Saturday, July 31, 2004

Robert ‘Bobby’ Fischer

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

DESPITE all these years Bobby Fischer is still making headlines. He is now facing deportation proceedings in Japan after his passport was cancelled by the US embassy in the Philippines.

When Bobby came out of retirement in 1992 to play Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia, that country was under economic sanctions by the United Nations for the war in Bosnia. Americans were not allowed to transact any kind of business then even in the form of a chess match. The penalty was a fine of $250,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

When Bobby was advised by the Treasury Department on this, he held up the notice and said, “Here is my reply to their order.” He then spat on the letter.

I think that now is payback time. America is known to enforce its laws, wherever you are regardless of your position in society. Besides, Bobby is now anathema to the American public because of his views on 9/11. If he should go to jail, it will be the saddest endgame to the greatest chess player who ever lived.

ECCENTRIC. Robert James Fischer was born 61 years ago in Chicago, Illinois. His mother was a Jew and a registered nurse with an eccentric and bohemian lifestyle. Robert Byrne says that Bobby’s mother was “a cuckoo, an intelligent eccentric, full of far-fetched ideas.” His elder sister, Joan, gave him a chess set on his fifth birthday that was to change his life forever. His father who was divorced in 1945, was Hans-Gerhard Fischer, a German physicist, although his paternity is the subject of some speculation. Bobby’s IQ is reportedly over 180, even higher than Einstein’s.

Although his chess was rather slow compared to today’s prodigies, his improvement was dramatic and incomparable by age 13. By age 15, he was the youngest grandmaster in the history of chess.

The effects of Bobby’s genius goes beyond the chessboard. The cold war was at its height in 1972 and his win over Spassky humiliated the entire Soviet establishment. He also elevated what was once a boarderline parlor game into mainstream sports. And lastly, as Lev Khariton says, “the chess heroes nowadays should not forget that it was owing to Fischer that they are living today in four- and five-star hotels, getting appearance fees, etc.”

The late Mikhael Tal, on his first loss to Fischer, said, “It’s difficult to play against Einstein’s theory.” Isaac Kashdan avers that “in Fischer’s hands, a slight theoretical advantage is as good as a Queen ahead.” Paul Keres admitted that in complicated positions, Bobby hardly had to be afraid of anybody.” Upon being interviewed on his loss to Fischer, Boris Spassky asserted that “when you play Bobby, it is not a question if you win or lose. It is a question if you survive.”

Perhaps, the greatest compliment on Bobby is this quote from an unknown chess expert: “No other master has such a terrific will to win. At the board he radiates danger, and even the strongest opponents tend to freeze, like rabbits when they smell a panther. Even his weaknesses are dangerous. As white, his opening game is predictable – you can make plans against it – but so strong your plans never work. In the middle game his precision and invention are fabulous, and in the endgame you simply cannot beat him.”

CEPCA VS. LAPU-LAPU. This is a reminder to all members of Cepca that we will be on collision course with the Lapu-Lapu Chess Club on Sunday at the Cebu Youth Chess Center at 1 p.m. Time control is 30 minutes per player, play to finish. Each player will play two games each handling both white and black pieces. This will be a 20-board or more encounter so there will be slots for almost all.

BUTCH LOYOLA. One of Cepca’s original members, Bonifacio “Butch” Loyola passed away last July 21st. Although not one of Cepca’s strong players, Butch was well loved because of his sense of humor, camaraderie and fair play. He was never known to raise his voice even in the club’s most heated arguments. We will miss you Butch. Our condolence to Stella and children Ignatius Mark, Marites, Marineil and Maricor.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Good company


READING the life of Dr. Jose Rizal years ago, what I can’t forget was that our national hero was a chess player. He was so good he was invited to become a member of the Heidelberg Chessplayers Club while he was in Germany.

If you play chess you are indeed in good company. Don’t believe all those talks that chess players are misfits or dropouts and the like of what Sherlock Holmes says, “He is a chess player, Watson. A man of devious mind.” Chess, especially when taught early to the child, helps develop qualities that make him or her a good leader and an asset to society.

Consider this: Presidents who play chess were Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Fidel Castro, Corazon Aquino, Ferdinand Marcos, Anwar Sadat, Yasser Arafat, and more. Leaders all are Arthur Balfour, Menachim Begin, Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli.

Nobel-prize winners who were avid chess players were Albert Einstein, John Cornforth, Gerard Debrew, William Golding, Sinclair Lewis, Boris Pasternak, Bertrand Russel, John Steinbeck and William Yeats.

You think that holiness and chess don’t mix? Think again. Pope John Paul II is a good player. So were Popes Paul I, Leo X, Leo XIII, and great Popes Innocent III and Gregory the Great. The Patron saint of chess players in Spain is St. Theresa of Avila, a chess player.

