Saturday, September 24, 2005

The World Finals players speak

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

In just a few days (Sept. 27) the World Championship will finally take off in San Luis, Argentina after a wait of almost 15 years.

The last undisputed champion was Garry Kasparov when he edged out Anatoly Karpov in 1990 in New York and Lyon, France.

Although this championship is a little bit tainted with the absence of Vladimir Kramnik and the retirement of Garry Kasparov, the whole chess community is generally in agreement that the winner of this tournament is the true world champion.

The San Luis press office has interviewed all the players by asking the same set of questions. 1) What are your thoughts about this tournament? 2) How are you preparing yourself?

Here are the players’ brief and interesting answers.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov, 26 (Elo 2760 Uzbekistan): 1) “The competition will be interesting and full of fight and at the end, the pressure will be very high and he who best deals with it will prevail. 2) I would not open the details of my preparation nor would others.”

Alexander Morozevich, 28 (2707, Russia): 1) He has expressed that all the players that will take part are very strong and “they were not invited by mistake.” He also “considers this competition as a big step for getting out of the actual chaos.” 2) “In Aquarius time, old methods of preparation are no longer valid. You need new instruments and methods for working. I’m in that way but my last results don’t give me much hope.”

Michael Adams, 34 (2719, England): 1) “There are eight very strong players so anything can happen.” He also declared that the double-round robin is fair enough to assure that “the strongest player will win.” 2) “Of course, I will do a lot of work for this very important event.”

Judit Polgar 29 (2735, Hungary): 1) “Every game can be extremely hard. I try to prepare the best way I can and to play the best chess.” 2) “I am preparing against my opponents one by one and in both colors, and of course a lot of my repertoire. Also, the physical training is a very important part of my preparation.”

Peter Svidler, 29 (2738, Russia): 1) “This is probably the strongest event I will ever play in and I will do my best to do well in it.” He added that “all the best and most exciting chess players are in San Luis.” 2) “Mostly mentally.”

EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Peter Leko, 26 (2763, Hungary): 1) “Everything is possible if I am able to show my best chess. But I am not thinking about the final results that much. My approach is just to play game per game as good as possible, step by step. My opponents are strong but I will fight.” 2) “In terms of chess there will be nothing special. You cannot compare a tournament with a match against one player as I had it last year against Kramnik. In a match, it is necessary to dedicate a big part of your preparation, especially towards him. But it is impossible to do the same with seven opponents. For San Luis you need to be motivated, fresh, full of energy and be very flexible.”

Veselin Topalov, 30 (2788, Bulgaria): 1) “I’m very happy for being able to participate in this historical World Chess Championship and I am only thinking of winning it.” He also added that “this is the first time that the best eight players of the world are gathered together to see who is the best. This will be the most important tournament of my life.” 2) “I cannot reveal the secrets of my preparation but I have trained hard for a long time.”

Vishy Anand, 35 (2788, India): 1) “Of course, it will be a very important event. I think all eight of us will be training our guns for the event. I will start training soon. Since it will be a tough double-round robin, every game will be really important.” 2) “I am playing in Mainz a rapid match. After that, I start working for Argentina. I do some physical exercise routine, some preparation and lots of rest before the actual match.”

It has been estimated that considering the pressure and quality of the opponent, a single game in this championship tournament will equal 10 rounds of boxing in terms of energy and effort. Since the players will be playing 14 games in 20 days, it will really be tough and exhausting and the prizes, compared to other sports, is puny and scandalously low for a world championship.

The champion will receive $300,000 and the second and third will take home $140,000 and $100,000 respectively and down the line. The last placer’s consolation prize is $50,000.

Compare this to the $2,200,000 won by Kim Clijsters in the last US Open in tennis and the $1,750,000 that Manny Pacquiao will receive in his rematch next year against Eric Morales. And to think that there are approximately 700,000,000 chess players all over the world, more than any other sport!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The candidates to the World Championship

By Frank “Boy" Pestaño

The province of San Luis, Argentina will play host to the World Chess Championship on Sept. 27 to Oct. 16 and all the players are unanimous in saying that everyone has a fair shot at the title. Here is a brief description of the players.

