Saturday, September 25, 2004

Lincoln, Jefferson and others

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

ABRAHAM Lincoln was a keen chess player and one of his chess sets is displayed in the Smithsonian. Whenever he played, he did not want to be disturbed even in the White house. Once while playing with Judge Treat, his wife told his son, Tad, to tell them that dinner was ready. When they still continued playing, Tad kicked the chess board off the table and the Judge was speechless but Lincoln said mildly “Come, Tad,” and they walked away to have dinner.

Thomas Jefferson was probably the most passionate to chess among American Presidents. He started playing in his 20s and owned several chess sets including a rare ivory set that got lost when he moved to Monticello.

When he moved to Paris in the mid-1780s he joined the Salon des echecs chess club and paid 96 francs. In his latter years he constantly played with Benjamin Franklin and told friends that they were of equal playing strength.

He also played marathon games with James Madison. He wrote an analysis on how to play an endgame with a rook and bishop against a rook.

George Washington may not have played chess but his victory over the British army was because of it. A spy had earlier given a report to the British commander that Washington was about to attack but he was playing chess and put the unread report in his pocket. The report was later found in his pocket, unopened, when he died in battle.

Other American Presidents who played chess were James Monroe who purchased chess books from Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, who also owned an ivory chess set, Rutherford Hayes, a strong player taught by his mother, and James Garfield, described in a chess column in Philadelphia as a first-rate player.

Theodore Roosevelt may have played Ajeeb the automaton and once invited foreign chess masters to the White House. One of Woodrow Wilson’s chess sets is also in the Smithsonian.

Jimmy Carter wanted to become a chess master when he left the White House and purchased numerous chess books and a computer chess program.

He finally gave up saying, “I found that I don’t have any particular talent for chess. I hate to admit it, but that’s a fact.”

Karpov/Polgar. Susan Polgar has won six Olympic medals including three golds, two silvers and one bronze while playing for her native Hungary. She is also a four-time world chess champion.

Anatoly Karpov is a former world champion and needs no introduction. He is considered by many as among the top 10 players of the modern era.

The two chess titans met recently in Linsborg, Kansas in the first-ever officially sanctioned match between a male and female world champion.

The match was six games consisting of two rapid (25 minutes), two Fischer random (15 minutes), and two blitz games (five minutes). Karpov won the rapid games by a score of 1.5-0.5, while Susan won the blitz games by the same score. The Fischer random was tied, so the final score was 3-3.

Kramnik/Leko. The match between classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Peter Leko of Hungary will start tomorrow in Brissago, Switzerland. The winner of this match will challenge the winner of Fide world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov versus Garry Kasparov match scheduled end of this year. The winner will then be declared the undisputed World Chess Champion.

Kramnik’s seconds are Grandmasters Evgeny Bareev and Peter Svidler of Russia and Miguel Illescas of Spain. Leko’s seconds are Grandmasters Vladimir Akopian and Arshak Petrosian both of Armenia and Vladislav Tkachiev of Russia. The seconds are crucial factors in one-on-one matches as they will advise, prepare and give all possible support to the protagonists before and during the match.

Cepca tournament. Winner of Cepca‘s September Tournament last Sunday at the Cebu Youth Chess Center was the mercurial Maggi Dionson followed by Santiago Peque, Marty Baria and Gerry Rallos. The top two monthly winners since the start of the series in June up to December will meet in the grand finals to be held before the year ends.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Julia Roberts, Humprey Bogart et al.

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

ACTRESS Julia Roberts of Pretty Woman and Erin Brokovich fame is reputedly a chess fanatic and has insisted upon chess sets being available on her trailer in all her films. She is said to be blessed with a calculating machine for a brain and can see a dozen moves forward. They say that if she takes timeout to play in tournaments she will give the favorites a run of their money.

Before becoming a movie star, Humphrey Bogart hustled strangers at five-minute chess for 50 cents a game in chess parlors in New York Times Square. In 1943 the FBI prevented him from playing postal chess, thinking the chess notation were secret codes. He was a tournament director of USCF and once drew a game against Samuel Reshevsky in a simultaneous exhibition. His Elo rating was 2100. He made 75 films and chess appears in several of his movies. He and his chessplaying wife Lauren Bacall appeared on the cover of Chess Review in 1945 playing with Charles Boyer. Among his famous movies are Casablanca and The African Queen.

Yoko Ono and her husband, the slain Beatles star John Lennon, were inveterate chess players and played against each other for relaxation. When the Edward Murrow High School team needed funds so it can participate in the state and national championship, Yoko donated a sum of $2,500 to the team. Yoko felt it funny or ironical that a school wouldn’t have money for something as educational as chess. The team was national championfrom 1992-1994.

