Saturday, July 30, 2005

Chess variants; three logic puzzles

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

It is estimated that there are around 1,450 chess variants ranging from hexagonal and three-dimensional to fourhanded and circular. A complete description of these variants is, of course, impossible but the most thorough is the Encyclopedia of Chess Variants by David Pritchard.

You can obtain the book from Games and Puzzles Publications, P.O. Box 20, Godalming, Surrey, GU8 4YP United Kingdom.

The price is about $41 although it may have changed by now.

The book is designed to entertain as well as to introduce many excellent yet largely unknown games. It also serves as a reference on chess variants, the first book to attempt a comprehensive survey on the subject.

The variants have been collected from all over the world and dates from ancient times up to the present day. About half can be played using an ordinary chess set.

It is by no means complete, as more variants have been invented from the time it was published in 2000. Offhand, I can mention two inventions by Cebuanos, chess infinitum by chess-patron Boojie Lim and powerchess by Jun Perez, both of which will be featured next week.

Aside from Chinese chess or XiangQi and Japanese chess or Shogi, whose adherents number in the millions, the other variants have a limited following and most have become extinct with the authors’ deaths.

My own survey and research shows the following variants to be popular even now: Killer or Suicide Chess, Atomic Chess and Fischer Random Chess, whose current champion is grandmaster Michael Adams.

David Pritchard, who seems to be an authority in chess variants, says the following are the most popular aside from being original: Extinction Chess, Racing Kings, Displacement Chess, Randomized Chess, Marseillais Chess, Double-move Chess, Progressive Chess, Kriegspiel, Alice Chess, Triplets, Avalanche Chess, Hostage Chess, Coordinate Chess, Knight Relay Chess, Magnetic Chess, Dynamo Chess and Ultima.

CIRCE. My favorite is Circe Chess, not on the list above, in which captured pieces are reborn on their starting positions as soon as they are captured based on the following rules: 1) Pawns return to the start position on the same file they are captured. 2) Rooks, knights, bishops return to the starting square, the same color as the square they are captured. 3) Taken queens go to d1 (white) or d8 (black).

For instance, a white pawn captured on b4 is reborn on b2, a black knight captured on f6 is reborn on b8, a black rook captured on the same square is reborn on h8. Castling with a reborn rook is permitted.

If the square that the rebirth should take place is occupied, either by a friendly or enemy piece, the captured piece is not reborn – it is instead removed from the board and takes no further part in the game.

LOGIC PUZZLES. Here are three simple logic puzzles which may seem easy but in reality arerather difficult to an ordinary person. There are no tricks here. Chess players should have no problems here, or do you? E-mail your answers to me or text it to 0920-813-6507. All correct answers will be acknowledged in my column next week.

1) Bulbs – Imagine you are in the room with three switches. In an adjacent room are three bulbs; each switch belongs to some bulb. It is impossible to see from one room to another. How can you find out, which switch belongs to which bulb, if you may enter the room with bulbs only once?

2) The man in the Elevator – A man lives on the 10th floor of a building. Every morning he takes the elevator down to the lobby and leaves the building. In the evening – he gets into the elevator, but if there is someone else there or if it was raining that day – he goes back to his floor directly. Otherwise, he goes to the seventh floor and walks up three flights of stairs to his apartment. Can you explain why it is so?

3) Sheikh’s Heritage – An Arab sheikh tells his two sons to race their camels to a distant city to see who will inherit his fortune. The one whose camel is slower will win. The brothers, after wandering aimlessly for days, ask a wise man for advice. After hearing the advice, they jump on the camels and race as fast as they can to the city. What does the wise man say?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Chess variants (second of a series)

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

It's generally accepted that Chaturanga, which originated in India around the seventh century after Christ, is the mother of all chess variants, including modern chess, Shogi and XiangQi.

Shogi and XiangQi were featured in my column last week. As far as I know, Chaturanga is not popular anymore having been replaced by modern chess.

However, it is interesting to find out how it is played being the original invention.

The game is played on an uncheckered board of 8x8 squares. Each side has a king, a counselor, two elephants, two knights, two rooks and eight pawns. Note the similarity with modern chess, except that the counselor has replaced the queen.

The king moves as the usual king but additionally has the right to make a one-knight move during the game, provided that he hasn’t been checked before his knight move. There is no castling.

The counselor moves one square diagonally and the elephant moves two squares diagonally, but may jump the intervening square.

