Saturday, August 27, 2005

Chess movies; Gaston Needleman

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I was watching the movie Phenomenon 1996) starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall the other week on HBO, where there were several chess scenes.

It gave me an idea to do a series of articles on movies which feature chess prominently or as a background story.

In Phenomenon, the small-town mechanic George Malley (Travolta) is transformed by a strange flash of light from the sky into a super-intelligent being who absorbs information like a sponge, learns Portuguese in 30 minutes, uses telekinesis and plays chess like a grandmaster.

His friends, especially the town doctor (Duvall), his love interest Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick) and his best friend and chess playmate Nate Pope (Forest Whitaker) are at first intrigued and amused. However, they gradually become afraid of him and the government wants also to know what happened to this ordinary man.

Carl Schenkel’s murder mystery Knight Moves (1992) stars Christopher Lambert as Peter Sanderson, a chess champion. He becomes a suspect when a woman he recently slept with was brutally murdered, including several other women.

But when the murderer contacts Sanderson and informs him that this was a maniacal human chess game, he realizes that he has to beat the murderer to stop the killings and clear his name. Diane Lane plays a psychologist who falls for Sanderson and Tom Skerritt is the detective investigating the case.

Searching for Bobby Fischer (Paramount 1993) is the true story of child chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc) as written by his father Fred Waitzkin.

His teacher is the famous author Bruce Pandolfini (Ben Kingsley), who teaches chess the Bobby Fischer way – total commitment and dedication, and other negative Fischer traits such as contempt of opponents.

Josh is in danger of sacrificing his decency, but in the end he is able to successfully blend ruthless competition with good sportsmanship.

The movie is a showcase of scholastic chess in America and the “chess mothers and fathers” syndrome.

He is an eight-time national champion and an international master, not a world-class player that was expected of him but highly respected as a martial arts expert (taichi chuan push-hands middleweight champion) and has a rich intellectual life.

Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) has won a multitude of awards including the Cannes Film Festival prize. It stars Max Von Sydow as a 14th-century knight wearily heading home after a decade of combat.

Disillusioned by misery and plague, he concludes that God does not exist.

As he travels through the wilderness, he is visited by Death (Bengt Ekrot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Von Sydow does not want to die as yet so he challenges the Grim Reaper to a game of chess – if he wins he lives if not he dies.

As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a discussion whether God exists. The movie ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman’s films: the dance of death.

Another movie with a chess plot is the Luzhin Defense (2000), starring John Turturro and Emily Watson. Turturro plays Alexander Ivanovich Luzhin, a Russian chess master so absent-minded that he doesn’t know what city he’s in most of the time.

Emily Watson is attracted to the socially inept genius at a resort in Northern Italy, where he is playing a chess match. The movie features chess exhibitions, a blindfold exhibition and giant chess sets. In the end, Luzhin commits suicide by jumping out of the window. He can never be happy with Watson unless he gives up the game, which is eating him alive.

Grandmaster Jonathan Speelman was the technical advisor of this film.

GASTON NEEDLEMAN. The controversial American Continental Championship held in Buenos Aires was won last week by Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon with seven others tied for second place. Since Fide has promised that only seven will get free tickets to the World Cup, a playoff was necessary to determine the qualifiers. The seven would have to play a tiebreak to decide the six qualifiers and one player would have to be left out.

Why is this so controversial lately? To start with, the qualifiers all have 2600-plus ratings with the exception of one person, actually still a 15-year-old boy, and rated only 2242! His name is Gaston Needleman of Argentina.

In the tiebreak, the other qualifiers allegedly ganged up against the boy to force him out which actually happened. So is this the end of the story? Not quite.

Media made a major fuss over it such that Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, upon the request of Gov. Alberto Rodriguez Saa of San Luis, Argentina, site of the 2005 World Championship, decided to give the boy a free ticket to the 2006 World Cup – a happy ending.

Watch out for this kid. He had a 2655 performance rating in this tournament.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Eric Gloria and Jun Olis

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I RECEIVED an interesting e-mail from a good friend, Cebuano National Master Eric Gloria, who has been following this column via the Internet in Singapore. For those who are not familiar with this gentleman, he is a former Olympian and one of the Philippines’ top players in the 1980s and ’90s.