There must be something about chess that makes one a great musician. Chess players all were Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Strauss.

This list is practically endless. Although, I don’t have the hard data to back this up, I believe that chess is the most played game in the world today even more so than basketball, golf or soccer. It is now part of the school curriculum in more than 40 countries in Europe, Asia and America.

$10,000 WINNER. The US of A certainly is the land of milk and honey. Josito Dondon, a Cebuano, won the other week $10,000 in the World Chess Open in Philadelphia. That’s P550,000! You can’t win this kind of money here and Dondon wasn’t even in the premiere section. He played in the under 2000 category and won seven games and drew two for first place.

Another item which Dondon mentioned in his e-mail is the chess explosion in the USA. With Chess in Schools Program firmly in place, over 30 million school children now play chess and it has created a huge demand for instructors and tutors.

Cebuano IM Enrico Sevillano is raking it in teaching chess at $60 per hour in Las Vegas. Even Victor Legaspina, a former Cepca president, is enjoying himself playing in tournaments which are sprouting everywhere.

ASIAN GAMES. When I read in the Hindu Times that chess will be included in the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar in 2006, my initial reaction was wow! Now is our chance to win some medals. Upon closer inspection, however, we would have minimal chances. China, India, Uzbekistan and the other Asian republics of the former USSR, even Vietnam, have much better players and our chance of winning is at most bronze in the team category.

CEPCA VS. LAPU-LAPU. For the second time, the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association will test the mettle of the Lapu-Lapu Chess Club in a 20-board encounter on Aug. 1 at the Cebu Youth Chess Center. Spearheading Cepca is former president Ben Di-maano backed up by William Retanal, Jojo Muralla, Dante Arguelles, Jun Catayas and Nikki Estenor. Lapu-Lapu will be led by Ariel Potot and mainstays Ramsy Pedroza, Tony Cabibil, Alwin Daculan, Arnel Abellana and Rene Romero.

TRIVIA: What country has the highest per capita chess population in the world?

If you know the answer go to Tun-anan Study and Chess Center at 28 Visitacion St. and claim your prize, a tournament-size chess set from Nicnic Climaco of Cepca. E-mailed answers will be entertained but priority will be given to those who answer in person.

The winner of the last week’s trivia was Stephen Tao, who e-mailed the correct answer from Japan-British Chess Magazine.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Man vs. Machine

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

BACK in 1990, I had as guests for dinner two Grandmasters, Jaime Sunye-Neto of Brazil and Eugene Torre. The discussion, almost the entire evening, was about chess computers. A few months earlier, Garry Kasparov had just defeated the program Deep Thought and IBM engineers were talking of building a new, more powerful version to challenge the World Champion.

Jaime asserted that the time will come when a computer will defeat all humans. Eugene was of the opinion that no program will ever be built that can defeat the World Champion.

As computers become better and more powerful, programmers and software designers started talking about artificial intelligence. Chess was considered a field to work on because it involved logical thinking and pattern recognition, traits that required some sort of “artificial intelligence”.

Besides, chess is a hugely popular game and their efforts can be tested against humans.

MAN AND MACHINE. Today as we survey the Man vs. Machine drama, made even more popular by the highly successful Terminator movie series, we have come to an astounding conclusion that as chess computers become more powerful so do humans! The average grandmasters now are much better players than they were a decade ago primarily because of the use of computers in training and tournament preparation. Where before super GMs were in the 2600 category, now it is 2700. There are now 16 players with ratings over 2700 and the top 100 GMs are all over 2600.

A review of the Man vs. Machine match-up over the last several years showed that the only time a computer won was in 1997 when Deep Blue defeated World Champion Garry Kasparov, 3.5-2,5. All the other match-ups were initially won by humans with the last seven matches drawn, as computers became more powerful and sophisticated. Humanity isn’t winning but it also isn’t losing either as the top humans are holding their ground.

Here are the full results so far in the Man vs. Machine match-up: 1) 1989, Deep Thought vs. Garry Kasparov 2775, human wins 2.0-0.0 2) 1994, Genius at Intel Grand Prix vs. 2762, humans win 2.5-1.5 3) 1995, Genius vs. Garry Kasparov 2805, human wins 1.5-0.5 4) 1995, Fritz vs. Garry Kasparov 2795, human wins 1.5-0.5 5) 1996, Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov 2775, human wins 4.0-2.0 6) 1996, Fritz vs. Anatoly Karpov 2770, human wins 1.5-0.5 7) 1997, Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov 2795, computer wins 3.5- 2.5 8) 1998, Rebel vs. Viswanathan Anand 2795, human wins 1.5- 0.5 9) 1999, Fritz at Frankfurt Masters vs. 2736, drawn 6.0-6.0 10) 2000, Fritz at Siemens Giants vs. 2750, drawn 5.0-5.0 11) 2000, Junior at Dortmund vs. 2746, drawn 2.5-2.5 12) 2002,Rebel vs. Loek van Wely 2714, drawn 2.0-2.0 13) 2002 Fritz vs.Vladimir Kramnik 2807, drawn 4.0-4.0 14) 2003 Hiarcs vs. Evgeny Bareev 2729, drawn 2.0-2.0 15) 2003, Junior vs. Garry Kasparov 2847, drawn 3.0-3.0