The knight moves as the usual knight and the rook or chariot moves as the usual rook.

The pawn moves as the usual pawn but may not make a double step on its first move.

Pawns can promote when they arrive at the last rank of the board but only to the type of piece that was in the opening setup (e.g., a pawn that promotes to b8 can only promote to a knight). Additionally it can only promote to a knight if the player has lost that piece during the game. A consequence is that pawns never promote on e1 or d8.

The object is to mate the opponent’s king. A player that stalemates an opponent loses the game.

KILLER CHESS. Children variants killer chess or suicide chess is a popular variant and probably of great antiquity. It is easy to play and serves as an introduction to children before more serious real chess.

The opening setup is the same and all pieces move as in normal chess. Capturing is compulsory. The king plays no special rule in the game and can be taken. There is no mate or checkmate.

When a player captures two or more pieces, he may choose which piece to capture. Castling is not allowed. In the case of stalemate, whichever has fewer pieces left wins the game. If both have the same number, the game is drawn.

The player with no more pieces on the board wins the game.

Atomic chess is another variant popular among children. It is identical to regular chess with one exception. In regular chess, the captured piece is removed from the board and the capturing piece takes its place. In atomic chess both pieces are killed and this explosion extends to all eight surrounding squares. All pieces are killed with the sole exception of pawns. Pawns are killed only when they are involved in the actual capture.

Checkmate is rarely achieved in atomic chess. Instead, the death of the opposing king happens when he is caught too near an atomic explosion.

FISCHER’S VARIANT. Fischer random chess is a variant created by Bobby Fischer. His goal was to create a variant in which creativity and talent would be more important than memorization and analysis of opening moves. His approach was to create a randomized initial chess position negating all opening theories.

The starting position for Fischer random chess must meet the following rules: 1) White pawns are placed on their orthodox home squares. 2) All remaining white pieces are placed on the first rank. 3) The white king is placed somewhere between the two white rooks. 4) The white bishops are placed on opposite-colored squares. 5) The black pieces are placed equal and opposite to the white pieces.

There have been talks that Bobby might play competitive chess again...using this variant.

CEBUANOS. International Masters Barlo Nadera and Richard Bitoon, both Cebuanos, made the Southeast Asian Games chess team in the rapid category together with Grandmasters Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio and Nelson Mariano II.
Mark Paragua’s request to be seeded automatically to the team has been rejected by Go Teng Kok, president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

Earlier, Mark also did not qualify under the standard time category, which is composed of Antonio, NM Oliver Barbosa, FM Oliver Dimakiling, IMs Ronald Dableo and Jayson Gonzales.

Paragua though still has a chance to make the blitz team category if he participates in the eliminations.

INTER-BARANGAY. St. Francis of Assisi School board member Jorge Aguas said they will sponsor a chess team tournament between Barangays Opra and Lahug tomorrow at the St. Francis gym in Peace Valley, Lahug.

The two teams will compete for the top prize of P3,000. Players for Opra are Robert Sevilla and Patalinjug brothers Jan and Brian. Dante Arguelles, Jojo Santos and Raymund Quijano will banner the Lahug team. They will play four games each. If successful, the school will sponsor a bigger tournament with more teams to coincide with the school’s Founder’s Day.

P.S. Alexander Olis, a resident of Orange Park, Florida and member of the Jacksonville Chess Club, is here for a short vacation. He holds a doctorate degree in soil chemistry and is a professor in Middleburg School. With him is his 18-year-old son, Paolo, also a chess player. Alex is the brother of Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) president Jun Olis.

Chess really runs in the family.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Chess variants (first of a series)

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

It is a credit to the popularity of chess that there are hundreds of variants of the game and a new one is invented almost every year somewhere in the world. In this series, I will mention only those variants that are original or classic, popular and long lasting. This means the original author has long passed away and cannot promote it anymore.

Shogi is the original or classic variant, and is very popular in Japan. XiangQi is also called Chinese chess, which is played in China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and even here in the Philippines.

Shogi is played on a 9x9 uncheckered board and the pieces have the same color. Its enduring popularity can be attributed to its “drop rule,” meaning the captured piece can be returned to the board and used as one’s own, a practice in 16th century Japan where captured mercenaries switch loyalty.

