Saturday, June 25, 2005

Chess-related deaths and murders

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

CANUTE II of Denmark expanded his empire by conquering England in 1016 and Norway in 1028. He was the most powerful person in Europe during his time. Like all men in power, he was surrounded by people always praising him.

He is known in history as the king who ordered the tide not to come to the seashore. It is said that he did it in jest to show his men that he was not all powerful as they say he is.

Anyway he was a wise and able ruler. He was also a chess addict and it seemed that he took his chess too seriously.

One day, he was playing chess with an earl and they had some disagreement. By one account, the king made an illegal move that angered Earl Ulf, who knocked over the board and stormed off. This angered the king and he sent someone to kill him.

Another royal story, which is also true, happened in the court of King Pippin (714-768), son of Charles Martel. The anecdote states that the son of the prince of Bavaria was playing chess with one of Pippin’s son, who became so angry at always losing that he hit the former with one of the rooks and killed him on the spot.

Since Pippin had only two sons, Carloman and the great Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman emperor, it could be either of the two who was the killer. My guess is that it was Charlemagne, as he was an avid chess player. If my hunch is correct, they should rewrite the story of this great man.

KANTIYAW. In modern times, the legendary chess-writer Bill Wall collected the following trivia on chess-related deaths.

A Patrick Mckenna was sentenced to die for killing a cellmate over a chess game in 1991. Mckenna claimed that his opponent was always making kantiyaw at him every time he lost.

In New York in 1988, an undercover policeman disguised himself as a construction worker and lured Arkady Flom into a chess game with a marked $5 bill. He arrested Flom on a gambling charge and sent him to prison. Deprived of his medicines, he died after three days. His relatives sued the city for damages and the judge ruled that playing chess is not a game of chance but of skill. The city settled out of court and paid Flom’s heirs $100,000.

Grandmaster Vladimir Simagin died of a heart attack as befits a chess player in a chess tournament in Kislovodsk in 1968 at a young age of 49. Ed Edmonson, former president of the United States Chess Federation, died of a heart attack in Waikiki beach, Hawaii while playing chess.

Most of the chess pieces now are called Staunton after Howard Staunton, a chess master and newspaper columnist, who died of a heart attack while writing a chess book. By the way, the original designer of the Staunton set was Nathaniel Cook; it was Staunton who advertised and promoted it.

Johann Zukertort, who played with Wilhem Steinitz for the world championship in 1886, died of a stroke in a London coffeehouse while playing chess.

Bishop Antonio de Valdiviesco of Nicaragua was assassinated while playing chess in Leon.

ALEKHINE. But the most famous story about chess-related deaths is this story of Alexander Alekhine as narrated to an old friend in the book The Complete Chess Addict by Mike Fox and Richard James.

Alekhine was playing in the great St. Petersburg tournament in 1914 and at mid-tournament there was an incessant knock in his hotel room. An old Russian peasant demands entrance and says he has discovered a chess secret of great importance. As narrated in the book, Alekhine let him enter.

“I have found a way for white to checkmate in twelve from the starting position,” claims the old man. Alekhine starts to throw him out, but the peasant is insistent.

To end the matter, Alekhine sets up a chessboard. Twelve moves later, he is mated.

“Do that again,” he says. Again he is mated. And again. Aghast, he brings the old man to the room of Jose Raoul Capablanca and wakes up the great man. The same thing happens. No matter what opening they use, they get mated in 12 moves.

“Then, what did you do?” the friend asked. “Why, we killed him of course,” Alekhine replied.

If you believe this you believe anything.

CEPCA OPEN BLITZ. The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) is sponsoring an open-blitz chess tournament this Sunday, 1 p.m. at the Stella Maris Seafarer Center at Pier 4.

Cash prizes amounting to P5,000 courtesy of club members are up for grabs in this seven-round Swiss competition. Interested parties may call Lingky Yap at 0917-640-4088 or Jun Olis at 0910-347-6907. Registration Fee is P50.

MORE ENGINEERS. In my article last week about chess-playing engineers, I overlooked Cepca members from Aboitizland who are all civil engineers: Mandy Baria ,Jacques Ontal and Jade Garson.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


By Frank Pestaño

THE choice of Libya for a tournament as important as the Men’s World Championship, which starts later today, was a mistake. Despite all his good intentions, Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been overtaken by the ugly world of politics. Although he affirmed that “Libya has twice confirmed in writing that all qualified players will get their visas,” the Libyans have been saying otherwise and the championship, at this late stage, is facing a hemorrhage of withdrawals by key players.

