Friday, May 26, 2006

Topalov-the comeback kid; Mt. Everest

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

VESELIN Topalov, after his latest performance in the M-Tel Masters in Sofia, Bulgaria, has a new label aside from being world champion. He is now known as the “comeback kid.” He also made a comeback in Linares this year, scoring six points in the last eight rounds.

Others with the same label nowadays are Al Gore, who is the leading Democrat in the 2008 USA presidential elections, Gov. Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger of California, who is seeking reelection and tennis star James Blake, who broke his neck two years ago and has made a miraculous comeback.

The M-Tel Masters is one of the majors in chess and has a unique rule in that agreed draws are not allowed.

Veselin had a minus score in the first six rounds but won the last four rounds to win the tournament back to back. The score after the double round-robin are: 1. Topalov (Bulgaria) 2804 6.5 2. Gata Kamsky (USA) 2671 6 3. Vishy Anand (India) 2803 5.5 4. Peter Svidler (Russia) 2743 5 5. Etienne Bacrot (France) 2708 3.5 6. Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine) 2738 3.5.

Turin Olympiad after four rounds: Russia and Armenia lead with 13.5 points each. The Philippines now has 9.5. We beat Mauritius, 4-0; drew with Luxemburg, 2-2; lost to the USA, 1.5-2.5, and drew with Colombia, 2-2. The talk of the tournament has been Eugene Torre’s marathon of 95 moves and five hours with Alexander Onischuk of the USA.

The May tournament of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association will be this Sunday at the Stella Maris Center starting at 2 p.m.

MT. EVEREST. No big deal climbing Mt. Everest. It isn’t difficult as it was before. Purists like Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach the top, lament the lack of respect of the mountain as tested tour guides boast that they can get nearly anyone up the mountain as long as they are in good physical condition and have $10,000 to $65,000 to spare depending on the “perks” of the climb.

Modern gear and communications have drastically cut down the number of deaths. There were a record 101 expeditions in 2005 and 82 this year so far.

According to Everest News, the number of persons who have reached the top are at least 2,300 with the number of deaths at 186.

Italy’s Reinhold Messner has climbed Everest twice without oxygen. He is also the first to solo climb Everest in 1980. In 1970,Yuichiro Miura of Japan became the first person to descend the mountain on skis. In 1975, Junko Tabei, also of Japan, was the first woman to climb Everest. The first disabled person was American Tom Whittaker in 1998. The first blind man was Erik Weihenmayer in 2001. Sherpa Ang Rita has reached the summit 13 times.

Climbing without bottled oxygen has now become de rigueur of the climbing elite and more than 60 men and women have reached the top relying only on their gasping lungs.

Climbers as young as 15 and 17 and a lot of senior citizens including a 70-year-old man have reached the top, while a couple casually walked up the mountain to get married.

Sir Edmund Hillary has blamed the commercialization of climbing Everest for the death last week of British climber David Sharp, who apparently reached the top but had difficulty coming down, while several parties – including that of Mark Inglis, a double amputee – passed him by.

Inglis later told New Zealand television that 40 people passed Sharp on their way to the summit but it was only his party that stopped to check on him.

Climbing Everest is a private matter and should not be commercialized and though extraordinary and dangerous is far from “heroic” unless done under special circumstances.

Incidentally, chess is the favorite pastime among mountaineers to “keep the mind limber.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Turin Olympiad

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

QUICKLY now, who is Michele Godena and Fabio Bellini? Never heard of them? Until lately, I also did not know these fellows. They are the two top players of Italy in the 37th Chess Olympiad held for the first time in Italy, specifically Turin, starting tomorrow.

Knowledgeable chess players know that despite its big population, Italy is the kulelat of European chess and has never been a factor in previous Olympiads. In fact it is rated No.46 in the world rankings, lower than Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.

I believe that Italians are not really sportsmen as they also do not have a track record in swimming, track and field, boxing, and almost all major sports except car racing, sometimes tennis and understandably football. What they are good at is entertainment and opera and maybe the mafia? Who doesn’t know Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Madonna, Mario Lanza and Luciano Pavarotti?

Incidentally, these entertainers are all avid chess players. Madonna gets special tutoring from an International Master whom I cant recall.

The reason why Turin bid for the Chess Olympiad is because it was the host of the recent Winter Olympics and the city officials decided to go for a double whammy as they already have the facilities. Also, most importantly, they wanted to popularize chess in their country.

