was totally dominant in the Leuven Grand Chess Tour last June 17-20. The World Champion won the rapid part and easily overwhelmed the opposition in the blitz part, securing the title a couple of rounds in advance.
The race to second place was between Wesley So and the Armenian Levon Aronian. So’s “don’t lose any games” strategy seemed to pay off, as he bested the Armenian by half a point, collecting 10 grand chess tour points and $30,000.
So is now tied for the lead with Hikaru Nakamura in the Grand Chess Tour standings as Carlsen will not be playing in the St.Louis and London legs.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pestaño: Accolades for Victor Korchnoi in memoriam

LAST June 6,Victor Korchnoi--born in Leningrad, Soviet Union on March 23, 1931--died at 85. He is considered the strongest player never to have become world champion.
Korchnoi was a candidate for the world championship on 10 occasions (1962, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1991). He was also a four-time USSR champion, a five-time member of the Soviet team that won the European championship, and a six-time member of Soviet teams that won the Chess Olympiad.
He was at the very top of world chess for 30 years, winning games against all the world champions from Botvinnik and Fischer, to Kasparov and Carlsen. In 1965 he was rated no.1.
However, he became convinced he had to leave the Soviet Union after being banned from playing internationally.
In 1976 Korchnoi sought political asylum in the Netherlands; he later became a citizen of Switzerland. Korchnoi’s wife and son were refused exit visas until the mid-1980s, and his son was jailed shortly before the 1981 match with Karpov after attempting to emigrate.
In terms of chess longevity, he has few rivals. In January 2007, at 75, he was ranked No. 85 in the world — by far the oldest person to be ranked in the top 100 and taught a lesson to the rising star Fabiano Caruana at age 79. He was a winner of more than 220 tournaments, matches and team events.
He is famous for the quote “No chess grandmaster is normal; they only differ in the extent of their madness.”
The world championship match of 1978 against Anatoly Karpov was held in Baguio and I went there for a few days. There was enormous controversy off the board, ranging from the X-raying of chairs, protests about the flags used on the board, hypnotism complaints and the mirror glasses used by Korchnoi. When Karpov’s team sent him a bilberry yogurt during a game without any request for one by Karpov, the Korchnoi team protested, claiming it could be some kind of code.
Before the title match, Korchnoi indicated that if he could not play under the Swiss flag, he wanted a white flag marked “Stateless.” FIDE indicated that this would not violate any law. The Soviets also objected to the Swiss flag, but agreed to a white flag marked “Stateless.”
Korchnoi wore mirror sunglasses during the match. In an earlier match he had been bothered by Karpov’s habit of staring at his opponent, so in Baguio he wore the glasses to hide his eyes. Karpov also refused to shake with him -- ‘Never! Never will I shake hands with you!”
The winner was the first player to win six games, draws not counting. Karpov won the the match 6–5 with 21 draws.
Wesley So finished fourth overall in the prestigious 2016 Paris Grand Chess Tour rapid and blitz competition. He had a combined score of 19.5 points behind champion Hikaru Nakamura of US (25.5), runner-up Magnus Carlen of Norway (24.5) and third placer Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France (22). Nakamura bagged the $37,500 top purse; Carlsen got $30,000, while Vachier-Lagrave and So settled for $15,000 consolation prize.
In rapid, So had three wins and five draws with wins against against Carlsen in the first round, against Aronian in the fourth round and against Fressinet in the ninth round.
He posted three wins and 11 draws in the double-round robin blitz competition.He defeated Giri in the 11th round; Caruana in 12th and Kramnik in 18th then drew with Carlsen (first), Giri (second), Topalov (fourth and 13th), Vachier-Lagrave (fifth and 14th), Fressinet (sixth and 15th) and Aronian (seventh and 16th).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pestaño: Grand chess tour and Gashimov memorial Thursday, June 09, 2016

