Saturday, December 25, 2004

The chess of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Turk

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

POLEON was a chess addict who played the game throughout his life. He played chess while still a boy, at college, in manhood, aboard a ship, in camp, in bivouac. He played while in Egypt, Russia, while in exile in Elba and finally on his final resting place on that lonely island in the Atlantic, St. Helena. He even said that he sometimes maps out his campaign based on certain positions of the pieces on the chessboard.

It has been said of him that “He was an able chess player and the human race was the opponent to whom he proposed to give checkmate.”

As a player he reportedly had bad manners. As an absolute monarch, he required all his friends to sometimes stand for five consecutive hours watching him play chess. He also became impatient if his opponent took a long time to make his move.

He was what is called a romantic player – an aggressive kind of play and fond of sacrifices. He was also sore and irritable in defeat although it is presumed that his favorite opponents would let him win just a little bit more.

Incidentally, scientists have refuted the story that Napoleon was murdered due to the high level of arsenic found in his hair. The experts believe that the emperor had absorbed the toxin over a long period of time from such things as ash, glue or wood fire and the like. Most experts agree that he died of stomach cancer. This will no doubt clear Count Charles de Montholon who was suspected of giving the poison.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, Napoleon was the most powerful person on Earth. He had taken almost all of Europe and was on his way to becoming the greatest conqueror of all time. This was also the height of the industrial revolution and all kinds of mechanical devices were invented including the flying balloon. If man can invent a machine to fly, why not a machine that can think?

This is where the “Turk” comes in. Invented earlier by Baron Wolfgang Von Kempelen, a genius of great renown in the field of mechanics, it was promoted as a chess-playing machine and all of Europe swallowed it line, hook and sinker, including Napoleon. He challenged the Turk to play against him.

As the whole court watched, he made a few illegal moves and the Turk shook its head every time. Napoleon laughed and they started to play. In the first game the Turk defeated him in 19 moves.

Napoleon placed a magnet on the chessboard before the second game because he had heard that the Turk relied on magnets for its operation, but the Turk still won. Before the third game, Napoleon wrapped a shawl around the Turk’s head and torso, thinking there might be an operator hidden inside.

But the Turk won a third time, at which point Napoleon swept the chess pieces to the floor and walked out.

At the conclusion of the games, the cabinet doors were opened to show that no one had crawled inside to operate the Turk. Audience reaction ranged from skepticism to amazement to sheer fright at such an unholy power.

The Turk itself was four feet long, three feet high and two feet deep and consisted of a large cabinet containing springs, pulleys, gears and wheels that looked like the inside of a clock, a chess board on top, and sitting on a chair at the back of the cabinet was the upper body of a figure draped in Oriental grab, wearing a turban, holding a long Turkish pipe in one hand and playing the game with the other.

It is considered as the most famous illusion in history.

Tabada Grand Prix Winner. In a battle among 12 qualifiers, Jobannie Tabada prevailed over the group to emerge Cepca 2004 Champion last Sunday at the Handuraw Learning and Leisure Café. He defeated Dante Arguelles in a nail-biting final match-up to win the championship trophy plus an Imarflex appliance set.

Third place went to Maggi Dionson while fourth was Mandy Baria and fifth Joe Atillo. All the winners won various kinds of Imarflex appliances.

In a side tournament, Victor Sepulveda won the Christmas tournament followed by second placer Bong San Pascual, Jun Olis and Gonzalo Tumulak. They also won appliances.

Among the tournament participants were Anders Berg and Roar Sorensen, who came all the way from Norway, and National Master Bombi Aznar. We were also honored by the presence of Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who accepted his certificate as honorary member of Cepca.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The German plays chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

EINSTEIN’S puzzle again drew quite a number of responses from our readers, and the correct answer is the German plays chess. If you want to know what the puzzle is, check our column last week.

Those who answered correctly and thus belonging to the elite two percent are: 1) Jason Cabahug – a medical doctor specializing in Internal Medicine at North General Hospital, who loves basketball, tennis and chess. 2) Eloise Danoit – a fine arts student of the University of the Philippines, her dad was able to answer the puzzle also when it appeared in the Reader’s Digest sometime ago.

3) Joel Atillo – presently a jeepney driver and an avid fan of Bobby Fischer 4) Michael Lourds D. Clitar – a student of Trade Tech International Science Institute taking up Computer Technology. 5) Gemma Mendoza – a graduate of Computer Engineering in USC from Liloan.

6) Nick Torres – 55 and a born-again Christian 7) Samantha Niña Malinao of Liloan, a B.S. Accountancy student in her senior year at USC 8) Asencio Cadampog and Ma. Candice Y. Cadampog of White Hills Subdivision, Banawa 9) Ernesto S. Abines Jr., 31, born in Surigao, a certified public accountant and also a fourth-year law student presently connected with Philexport Cebu. 10) Rai Cuenca and his sister Rain – both fine arts students of USC.

Here is the answer to the puzzle as written by Yvonne Mae Ygbuhay.

1) We know that the Norwegian lives in the first house to the left, making the house next to it (or the second house) the blue house. Since the owner who drinks milk lives in the middle house (or the third house), we can be sure that the green house is the fourth house, with the white house to its right making it the last from the left. Knowing these, it is safe to say that the first house is yellow house and the red house the one in the middle.

2) We learn that the Norwegian smokes Dunhill, and his neighbor plays bridge. Knowing that the owners of red and green houses drink milk and coffee, respectively, it is then safe to say that the owner of the blue house smokes blend, making his neighbor, the Norwegian, the water-drinker.

