Friday, February 24, 2006

Balbona kids - masters in the making

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Looking at Jessa Balbona, you would think that she can’t harm a fly .She speaks only when spoken to, is very respectful and doesn’t complain. But make no mistake about it. She is a tigress over the chessboard.

Many a members’ pride have been wounded over the almost two years the she and her brothers have been playing in the monthly tournaments of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca). I sincerely believe that in a year or two, Jessa will be able to snag a monthly tournament. Jessa is only 13 years old while Jhon Francis is eight, Felix Shaun nine and Marq Gabriel 10.

FEATS. Jessa’s and her brothers’ chess achievements looks like the resume of a college president. They have practically won all the kiddies tournaments in Cebu, including the Milo and City Olympics. Here are the incredible wins of these gifted children.

Jessa Marie — Over-all top female player in the 2005 Shell National Youth active — Mindanao leg; Board 1 gold medalist secondary division Cebu City Olympics; over-all top female player 2005 Shell National Youth active — Visayas leg; champion 12-under 2005 Filway/Time Life Visayas leg active; bronze medalist Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVIRAA); champion Girls Division Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines — Cebu Elementary Principals Association Sports fest 2005; Board 1 gold medalist elementary division 2004 Cebu City Olympics; champion 2004 Macapaz Chess Event; champion 2004 Macapaz Summer chess event; board 1 champion Colegio de la Immaculada Conception sportsfest 2003 and 2004.

Jhon Francis “Atit” - Third-runner-up 2nd Godwin Kiddies Open and chosen as the youngest participant in the Shell National Youth active tournament 2003.

Felix Shaun “Tatan” — Champion 1st Godwin Kiddies Open 2005; board 2 silver medalist elementary (boys) division 2005 Cebu City Olympics; gold medalist board 2 Elementary (boys) Division Unit Meet.

Marq Gabriel “Boboy” -first-runner-up 2nd Godwin Kiddies Open, board 1 gold medalist elementary (boys) Division 2005 Cebu City Olympics; board 1 gold medalist Elementary (boys) Division Unit Meet. Marq will also be participating in the Cviraa tentatively set this April.

Just last week the Balbona whiz kids swept the top four places in the 3rd Godwin Open Kiddies tournament.

Chess playing families is nothing new in chess. All of my brothers — Jimmy, Pepe, Bob and Danny play the game. So does my late father naturally. Almost all chess players learn to play chess from their parents, usually the father.

The proud parents of the Balbona kids are Felix, the current Cepca treasurer , and Juliet, and their trainer is National Master Ben Macapaz.

Chess playing Families in Cebu are the Ruelan family (three generations), the Raniles, Ynclinos, Unchuans, Dianos, Macapazes, Aznars, Fiels, Retanals and many more. But as I see it, the most unique are the Balbona siblings.

CEPCA. Mandy Baria, the energetic new president of the Cepca, recently issued a circular that there will be a general assembly meeting this Feb. 26 at the Stella Maris Seamen Center starting at 1 p.m. to discuss the forthcoming activities of the club, as well as the new guidelines approved by the board in its two previous meetings.

After the meeting, the February monthly tourney will be held at the same venue. All the members will be required to pay the annual dues of P200 plus the P100 registration fee. Attendance is compulsory.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Couples in chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I received a correction e-mail in my “Chess players in love” article last week from an unlikely source in the US regarding the love life of IM John Donaldson and WGM Elena Akmilovskaya, who married during the Greece Olympiad in 1988. Apparently, they have been separated for quite sometime and Elena is now married to IM Georgi Orlov. The sender is WIM Alexey Root whom I will introduce at the end of this article.

Do chess players date each other? Of course, they do. It’s true that deep in a chess player’s heart is the hope that he would have a lifetime partner who shares his passion for the game. There will be less conflict and more time for each other. Ms. Root provided me with a list of chess-playing couples. The stats are my own. Here they are ( Susan Polgar chess blog):