He was a member of the Philippine Team to the 1988 World Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, where the country placed seventh overall, our highest achievement ever.

He was also a Team B member in the 1992 Manila Olympiad, where he won the silver medal on board 5, behind Vladimir Kramnik of Russia.

However, I think that Eric’s most significant achievement of which the general public is not aware of, is his participation in the historic 2nd Fischer-Spassky match in Yugoslavia, where he served as researcher to Bobby Fischer in 1992.

He is a licensed Fide instructor. He attended a series of seminars and exams in Singapore and works with a company called Intchess Asia Pte. Ltd. This company provides trainers and instructors to schools, the Singapore Chess Federation and also private lessons.

Its objective and mission is to upgrade the skills of trainers, to provide training to promising junior players of Asia and to promote the interest of the National Chess Federation in the region and its players, trainers, arbiters and organizers.

There are 28 trainers of different nationalities of which seven are Filipinos namely International Master Rico Mascarinas of Cebu (who doesn’t know Rico?), IM Enrique Paciencia of Tacloban, IM Lito Maninang and IM Domingo Ramos of Manila, Fide Master Celestino Cain from Bicol, NM Louie Polistico of Manila and, of course, Eric.

On weekdays, they are assigned to schools (primary, secondary, universities) and private lessons after school hours. Their work is not the usual 9-to-5 routine.

On weekends, they have group classes in their office. They train the national team members and the national junior squads as well as kids 6-13 years-old in the national pool.

Eric believes that in five years time, Singapore will be a force to reckon with in Asia.

Aside from the good pay and free housing (air-conditioned rooms), he is enjoying his stay there as Singapore is renowned for its cleanliness, orderly traffic and green surroundings, though rather expensive on the pocket.

On the private side, he is married and has three daughters aged nine, seven and five, based in Bacolod City. He finished an engineering degree, but once a chess player always a chess player. He is in an enviable position as his passion is also his work.

JUN OLIS. After several close misses, Jun Olis finally got what he was aiming for, a monthly championship that has eluded him since last year. He is the August champion of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca), after winning last Sunday at the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center. It was also memorable as we had a guest participant, former Fide president Florencio Campomanes.

I think that this tournament was one of the strongest ever despite the absence of previous monthly winners. In the last round, Jun won over Felix Balbona and Joe Atillo defeated erstwhile leader Percival Fiel.

Jun, Percival and Joe were tied at four points after five rounds. In the tiebreak and median count, Jun came out on top followed by Percival and Joe. El Labunog was fourth and Pepe Gador fifth.

I would like to inform all Cepca members that we will be electing a new set of officers for the period 2005-06 next month, Sept. 11. Attendance is compulsory.

Our plan, subject to approval by majority of the members, is to also hold our September monthly tournament on the same date.

In the evening, we will have a dinner show at Handuraw Café in Mabolo to raise funds for our prizes in the Grand Finals in December. We will also have the induction of the new set of officers as well as new members.

Your president, Jun Olis, will contact all members individually regarding this arrangement.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Southeast Asian Games; Wesley So

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

SURPRISINGLY, the Philippines is not the toprated chess team in the Men’s division of the Southeast Asian Games. Myanmar, despite having only one grandmaster and four international masters, has an average Elo of 2530 compared to the Philippines’ 2492 and Vietnam’s 2480. Indonesia has 2469 and Singapore has 2378. The other teams are way behind. This is based on the average ratings of the country’s top 10 players.

The top eight players of Myanmar are IM Wynn Zaw Htun with an Elo of 2578, Fide Master Htun Htun Than (2548), FM Aung Kyaw Lwynn A (2533), FM Phyo Chit (2533), GM Zaw Win Lay (2529), FM Mynn Htoo (2526), FM Ye Naung Win Myint (2524) and IM Myo Naing (2516).