UZBEK CHAMPION. Despite being a trivia addict, the only things that sound familiar about Uzbekistan are Samarkand, Tashkent and the fact that it is, along with Liechenstein, the only doubly landlocked country in the world. Now I know better. I’ve read its history and its people. Why? Because Rustam Kasimdzhanov (learn to pronounce his name – Qosimjonov), an Uzbek, just defeated the highly regarded Michael Adams of England in Tripoli, Libya and is now World Chess Champion. It was a fighting match all the way with each winning two games and drawing two in six games. In the tiebreak Rustam won the first game and drew the second.

TRIVIA. Nobody was able to answer the trivia questions last July 2 and 9. The answer for July 2 is Weaver Adams while the answer for July 9 is Geza Maroczy.

What is the oldest chess magazine?

If you know the answer, go to Handuraw Learning and Leisure Café in Mabolo beside Kahayag Restaurant and claim your prize, a tournament-size chess set donated by Ely Berciles of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Assn. E-mail answers will be entertained but priority will be given to those who answer in person.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Fide rating list

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

THIS is to inform all members of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association Inc. that we will have a tournament on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Cebu Youth Chess Center (formerly the Bibo Chess Club) along Jakosalem St.

The format is five-round Swiss system and is exclusively for members. Registration fee is P100.

Time handicaps are the same as in our previous tournament with members divided into three groups depending on their level of play. Sponsors of this one-day affair are Ely Berciles, Ed Cabantug, Felix Balbona, Gerry Tomakin and Cepca president Jun Olis.

Those who already have expressed intention of playing are Class Armadillo: Dante Arguelles, Jun Catayas, Bong San Pascual, Jun Olis, Edmund Suralta, Jojo Muralla, Santiago Peque and Gerry Rallos.

Players belonging to Class Buffalo are Felix Balbona, Art Ynclino, Joe Atillo, Nicnic Climaco, Danny Pestano, Alex Tolentino, Maggi Dionson, Norway Lara, Boy Pestano, Lito Pielago, Henry Cariat and Germs Carballo.

Players belonging to Class Cobra are Ely Berciles, Gerry Tomakin, Bal Ynclino, Tony Cornejo, Ogie Reyes, Felix Salve, Andy Aquino and Gideon Lauta. Other Cepca members who want to join may call Jun Olis at 495-9694. The tournament is open to new members.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. The big surprise of the World Championship currently ongoing at Tripoli, Libya is Rustam Kasimdzhanov the great killer from Uzbekistan who eliminated the tournament favorite Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria in the semifinals. The other finalist is Michael Adams of England, who defeated Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaizan in the other semis.

While Adams was expected to figure prominently in the championship, Kasimdzhanov was not even a qualifier. He belonged to the reserved list of players who replaced those who withdrew or could not attend the tournament. He was ranked No.28 at the start and if he wins, it will be the biggest upset in the history of modern chess.

FIDE RATINGS. The World Chess Federation has released its top players as of July 2004. It is categorized into top 100, top 50 women, top 20 Juniors, top 20 girls and top country list. Here are the top 16 players whose ratings are over 2700 and therefore considered Super GMs: 1) Garry Kasparov, Russia 2817 2) Viswanathan Anand, India 2782 3) Vladimir Kramnik, Russia 2770 4) Alexander Morozevich, Russia 2743 5) Peter Leko, Hungary 2741 6) Michael Adams, England 2738 7) Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria 2737 8) Judit Polgar, Hungary 2728 9) Peter Svidler, Russia 2727 10) Shirov Alexei, Spain 2725 11) Ruslan Ponomariov, Ukraine 2722 12) Vassily Ivanchuk, Ukraine 2715 13) Evgeny Bareev, Russia 2715 14) Etienne Bacrot, France 2712 15) Boris Gelfand, Israel 2709 16) Alexander Grischuk, Russia 2705.