Singer Barbra Streisand plays chess and is famous among chess players as a classmate of Bobby Fischer in grade school. However, Bobby is not kind to her. In a recent interview over radio in the Philippines when asked if Barbra was her classmate Bobby answered, “I’ve been asked about this. I remembered some mousy looking girl, maybe that was her, I don’t know.”

According to a co-movie actor, George C. Scott was addicted to chess. “Perhaps he was using it as inspiration for his character as a gangster.

We starred together for a few months and never exchanged more than a ‘Good morning,’ if that. He was very much in character, impeccable with his lines, but he only talked to his makeup man, his chess opponent. George would wander over to him after every camera setup to complete the chess move he must have decided on during our take.”

Senior Master Robert Snyder is the teacher of actors Will Smith and Nicolas Cage. Will, star of Men in Black and Independence Day started taking lessons in chess in 1998 while filming Enemy of the State. He regularly studies chess books and shows a lot of talent. Cage, star of The Rock and Face Off, says that he feels chess is good for kids and has included his son as a student of Snyder. Cage and Will are planning to enter chess tournaments in the US soon.

CEPCA INVITATIONAL. Last Saturday our club had a special tournament for members of equal playing strength to make the games more interesting and to give a chance to players of lesser caliber a shot at winning tournaments.

The tournament was for class A and B members only and was held at Handuraw Learning and Leisure Café in Mabolo. Subsequently, there will also be a tournament exclusively for class C and D members also.

The participants, divided into two groups of six, were Norway Lara, Bong San Pascual, Dante Arguelles, Maggi Dionson, Joe Atillo, Jun Catayas, Jun Olis, Fabio Abucejo, Junard Labadan, Marty Baria, Felix Balbona and yours truly.

The format was round robin play for each section, with the top two players advancing to the next round. The top four players then played a round robin among themselves. The surprise winner was Joe Atillo, followed by Dante Arguelles, Jun Olis and Maggi Dionson.

Congrats Joe!

SEPTEMBER TOURNAMENT. The next tournament for Cepca members is on Sept. 19 at the Cebu Youth Chess Center at 1 p.m.

As usual, the participants will be divided into four sections: Armadillo, Buffalo, Cobra and Dinosaur, with different time controls to compensate for different levels of skill.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Cepca through the years

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

I HAVE been writing about Cepca tournaments and members ever since the start of this column and it’s about time the chess playing readers learn more about this club. Cepca is the abbreviation of Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association Inc. and is duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-stock, non-profit corporation. Its primary purpose is to serve the chess needs of its members and to promote the game in Cebu.

The club is affiliated with the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and has been in existence since 1990. It had its first meeting in the conference room of MCWD about middle of June that year and the founders were this writer, Art Ynclino, Sonny Sollano, Gerry Tomakin, Alex Tolentino, Nicnic Climaco and Danny Pestaño.

That year, the Interzonal of Fide was held in Manila and our initial plan was to invite some of the players to come to Cebu to perform simultaneous exhibitions. Since we were not fully organized yet, we approached the Cebu Lakandula Lions to help us since its president then was my brother, Danny.

Our initial plan was to invite Victor Korchnoi of Switzerland, Nigel Short and Eugene Torre.

However, we found out that our budget was not enough to accommodate these gentlemen, so those who came over instead were Eugene Torre, Jaime Sunye-Neto of Brazil, Walter Arencibia of Cuba and Carlos Juarez of Guatemala. It was quite a sensation in Cebu then and after that our membership exploded.

Among the new members were Loy Miñoza, Babes Andales, Damaso Uy, Rudy Aguinaldo, Bob Inocian, Tony Cornejo, Dongdong Almario and Serge Borres. We then held our first tournament and new members who joined were Bill Laviste, Edmund Suralta, Lito Pielago and Danish national Malte Lemvigfog.

Through the first two years, we reached a membership of over 60 and joined the Sinulog festival in all the categories: float, free interpretation and higante.

New members worth mentioning here were Rene Tolo, who is now in the US, and Jun Olis. We also sponsored the premiere showing of Terminator 2, Judgment Day, in partnership with the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers, Cebu Chapter.

GM TOURNAMENT. However the most important accomplishment of our club was the holding of the First Cebu Grandmasters Tournament in 1992 in association with Boojie Lim of the Cebu Chess Federation, then Fide President Florencio Campomanes and the Cebu Inter-Family Youth Association headed by Henry Uy-Hehiong and Kelly Uy. The foreign grandmasters who came over to Cebu were Ian Rogers of Australia, Dibyendo Barua of India, Ye Rongguang of China and Niaz Murshed of Bangladesh. They were joined by Philippine players Rogelio Antonio, Fernie Donguines, Banjo Barcenilla, Barlo Nadera and Rico Mascariñas.