GM Vassily Ivanchuk, Ukraine 2729 (1969) - IM Alisa Galliamova, Russia 2467 (1972), GM Joel Lautier, France 2682 (1973) - IM Almira Skripchenko, France 2461, GM Alexander Grischuk, Russia 2717 (1983) - IM Natalia Zhukova, Ukraine 2432 (1979), GM Boris Gulko, USA 2643 (1947) - WGM Anna Akhsharumova, France 2310 (1957), GM Shaobin Wu, France 2500 (1969) - GM Jun Xie, France 2573 (1970), GM Odiahki, Qatar - GM Zhu Chen, China 2482 (1976), GM Sergei Movsesian , Slovakia 2632 (1978) - WGM Petra Krupkova Czechoslovakia 2296, GM Suat Atalik, Turkey 2620 - WGM Ekaterina Polovnikova 2412 (1983), GM Juan Bellon, France 2415 (1950) - GM Pia Cramling, Sweden 2515 (1963), GM Bobby Fischer USA 2780 (1943) - Zita Rajcsanyi, GM Bobby Fischer, USA 2780 (1943) - WIM Miyoko Watai, Japan 2050, GM AlexYermolinsky France 2554 (1958) - WGM Camilla Baginskaite Lithuana 2341 (1967), GM Keith Arkell England 2521 (1961) - IM Susan Arkell England, GM Bogdan Lalic England 2528 - IM Susan Lalic England, GM Zoltan Ribli Hungary 2568 (1951) - WIM Maria Grosch Hungary 2025, GM Yasser Seirawan USA 2635 (1960) - WFM Yvette Nagel Nederland 1970, GM Ian Rogers France 2547 (1960)- WFM Cathy Rogers France, GM Pascal Charbonneau USA - IM Irina Krush France 2447 (1983), GM R.B.Ramesh India 2500 - WGM Aarti Ramaswami India (1999).

MORE COUPLES. GM Peng Xiaomin China 2563 - WGM Qin Kanying China, GM Zhang Zhong China - WGM Li Ruofan China, IM Georgi Orlov USA - WGM Elena Donaldson USA, GM D. Barua India - WIM Saheli Dhar Barua India, GM John Nunn, France 2617 (1955) - WFM Petra-Fink Nunn France 2031, GM Alexander Stripunsky USA 2563 - WFM Julia Shiber USA 2182, GM Gennady Sagalchik USA 2568 - WIM Olga Sagalchik USA 2169, GM Alex Ivanov USA - WIM Esther Epstein USA 2194, GM Miron Sher USA - WGM Alla Grinfeld USA, GM Larry Christiansen USA 2608 - Natasha Christiansen USA 1802, IM Ovidiu Foisor Romania - IM Cristina Foisor Romania 2402, IM William Hartston England 2485 (1947) - WGM Jana Hartston, GM Robert Bellin , England 2383 - WGM Jana Bellin England 2184, GM Anthony Miles England (1955-2001) - WGM Jana Miles, GM Peter Biyiasas Greece (1950) - WIM Ruth Haring(1955), IM Doug Root - WIM Alexey Root, IM Wu Xibin China 2340 - WIM Lou Hongyu China, IM Banjo Barcenilla - WNM Lillibeth Lee, GM Alexei Shirov - IM Cmilyte.

As far as I know, there are only three couples who are both Grandmasters — Shaobin Wu - Xie Jun, Al-Modiakhi - Zhu Chen,Juan Bellon - Pia Cramling. Also, Jana was married to three chess players, namely William Hartson, Robert Bellin and Tony Miles.

ROOT. She is a senior lecturer in general studies at the University of Texas, Dallas and is currently teaching in the Chess Online Certificate Program. She is a former US Open Women’s chess champion.

She is also the author of the book “Children and chess,” the first book to show the connection between accepted educational theories and chess. To order the book write to Greenwood Publishing Group, 6926, Portsmouth, NH 03802-6296 or e-mail her at

Friday, February 10, 2006

Chess players in love

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

GM EDUARD Gufeld (1936-2002) of Ukraine was one of the top players in the 1950s and ’60s, having defeated Tal, Spassky, Smyslov, Korchnoi and Bronstein, and just about every strong player in the Soviet Union. He was also a prolific writer, having authored more than 50 books on chess. Here is an anecdote about his love life.

Eduard was in love with a beautiful girl and tried everything to win her heart – chocolates, flowers, letters – but nothing worked. Then one day he found out that she played chess. So, in his next letter to her, he used a few metaphors to describe his love for her.

He wrote: “You are for me the Queen on d8 and I am the pawn on d7!”

His chess metaphors won her heart and they lived happily ever after.

John Donaldson is an international master, author, organizer, journalist and chess politician. He was captain of the US team to six Olympiads from 1986 to 1996, including the 1988 Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, where a love story happened between him and Russia’s Elena Akhmolovskaya, one of the strongest woman chess players then. Elena played Maia Chiburdinadze for the World Chess Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1986 but lost 8 ½-5 ½.

John performed a special service which brought about the defeat of the leading Soviet Woman’s team by marrying Elena and helping her defect to the United States. This elopement cum defection, three rounds before the Olympiad was over, caused the Soviet team to fall from first to second.

