Saturday, April 30, 2005

World championship 2005

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

IN A move nobody thought was possible, Fide announced that the World Chess Championship 2005 will be held in San Luis, Argentina on Sept. 27 to Oct. 16 with a prize money of $1 million. The contracts were signed by the Governor of San Luis, Dr. Alberto Rodriguez Saa and Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

The tournament will have eight players in a double-round robin format. $300,000 will go to the champion. The organizers have secured a bank guarantee to the prize fund so a major condition has been met.

It will be recalled that the original championship match between Garry Kasparov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov was cancelled due to Kasparov’s retirement.

The invited participants for this championship are Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan, the current champion (knockout winner in Libya 2004), Michael Adams of England (runner-up in Libya), Vladimir Kramnik of Russia (classical world champion), Peter Leko of Hungary.

The list also includes the top four players based on the average Elo rating of July 2004 and January 2005: Garry Kasparov of Russia, Viswanathan Anand of India, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Alexander Morozevich of Russia.

Nobody has, as of this time, confirmed his participation. Although, I expect that with the exception of Kasparov, the other players will go along for the ride to determine once and for all who should be No.1. Replacing those who will decline the invitation are the next rated players based on the January 2005 and July 2004 Elo ratings.

If this tournament materializes and Kramnik participates, we will have a true and undisputed champion since Kasparov defeated Karpov back in 1990 in New York and Lyons.

CHESS CARNIVAL. Chess players had a rare opportunity last week as we had a double treat in the Southeast Asian Games (Seag) rapid eliminations and Filway Open following each other at SM City-Cebu. It was not your normal chess tournament. It was more like a carnival with all the noise, music and people crowding the playing venue.

The next time we have a tournament of this magnitude, there should be giant boards for the top three boards and the playing venue should be in a more appropriate place like Baseline.

Anyway, the major news of the tournament was the official announcement by Casto Abundo, Fide ratings administrator, on the confirmation of Mark Paragua as grandmaster. To recall, Mark got his GM norms in the three Alushta tournaments last year, but his title was delayed as the results were deemed “questionable.”

Speaking of grandmasters and without any allusion to Mark as he fully deserves it being the highest rated Pinoy, it is relatively easier nowadays to become one unlike before when Eugene Torre became a GM in 1974.

Back then, anyone who became GM was featured in most sports news worldwide. It was and should be a rare accomplishment.

I think that Fide should elevate the requirements of being a grandmaster by increasing the required Elo rating to 2600. Just like in boxing, when the cruiserweight division was created, those in the 2500-2599 ratings should be called candidate grandmasters or junior grandmaster. Then the true super grandmasters are those in the 2700 plus category.

With the current format and the huge number of tournaments with possible GM norms, plus the help of computer-aided training, becoming a grandmaster is a common occurrence.

GM Rogelio Antonio, Jedara Docena, Lennon Hart Salgados and Cebu Professionals and Executives Chess Association’s pride Jessa Balbona were the champions in the Men, Women, Boys and Girls categories, respectively.

I noticed a number of Cepca players who played in the Filway Open, namely Mandy Baria, Santiago Peque, Richard Abangan, Fred Sandalo, Jason Genobiagon, William Retanal, Jobannie Tabada, Jonard Labadan, Fabio Abucejon, Jerry San Pascual, Felix Balbona, Joe Atillo and new member Pepe Gador.

BOMBI’S GUESTS. After the tournament, National Master Bombi Aznar hosted a well-attended dinner for our out-of-town visitors at Papa’s restaurant along V. Rama Ave. that lasted past midnight. I did not know Eugene Torre is a good singer. His rendition of “Matud Nila” and “My Way” brought the house down.

Those who joined Bombi and me for dinner were Torre, Samuel Estimo, Rose Estimo, Irelle Gaviola, Judge Rosendo Bandal, Ric Bandal, International Master Richard Bitoon, IM (Ilonggo master) Domingo Cordero, IM Barlo Nadera, NM Rolando Nolte, NM Cyril Ortega.

