Friday, June 23, 2006

Chess-savvy tennis players

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Previously, I featured NBA stars who enjoy and play chess to coincide with the ongoing best-of- seven NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami. Also featured before were football greats who play chess, as a sidelight to the World Cup.

With the French Open over and Wimbledon just around the corner, it’s tennis turn and we have a handful.

Sometime in 2002, Garry Kasparov played a “live” Internet match with Boris Becker on CNN which lasted over an hour. Garry was in Manhattan while Boris was in Munich. Boris was born on Nov. 22,1967 in Germany. He was a former world No.1. He is a six-time Grand-Slam champion, an Olympic gold medalist and the youngest-ever winner of the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon.

Another former world No.1, Jennifer Capriati (born March 29,1976 in New York) also plays chess. She won three Grand-Slam titles as well as the Women’s Singles gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games.

John McEnroe, famous for his temper and marriage to actress Tatum O’Neal, plays chess but badly. He once played a game against Michael Chang, lost, then jumped on the table yelling, “Why must I lose to this idiot?”

Unknown to many, McEnroe was born in Germany on Feb. 16,1959 and is a former world No.1. Playing for the United States, he won seven Grand-Slam titles – three at Wimbledon and four at the US Open. He is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

Michael Chang is a US-born (Feb. 22, New Jersey) Chinese and is best remembered for becoming the youngest-ever male winner of a Grand-Slam Singles title when he won the French Open in 1989 as an unseeded player.

Like most Russians, Elena Dementieva plays chess on a competitive level. With Amelie Mauresmo capturing the 2006 Australian Open, she is now regarded as the best player to have never captured a Grand Slam. I think that she is even more beautiful than the current sensation, Maria Shaparova.

During a break in the 2003 US Open, Roger Federer was seen playing chess with Max Mirnyi and claims that it is his relaxation before a difficult match. He is a Swiss-born (Aug. 8,1981) player who in 2004 became the 23rd world No.1. He holds the third-consecutive stay as world No.1 (only Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors had longer streaks at number one) and is widely regarded as the most dominant player of his era. He is considered as having the potential to become the greatest player of all time.

Max Mirnyi, nicknamed “The Beast,” is from Belarus and was born on July 6,1977. Like Natasha Zvereva (another star from Belarus in the ’80s and ’90s) he focuses on Doubles. His biggest achievements so far are the two victories at the US Open in 2000 and 2002 and the 2005 French Open doubles crown

Another Doubles specialists are the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike. Both are chess players and easily the most dominant of this era in Doubles. They won the Australian Open this year and also the 2003 French Open and last year’s US Open defeating Max Mirnyi and Jonas Bjorkman, 6-1,6-4.

Anna Kournikova is renowned as the sexiest athlete ever and although she has not won a major tournament, is considered a good enough player to play in the ATP Tour.

Ivan Lendl is from Czechoslovakia and was the most dominant player in the ’80s and early ’90s. He has won eight Grand-Slam Singles titles and not only is he good at chess but also has a 0 handicap in golf.

N.B. This is a reminder to all members of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association that our monthly tournament will be this coming Sunday at the Stella Maris Center starting at 2 p.m.

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