Saturday, October 30, 2004

Strange but true

By Frank "Boy” Pestaño

IN 1918, the famous chess player Ossip Samoilovich Bernstein (1882-1962), a Hungarian grandmaster, was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka, the Soviet secret police, and scheduled for execution. As he was about to be executed by firing squad, the commanding officer asked to see the list of the prisoners’ names, and seeing Bernstein’s name, demanded whether he was the grandmaster of the same name. When Bernstein said yes, the officer challenged him to a chess match and told him he would be freed if he won.

And win he did easily and thus his freedom. He then fled on a British ship and settled in Paris.

During World War II, the US Navy enlisted world champion chess player Reuben Fine to calculate – on the basis of positional probability – where enemy submarines would most likely surface. When Fine was asked of the results, he replied modestly, “It was successful.”

George Koltanowski, an American international master, played an exhibition that has never been duplicated ever since. He played 34 boards simultaneously…while blindfolded and won 24 games and didn’t lose a single game. This happened in Edinburgh in 1937.

Robert Fischer has an IQ of about 180 and became a grandmaster at the age of 15. Such was his memory that that he was able to memorize more than five minutes of dialog in a language which he had never spoken.

In September 1940, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin was playing chess with his wife when Russian troops burst in to arrest him. As he was being dragged away he called out to his wife “You win, I resign.” He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and was once wanted as a terrorist with a $50,000 bounty on his head by the British in 1946 because of his fight for a Zionist homeland.

St. Charles Borromeo, who was Archbishop of Milan and canonized in 1610, was such a chess addict that he was once censured for playing and studying chess. “What would you do if you were busy playing and the world came to an end?” he was asked one day. “Continue playing,” he simply replied.

CHESS OLYMPIAD. As I have suspected, all is not well with our Men’s team in the Olympiad. Eugene Torre has claimed that Joey Antonio wants to play white in most of his games, which Joey has denied.

Now we are way behind in the standings despite demolishing Singapore in the 12th round, 3.5-0.5. The main culprit is the disappointing performance of Emmanuel Senador, who has not scored a single point in six games. His performance rating is an incredibly low at 1747, more like a club player than an Olympian.

The other players are doing relatively well. Torre, Antonio, Paragua, Gonzales and Laylo have performance ratings of 2559, 2634, 2553, 2555 and 2422, respectively.

Ukraine is a sure winner in the Men’s section with 34.5 points after 12 rounds followed by Russia and Armenia with 31 point each. The RP team has 27. There are two rounds left but it will be uphill from now on.

China is again reasserting its supremacy in the Women’s section with 27 pts followed by the Polgar-led USA and Georgia with 24 points. Our Women’s team has 17 points, with Joy Lomibao scoring only one point in her last four games.

LADY CHESS PLAYERS CHALLENGE CEPCA. In view of the successful Cepca vs. Cebu Selection match, lady varsity chess players from various schools banded themselves together and issued a challenge to the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association for a chess match as part of their training and also for fun.

As Cepca president Jun Olis said to the other club members, “How can we refuse?” The match is tentatively scheduled on Nov. 14 at the Family Park in Talamban.

DIONSON IS OCTOBER CHAMPION. Maggi Dionson won the October edition of the Cepca tournament last Sunday. First runner-up was Joe Atillo while third placer was Jojo Muralla.

As part of the club’s program, 17-year-old Therese Gonzales of the University of San Jose-Recoletos and child prodigies 11-year-old Jessa Marie Balbona and her nine-year-old brother Marq Gabriel were invited to participate in the tournament.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Chess player’s head explodes

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

AFTER the recent Cepca vs. Cebu Selection matches last week, a few of us gathered for dinner, and Jojo Muralla happened to mention an incident which happened during a Moscow tournament, wherein a chess player’s head literally exploded in the middle of a game.

I researched further on the matter and the source is the May 24, 1994 issue of the magazine Weekly World News, whose authenticity is questionable, but nevertheless, here are the details.

No one else was hurt in the fatal explosion but several players and some officials were sprayed with blood and brain matter when Nikolai Titov’s head suddenly blew apart. Experts later said that what happened was caused by a rare condition called Hyper-Celebral Electrosis or HCE.

“He was in deep concentration with his eyes focused on the board,” says his opponent, Vladimir Dobrynin. “All of a sudden his hands flew to his temples and he screamed in pain. Everyone looked up from their games, startled by the noise. Then, as if someone had put a bomb in his cranium, his head popped like a firecracker.”

HCE is extremely rare and only five people have died all over the world in the last 25 years. The most recent occurred in 1991, when psychic Barbara Nicole’s head burst.

Dr. Anatoly Martinenko, a neurologist who did the autopsy on the unfortunate chess player says, “HCE is an extremely rare physical imbalance. It is a condition in which the circuits of the brain become overloaded with the body’s own electricity. The explosion happens during periods of intense mental activity when lots of current is surging through the brain. Victims are normally highly-intelligent people with great powers of concentration. In a way, both Nicole and Titov were too smart for their own good.

Although there are probably more cases not officially reported, the chance of your head exploding is one in a billion, and you have more chance of getting hit by lightning unless you are a chess player.