Alexander Morozevich of Russia and Yuri Shalman of USA are not coming. Also, a closer look at the 128-player field shows that Israeli qualifiers Boris Gelfand, Emil Sutovsky and Ilia Smirin have chosen not to play. Earlier, American Jews Gulko, Shabalov and Onischuk withdrew from the tournament. Will there be more? Or more ominous, will there be a championship?

The Royal Dutch Chess Federation has urged their players Ivan Sokolov, Loek Van Wely and Sergie Tiviakov to withdraw and has written Fide to cancel the championship.

At the start, nine out of top 16 players are not competing to protest the exclusion of Kasparov from the championship, and this brings us to the Prague Agreement.

PRAGUE AGREEMENT. This is an arrangement between Fide, the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP), Garry Kasparov, and the reigning classical champion Vladimir Kramnik to unite the World Championship. The format was for the Fide champion to play against Kasparov and for Kramnik to play Peter Leko, the qualifier in the candidate’s matches of the ACP. The winners will then play each other to decide who will be the undisputed world champion.

This far, Kasparov has agreed to play the winner in Tripoli, while the Kramnik-Leko match will take place this September in Switzerland.

Finally, I hope that there will be no more withdrawals in Tripoli as there are dark clouds in the horizon. Due to recent developments, the US State Department is taking a hard look at Libya and reviewing its options.

EYE OF THE NEEDLE. Passing through the eye of the needle best describes Mark Paragua and Ronald Dableo’s first round assignments. Ronald Dableo, with a rating of 2426, will meet Liviu-Dieter Nisipineu of Romania, who has a rating of 2692. On the other hand, Mark Paragua, rated 2529, will try his luck against Moldavia’s Victor Bologan, rated 2665.

Liviu-Dieter, 28, is called the modern Tal for his combinative style of play. Virtually unknown prior to the 1999 World Championship in Las Vegas, he won a string of matches against some of the world’s strongest players, defeating Shirov, Ivanchuk, Azmaiparashvili, Leitao and finally losing to
Khalifman, who went on to win the championship, in the semifinals via tiebreak games.

Victor Bologan, 35, can compete with the world’s top players. He showed this in Dortmund 2003, Europe’s strongest tournament, when he emerged the clear winner in a double round-robin event against Kramnik, Leko, Naiditsch, Anand and Radjadov.

The format of the championship is a knockout match, like in tennis. The players will face off in two games handling both white and black pieces. If there is a tie, they will go to the active mode of play and if tied again into blitz games.

GMs Eugene Torre and Bong Villamagor have been training Mark and Ronald for this championship with the help of Bobby Ang, a computer expert, who provides technical support. Eugene has said that there is a possibility of an upset by both players if they can manage to bring the match into the blitz games. Even if they lose the first round, they will still go home with US $6,000 each! Good luck to both of you gentlemen.

TRIVIA. This world champion once withdrew from a chess tournament because a woman was playing in the event (she was Lisa Lane, US woman champion).

If you know the answer go to Jett Sales and Services Co. Inc., G-IBTDT Bldg. on A. Cortes Ave., Ibabao, Mandaue City and claim your prize, a tournament-size chess set from Norway Lara.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Chess-playing engineers in Cebu

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Engineers who play chess are thick as flies and this list is just the tip of the iceberg. The names mentioned here are mostly tournament players and are therefore more serious about the game compared to those who just play for relaxation.

To start with, the original founders of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) were three engineers, two accountants, one lawyer and two businessmen. Luis Miñoza is a pillar and fellow of the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers, my brother Danilo is also a mechanical engineer, while I am a chemical engineer.

Most of the presidents of Cepca have been engineers. I was elected charter president then Ogie Reyes, a mechanical engineer; Benjamin Dimaano an agricultural engineer; my brother Danilo, Victor Legaspina, an electronics and communication engineer ; Bobot Villaluna, a mechanical engineer, and current president Jun oils, also a mechanical engineer.

A few of the earliest members of Cepca are my neighbor Bob Inocian of Pepsi Cola, a chemical engineer; Pablito Argamosa, also a chemical engineer aside from being a geologist and connected with National Power Corp. (Napocor), and Art Riuz, dean of the Chemical Engineering Department in University of San Jose-Recoletos.

The four of us formed the chemical engineers team in the early 1990s, although Art never became a member of Cepca.

Other Cepca members are John Catayas, a civil engineer; Maggi Dionson, a geodetic engineer; Butchie Abaya a civil engineer; Alex Ponce, a mechanical engineer; Cecilio Rabusa, an electrical engineer and Jerry Delima also an electrical engineer.