THE Grand Chess Tour is a series of four events where players earn grand tour points in accordance with their final rank in each event. At the conclusion of the tour, the top two players based on the standings shall be awarded tour prizes worth $1 million.
Nine of the current top 10  grandmasters will compete in the Tour, since Magnus Carlsen will only participate in the two blitz and rapid events in Paris and Leuven.
“It’s great news that the grand chess tour have expanded with two new tournaments in Paris and Brussels,” said Carlsen. “I’m looking forward to playing both. Unfortunately, due to a very busy schedule, I won’t be able to play in Saint Louis or London this year. Hopefully I will get a new chance to fight for the GCT title again next year.”
It’s understandable that he is not playing in the classical events as he is scheduled to play Sergey Karjakin, who is also not playing in the tour, in the World championship in New York in November. They will be observing each other moves as part of their preparation.
Like last year, the 10th player will be added as a wildcard each time. For the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, that would be world No. 9 Ding Liren of China; the London Chess Classic hasn’t chosen a player yet.
The first leg is set to take place from June 9-12 at La Maison de la Chimie in Paris, France. The total prize fund is $150,000.
The Participants are Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Veselin Topalov, Maxime-Vachier Lagrave, Magnus Carlsen, Laurent Fressinet.
One of the strongest tournaments this year was theThe Vugar Gashimov Memorial held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan from May 26 to June 4, 2016. It was held in memory of the great Vugar Gashimov, who passed away on Jan. 10, 2014.
The tournament featured 10 world-class players: Fabiano Caruana (2795), Anish Giri (2790), Sergey Karjakin (2779), Pavel Eljanov (2750), Pentala Harikrishna (2763), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2750), Teimour Radjabov (2726), Eltaj Safarli (2664), Hou Yifan (2663) and Rauf Mamedov (2650).
Mamedyarv won the biggest strongest tournament of his career by defeating Giri in a superb rook endgame he played to perfection, right after beating Caruana in the previous round. In the playoff, he defeated Caruana and snatched the title.
Our lady journalist KC Morala sent in thie report.
“Check and mate: Richard Natividad came out on top in the 4th VMA Power Open Chess Tournament held at Robinsons Galleria Cebu last June 1-2. After overcoming Kim Yap in the last game of the seven-round tournament, Natividad finished with 6.5 points.
Second place Edsel Montoya also fought to a win against Kyle Sevillano and racked 6.5 points. A superior tiebreak output secured the champion trophy for Natividad.
Merben Roque and Ronald Ganzon both posted 6 points and took third and fourth places respectively.
Meanwhile, Airene Robillos claimed the top lady title with 4.5 points.
Battle of the brains: Yves Fiel held Richard Natividad to a draw and both finished even with 4.5 points in the 5-round Barangay Kalunasan Open Chess Tournament held at Kalunasan Barangay Hall last June.
Edsel Montoya and Merben Roque shared the third spot with 4 points.
Kyle Sevillano, a 17-year old Far Eastern University student, was the co-champion in a separate Juniors Category after sealing a draw with Ryan Pacres in the last round.Airene Robillos of the USJR Jaguars and USC Warrior Shaira Monsalud shared the top spot for the Ladies category.”

Friday, June 3, 2016

Pestaño: Yifan gives up title due to disagreement with Fide

IT'S rather surprising that despite being in the limelight now for more than a decade, I have not written extensively about Hou Yifan, the current women champion. She is planning to give up her title because of disagreements with Fide.
Hou (born Feb. 27 1994) became the youngest player ever to participate in the FIDE women’s world championship (Yekaterinburg 2006) and the Chess Olympiad (Torino, 2006) at the age of 12.
At 14, she was the youngest female player ever to gain the title of grandmaster, beating Judit Polgar’s record in August 2008. In 2010, she became the youngest women’s world chess champion in history by winning the 2010 world championship in Hatay, Turkey at age 16.
She has won the title four times and is the reigning champion. They say that she will still be champion for the next 10 years. Now Hou Yifan, 100 points stronger than any of her colleagues, has abandoned the women’s championship cycle.
Hou says “I decided to drop out from WGP (Women Grand Prix) cycle after I received an unclear answer from Fide regarding the possibility of a change in the current women’s world championship system. I participated in all previous cycles since 2009, and the main reason in recent years was that the overall winner got the right to play the women’s world championship match. I didn’t think this was actually reasonable, but it was the only option I had. Now the situation is different. I do not see any point in taking part in the different stages only to be able to play in the WWCC, especially when the opponents usually are at least 100 points below me. For years now, I have expressed my deep dissatisfaction to FIDE about this, but they didn’t accept anything I said. So I won’t consider staying in a system with which I completely disagree.”
Hou is the third woman to be rated among the world’s top 100 players, after Judit Polgár and Maia Chiburdanidze. She is widely regarded as the best female chess player now, “leaps and bounds” ahead of her rivals.
The 2016 Asian Continental Chess Championships--Open and Women’s – is on-going from May 25 to June 5th at the Uzbekistan Hotel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The top five players qualify for the 2017 World Cup, an integral part of the World Championship Cycle. The women’s champion qualifies for the Women’s World Championship.
I am mentioning this as there is no Filipino player entered both for men and women in this major tournament! There are 91 entered in the Open category and 35 for Women. I understand that hotel accommodation is free for at least one representative from each country. So what is going on? I was informed that the NCFP has a lot of problems.
Our lady journalist KC Morala sent in this report.
“Rogelio Enriquez, Jr. and Percival Fiel won last Sunday’s Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) monthly tournament held at Robinsons Galleria Cebu.
Enriquez tied with Yves Fiel for the top spot with 7.5 points in the 8-round Class A category, but a superior tiebreak score granted Enriquez the champion title.
Since both Enriquez and Fiel has qualified to the grand finals in December, third place Rosendo Yamyamin was named the month of May’s winning player for Class A.
Meanwhile, in Class B , Percival Fiel and Jerry Maratas tied at 4.5 points in the 5-round tournament for first and second places respectively, due to a better tiebreak.
Airene Robillos held Maratas to a draw and finished with 4 points, for a tie with Manuel Abucay, Richard Ouano and KC Morala.”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pestaño: Busy month for Cebu chess

