Friday, November 24, 2006

Most profound chess puzzle

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

White to move and win. Take a good hard look at this puzzle. You would think that it is an easy win for black as white cannot promote his d pawn due to a double check at f7.

Send me an email for the solution to this puzzle.

A year ago we were invited to Mactan by Jun Olis as it was “Fiesta sa Opon.”

Edmund Suralta mentioned about a puzzle so difficult that it eluded a group of grand masters who were trying to solve it except Mikhael Tal.. .I promised to the group that I will look and write about the puzzle as it is said that it is the most profound chess problem ever conceived.

I forgot all about it and never did some serious research.

I wanted to feature in my column today the just concluded Tal Memorial Tournament which was held in Moscow from November 5-19 and what do you know, Chessbase did a feature on the famous puzzle.

Here is the story. A long time ago, April 1987, there was a super GM tournament in Brussels and the winner was Ljubomir Ljubojevic in a tie with Garry Kasparov. Among the participants were Karpov, Larsen, Korchnoi, Timman, Short and our Eugene Torre and a few others.

English GM Jim Plaskett, who was visiting the tournament, laid out on the table this famous puzzle and urged the GMs present to solve it. The press was trying to solve the puzzle the whole day. Occasionally, one of the super GMs would join in the analysis after their games but nobody was able to solve it. Except Mikhael Tal.

Tal ,who tried to solve the puzzle unsuccessfully for 10 minutes, left the room and then suddenly appeared again after an hour Apparently he had solved the problem after a walk in the park.

There is a little story behind this puzzle. It was initially said that the composer of the puzzle was a lowly taxi driver from Moscow and Tal, so impressed by the puzzle, looked for him and found out later that he had died.

According to Frederic Freidel of Chessbase who was in Brussels, the author is Gijs van Bruekelen who composed it in the 70s and showed it to friends. Later, he decided to have it published in 1990 in the magazine Schaken Nederland.

By the way, here are the final results of the Tal Memorial Tournament 2006: 1-3. Peter Leko ,Ruslan Ponomariov ,Levon Aronian 4.Boris Gelfand 5 5-7.Shakrijar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler 4.5 8-9.Alexei Shirov. Magnus Carsen 3.5 10. Alexander Morozevich 3.0.

This tournament is a category 20 and considered one of the strongest this year.

Arroyo Cup. Here are the winners of the 9 rounds President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo International Chess Tournament which finished yesterday in Manila -1. Peng Xiang Zhang China 7.5-$6,000 2.Alexander Onischuk USA 7-$4,000 3.Victor Mikhalevski Israel 7-$3,000 4.Varuzhan Akobian USA 6.5 $ 2,500 5.Ni Hua China 6.5-$2000 6.Rui Wang China 6.5-$1,500.
Cebuanos Richard Bitoon and Anthony Makiniano had only 5 points.

Man vs. Machine. The much awaited Man vs. Machine will take place tomorrow in Bonn,Germany featuring current world champion Vladimir Kramnik playing against the computer chess program Deep Fritz.

It is sponsored by Rag Akiengesellschaft, one of Europe`s largest energy companies and Kramnik is guaranteed $500,000 and another $500,000 if he wins the 6 game match.

I predict that Kramnik will lose this match. Sorry, folks.

Lane Jennings wrote in 1988 in the FUTURIST: “How chess players react to the growing impact of computers….may provide a glimpse to the future of mankind`s relationship with machines.”

Jennings cited three areas where machines enjoy a distinct edge. 1. They are fed entire books while we must rely on frail memory. 2. They can rearrange the board in the twinkling of an eye while we can't tinker with the pieces. 3. They are immune to fatigue and distractions from noise, climate, crowding or poor lighting.

Friday, November 17, 2006


By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Manny Pacquiao taking drugs? Our meeting the other day among members of Cepca turned into an uproar when one of our members Jun Olis, informed us that the Nevada Boxing Commission is investigating reports that the camp of Erik Morales has formally lodged a protest that Manny is taking drugs.

Whether it is anabolic steroids or testosterone is not known. The Nevada Commission is further investigating another report that Manny is also taking another food booster, known in Philippine circles as DP.

Manny has submitted a sample of his urine and the laboratory results have confirmed that indeed Manny is taking ibuprofen and paracetamol known in the Philippines as Alaxan. As for the substance DP, it could only be Datu Puti.

Kidding aside, this column is about boxers who are chess players and vice-versa. In various interviews, Manny has said that among his hobbies, his favorite is playing chess and billiards.

One of the greatest nights in heavyweight history between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis in March 11, 1999 turned out to be a disappointment as the match was called a draw even though Lewis obviously won the fight.

Promoter Don King later criticized Lewis “When you have a man on the ropes you are supposed to finish him not play chess with him...” in obvious reference to the fact that both Lewis and Holyfield play chess.

It has been estimated that Lewis’ playing strength in chess is about Elo 2000, which means that if ever he would become a member of Cepca he can snare a monthly tournament.

Before his fight with Vitali Klitschko, Lewis proposed that there should also be a chess match as Vitali is a known chess buff and is in fact considered a better chess player.