Each player begins with a king, a rook, a bishop, two gold generals, two silver generals, two knights, two lances and nine pawns. Since the pieces have the same color, loyalties are determined by their directional headings.

The King, Rook and Bishop moves are the same as chess. The pawn moves a square forward and captures in the same manner as they move. The gold general may move one square vertically, horizontally or diagonally, except diagonally rearward. The silver general may move one square in all directions except horizontally or straight rearward.

The knight has the two forward-most moves as the orthodox knight. For example a knight on d5 may go to c7 or e7. The lance has the forward-most move of the orthodox rook, keeping always in the same file.

The main difference with orthodox chess is the manner of promotion of the pieces. The silver general, knight, lance and pawn are promoted to gold general. The rook promotes to a dragon king, which has the combined moves of a king and a rook. The bishop promotes to a dragon horse, which has the combined moves of a king and a bishop.

There are other rules but the object of the game is to checkmate the enemy king just like in orthodox chess.

The XiangQi board is made up of 10 horizontal and nine vertical lines. The verticals are interrupted by a central-horizontal void called a river. Two palaces, black and red, are at opposite sides of the board and is distinguished by a cross connecting its four corner points.

Each side has two chariots or rooks, two knights or horses, two elephants or bishops, two mandarins or advisors, one king, two cannons and five pawns or soldiers.

The king can move one square vertically or diagonally and can’t leave the palace even to avoid checkmate. There is no castling. The mandarin moves one square diagonally and restricted to five of the nine squares in the palace.

The bishop moves two squares diagonally but can’t jump. It can’t cross the river. The knight moves like the chess knight but can’t jump. The rook moves like a chess rook.

The pawn moves one square forward and can move diagonally when it crosses the river. It can’t be promoted to a mandarin and can never move backwards.

The cannon is unique. It moves like a rook, captures like a rook and can jump over a piece. There must be exactly one piece between the cannon and the piece it captures. The intervening piece is known as the gun mount.

The object of the game is also to checkmate the enemy king.

I will be discussing more variants in my subsequent columns.

SEAG TEAM. The members of the Philippine team to the Southeast Asian Games under the standard time category (one hour and 15 minutes time control) are Grandmaster Joey Antonio, National Master Oliver Barbosa, Fide Master Oliver Dimakiling, International Master Ronald Dableo and IM Jayson Gonzales. GM candidate Mark Paragua did not make the team as he had a heartbreaking loss in the last round against FM Fernie Donguines.

The Women’s team includes Woman IM Sherrie Joy Lomibao, WNM Shercila Cua, WIM Beverly Mendoza and WNM Aices Salvador.

Cebuanos Richard Bitoon and Therese Gonzales failed in their quest although they still have a chance, as there will be another group of players under the active time control format.

CEPCA SUNDAY. “Expect the unexpected” best describes the Cebu Executives and Professional Chess Association (Cepca) tournament last Sunday at the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center in Pier 4. Civil Service Commission-Cebu head Fabio Abucejo culminated his string of upsets with a final-round win over Pepe Gador to win the July edition of the club tournament.

El Labunog placed second with a win over eventual third-placer Jun Olis, while Maggi Dionson and this writer were fourth and fifth, respectively.

We also had a new member, Engr. Pericles Fernandez of Pepsi Cola. Welcome to the club, Prix.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

The world’s top players; Cepca July tournament

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

The World Chess Federation has released its top-players list as of July 2005.

Tied for first are Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov, who caught up with the former with his wins at Linares and Sofia, both major tournaments.

Michael Adams has dropped out of the top 10 and was replaced by Levon Aronian. Vladimir Kramnik slid down to fifth, while Svidler is now ranked sixth.

Judit Polgar has maintained her position in the top 10 and is the top woman player followed by her sister, Susan.

The world’s top players are 1-2. Anand, Viswanathan (India) 2788; Topalov, Veselin (Bulgaria) 2788 3. Leko, Peter (Hungary) 2763 4. Ivanchuk, Vassily (Ukraine) 2752 5. Kramnik, Vladimir (Russia) 2744 6. Svidler, Peter (Russia) 2738 7. Polgar, Judit (Hungary) 2735 8. Bacrot, Etienne (France) 2729 9.