Vishy Anand, 35 (Elo 2788), India – He is considered by the players as one of the favorites to win the championship. Known as the “lighting kid” for his fast play that won him the Rapid World Championship in 2003 in Cap d’Agde, France, he is also a former Fide champion who defeated Alexei Shirov in Teheran in 2000. He won the chess Oscar in 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004.

Veselin Topalov, 30 (2788), Bulgaria – Another favorite of the players for his consistency and all-around play with no weaknesses in the opening, middle and endgame.

He won the World 14-Under Championship in Aguadilja, Puerto Rico and the silver medal in the 16-Under in Singapore and became a grandmaster in 1992.

He holds the distinction of defeating Garry Kasparov in the latter’s last game prior to retirement in Linares 2005. He also won the strongest tournament so far this year, the M-tel Masters in Sofia.

Peter Leko, 26 (2763), Hungary – When he became grandmaster at the age of 14, it was a world record at that time, for being the youngest to achieve the title.

He is considered one of the important opening theorists in the world, and has predicted that he will be a world champion someday.

His most notable achievement has been 1st Wijk Aan Zee 2004 and 2005 and first at Linares 2003. He has also won Dortmund three times. All the tournaments mentioned are considered the “majors” in chess.

Peter Svidler, 29 (2738), Russia – Peter became a grandmaster at the age of 17 in 1994. He is considered the dark horse of the tournament and has predicted that Anand, Topalov and Leko will win the championship, in that order, aside from him of course.

He is a four-time Russian champion (1994, ’95, ’97 and 2003) and reach the semis in the 2001 Fide World Championship.

Judit Polgar, 29 (2735), Hungary – Judit is easily the strongest woman chess player in history and the main attraction of the tournament.

She became a grandmaster at the age of 15, which was a record at that time, and participates only in Men’s tournaments. She has defeated most of the World’s top players, including Garry Kasparov, and her main ambition is to be world champion.

Michael Adams, 34 (2719), England – Michael won the British Championship in 1989 at the age of 17.

FINALS PLACES. He reached the finals of the Fide 1997 World Championship, losing to Anand via a sudden-death playoff. He also reached the finals of the 2004 Fide World Championship in Libya, losing to Kasimdzhanov in the rapid-play tiebreak.

He is considered by his peers to be a very dangerous player when he is “on.”

Alexander Morozevich, 28 (2707), Russia – He is noted for employing unusual chess openings and for his tendency to prefer complicated rather than clear positions.

Among his notable achievements was a 2803 performance rating in the 2000 Olympiad and winning the combined blindfold and rapid standings at the Melody Amber tournaments in 2002 and 2004. He was also first in Biel 2003 and 2004, and tied with Svidler in the Russian Championship in 2003.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov 26 (2670), Uzbekistan – Although he is the lowest-rated player in the tournament, he holds the distinction of being 2004 Fide champion, defeating Adams in Libya in the finals. Along the way, he demolished Vassily Ivanchuk and Veselin Topalov via tiebreaks.

He is known for his stamina and strong nerves, which are vital in this double-round robin tourney

BALBONA. Despite the absence of Jessa Balbona, now in first year high, Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion won the Elementary division team gold in chess in the recent Milo Little Olympics. The team was bannered by her brothers Marc Gabriel Balbona, who scored five points on board 1; Felix Shaun, who got 5.5 on board 2, and John Francis, also five points on board 3. Angelique Alcamo got three points on board 4.

Felix Shaun was named Most Outstanding Athlete for his performance. Cepca member Felix and Juliet must be very proud of their children as any parent would be. Congrats to the Balbona family!

CEPCA ELECTION. The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) recently elected its new set of officers and members of the board of trustees for the year 2005-06. Elected president was Dante Arguelles, Renato Casia as internal vice-president, Pepe Gador as external vice-president, Mandy Baria as secretary, Felix Balbona as treasurer, and Ramon Pangilinan as auditor.

