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!

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