KRAMNIK VS LEKO. Vladimir Kramnik retained the World Classical Championship by the skin of his teeth by winning the last game of the 14-game match to equalize the score at 7-7. According to the rules, all he needed was to tie the match.

The match was a quality one with most games full of innovations. Kramnik won the first while Leko won the fifth and eighth.

“I had to give everything to win against such an opponent. Peter Leko is an incredible defender. For me it was more difficult than my match against Kasparov,” said Kramnik after the game.

On the other hand, his 25-year-old challenger from Hungary said: “It was a very hard fight. In the end, it was not enough for me to win the title. I’m disappointed, but I’m looking forward to the future. I’m 25-years-old, and I hope to get a new chance to become world champion.”

The match was sponsored by tobacco manufacturer Dannemann with a prize fund of one million Swiss francs or about $775,000 and was held in Brissago, Switzerland.

Kramnik will now play against the winner of the forthcoming match between current world No.1 Garry Kasparov and Fide champion Rustam Ka-simdzhanov, which will be held in Dubai this coming Jan. 7-24.

CHESS OLYMPIAD. Despite all the problems the RP teams encountered, they arrived on time in Majorca for the opening ceremonies, thanks to Sec. Alberto Romulo for expediting their Spanish visas.

Here are the results thus far after round 5. The Men’s team won over Malta, 4-0; over Colombia, 2.5-1.5; lost to India, 3-1; won over Ireland, 3-1; and lost to Canada, 2.5-1.5.

The Women’s team lost to Cuba, 0.5-2.5; won over Malaysia and Finland by identical 2-1; and drew with Denmark and Estonia. By the way, the team has no reserve player, as Aices Salvador could not join the team for personal reasons.

After five rounds, Ukraine is leading in the Men’s division with 16.5 points, followed by Israel with 16 and Azerbaijan with 15, while our team is tied at 24t-35th with 12 points. China, meantime, is in a class of its own in the Women’s section with 14 points while our team has 7.5.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Chess vs. sex

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

“CHESS is better than sex.” This famous line by Bobby Fisher was controversial at that time and raised quite a few eyebrows.

Now, it is generally accepted that to some people the game is more enjoyable and more pleasant, and although you may not agree with us, there are a lot of chess widows out there who will swear and believe this.

Please don’t be offended by the following comparison between chess and sex as it is written in jest and the play of words is just to make you laugh.

First, there are hundreds of millions of mating positions in chess and they are always new compared to sex, which is limited. Also as soon as you finish a game you are ready for another one.

You don’t have to court your opponent and send chocolates and flowers before they agree to play.

You can drink, smoke and play chess simultaneously and your opponent never complains that you are moving too fast.

Even if you’re ugly you still get to play and ugly opponents don’t turn you off.

You can’t catch a disease from chess and still play even in old age. You can play with children or minors but in sex you can go to prison. Playing with the same gender is usually the case, but in sex it is an abomination.

Misplacing your pieces on the chessboard is at most inconvenient; in the bedroom it may be illegal. In chess, you can play with your clothes on and in public,. too.

And lastly, most players are satisfied with average size chessboards. We end this feature with a quote from John Barrymore, “Sex is the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble.”

CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. “Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them…” best describes chess this week. To the right is the Kramnik vs. Leko Classical World Championship Match, to the left is the European Club Cup 2004, where most of the world’s top players collide, including Garry Kasparov, in front is the 36th World Chess Olympiad in Spain.

As the challenger, Peter Leko of Hungary needs 7.5 out of 14 games to take away the championship from Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. The match is being held at Centro Dannemann in Brissago, Switzerland and features a cash prize of one million Swiss francs or about $775,000.

After 11 games Leko is leading, 6-5, and needs to score only 1.5 points in the last three games to win the title. The winner of this match will challenge the winner of the Kasparov vs. Kasimdzhanov match for the undisputed Champion of the World title.

Meanwhile, there are 36 teams participating in the 2004 European Club Cup ongoing now in Cesme, Turkey, but only six teams are expected to be in contention.

To give you an idea of the strength of the players, here are the line-up of the first two teams: NAO Chess Club – Michael Adams (2740), Alexander Grischuk (2704), Etienne Bacrot (2718), Francisco Pons Vallejo (2678), Joel Lautier (2682), Teimour Radjabov (2663). Max Ven Ekaterinburg – Garry Kasparov (2813), Rafael Vaganian (2640), Aleksandrov Aleksej (2659), Konstantin Sakaev (2669), Alexander Beliavsky (2660), Alexander Motylev (2651).

The 36th Chess Olympiad, on the other hand, is being held in Calvia, Majorca, Spain starting yesterday until Oct. 31. The members of the RP Men’s team are Eugene Torre, Rogelio Antonio, Mark Paragua, Darwin Laylo, Emmanuel Senador and Jayson Gonzales while the Women’s squad is made up of Beverly Mendoza, Sherrie Joy Lomibao, Aices Salvador and Loreshyl Cuison.

There is a big problem though. As I write this, they don’t have Spanish visas yet and they are asking the help of foreign affairs Sec. Alberto Romulo. If ever they will arrive on time, which I doubt, they will probably be nervous wrecks by then.