Also there were IM Manny Senador, Danny Pestaño, Maria Isabel Balite, Irina Balite, Maria Dyan Sofia Balite, golfer Rolly Santos, Evelyn Enojo, Florence Marie Doit, Jemina Marie Balite, Ryan Trajera, Jason Bandal and Cepca president Jun Olis.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Viswanathan Anand, 2004 chess Oscar winner

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

FOR the second consecutive year, Vishy Anand of India won the Oscar for 2004, one of chess’ most coveted awards. He was chosen by 445 chess journalists from over 75 countries, including this columnist.

The balloting conducted early this year gives 13 points to the first placer, 11 to the second, nine to the third down the line until one for the tenth. This is the fourth Oscar for Anand as he also won in 1997 and 1998.

Anand practically won in almost all the tournaments that he played. He started with a victory at the Corus tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, his fourth win at the prestigious event. Next, he easily defeated Veselin Topalov in a two-game match in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Next in line was the Melody Amber tournament, where the players played both rapid and blindfold games. Anand won in the Rapid category, which he has practically dominated in previous years, and placed third in the combined category.

Dortmund is a major tournament in the chess calendar and together with Wijk Aan Zee and Linares comprise the “majors” of chess as only the top players are invited to these tournaments. The format for 2004 was changed to a knockout tournament much like in tennis. Anand defeated Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in the finals to claim his third win at Dortmund.

In Mainz, Anand again proved that he is the most dominant player in blitz by beating Spain’s Alexei Shirov, also renowned as a blitz player. He won two games on the Marshall, where the Spanish player was known to be an expert.

Next was the tournament in Sao Paolo, Brazil where he won by an awesome spread of three points.

“I would say I played very convincing chess in Sao Paolo. My win against Morovic is one of my best games this year. I was totally inspired,” Anand said.

CHESS OLYMPIAD. “The Olympiad was more fun than anything else,” said Anand. Here, he performed well to lead his team to a respectable finish in Calvia, Spain. “Although the team finished sixth, third place would have been better. We lost matches by the narrowest of margins.”

In Corsica, Anand was just too hot to handle as he won the event for the fourth time. This year he had only one draw and the rest was a walk in the park.

Estonia was the last event for 2004. Here Anand made history with a perfect score of 5-for-5, including a win over former world champion Alexander Khalifman.

“For me Estonia was a curious destination both as a tourist and chess player. My play there was very stable and a perfect score is not what you make everyday,” Anand said.

Anand says back in 2004, “I think that I have a good chance at winning the 2004 Oscar. I played well in all formats, not only rapid. I am enjoying every aspect; the travel, the events, the results and most of all I am playing chess that is quite creative. My results have been very good.”

Here are the top 10 Oscar nominees for 2004. 1) Viswanathan Anand of India 2) Peter Leko of Hungary 3) Garry Kasparov of Russia 4) Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria 5) Vladimir Kramnik of Russia 6) Michael Adams of England 7) Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan 8) Judit Polgar of Hungary, the only woman on the list 9) Alezander Morozevich of Russia 10) Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine.

NCFP. The National Chess Federation of the Philippines is now a full-pledged member of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) after several rejections in previous years. It is therefore entitled to all the privileges of a member, including voting rights to select the officers of the committee as well as financial assistance for its various projects and allowances to its top players.

There have been moves to increase the number of chess events in the Southeast Asian Games (Seag) to increase our chances of winning the overall event. It is also interesting to note that chess will be included for the first time in the Asian Games in Qatar next year and soon probably in the Olympics in 2012.

CEPCA APRIL. The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association’s April tournament will be held this Sunday at the Stella Maris Seafarer Center at 1 p.m. Format is five rounds Swiss with time handicap depending on the players’ skills.

It looks like a busy month for our local chess players as the Seag qualifying tournaments for Region 7 is now ongoing in Dumaguete City for classical chess and in Cebu on April 21-22 for rapid chess.

Also on schedule is the biggest tournament in Cebu, so far, the Filway Open in SM City on April 23-24.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Pope John Paul II and his chess puzzles

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

ALL the news and most of the commentaries this week have been about the remarkable Pope John Paul II, his life and legacy. He was perhaps the most recognized person in the world and the most traveled pope ever, equivalent to something like three round trips to the moon. He was charismatic, dignified and spoke eight languages. He is my candidate for Man of the Century.