The chess players and officials who will participate in this Olympiad are therefore very lucky in that they will stay in a real Olympic Village for the first time and enjoy good food, all for free! This is different from previous Olympiads in that the federations had to take care of their board and lodging. We are therefore sending a big, no correct that, huge delegation that is probably the biggest among all the participating teams.

Get this. Going to Turin are: Board 1. Mark Paragua 22 2617 2. Eugene Torre 54 2543 3. Rogelio Antonio 43 2539 4. Darwin Laylo 25 2406 5. Oliver Dimakiling 25 2452 6. Wesley So 12 2254. The Women’s team includes: Board 1. Sheerie Joy Lomibao 30 2163 2. Beverly Mendoza 25 2132 3. Catherine Perena 4. Sherily Cua.

Officials are Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay of Surigao del Sur, president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, who will head the RP delegation. Also going are NCFP secretary-general and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino Jr., Men’s team captain NM Samuel Estimo, Women’s captain NM Cesar Caturla, International Arbiter Wilfredo Abalos, NCFP spokesperson Jennifer Mayor, NM Almario Marlon Bernardino Jr. and assistant coach IM Jayson Gonzales.

Others also in the delegation are reportedly games analyst Rolando Nolte, Wiliam So, Wesley’s father, and reserves Roderick Nava, Shercila Cua and 14-year-old Kimberly Jane Cunanan, who will be properly chaperoned. I am not sure of the last three. It has not been confirmed yet.

I don’t exactly know how many federations are playing, one website says 140, while another another says 133. Countries or federations playing for the first time are Taipei, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Sudan and Syria.

The 77th Congress and elections of the officials of the World Chess Federation will also be held in this Olympiad under the following schedules: May 27-29, Fide Commissions and Committees; May 30/31 Executive/Presidential board; June 1,continental meeting; June 2-4, General Assembly and Elections.

If you have time and the money go see the Olympiad. Turin is not only the home of Fiat and the El Juventus football team but also one of the great cities of the world with a thousand-year history.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Chess-playing siblings

By Frank ‘Boy’ Pestaño

A chess-playing parent almost always teaches his children to play the game.

So, it’s not surprising that chess-playing siblings are all over the chess world.

However, it is rare that you encounter siblings who are titled players. Here in the Philippines, the most active are the Garma brothers, International Master Chito and National Master Edgar.

On top of the heap are of course the Polgar sisters: GM Susan, IM Sofia and GM Judit. Every chess player knows them and how they were trained by their father, Laszlo, who determined even before his children were born that he would make them geniuses at chess. In the chess world where the male is dominant, the Polgars are an astounding exception.

The only brothers I know who are both Grandmasters are Jozsef and Csaba Horvath of Hungary. Another would be GM-elect GB Prakash and GM RB Ramesh of India, who incidentally is married to WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy,
Famous brothers during the ’60s and ’70s were Americans Robert and Donald Byrne. Donald is the more famous as the “Game of the Century” was played between him and Bobby Fischer, where the latter made an astounding and unexpected queen sacrifice.

An exceptional example where the sister is the GM and the brother an IM is Pia and Dan Cramling of Sweden.

The only siblings I know who are identical twins are GM Nicholas and IM Richard Pert of England.

Very active nowadays are the Kosintseva sisters Nadezhda and Tatiana of Russia, both international masters, and the Koneru sisters GM Humpy and IM Chandra Hawsa of India. Humpy is the second highest-rated woman player today next to Judit Polgar.

Sisters who are both WGMs are Anita and Ticia Gara of Hungary.

My favorite chess-playing brothers are Lajos and Ferenc Portisch, who were very active during the ’60s and ’70s known as the “Bobby Fischer” years. Lajos, particularly, played in the Interzonals 12 straight times and qualified for the candidates cycle five times. He also participated in 20 Olympiads from 1956 to 2000 more than anyone else. The only person I know who can probably break this record is Eugene Torre, who is going for 17 Olympiads.

CEPCA VS. MEPZA. Last weekend, members of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association played a goodwill match against the Mez 1 and 2 Selections at the Fairchild Comp. comprising 16 boards. Cepca won, 24-11, after a close first game which was tied 8-all. Format of the contest was two games each player, playing black and white, and rapid time controls.