KASPAROV VS. KASIMDZHANOV. Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has made an agreement with Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum of the UAE to hold the reunification match between Fide Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Garry Kasparov in Dubai this January.

The prize fund is reportedly $1.2 million.

MAN VS. MACHINE. The Biology vs. Electronics Team Championship has just been played in Bilbao, Spain. The biological team was composed of Bulgarian wold No.5 Veselin Topalov (2757) Ukrainian world No.13 Ruslan Ponomariov (2710) and compatriot Sergey Karjakin (2576), who became GM at 12.

The electronic marvels were Hydra, Deep Junior, the reigning computer champion, and Fritz 8.

The result was a disappointing 3.5-8.5 loss by the humans. Both Fritz and Hydra scored 3.5 out of four games while Deep Junior had a negative 1.5.

Topalov drew three games and lost one to Fritz. Ruslan drew and lost two games while Sergey lost three but was the only winner.

BALBONA SIBLINGS. In what is perhaps the first in the history of Philippine chess, a team composed of three brothers and a sister won a major tournament. The team won the Elementary division of the Milo Little Olympics last week representing Colegio dela Inmaculada Concepcion.

The team’s members were Marq Gabriel, Felix Shaun, John Francis and Jessa Marie. They are the children of Cebu Executive and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) member Felix Balbona. Congrats!

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Shields, Brando among others

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

HERE are some interesting information about well-known personalities who not only enjoy the game of chess but who also promoted it in their own way. It really makes you feel good that you share the same passion or hobby with them.

Kate Jackson of Charlie’s angels once admitted during a TV interview that she would rather play with her chess computer than watch TV or go out. Also, the late Ava Gardner was once described as not only having a killer of a face and body but also a killer chess player. When Mae West says “come up and see me sometimes” she probably meant to play chess or it could be her other hobby.

Morgan Fairchild, the sexy superstar loves to play chess and once hosted a charity event in Mexico in 1989 where Erik Estrada also played. The distinguished Spanish actor Jose Ferrer also plays well enough to play with Bobby Fischer. Bob Hope, the ultimate comedian once defeated Bobby Fischer in a simul but he took a few liberties with the rules.

You maybe surprised as I am to know that Brooke Shields was a member of the 1990 Chess World Championship Organizing Committee in New York where Steve Martin and Rick Moranis were constant visitors. Woody Allen wanted to join a chess team but according to him he was “too small.”

Marlon Brando is known as the Godfather of chess-playing actors, while Frank Sinatra the “Chairman of the Board” is also a force at the chess board.

Ivan Lendl reportedly took up tennis because he could not beat his father who was Czech Junior Champion and Sevy Ballesteros rarely does not let a week go by without playing a game or two. Steve Davis once traded chess and snooker stories with Anatoly Karpov.

Che Guevara was a chess player of master strength and his favorite whipping boy in the jungles was a guy named Fidel Castro. Leo Tolstoy once went to jail in the army because he was caught playing chess while on duty.

MISTAKE. The inclusion of Mark Paragua, who incidentally is our newest Grandmaster, Joey Antonio and Eugene Torre to the Philippine Olympiad team without passing through a qualifying tournament is unfair, unjust and a setback to promote chess in our country. What about our other GMs, Bong Villamayor and Nelson Mariano II, and our other good players? If the seeded players are really better, then they should have no problem in qualifying. But as it is they are afraid because they believe in their hearts that they might lose!

This reminds me of IM Walter Arencibia of Cuba who was our guest in Cebu during the Interzonals in 1990. He said that there were other grandmasters in Cuba including their champion but he was chosen as the representative because he defeated them in a qualifying tournament.

Anyway, the eliminations have just ended and the qualifiers are Darwin Laylo, Emmanuel Senador and Jayson Gonzales, thanks to 10-year-old Wesley So who upset IM Chito Garma in the last round.

$500,000 OPEN. The richest open tournament in the history of chess, the HB Global Chess Challenge, will take place in the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minnesota with a guaranteed prize fund of $500,000 including a cash prize of $50,000 to the winner in the open section. It will be held from May 18-22, 2005 and is expected to attract more than 4000 participants. The organizer of this tournament is Generation Chess, LLC, headed by its CEO Maurice Ashley, who is also the first black American grandmaster.

Here is a breakdown of the prizes:

Open: 1st place $50,000, 2nd $25,000, 3rd $12,500, 4th $7,000, 5th $3,500, 6th $2,000, 7th-20th $1,000 each, 21st-50th $500 each.

Rated 2300-2499: 1st $20,000, 2nd $10,000, 3rd $5,000. Under 2300:1st $20,000, 2nd $10,000, 3rd $5,000.

Under 2200, U2000, U1800, U1600: (Prize for each section) 1st $20,000, 2nd $10,000, 3rd $5000, 4th $2,500, 5th $1,500, 6th $1,000, 7th-20th $500 each, 21st-50th $300 each.

There are also substantial prizes for Under 1400 ($12,000, 1st place), U1200 ($10,000, 1st place), U1000 ($4,000, 1st place) and Unrated section ($2,000, 1st place).