The last three mentioned above were formerly with Napocor and now with Transcor. Their colleagues in Transcor who also play chess are Reggie Albano and Ian Pinlac, both electrical engineers; Frank Robles, a mechanical engineer, and Ramsy Pedroza, an electronics and communication engineer.

Other engineer members of Cepca include Doy Ocubillo, who travels abroad for a living and is the only marine engineer of the club; new member Jeffrey Solis, a civil engineer and also an architect; and Serge Borres, who is with the Mactan Airport Authority and a mechanical engineer.

National Master Bombi Aznar is an honorary member of Cepca and also a fellow of the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Bob Inocian’s chess playing friends include Prix Fernandez, production manager of Pepsi Cola and a mechanical engineer; PLDT’s Delfin Auman, also a mechanical engineer; and Bering Chemicals proprietor Meme Bering, a chemical engineer.

A dear friend who has three degrees in engineering is Cepca member Gerry Ouano, a civil, sanitary and geodetic engineer.

He has a wide circle of friends who play chess, among them Lorenzo Lora and Leonor Salazar, both civil engineers and contractors.

Other friends of Gerry who play chess are Carlos Mirasol, a civil engineer with the Municipality of Oslob; Jun Singson of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD); John Cabo, a civil engineer and owner of Glass Kingdom; Vilmer Biason a civil engineer formerly with Napocor; George Lim, a civil engineer connected with the Bank of Commerce, Glenn Gobalani, an electronics and communication engineer with Norkis, and Jun Exaltacion, an electrical engineer with Tsuneishi Heavy industries, which is into shipbuilding in Balamban.

I have also chess playing cousins, namely Friday de la Victoria, a chemical engineer; and the twins Rolando and Rodolfo Tolato, who have sailed the seven seas as marine engineers, but now retired.

MELENDEZ IS JUNE CHAMPION. Lawyer Gaudioso “Jun” Melendez won Cepca’s June tournament last Sunday at the Stella Maris Seafarer Center with four points after three wins and two draws in five rounds. He drew his last match against Emmanuel Macuto, who settled for second place via tiebreak.

Jun Olis and Pepe Gador also finished with four points but were relegated to the third and fourth placers by tiebreak. Maggi Dionson finished fifth with 3.5 points.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Start from scratch

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

The impasse at the cancelled tryouts for the RP Men’s chess team to the Southeast Asian Games has reached an embarrassing situation.

Embarrassing to the players, embarrassing to the officials of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and embarrassing to our Grandmasters Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio and Nelson Mariano II.

It would have been avoided if the ground rules were laid down as early as last year.

GMs Antonio and Mariano II arrived late as they participated in the World Open in Minneapolis, where they made good scores.

Apparently, they informed National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Go Teng Kok they would be late as they had problems with their flights. Their opponents, John Gomez and Ronald Dableo, are insisting they won by default.

Dableo said he also played in Minneapolis and he arrived on time.

In Eugene’s case, he has requested that he be exempted from the eliminations because of his stature. He has been a member of the Philippine team to the Olympiad since 1974 and I think that this is a world record (15 Olympiads). This is aside from the fact that his performance has always been very good, considering that he has been playing Board 1 all the time. Still for the sake of good sportsmanship and to raise the morale of the rest of the players, Eugene should play in the eliminations.

So let the Men’s finals start again – from scratch.

Therese Gonzales still has good chances of qualifying for the Women’s team. She and Richard Bitoon are the only Cebuanos vying for a berth in the Games.

SCRABBLING GENIUS. Iloilo’s scrabbling genius Odette Rio ruled the Baguio Scrabble Tournament recently at the Baguio Country Club, beating Ronald Credo in the finals. It was a closely fought match with Rio winning with a 441-394 score.

“I wasn’t confident I would win that one. I usually have problems in the end game,” says Rio, recalling his loss to Bonnie Macala in 2001 with the winner going to Las Vegas for the worlds.

Unfortunately, the Marawi City-native failed to get a visa to the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.

This is her second win in a row. She had 12 wins against four losses and a spread of 762 points to win the P10,000 top purse and trophy. Credo won P6,000 and also a trophy. “I’m having troubles every time I face Odette. I haven’t won against her,” admitted Credo.

“I have so much respect for the lady. I know that she is our very best chance to win the world title if Philippine scrabble can just get its act together.”

The World Scrabble Championship will be held in London this November, with the Philippines allowed three representatives.

Thanks to Reynante de la Cerna for this bit of scrabble updates. Nante is one of the favorites to go to London.

CEPCA. The June tournament of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) will be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Stella Maris Seafarers Center at Pier 4. Format is five-round Swiss with time handicaps depending upon the members’ level of play.