Active members of the club worth mentioning through these years are British national Graham Maitland-Smith, Italian national Stelvio Guglielmi, Mer Fernandez, Bong San Pascual, Jun Catayas, Ely Berciles, Arwin Barrios, Rene Casia, El Labunog, Fred Sandalo, Norwegian Roar Sorensen, Pabs Argamosa, Andy Aquino and Vic Nator.

Past presidents of the club are this writer, Alex Tolentino, Gerry Tomakin, Ben Dimaano, Danny Pestaño, Ogie Reyes, Nicnic Climaco, Manny Manzanares, Norway Lara, Vic Legaspina, Bobot Villaluna and current president Jun Olis.

As of now Cepca has over 100 members although some are abroad, some are inactive, and a few have passed away like Migs Enriquez, Butch Loyola and the person nearest to our hearts, Sonny Sollano. If I were to name five top members of the club, Sonny would certainly be among them.

HUMOR. Here are some moments that you should sense danger while playing chess: 1) There has been a change in pawn structure. Your opponent has eight and you don’t have any; 2) your opponent begins to throw pawns at your eyes; 3) you have a won position but your opponent has a gun; 4) before the game begins you notice your opponent’s initials are “GM”; 5) your draw offer sends all the people watching your game into uncontrollable laughter.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Bobby Fischer updates

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

TO RECALL, when Bobby agreed to play Boris Spassky for the second time in 1992 in Yugoslavia, he was warned by the State Department that he faced a possible fine of $250,000 or 10 years in prison or both. Yugoslavia was then under sanctions by the United Nations for its war in Bosnia. Bobby of course played the match against Spassky and now he is in deep trouble as the US is now after him and has cancelled his passport.

Last July 13, he was arrested at the Narita Airport in Japan while he was on his way to the Philippines and now faces a possible deportation to the USA and jail sentence.

MIYOKO WATAI. His supporters in Japan include John Bosnitch, a former US junior chess champion, long-time friend Miyoko Watai, who is a four-time Women Japanese champion, lawyer Masako Suzuki and Ichiji Ishii, a former minister of foreign affairs and founder of a chess club.

Their strategy is for Fischer to renounce his US citizenship, acquire German citizenship and/or marry Watai, who claims she and Fischer have been living together for several years now. Fischer supporters have submitted a certified copy of his birth certificate to the German Embassy in Tokyo, which indicates he was born to a German father, Hans Gerhardt Fischer. If Germany establishes his citizenship, then he would be deported to that country where there is no extradition treaty with the US regarding German nationals.

ANTI-AMERICAN. Fischer is also seeking the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for politically persecuted and stateless persons. After all, I believe that Bobby is being arrested now because of his anti-American ranting, his delight at what happened to the US on 9/11, which includes saying, “I want the US wiped out,” and calling George W. Bush “borderline retarded.”

Bosnitch has also informed the Japanese Government that Fischer and Watai have completed and signed the Japanese legal documents for marriage. ”If the officials were to deport Bobby, they would be depriving a Japanese woman of her man whom she has lived with for four years.”

However, the US State Department in a statement said that Fischer would not escape prosecution even if he renounces his citizenship and marries a Japanese.

“Renunciation does not allow a person to escape possible prosecution for crimes that they may have committed in the United States.” His best bet seems to be to acquire the German citizenship of his father. Already there is a large movement among chess players in Germany to free Bobby.

Last Aug. 24, the Japanese Justice Minister in a surprise move, issued an order to deport him that same day. However, Fischer’s lawyers filed a lightning appeal that will probably delay his deportation for a month on the grounds that his deportation would be a flagrant violation of his right and protection under Japanese law.

BABY GIRL. Although Watai seemed to be serious on their marriage, Bobby has a girlfriend named Justine, a 22-year-old Chinese-Filipina living in Manila with whom he has a baby girl born in 2000.

This has been kept secret by his close friends and this was probably the reason why Bobby was on his way to Manila as he “regularly sends money to Justine and their child and visits them every two months.” Bobby’s friends hope that this child will fill the void in his life that chess once occupied. Also, Justine doesn’t care so much about chess and has no intention of writing a tell-all memoir.

Bobby is a tormented soul. The death of his sister, Joan, with whom he was very close to, and his mother, whom he had reconciled with in the late 1990s, and not being able to attend their funeral were great blows to him.

He is not entirely repudiating the land of his birth. According to a long-time friend, Bobby will go home if he knew he would not be prosecuted. If ever he will be convicted, this will be the first time that a person will go to jail………for playing chess!!