The other members of the board of trustees are finance committee head Fabio Abucejo, tournaments chairman Jun Olis and membership chairman Boy Pestaño.

Meanwhile, the club’s September monthly tournament was held after the elections. Yves Fiel, 12, the Shell Kiddies champion, showed maturity beyond his age by winning the tournament after winning 4- of-5 matches.

Second-placer Dr. Ramon Pangilinan thus qualified for the grand finals in December. The rest of the top five were Jun Atillo, Jun Quidlat and Yves’ father, Percival.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

World championship this month in Argentina

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

After a long wait, the World Chess Championship willfinally take place in San Luis, Argentina from Sept. 27 to Oct. 16. The main characters are Vishy Anand of India, 35 (Elo 2788), Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, 30 (2788), Peter Leko of Hungary, 26 (2763), Peter Svidler of Russia, 29 (2738), Judit Polgar of Hungary, 29, (2735), Michael Adams of England, 34 (2719), Alexander Morozevich Russia, 28 (2707, and Rustam Kasimzhanov Uzbekistan, 26 (2670).

Total prize money is $1 million, with $300,000 going to the champion and $50,000 to the last placer. Second and third placers will win $140,000 and $100,000, respectively.

There hasn’t been an undisputed champion in the last 15 years as world of chess has been hopelessly divided. The last undisputed champion was Garry Kasparov when he defeated Anatoly Karpov in 1990 in New York and Lyon, France. Hopefully, this tournament’s winner will gain the acceptance of the chess community in general.

Format is double-round robin with classical time controls of 40 moves in two hours, followed by 20 moves in one hour and 15 minutes with 30-second increment for all moves.

It is very difficult to determine the winner as everyone is capable of becoming champion. Here is my fearless forecast 1) Topalov 2) Leko 3) Anand 4) Kasimzhanov 5) Polgar 6) Svidler 7) Morozevich 8) Adams.

All the players are familiar with each other’s style and ability. The player with the strongest nerves and stamina will win as this will be a thoroughly exhausting tournament.

The players – Anand, Topalov, Leko, Polgar, Svidler – talked to the San Luis press office and were asked the same set of questions. 1) How do you evaluate the way of play (double-round robin) of this tournament? 2) Who are your favorite players among your seven opponents and who will be the toughest?

The answers:

Anand: 1) “Exhausting, nerves, tension, patience, stamina and lots of luck. All will be equally tough. It will depend on each one’s play. Some will get cracking from the beginning while others may have to work more. 2) It is tough to pick the favorite: I think these are the seven most difficult rivals in top-class chess.”

Topalov: 1) “I think this is the best and most balanced system. Luck cannot influence in the result. The winner will be the fair champion. 2) Everyone is dangerous, anyone can win.”

Leko: 1) “The double-round robin is nothing unusual for top players. But the situation in San Luis will be rather different because the pressure is much higher than normal. A good mental and physical shape will be required.

2) “This is a difficult question. Of course, Anand and Topalov are the favorites if you consider the ratings. But as I said, all the players are very strong. I think everybody has a decent chance to win this. You know, it is just one event and by the end of the day you need also a little bit of luck. But I am sure that we can expect a very close competition and the winner will be most likely decided in the last round only if not in a possible tiebreak.”

Polgar: 1) “It is going to be an extremely difficult and exhausting from the mental and physical point of view. After all it is a world championship and everybody I think has very seriously prepared before the event. 2) Generally, it is clear that the toughest opponents are the higher rated players, but I am an experienced player and I know that every game can be extremely hard. All the players come to Argentina to win and fight.”

Svidler 1) “It will be very hard and exhausting for sure, but I think it is the best possible format for an eight-player event. 2) We shall see after the tournament, but historically, I found it hard to play Vishy Anand.”

The tournament will be broadcast live to the whole world via the internet at www. in English and Spanish.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

The busy month of August

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

The chess calendar last month was one of the busiest ever with several major events and a host of minor ones.