What is not generally known is that he was a fairly good chess player and a composer of chess problems, perhaps influenced by his uncle, M. Wrobel, a famous polish problem composer. I have known a lot of chess players and those who compose chess problems are the rarest of all. It requires a lot of creativity, which is not surprising, as he was also a poet.

Two of the pope’s chess problems have been put on a painting (oil) by Kenneth Halonen and is on sale for $3,500. The two chess problems are called “The Pope’s little two-mover” and “The Pope’s big two-mover” and are included in Colin Russ’ book entitled “Miniature chess problems.” In both cases white mates in two moves and were composed in 1946.

Erwin Carag in his column Chess Spectator has listed two of the Pope’s games played around 1938 in Krakow, Poland. The first game was against a T. Kapfer where the would be pope played black and won in a French in 36 moves. The second was against a T. Plater, which the future pope playing black lost in 37 moves in a Sicilian. You can e-mail me If you want copies of the pope’s games as well as his chess puzzles.

It is on record that the Vatican ordered a chess computer in 1981 and whether it was played by the pope is not known. Other popes who played chess were Gregory VI, Innocent III, John Paul I, Leo X and Leo XIII. There is of course a possibility of having a chess-playing pontiff again. I don’t know who among the cardinals play chess but there should be quite a number as the game is a favorite among seminarians.

TOP PLAYERS. With the retirement of Garry Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand of India is now the No.1 player in the world. Judit Polgar is back as the top woman player after taking a maternity leave of over a year. Mark Paragua is the highest-rated Filipino, although still an international master.

Garry Kasparov is the only player in history to rate over 2800 and retires with a rating of 2812.

Top Players: 1) Anand, Viswanathan of India 2785 2) Topalov, Veselin of Bulgaria 2778 3) Leko, Peter of Hungary 2763 4) Kramnik,Vladimir of Russia 2753 5) Ivanchuk, Vassily of Ukraine 2739 6) Adams, Michael of England 2737 7) Polgar, Judit of Hungary 2732 8) Bacrot, Etienne of France 2731 9) Svidler, Peter of Russia 2725 10) Grischuk, Alexander of Russia 2724.

Top Women 1) Polgar, Judit of Hungary 2732 2) Polgar, Susan of USA 2577 3) Xie, Jun of China 2573 4) Chiburdanidze, Maia of Georgia 2509 5) Koneru, Humpy of India 2508 6) Cramling, Pia of Sweden 2499 7) Stefanova, Antoaneta of Bulgaria 2495 8) Zhu, Chen of China 2494 9) Kosteniuk, Alexandra of Russia 2492 10) Kosintseva, Tatiana of Russia 2468. The top two players are sisters although Susan is now an American citizen.

Top 10 playing countries (based on top 10 players of each country) 1) Russia 2715 2) Ukraine 2643 3) Armenia 2619 4) France 2619 5) Hungary 2619 6) Israel 2613 7) Germany 2610 8) USA 2610 9) England 2601 10) China 2594. The Philippines is No.41.

Top pinoys 1) Paragua, Mark 2596 2) Torre, Eugenio 2530 3) Antonio, Rogelio Jr. 2513 4) Barcenilla, Rogelio 2507 5) Gonzales, Jayson 2474 6) Mariano, Nelson 2468 7) Rañola, Yves 2467 8) Datu, Idelfonso 2457 9) Sanchez, Joseph 2452 10) Villamayor, Buenaventura 2451.

TALISAY CHESS CLUB. Chess players from Talisay City had a meeting last Sunday and elected Atty. Richard Abangan as its new president. Other officers of the club are Atty. Gaudioso Melendez as vice president, Manny Manzanares as secretary, Siegfred Sandalo as treasurer and Atty. Lorenzo Zofico as auditor.

After the election, the Talisay players played a friendly match with Cepca members at the Stella Maris Seafarer Center. The final score was 13.5-6.5 in favor of Cepca.

Those who played for Cepca were Ben Dimaano, NM Bombi Aznar, Jun Quidlat, Mandy Baria, Felix Balbona, Mer Fernandez, Vic Sepulveda, Rene Casia, Maggi Dionson and Norway Lara. Players for Talisay aside from the officers were Byron Quidlat, Felix Salve, Matt Macuto, Fred Sandalo, Jason Genobiagon and John Catayas.