Aronian, Levon (Armeni) 2724 10. Gelfand, Boris (Israel) 2724
TOP WOMEN PLAYERS. 1. Polgar, Judit (Hungary) 2735 2. Polgar, Susan (USA) 2577 3. Xie, Jun (China) 2573 4. Koneru, Humpy (India) 2531 5. Kosteniuk, Alexandra (Russia) 2516 6. Chiburda-nidze, Maia (Georgia) 2509 7. Stefanova, Antoaneta (Bulgaria) 2501 8. Lahno, Kateryna (Ukraine) 2498 9. Cramling, Pia (Sweden) 2494 10. Kosintseva, Nadezhda (Russia) 2490.

TOP JUNIORS. (18-Under) 1. Radjabov, Teimour (Azerbaijan) 2682 2.Volokitin, Andrei (Ukraine) 2671 3. Navara, David (Czechoslovakia) 2663 4. Timofeev, Artyom (Russia) 2661 5. Nakamura, Hikaru (USA) 2660 6. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (Azerbaijan) 2646 7. Karjakin, Serjey (Ukraine) 2645 8.
Harikrishna, P. (India) 2645 9. Efimenko, Zahar (Ukraine) 2643, 10.
Cheparinov, Ivan (Bulgaria) 2634.

TOP GIRLS. (18-U) 1. Koneru, Humpy (India) 2531 2. Lahno, Kateryna (Ukraine) 2490 3. Kosintseva, Nadezhda (Russia) 2490 4. Kosintseva, Tatiana (Russia) 2477 5. Zhao Xue (China) 2470 6. Sebaq, Marie (France) 2438 7.

Draqnidze, Nana (Georgia) 2438 8. Paehtz, Elizabeth (Germany) 2421 9.

Poqonina, Natalija (Russia) 2413 10. Korbut, Ekaterina (Russia) 2409.

In this list are the top chess playing countries. The rating represents the average Elo of the country’s top 10 players, followed by its number of grandmasters and international masters. 1. Russia 2713, GM 150, IM 415, 2.

Ukraine 2657, GM 50, IM 167 3. USA 2623, GM 60, IM 96 4. Hungary 2621, GM 36, IM 97 5. France 2620, GM 27, IM 68 6. Israel 2620, GM 33, IM 38 7. Armenia 2618, GM 17, IM 22 8. China 2604, GM 18, IM 12 9. England 2604, GM 33, IM 49 10. Germany 2602, GM 60, IM 174 38. Philippines 2492, GM 4, IM 22.

It was announced during the Filway Open held here in Cebu last May that Mark Paragua has made it as GM. In this list by Fide, however, he is still an IM. Yuriy Kuzubov of Ukraine, who got his final GM norms in Alushta, the same as Mark, is also listed as an IM. This means that Fide has not officially recognized the Alushta tournaments and Mark is not a grandmaster.

The top 10 Filipino players are 1. Paragua, Mark (IM) 2596 2. Torre, Eugenio (GM) 2535 3. Antonio, Rogelio Jr. (GM) 2513 4. Barcenilla, Rogelio (IM) 2507 5. Gonzales, Jayson (IM) 2477 6. Mariano, Nelson (GM) 2466 7. Ranola, Yves(IM) 2466 8. Datu, Idelfonso (IM) 2457 9. Sanchez Joseph (IM) 2452 10. Villamayor Buenaventura (GM) 2451.

PLAYERS TO WATCH. For the first time, Fide has included the 16-U, 14-U, 12-U and 10-U rankings for both Boys and Girls divisions. It is interesting to note that Russia, India and China are well represented in these categories. Our Wesley So should be included in the list below as he is already a Fide master and therefore has a rating of around 2300. I think that he is not yet 12-years-old.

Top Boys (12-U) 1. Negi, Parimarjan (India) 2376 2. Sjugirov, Sanan (Russia) 2358 3. Zeng, Chongsheng (China) 2306 4. Belous, Vladimir (Russia) 2218 5. Abasov Nijat, Azad (Azerbaijan) 2210 6. Lalith, Babu M.R. (India) 2209 7.
Sethuraman, S.P. (India) 2203 8. Sadykov, Ramil (Russia) 2198 9. Strzemiecki, Zbigniew (Poland) 2195 10. Zherebukh, Yaroslav (Ukraine) 2182.