The top 10 women are 1) Judit Polgar, Hungary 2728 2) Xie Jun, China 2564 3) Antoaneta Stefanova, Bulgaria 2527 4) Alexandra Kosteniuk, Russia 2511 5) Humpy Koneru, India 2511 6) Maia Chiburdanidze, Georgia 2498 7) Zhu Chen, China 2494 8) Alisa Galliamova, Russia 2490 9) Pia Cramling, Sweden 2489 10) Svetlana Matveeva, Russia 2482.

The top 10 Juniors are: 1) Teimour Radjabov, Azerbaijan 2664 2) Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Azerbaijan 2662 3) Luke J. McShane, England 2643 4) Andres Volokitin, Ukraine 2638 5) Bu, Xiangzhi, China 2620 6) David Navara, Czechoslovakia 2616 7) Ferene Berkes, Hungray 2614 8) Artyom Timofeev, Russia 2611 9) P. Harikrishna, India 2609 10) Evgeny Aleksev, Russia 2606.

I have examined Fide’s Top Country players list and the Philippines is not included! I don’t know what is wrong but if it is deliberate then we have a serious problem here. I have already inquired from those who might know the real score, but it will take sometime. Nevertheless it might just be an oversight.

TRIVIA. A math teacher who was one of the most successful players from 1899 to 1908.

Supposedly his ghost returned in 1985 and has been playing Korchnoi through a Swiss medium.

If you know the answer, go to Big Apple Store located in Mabolo beside Kahayag Restaurant and claim your prize, a tournament-size chess set, donated by Ely Berciles of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association Inc.

Saturday, July 3, 2004

United we stand, divided we fall

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

THIS is the guiding factor in all organizations and in all aspects of human endeavor, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with chess in our country. Recently my colleague, Maning Oyson, gave me a letter sent to him by a friend George P. Barcenilla entitled “Not only politics but also Greed.”

In the letter Mr. Barcenilla wrote about the infighting within the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) particularly a court case filed by GMs Joey Antonio, Bong Montemayor et al against GM Eugene Torre and the NCFP.

He also pointed out the raw treatment of his nephew, IM Rogelio “Banjo” Barcenilla, by Fide officials, regarding his elevation to Grandmaster status, which was denied unreasonably.

I do not know the real score now plaguing the NCFP but it is a house divided ever since its beginning in the chess Olympiad in Istanbul when the NCFP replaced the Philippine Chess federation (PCF) as the governing body of chess in our country. In Istanbul, we were at the center of controversy then as we sent two separate teams, one headed by Eugene Torre and the other appointed by the late Art Borjal, then PCF president.

The next Olympiad is scheduled this October in Calvia, Majorca, Spain and if the NCFP doesn’t get its acts together and soon, we are in for some serious trouble. If our GMs cannot play together in one team, we might as well not participate.

Futhermore, the NCFP should consider including Rogelio “Banjo” Barcenilla in the team or if there is a qualifying tournament to invite him. He is the fourth highest-rated Filipino now with an Elo rating of 2503 and he deserves to be an Olympian. The last time I met Banjo was in the 1991 Cebu Grandmasters Tournament, and he had a good showing then. My impression of him was a clean living guy, dedicated to chess and full of talent. He is also a Cebuano from Carcar and nephew of NM Bombi Aznar.

INTERNET CHESS. Playing in the internet can do wonders for your game and this was shown quite clearly in our last tournament in Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City. Antonio “Nicnic” Climaco, my “blood brother” (that’s just between us) won four straight games over such strong players as Edmund Suralta (an internet addict himself), Maggi Dionson and surprising my brother Danny. Although he lost his last game to Santiago Peque, Nicnic was certainly the surprise of the tournament and he owes his improvement to constant playing in the internet. Where else can you play 10 persons from 10 different countries in an hour or two?

If you want to play in the internet, two good sites are and Of course, the premiere site is still ICC (Internet Chess Club). In yahoo, there are 4,000-9,000 players at any given time and you can choose your opponent at your own terms (time control, color). However, the “in” site now is, which is better designed, has more features and holds tournaments almost everyday. The players are also stronger.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. After five rounds of intense dueling in Tripoli, Libya the 128-player field is now down to four. Interestingly all the 19 Russians have been eliminated. The semifinal match-ups: Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria against Rastam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan, and Michael Adams of England against Teimour Radjanov of Azerbaijan. They will play a total of four games each. My guess is that it will be Topalov-Adams in the finals with Adams as the winner and champion. The finals will be played in six games.

TRIVIA. In 1939 this former US Open Champions wrote a book entitled “White to play and win.” At his next tournament he lost all his games as white and won all his games as black.

If you know the answer, go to Big Apple Convenience Store located in Mabolo beside Kahayag Café and Restaurant and claim your prize, a tournament-size chess set, donated by Ely Berciles of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association Inc.