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.

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