Vietnam has four GMs: Dao Thien Hai, the highest rated player in Southeast Asia (2601), Nguyen Anh Dung (2555), 15-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Truongson (2554) and Tu Hoang Thong (2486). Backing them up are IMs Hoang Thanh Trang with an Elo of (2476), Bui Vinh (2467) and Pham Minh Hoang (2466).

INDON VETS. Not to be discounted are the veterans of Indonesia, which has seven GMs, yes seven, led by Utut Adianto (2588). The other players are FM Irwanto Sadikin (2517), IM Juswanto Denny (2509), GM Megaranto Susanto (2499), GM Barus Cerdas (2479), GM Gunawan Ruben (2463), IM Singgang Salor (2415), GM Ardiansyah H. (2409), FM Kosasih Cecep (2408) and GM Handoko Edhi (2407).

Singapore has two GMs, four IMs and also four FMs in its top 10. Its players are GM Wu Shaobin (2510), GM Wong Meng Kong (2460), IM Goh Koon Jong Jason (2428), IM Toh Terry (2410), FM Goh Weiming (2390), FM Ong Chong Ghee (2339), IM Chan Peng Kong (2332), FM Kivisto Mikko (2307), FM Tan Lian Ann (2302) and FM Yeo Min Yang Evan (2300).

I don’t have the final line-up of players of these countries to the Games as it is not listed in their websites, but the bulk should include most of the players listed above.

This early, the Philippines already has its final line-up to the Games after a rigorous series of eliminations, which lasted two months.

Comprising the Standard chess team are GM Joey Antonio (2513), GM Eugene Torre (2535), IM Ronald Dableo (2440), FM Oliver Dimakiling (2329), and Oliver Barbosa (2355). IM Jayson Gonzales (2477) is the reserve player.

On the other hand, the Rapid chess team’s players are Antonio, IM Mark Paragua (2596), GM Nelson Mariano II (2466), IM Barlo Nadera (2423), the only Cebuano in the line-up, and IM Petronio Roca (2414). Torre gave up his spot in favor of Paragua, who was the Rapid champion in the last Seag.

The Blitz players are Antonio, Dableo and Gonzales with the fourth slot going to either Paragua or Mariano.

In the distaff side, the Standard team is made up of Woman Fide Master Sherrie Joy Lomibao (2126), Woman International Master Beverly Mendoza (2140), Shercila Cua (1954), Enirose Magno and Aices Salvador.

The Women’s Blitz players are Sherily Cua and Women National Masters Catherine Perena and Joan Toledo. Mendoza or Lomibao could get the fourth spot.

There are eight gold medals up for grabs in chess: Standard Single, Rapid Single, Blitz Single, Standard Team and Rapid Team for the Men’s cluster and Standard Single, Standard Team and Blitz Single for the Women’s. Theoretically, Antonio can win five gold medals.

Venue is at the Tagaytay Convention Center, starting on Nov. 27 to Dec. 5.

WESLEY SO. Pinoy child-prodigy FM Wesley So defeated pacesetter Srinath Nayaranan of India in the last round for the Philippines’ best finish in the World Youth chess Championship held in Belfort, France recently.

Four players tied for first in the Boys Under-12 category: Srinath Nayaranan, Sanan Sjugirov of Russia, Ter Sahakyan Samvel of Armenia and So.

If the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and other sports bodies handle this boy properly, we have the makings here of a future grandmaster and possible world champion.

Wesley is a grade-six student at St. Francis of Assisi College in Bacoor, Cavite.

CEPCA AUGUST. The monthly tournament of the Cebu Executives and Professional Chess Association (Cepca) for August will be held this Sunday at the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center in Pier 4, 2 p.m.

Only four monthly tournaments are left, including this one, and NM Bombie Aznar is already seeded for the championship in December same as last year.

Format is five-round Swiss with time handicapping depending on the players’ skill. New members are welcome.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Powerchess, Chess Infinitum; Art and Lucy

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Powerless is a chess variant and a product of love and determination by Cebuano inventor Gamaliel Perez Jr. Frustrated at what he termed as inadequacies of the standard game, he has created a dynamic variant that is creative and full of life.

The game uses an ordinary chessboard and standard pieces. However, he has added four new characters of two sets each: Mage, ranger, archer and guard.