Among the favorites to win this month’s tournament are Jongjong Melendez, Pepe Gador, Maggi Dionson, Mandy Baria, Vic Sepulveda and Felix Balbona.

The nice thing about participating in a Cepca tournament is that almost everybody has the same playing strength, and with the handicapping format, anybody can win, even the Class C players.

I received a nice e-mail from Ed Mayol, whom I featured last week as one of the chess-playing lawyers in Cebu. It seemed that I made a mistake by describing him as also a geodetic engineer as most of his cases involve land titles, land disputes and land registration applications. He is also a certified public accountant. It is his brother, Rolando, who is a geodetic engineer.

Ed mentioned that there is another chess-playing lawyer, Julius Hilario Baril, and also I might add Jorge Gabriente, who inquired about being a Cepca member a month ago.

Another potential member is an architect, Jeffrey Solis, who has expressed his intention to join this month’s tournament.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Chess-playing lawyers in Cebu

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Lawyer Alex Tolentino is a dear friend and one of the founders of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) back in 1990 together with Art Ynclino, Gerry Tomakin, Loy Miñoza, Antonio Climaco, Danny Pestaño and the late Sonny Sollano – how we miss you Sonny! It is a tribute to these pioneers that Cepca is still active today and considered one of the premier chess clubs in the Philippines.

Alex and I had dinner a few weeks ago to celebrate his election as president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu City chapter. Alex suggested that I write an article on chess-playing lawyers as there seems to be a lot of them around.

To start with one of the earliest members of the club was Sisinio “Babes” Andales, now a barangay captain and one of best chess-playing lawyers here. When we first met across the board, he was playing with the lawyers team and I was with the chemical engineers team in 1990.

Soon after, his neighbor Allan Carlos Cardenas joined the club as well as his brother Eleno, whom I understand is now in the States. Another early member was Damaso Uy, also now abroad, and Ed Areno of NPC. Another notable member was then LTO regional director Manny Iway.

Whenever we had an induction of new officers, our guest of honor was usually former Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia, an honorary Cepca member. Another honorary member is the incumbent Vice Mayor Michael Rama.

Another member still active now is Gonzalo “Boy” Tumulak of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board.

One of our members who passed away was Migs Enriquez, the hard-hitting radio broadcaster.

Lately, we had another batch of lawyers in the club. They are Central Bank Cebu administrator Lorenzo Zafico, Talisay City Prosecutor Richard Abangan, who won the Club’s April tournament, Jongjong Melendez of the Ombudsman, who has also won a tournament, and Jason Genobiagon, who is into private practice and was fifth in this month’s tournament.

New member Pepe Gador, formerly with the Commission on Elections, is a veteran chess player since the 1950s.

Alex has also mentioned a large number of lawyers who also play chess but are not members, and I hope that through this article they might join us.

When we had our first tournament in 1990, our guest of honor was then vice governor Enrique Rama.

The brother of Alvin Garcia, Sonny, Sun.Star Cebu publisher and former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary, also plays chess and was my classmate in high school. Through him, Sun.Star Cebu sponsored a tournament some years ago that attracted a large number of masters, including GMs Joey Antonio and Nelson Mariano II.

Godofredo Parawan Jr., Delon Urot and Jessican Cagara are practicing lawyers with the latter also a CPA.

Judges who play chess include Ireneo Lee Gako, NM Rosendo Bandal, now based in Dumaguete City, and my nephew Gilbert Moises.

New lawyers who also play the game are Gay Capangpangan, James Hupp, who has answered some of my logic puzzles in the past, and Ed Mayol, who has an interesting work combination as he is also a geodetic engineer.

ROSENDO BALINAS. The most famous chess playing lawyer is the late grandmaster Rosendo Balinas, the first foreigner to ever win a major tournament in the USSR.

The reason why chess attracts lawyers and why lawyers are good players is because the game requires a forward looking and analytical mind, traits that lawyers possess.

I am sure that there are still a good number of lawyers who play the game but are not mentioned here. Come and join us. You may get in touch with me at 233-8678 or visit me at Handuraw Leisure and Learning Café in Mabolo in the afternoon. You can also call our president Jun Olis at 341-3661.

Lifetime membership in Cepca is P500 with an annual due of P200. However, since we are mostly self-reliant, contributions are expected from members whenever we have tournaments.

If you want to play competitive chess, go to the Colonnade Chess Center, our playing site along Colon St., beside Oriente Theatre. It is open after 12 p.m. and is the most popular and active chess club in the City. Here, you will meet your equal in the game even if you are a master or beginner.