Cepca president Mandy Baria of Aboitizland, showed his organizationals skills and the match was completed with no hitches.

Specl mention goes to Mat Matuco of Cipdi, Ed Pebenito of Aboitizland, Peter Pacana of Fairchild and Pat Ninal of Timex.

All of us, chessplayers, are grateful to Timex for being the primary sponsor of the match.

More tournaments: The 1st Mayor Antonio L. Canoy Inter-Cities and Municipalities Chess Team Tournament will be held tomorrow and Sunday at the San Fernando Sports Complex.

The tournament is open to all cities and municipalities and will be composed of four regular members and two alternates. Only one titled player per team is allowed.

Prizes are P10,000 (champion), P7,000 (first runner-up); P5,000 (second runner-up); fourth (P3,000). Trophies will be awarded to the first three places.

Board winners will receive P1,000 each. Registration fee is P900.The tournament director is Bob Tojong and chief arbiter is Marvin Ruelan.

Meanwhile, all Cepca members are reminded that our May tournament is scheduled on the 28th at the Stella Maris Seamen Center.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Topalov Oscar winner; fide elections

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Some 361 chess journalists from 68 countries, including this writer, voted world champion Veselin Topaov as the 2005 Oscar winner with a total of 4,376 points with Vishy Anand of India a close second at 3,495 .We nominated the top 10 players awarding 13 points for the first nominee, 11 for second, nine for third, seven for fourth, six for fifth, until one for 10th.

Veselin was voted first 219 times. The other nominees in descending order were Levon Aronian, Peter Svidler, Peter leko, Alexander Morozevich, Garry Kasparov, Vassily Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponomariov and 15-year-old Magnus Carlsen.

Mark Paragua, the first Filipino super-grandmaster and included in the latest Fide ratings in the top 100, was in 32nd position.

Topalov was born on March 15, 1975, in Ruse, Bulgaria. He won the World Under-14 Championship in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and in 1990 won the silver medal in the World Under-16 Championship in Singapore.

He began 2005 with a so-so performance at the Corus Mega-tournament at Wijk Aan Zee and another at Dortmund but won the Super tournament at Linares. Then two months later he won the inaugural mega-tournament M-TEL Masters at Sofia ahead by a full point over Anand.

In San Luis, Argentina which was the venue of the 2005 World Championship, he put on an incredible performance with 10.5 pts in 14 rounds. The other players were Vishy Anand, Alexander Morozevich, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Peter Svidler, Michael Adams, Judit Polgar and Peter leko,

Veselin currently lives in Spain although he still plays for Bulgaria.

FIDE ELECTIONS. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov will be running for reelection against worthy rival Bessel Kok of Holland in the Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy in June this year. The latest count is that 60 federations will vote for Kirsan while 30, mostly European, will go to Bessel. Undecided nations are mostly African and South European federations. The Philippines is listed as favoring Kirsan.

In a surprise move the vice-president of the French Federation Leo Battesti will also run for president although he will not be a significant factor except perhaps get some votes originally intended for Bessel.

There have been some comments regarding the format of the elections in Fide, which is one vote for each federation. This is like the United Nations with a significant difference in that the latter has the Security Council.

Micro federations like Madagascar, Malawi, Belize and Malawi have no listed Fide tournament players but have the same vote as the super-federations like Russia, Germany, England and Asian giants India and China. Most will consider this unfair and should be revised and patterned after the electoral system in the United States. My proposal is to give electoral votes to the federations based on the number of tournament players in the federation even if not fide-listed. The difference, say, between the USA and Bermuda will then be clearer and true to form.

CEPCA VS. MEPZA. Here is the final line-up of the Mepza players who will play a 12-board match with selected members of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association tomorrow at Fairchild Semi-Conductors Philippines in Mactan.

Board 1 William Retanal, 2 Emmanuel Matuco, 3 Jonathan Cangue, 4 Romeo Resuera, 5 Eleuterio Godinez, 6 Neil Amores, 7 Totong Sapa, 8 Mandy Baria, 9 Jade Garzon, 10 Roger Pesole, 11 Bernabe Sanchez, 12 Jeffrey Solis.

I am still finalizing Cepca’s players as the original plan was for 20 boards. Format will be two games each handling black and white pieces and 30 minutes with a 10-second increment time control.

Sponsor of the match is Timex Phils. Inc. and the contest will start at 2 p.m.