The mage can move to any square with the same color it occupied at the start of the game. It captures diagonally the opponent next to him. Its limitation is that it has to move adjacent to the opponent first before it can capture.

The ranger’s movement is equivalent to two successive knight moves as long as there is no enemy blocking the first knight move. The archer moves like a king and captures like a queen but its range is limited to three squares with one significant difference – after capturing a piece, it returns to its previous position.

The guards are the defenders of the king and are skilled in hand-to-hand combat. When near the king, it may assume a knight, rook or bishop move, whatever is necessary to defend the king. When it is not near the king, its moves are limited to like that of a king.

The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. There is no stalemate. A game can also be won by marching your king to the eighth rank safely. This is called the powerbreak.

The price of an upgrade set is P200 available from the inventor at 0927-571-9479.

CHESS INFINITUM. This chess variant is invented by another Cebuano, chess patron Boojie Lim. It uses a semi-10x10 board and standard chess pieces, except only six pawns are used and there is an additional piece called the wizard.

If we label the 10 horizontal lines as a-j, there are only eight squares in line a and b, and also eight in line i and j. The placement of the white pieces are: rook at c1, pawn at c2, knight at d1, bishop at d2, pawn at d3, queen at e1, pawn at e4, king at f1, wizard at f2, pawn at f4, Knight at g1, Bishop at g2, pawn at g3, rook at h1 and pawn at h2. Black pieces are placed in the same positions at the opposite board.

The square e2x e3 x f2x f3 is known as the infinitum space and any piece inside it acquires additional mobility. This concept is unique, original and proprietary.

In the infinitum space, a rook, knight and bishop moves as if it were occupying any of the four squares inside the infinitum space and can control a maximum of 35, 24 and 37 squares, respectively.

The queen or wizard moves as if it were occupying any of the four squares inside the infinitum space and can control a maximum of 61 squares. The king moves as if it were occupying any of the four squares of the infinitum space and controls a maximum of 15 squares.

The king can castle kingside (two options: Kh1 and Rg1 or Kg1 and RF1) or queenside (three options: Kc1and Rd1, Kd1 and Re1, Ke1 and Rf1).

An infinitum board and two wizards cost only P100, available from Lingky Yap at (032) 414-9187.

LOGIC PUZZLES. Those who were able to solve all three logic puzzles last week were Marvin Brian Omandom, Rey Jose Z. Edmilao and Dr. Art Padilla of the US.

Here are the answers: 1. Bulbs – switch on any and wait for a while. Switch it off and turn on another switch and go to the bulb room. The first switch is connected to the hot bulb. The second switch is connected to the lighted bulb. 2. The man in the elevator is a midget. 3. Sheik – Switch camels.

ART AND LUCY. I think that everyone agrees that a true friend is hard to find.

At my age, I know probably a thousand people whom I call by their first names.

They are called acquaintances, associates, classmates, co- employees, chess playmates and relatives, but only a few qualify as true friends. A true friend indeed is Art Ynclino, whom I admire for his sincerity and innate goodness.

Art and Lucy Rivera will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on Aug. 13 at the Shrine of Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Archbishop Compound along D. Jakosalem St.

Their children Alice Angelique and Vicente “Loloy” Atega, Baltazar and Cherry Racaza, Maria Isabel and Roberto “Bo” Varquez, Helen and Boy Bucag and Carmelita will join them in their celebration. Sorely missed is Gerry, but I’m sure will be present in spirit.

Their grandchildren are famous swimmer Andre Josef, Keith Jeremy, April Apple, Mark, Chad Paolo and Charmaine Patricia.

The principal sponsors include Ellery Berciles, Romeo Estrella, lawyer Arturo Ladera, Col. Benjamin Miaga, engineer Frank Pestaño, Jose Velez, lawyer Fermin Ynclino and Dr. Vicente Ynclino.

On the distaff side are Aurora Velez, Ceferina Estrella, Airma Ladera, Patrocenia Miaga, Socorro Atega, Martina Velez, Luz Paulo and Melitona Canoy.

The good Lord has blessed this family and may there be more blessings in the future.