Top Girls (12-U) 1. Myat Thiri, Aung Kyaw (Myanmar) 2208 2. Hou, Yifan (China) 2158 3. Kalmykova, Anastasia (Russia) 2138 4. Chaitanya, V. (India) 2127 5. Tejaswini, Reddy S. (India) 2118 6. Paikidze, Nazi (Georgia) 2083 7.Kashlinskkaya, Alina (Russia) 2075 8.) Bulmaga, Irina (Moldava) 2074 9. Suslova, Alena (Russia) 2061 10. Fastova, Tatiana (Russia) 2058.

For a complete list of players under all categories log on to

CEPCA JULY TOURNAMENT. The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) July Handicapping Tournament will be held this Sunday, 2 p.m. at the Stella Maris Seafarer Center at Pier 4. Format is five-round Swiss with time controls depending on playing strength. New members are welcome to take part.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

June review

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

June had several interesting tournaments, notably the Hydra versus Michael Adams, six-game match and the Cebu Executives and Professional Chess Association Open in the local level.

Boy Abugho won both the Talisay Open tournament as well as the Cepca Open, a rare feat as both events attracted a strong field of chess enthusiasts. In the Cepca Open, the second and third placers were Richard Natividad and the up-and-coming Kim Steven Yap.

Making the tournament possible were Cepca members and lawyers Lorenzo Zafico, Boy Tumulak, Jason Genobiagon and Jongjong Melendez. Others were Danny Pestaño, Mandy Baria, Felix Balbona, Maggi Dionson, Norway Lara, Jonard Labadan, Ed Cabantug, Gerry Tomakin and Fred Sandalo.

Another event in June was Cepca’s Monthly Tournament, which Jongjong Melendez ruled. He thus joins previous monthly winners Dante Arguelles, Jerry Rallos, Rene Casia, Fred Sandalo and Richard Abangan in the grand finals in December.

HUMAN VS. COMPUTER. In Greek mythology, the Hydra was a serpent that had 100 heads and would devour people and cattle every time it emerged from the swamp where it lived. Nowadays, it is a 32-processor, hardware-enhanced chess machine that demolished and devoured England’s Michael Adams by a lopsided score of 5.5-0.5 last June 21-27 in London. It was a humbling defeat for the human and Adams has been criticized for poor preparation.

This is an unprecedented defeat and marks the beginning of an era wherein chess computers will reign supreme over humans. The monster machine is able to calculate a staggering 200 million positions per second versus two for the human. Hydra is the strongest computer chess program now, having defeated Shredder, the computer champion, last year in Abu Dhabi in a one-on-one match.

Another man-versus-silicon match took place in the middle of Times Square in New York last June 21. It featured Fide world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov against the Accoona Toolbar, a prototype of the Fritz 9 program, which is based on strategic and tactical understanding rather than brute force. The match ended in a draw with the human sacrificing a piece and the computer defending superbly.

INTERNATIONAL EVENTS. Peter Leko played a rapid chess match against Michael Adams in Miskolc, Hungary last June 2-5. Although the match ended in a draw, 4-4, it was unique as Adams won the first three games and Leko won the next three. The last two games were drawn. Leko is rated third in the world with an Elo rating of 2763 in the last Fide list of April 2005, while Adams is sixth on the same list with 2737 Elo points.

The 18th Ciudad de Leon chess tournament took place in Leon, Spain last June 9-13. Participants were Viswanathan Anand of India, Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan, Alexei Shirov of Spain and Magnus Carlsen of Norway. Anand won over Kasimdzhanov in the final, 2.5-1.5.

Jan Timman played against Andrei Volokitin last June 24 also in Leon in a four-game rapid match. The young Ukrainian won over the Dutch, 2.5-1.5.

The European Individual Women’s Chess Championship was held in Chisinau, Moldova last June 10-25 with a record 167 participants. A tiebreak of two games was played between Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine and Nadezhda Kosintseva of Russia as they tied with nine points after 12 rounds. Lahno won the title.

Zoltan Almasi won the Marx Gyorgy tournament in Paks, Hungary, half a point ahead of the ageless Victor Korchnoi last June 12-22. The other players were Krishnan Sasikiran of India, Ferenc Berkes and Peter Acs, both of Hungary, and Emil Sutovsky of Israel.

The 6th European Individual Chess Championship is currently being held at Warsaw, Poland and after 12 rounds, seven players share the lead with eight points each, including Ukraine’s 15-year-old Sergey Karjakin and Vassily Ivanchuk, and Romania’s Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. The tournament started last June 17 and will end on July 3, with a 229-strong field, more than a third of them grandmasters.