IN a previous article, I reminded Cebuano players that they are quite lucky as there are plenty of tournaments here because of chess patrons Boojie Lim, Marvynne Guardiana and of course, Cepca. There are other sponsors as well.
We have three coming tournaments in just a week after the just concluded tournaments in Mabolo and Apas this month.
On May 29, Cepca will have a tournament for members, ladies as well as Kiddies at the Robinson’s Galleria at 1:30 p.m. Registration is P200 for members and P100 for ladies and kiddies.
The five-round tournament will have two categories--A and B. Class A players are selected members of Cepca and some of their children, while all ladies and kiddies will be playing in the B category with the other members. Prizes for Class A are P2,000, P1,000, and P500 for the top three and P2,500, P1,500 and P1,000, for the Class B.
This month’s sponsor is Cepca president Engr. Jerry Maratas.
On June 1 and 2, there will be the open 4th VBMA Power tournament also at Robinson sponsored by Cepca vice president Engr. Marvynne Guardiana. It will be a seven-round tournament and it will start at 1 p.m. On-site registration starts at 1030 a.m. on Wednesday. There will be P20,000 in prizes for the winners. Registration is P250.
On June 4 and 5, Barangay Kalunasan will hold an open tournament at the 4th floor of the Barangay hall starting at 9:30 a.m. for the open, ladies and kiddies division.
The results of the following tournaments, just concluded this month, was sent lady journalist and my favorite player, Keith Claire Morala.
“Mabolo. Chess players from all over Barangay Mabolo showed off their skills in the 2016 Barangay Mabolo Annual fiesta chess tournament at the Mabolo Elementary School Cultural Center last May 15.
Justin Misa and Alex Bayubay tied for top spot at six points apiece in the 7-round Swiss system competition. Misa brought home the champion trophy courtesy of a superior tiebreak.
Hector Villamora, Norvil Tagnipis, Duane Borgonia, and Edsel Vosotros finished in a four-way tie at 5.5 points respectively. Those who made the top 12 with 5.0 points each were Rodolfo Ang, Bonjoe Lanorias, Laila Nadera, Reshie Rolan, Christian Pondoyo and Alberto Rivera.
Rhenzi Kyle Sevillano was unmatched in the 2016 Barangay Apas Junior Chess Tournament held at the Brgy Apas Sports Complex last May 18. Sevillano racked six straight wins before settling for a draw in his last round with Aldritz Pondoyo, securing his solo top spot in the 7-round tournament.
Meanwhile, Edsel Vosotros posted five victories and a draw to seize second place. Ryan Pacres and Kirk Morala both wound up with five points but Pacrestook third place with a superior tiebreak score.
Reishi Polan and Pondoyo finished tied with 4.5, but Polan made top 5 since he won against Pondoyo in the fourth round.
Jeremy Bajo scored four points to nab the Top Female’s crown for the 17-under category, while Jasia Dorog took the 12-under Top Female title.
The top three finishers for 12-under category were Rolfred Lacanaria (4 points), Gyles Derotas (4), and Jave Peteros (3.5 ). Derotas was also hailed as the Top Apas Player.”