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.”

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