John and Elena are now living in San Francisco, where he is director of the Mechanics Institute. He has two GM norms: Linsborg 2002 and Stratton mountain 2003. Elena won the 1990 and 1994 US Women’s Open Championship and tied for first in 1993.

Sofia Polgar is considered to be the most beautiful of the Polgar chess-playing sisters. Her elder sister Susan is a four-time World champion and five-time Olympic gold medallist, while younger sister Judit is considered to be the greatest woman chess player of all time.

Chess lovers all over the world abandoned all hope when Sofia married Grandmaster Yona Kosashvili on Feb. 7, 1999 in Rishon, Israel. Her husband is not a professional chess player but a practicing medical doctor in Israel.

Sofia shocked the world in 1989 when in Rome, at the age of 14, she defeated a string of grandmasters and achieved the highest performance rating of any chess player, male or female, in any open tournament in chess history. This result has since become known as “The Sack of Rome.” She scored 8.5/9 points, defeating a host of strong GMs with a performance rating of 2928.

Zhu Chen’s romance with Grandmaster Mohammad Al-Modiahki of Qatar is well known among chess players and most especially by Chinese fans of this woman world champion. Her marriage has brought her stability and her winning the World Championship over Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk in 2002 is testament to the success of her marriage despite the obvious differences in culture and religion.

She was a World under-12 champion and twice won the World under-20 championship.

The four-game final between the 17-year-old model-cum-chess player Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia and Zhu Chen was one of the most fascinating finals ever contested in Women’s chess. The result of the four classical games was 2-2 with both players in the lead at least once. All the four games were decisive.

P.S. Mandy Baria, the energetic new president of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association, is inviting chess players of the Mactan Export Processing Zone to a 20-board match to be held sometime in March.

Friday, February 3, 2006

More bad boys of chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I got quite a lot of comments about my column last week, mostly from club members regarding chess players who were categorized as “sinners” and they were asking for more. Actually, there are quite a lot, but I am only listing those who are well known. Here are a few more of them.

Al Capone (1899-1947) -- known as “Scarface” slashed with a knife in a bar room brawl, he was the most famous gangster during the prohibition era. He was not an immigrant from Italy as what most people think, but grew up in the US.

TAX MAN. He was into prostitution, illegal gambling, murder, bootlegging and by his charisma, was the most visible gangster in an era when cities were controlled by criminal syndicates. He was extremely smart and got away with most of his crimes. What did him in were those men who are called “accountants with a mission” -- the Internal Revenue Service. He was convicted of tax evasion and sent to prison.

He is a legend and has been a subject of several movies and books.

George Kelley (1895-1954) - also known as “Machine Gun “Kelley for his expertise with the gun, started as a bootlegger and through the influence of his girl friend Kathryn Thorne, graduated to more serious crimes such as bank robberies and kidnapping.

Caught by federal agents who were on his trail for the kidnapping of wealthy oil tycoon Charles Urschel, whose family paid $200,000, a princely figure at that time, he was sent to Alcatraz and eventually to Leavenworth where he died of a heart attack.

His life was also featured in several movies.

Lee Harvey Oswald -- He is the most famous assassin in history for allegedly killing the American President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979 that Oswald was the assassin, as determined by the Warren Commission, and also that there was probably a conspiracy.

Many not only dispute the conclusion but also claim that Oswald was not involved at all. Shortly after his arrest, Oswald denied killing the President and insisted he was only a “patsy” and denied any participation in the assassination. Two days after his arrest he was killed by Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner.

Investigations, scientific testing and re-creations of the death of Kennedy have not settled the question of who really killed the President.

Sirhan Sirhan -- On June 5, 1968 Sirhan shot presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, the younger brother of John, in the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles. Robert died the next day. Sirhan was an Arab who was deeply disturbed by Kennedy’s support for Israel.

He was sentenced to death but it was later commuted to life in prison. His repeated applications for parole have been denied.

Robert Stroud (1890-1965) -- known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz” for his research on canaries while in prison, he was immortalized in the movie of the same title by Burt Lancaster as a cultured and humane individual. Actually, he was a violent man who shot to death a bartender who was harassing his wife and stabbed to death a guard in front of 1,100 inmates in the prison mess hall.

He was sentenced to death but it was later commuted to life in prison. He later authored two books on canaries, their diseases, habits and physiology.

NOT ON THE LIST. Sonny Sollano -- Music lover. Chess player. Philosopher. Theologian. Poker player. Good father.

Devoted husband. Sonny was all these and more. He was also a very good friend and together with Art Ynclino we would spend evenings, in between chess games and cold bottles of beer, discussing the wonders of the universe and the history of man.

Today is his second death anniversary.