3) Since the man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer, then he owns the white houses. This leaves the tea-drinking Dane the blue house. With the Brit occupying the red house, the German who smokes prince then lives in the green house. So, the Swede who plays scrabble owns the white house.

4) Knowing the brands of cigarettes the four other men smoke, we learn that the Brit is the one who smokes Pall Mall and therefore, plays dominoes. The Norwegian, who lives next-door to the blend smoker, is therefore the one who plays checkers. Who then plays chess? The German.

Yellow Blue Red Green White
Norwegian Dane Brit German Swede
Water Tea Milk Coffee Beer
Dunhill Blend Pall Mall Prince Blue Master
Checker Bridge Dominoes Chess Scrabble

CEPCA GRAND FINALS. One of the most awaited local chess events this year is the Cepca Grand Finals on Sunday at the Handuraw Learning and Leisure Café in Mabolo starting 1:30 p.m.

The finalists are Mandy Baria, Jonard Labadan, Dante Arguelles, Loy Minoza, Felix Salve, Joe Atillo, Jojo Muralla, Gerry Rallos, Fred Sandalo, Maggi Dionson, Santago Peque and Jobannie Tabada.

Tournament registration is P100 and Christmas party contribution is P200.

There will also be a side tournament among non-qualifiers together with some invited lady varsity players. Here is some good news-our fellow Cepcan from Norway, Anders Berg, is arriving just to play in our tournament together with another Cepca member, Roar Sorensen. Anders is following all the activities of our club in Norway thru the Internet.

Watch out for our match with the Oroquieta Executives Club and also with the Makati Executives Club. We are finalizing arrangements with Rey Urbiztondo of Oroquieta and Jenny Mayor of Manila.

COLETO ITAAS. The 2nd Coleto Itaas Memorial Chess tournament will start tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Format is active, seven-round Swiss system, and total prize money is P5,000.

Registration is P60. The tournament is sponsored by Woman National Master NM Susan Itaas in honor of her father.

CHESSMOSO TRIVIA. For those who are trivia fans, I now have my own trivia website. Questions are all about mixed sports, not just chess. Log on to www. and play trivia everyday.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

The chess of Albert Einstein and his puzzle

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Sometime ago, the editors of Time Magazine came out with a list of the most influential persons in history and it was quite controversial at that time because the No.1 choice of the editors and historians was Mohammed instead of Jesus Christ.

Also on the list, in fact listed as among the top 10 were Sir Isaac Newton, who if I recall correctly, was No.3, and Albert Einstein listed at No.6 or 7. Both Newton and Einstein are chess devotees.

I will not dwell on the scientific achievements of Einstein (1879-1955) as these are well known.

What is not known is that he was a chess player and a close friend of World Chess champion Emmanuel Lasker.

They shared an apartment in Berlin in the 1930s and Einstein had an enormous respect for his older friend, certainly for good reasons. Lasker had a Ph.D. in mathematics and was a well-rounded personality at home in philosophy, history and the sciences.

Lasker thought that Einsten’s theory of relativity was wrong and that the speed of light was limited due to particles in space and that there is no perfect vacuum.

Einstein first learned to play chess in Munich and told a reporter once that he played chess as a boy. He was probably most active in playing chess in the 1920s and was thrilled when he met Lasker in 1927.

Einstein was an average chess player, which may come as a surprise as his IQ was in the 180s.

This can be explained that there are different kinds of high IQ. There is a musical IQ, literary, math, creativity and spatial IQ.

Bobby Fischer had a high spatial IQ of 187, and most great chess players belong to this category.

Einstein, Newton and other men of science have either high math or creativity IQ. Bethooven, Mozart and other greats belong to the musical, while Shakespeare is an example of the literary IQ.

When Hitler came to power in 1933 there was a general hatred of Einstein and the Jews and he fled Germany to settle in the USA. He accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

He was quite active in chess at this time as he played with neighbors, friends and even taught some children to play. He also played games with Robert Oppenheimer, later scientific director of the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb, and Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb. What an explosive trio.

CEPCA NOVEMBER. The winner for this month’s tournament last Sunday was the youngest member of the club, Jobannie Tabada of Sun.Star Cebu, while second was our lady guest Therese Gonzales, and third was retired engineer Felix Salve. We also welcome a new member to the club, dentist Ramon Pangilinan.

Congratulations also to Jessa Marie Balbona for winning the Elementary chess championship in the last Cebu City Olympics.

EINSTEIN’S PUZZLE. Below is a quiz written by Einstein. He said 98 percent of the people in the world cant’ solve the quiz. Are you among the other two percent?

Facts: 1) There are five houses in five different colors. 2) In each house lives a person of different nationality. 3) No two owners play the same game, smoke the same cigar, or drink the same beverage.

Further details: 1) The Brit lives in a red house. 2) The Swede plays Scrabble. 3) The Dane drinks tea. 4) The green house is immediately left of the White house. 5) The owner of the green house drinks coffee. 6) The person who smokes Pall Mall plays dominoes. 7) The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill. 8) The man living in the center house drinks milk. 9) The Norwegian lives in the first house to the left. 10) The man who smokes Blend lives next to the man that plays Checkers. 11) The man who plays Bridge lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill. 12) The owner who smokes Blue Master drinks beer. 13) The German smokes Prince. 14) The Norwegian lives next to the blue house. 15) The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water.

NOW WHO PLAYS CHESS? Write and prove your answer and send it to Handuraw Café along M. J. Cuenco Ave., Mabolo (beside Kahayag Café) or e-mail me, and your answer will be printed in my next columns.