Overseeing the match was Cepca president Jun Olis with Marvin Ruelan as arbiter.

After the match, Richard Abangan, Lorenzo Zafico and Matt Macuto were accepted as new members of Cepca. Welcome, gentlemen!

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Melody Amber, Fischer and Rene Casia

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

MELODY Amber is a unique tournament as it features both blindfold and rapid play. It is held every year in Monte Carlo, Monaco and is exclusively sponsored by Dutch billionaire Joop van Oosterom in honor of his daughter Melody Amber. She celebrated her first birthday the same year that the first tournament was held in 1992 making 2005 the 14th edition.

Von Oosterom made his fortune as the founder of the Volmac Software Group, a supplier of administrative software to the Dutch government. Since retiring from business, he has devoted his time to chess and recently won the 18th Correspondence World championship by a significant margin.

Format of the tournament is a single round robin with the players playing the same opponent for both semi-rapid and blindfold play on the same day. Time control is 25 minutes per player and a 10 and 20-second increment for semi-rapid and blindfold game, respectively.

After nine rounds, Vishy Anand of India leads with 13.5 points, 3.5 more than his closest pursuers Alexander Mozorevich and Peter Svidler of Russia, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Peter Leko of Hungary.

In solo sixth with nine points is Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. Tied seventh to ninth with 8.5 points each are Boris Gelfand of Israel, Alexei Shirov and Francisco Vallejo Pons, both of Spain. Tenth is Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria with 7.5 pts and the tail-enders are Loek Van Wely of Holland and Evgeny Bareev of Russia with six points each.

FISCHER IN ICELAND. After more than eight months of detention in Japan, Bobby is finally in Iceland, which made him a citizen last week by a special act of parliament in 12 minutes. Most of the inhabitants there are descendants of true Vikings and getting a citizenship is like going to the North Pole.

Chess is the No.1 sport and their heroes are chess players, the greatest being Bobby, as it was in Reykjavik where he defeated Spassky in 1972 in the “Match of the Century” that put Iceland on the map. Even now, schoolchildren know all the moves of the match as chess is taught in schools.

For a population of only 300,000 this tiny nation has nine grandmasters. This is equivalent to the Philippines having 2,400 GMs.

Almost everybody belongs to a chess club and tournaments are supported by a series of lotteries throughout the year. The standard of living is high, unemployment is low and it has an extensive welfare system.

There has been a lot of speculation whether Bobby is mad. He is certainly weird, eccentric and out of touch with reality with his anti-Jewish views and praises for 9/11.

Gudmundur Thorarinsson, the organizer of the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match, got to know Bobby well and has been a key member of the group that got him out of Japan and into Iceland. He says, “There is a gray area between a genius (Bobby’s IQ is higher than Einstein’s at 187) and someone who is insane. I don’t think he is insane, but he is not like most people. He devoted his teens and his twenties to chess and ‘sacrificed’ his life.”

Bobby never had the chance to develop the social skills needed to deal with the world beyond the chessboard.

In an earlier article, I wrote that Bobby is in grave peril as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is going after him for tax evasion. In fact, the first hearing is on April 5 in Philadelphia. What happens now?

I did some reading on the extradition treaty between the US and Iceland. The most important item is that Icelandic citizens can’t be extradited to the US. There are also grounds to prevent extradition such as medical, humanitarian and political beliefs. Add to this Bobby’s “hero” status in Iceland and you can expect a lot of resistance from the Vikings.

CEPCA MARCH CHAMPION. Rene Casia defeated Cagayande Oro-based Manny Manzanares in the last round to emerge the monthly champion of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) tournament at the Stella Maris Seafarer Center last Saturday. Second place went to Vic Sepulveda and third was Mandy Baria. Fourth was Jongjong Melendez and No.5 was Manzanares.

Tomorrow, we will have a 15-board match with the Talisay Chess Club in the same venue at 3 p.m. Cepca president Jun Olis will select who can play.

Cepca is really moving now with Jun scheduling weekend tournaments against highly-rated players as guests to improve the level of play among the members. New members are welcome.