The European Team Championship was held in Gothenburg, Sweden last July 29 to Aug. 8 and was won by Holland, followed by Israel and then France (on tiebreak). Ukraine was fifth and a surprise to many, Russia could only finish 14th. In the Women’s section, Poland came out first followed by Georgia and Russia again on tiebreak.

The members of the Dutch team were Sergey Tiviakov, Erik van den Doel, Ivan Sokolov, Jan Timman and Loek van Wely.

They had a score of 15/18 points and 22/36 board points.

Another major event was the Mainz Chess Classic held Aug. 9-14 in Mainz, Germany. It is actually a chess festival and composed of several events.

First was the rapid match between Viswanathan Anand and Alexander Grischuk, which Anand won, 5-3. Then they had the Peter Svidler-Zoltan Almasi Chess960 World Championship won by Svidler, 4.5-3.5.

Other events in Mainz were the Ordix Open won by Teimour Radjabov with a score of 9.5/11 and Chess960 Open snared by Levon Aronian, who finished clear first with 10/11 points.

An exhibition featured Almasi versus Shredder, which the silicon unit won, 2-0, and another computer match in Chess960 between Svidler and the Baron, won by the human, 1.5-0.5.

In the Unzicker Gala 80, Anatoly Karpov and Victor Korchnoi tied for first with 3.5/6, also participated by Boris Spassky and Wolfgang Unzicker.

Another tournament last month was the Magistral Ciudad de Igualada, which took place on Aug. 16-21, won by Luke Mcshane of England. The other players in the double-round robin were Andrei Volokitin of Ukraine, Alexander Beliavsky of Slovakia and the still active Victor Korchnoi of Switzerland.

The British Chess Championship took place in the Isle of Man on Aug. 1-3 and won by the defending champion Jonathan Rowson.

The 80th French Championships likewise took place in Chartres on Aug. 15-27. Joel Lautier won the Men’s event and the Women’s champion was Almira Skripchenko.

Some 34 grandmasters and 18 international masters were among the players from 43 different countries that took part in the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival held Aug. 14-23. Anastasian Ashot of Armenia won with a perfect score of seven points.

The 2nd Malaysian Open held Aug. 19-24 in Kuala Lumpur had a surprise winner in untitled Wang Hao of China with an almost perfect score of 10/11. No.2 with eight points is the current hottest Filipino player, Joey Antonio, who scalped the highest rated player in the tournament, Dao Thien Hao of Vietnam, in the last round.

Third placer was another Filipino, Jayson Gonzales, with 7.5 points. The other Filipinos were Nelson Mariano also with 7.5, Eugene Torre seven, Jesse Sales six and Sherie Joy Lomibao 4.5.

SHELL. Locally, we had two big events: the Shell National Youth Active Championship Visayas leg, which attracted over 500 players at SM City-Cebu last Aug. 20 and 21 and the E-Mall Chess Challenge last weekend.

Defending champion Jose Roble Jr. of the University of San Jose Recoletos again won Shell’s Junior division (20-Under) with a perfect score of seven points. First runner-up was Kim Steven Yap of the University of San Carlos and third was Zilberstein Torres of the Cebu Institute of Technology.

In the Kiddies division (14-U), Yves Fiel of Argao emerged the champion. Taking the second and third spots were Cagayan de Oro’s Lennon Hart Salgados and Joel Pimentel of Bacolod City.

All the six qualifiers will play in the grand finals in Manila on Oct. 15-16.

By the way, Kim Steven is the son of National Master and International Arbiter Lincoln Yap, while the proud father of Yves is Cepca member Percival Fiel.

Eden Diano was the champion in the E-mall tournament with 6.5/7 points. His brother, Harold, was No.2 followed by Anthony Makiniano, Edwel Alesna and Jobannie Tabada, who all had six points. The event attracted over 100 players, including three national masters.

N.B. This is to remind all members of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) that we will elect new officers and members of the board of trustees for the year 2005-06 on Sept. 11, 2 p.m. at the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center. We will also have our monthly tournament on this date. Attendance is compulsory.