The much awaited Lewis vs. Klitschko fight took place in June 21 2003, with Lewis considered off-form weighing a career-high 256lbs. Klitschko was on the way to a major upset when the referee stopped the fight due to a severe cut above Klitschko‘ s left eye and Lewis was declared a winner by TKO. Vitali and his brother Wladimir, who is also a boxer, are avid chess players.
They are so good that a good number of articles have been written about their chess capability.

According to an article in “In October 2002, the Klitschko brothers Vitaly and Wladimir visited the ChessBase office in Hamburg. The reason they gave on their web site at the time was that, a day before the final round of the $1 million Man vs. Machine event in Bahrain, their friend chess world champion Vladimir Kramnik had enlisted their help to wear down the machine. So they organized a pre-bout sparring with Fritz.

Playing on the Fritz Server against the program in Bahrain, Vitali proved that his “Punching Professor” tag is more than just a stage name! He almost took the machine over the full distance. “It may have been a points decision for Deep Fritz, but the computer at least had its pride dented.” By the way Vitali has a Doctorate degree in Sports Science and Philosophy and was just recently crowned heavyweight champion.

Remember Francisco “Kid” Balug? He was a popular boxer in the 60s and the Philippines-Orient champion in the featherweight division. He plays chess regularly at the Collonade chess club and is a masseur on the side. He is very good especially if you have arthritis like me. He comes to the house regularly and we talk about his boxing years and chess.

Chessboxing. How weird is weird? Does chess and boxing mix? If water and oil mix in an emulsion so does chess and boxing. In fact, there is an organization, the World Chess Boxing Organization, WCBO, which supervises its activities. Its motto is “Fighting is done on the ring and wars are made on the board.”

The first world champion was Lepe Rubingh and the first European champion was Tihomir Tischko of Bulgaria.

Here are the rules as laid down by WCBO: “A match between two opponents consists of up to eleven alternating rounds of boxing and chess sessions, starting with a four-minute chess round followed by two minutes of boxing and so on. Between rounds there is a one-minute pause, during which competitors change their gear. The form of chess played is “blitz chess” in which competitors have a total of 12 minutes. Competitors may win by knockout, checkmate, a judge’s decision or if their opponent’s twelve minutes of chess time elapses.”

According to the Chessboxing website: “Recently, about 400 people gathered in Cologne, to see two chessboxing fights.

Zoran ‘The Priest’ Mijatovic played the Queen’s Gambit, but ‘Anti Terror’ Frank Stoldt was very well prepared. In the 7th chess round Mijatovic was three moves away from being checkmated, so he resigned. Stoldt also controlled the boxing rounds.” So there you are. Chessboxing anyone?

Cepca news. Mandy Baria, President of the Cebu Executives and Professional Association, has announced that the November tourney will be this coming Sunday, the 19th, at the Bibo chess club starting at 2 p.m.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Latest about Bobby Fischer

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Bobby was in the headlines again recently when the Union Bank of Switzerland UBS, one of the world`s biggest banks, transferred his deposits amounting to about $3 million without his permission and against his will, to a bank account in Iceland where he now resides.

In an interview a few months ago, Bobby said he has been in dispute with the bank’s intention to terminate his account without any reason other than saying that it (bank) does not want to have a relationship with him. The money has been in deposit with the bank since 1992, which he presumably earned from his match with Boris Spassky in 1992 in Yugoslavia where he was guaranteed $5 million.

Anything that has to do with Bobby is always news to chess players all over the world. Vladimir Kramnik of Russia has just won the world championship from Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and dozens of chess articles have already been written comparing champions from the past to Bobby.

A few weeks ago, listeners to a private radio station in Iceland were surprised to hear in the early morning hours an interview with Fischer who talked about his dispute with the Swiss bank UBS, the United States --- which he believes is run by extremists --- Jews, North Korea and china and about chess, past and present.

I will deal only with the chess portion as this is a chess column and not anything else.

In the interview, Bobby reads from a book “Parting with Illusions,” which was written by Vladimir Pozner in 1990 about the Cold War:

“I remember Mark Taimanov…losing his match with Bobby Fischer by the implausible score of six to zero….. So when Taimanov fell to Fischer six-zip, it was a sensation that rocked the chess world. It was, in fact, such an unbelievable affront that the Soviet Chess Federation stripped Taimanov of his title as Grand Master of the USSR. Later, when several other Grand Masters were blitzed by Fischer, the Soviet Chess Federation realized its mistake, but refused to acknowledge it. To this day, Mark Taimanov retains the rank of International Grand Master but has not had his Soviet ranking restored.”

Bobby also talks about champions from the past.

“Some kid of fourteen today, or even younger, could get an opening advantage against Capablanca, and especially against the players of the previous century, like Morphy and Steinitz. Maybe they would still be able to outplay the young kid of today. Or maybe not, because nowadays when you get the opening advantage not only do you get the opening advantage, you know how to play, they have so many examples of what to do from this position. It is really deadly, and that is why I don’t like chess any more.

“Morphy and Capablanca had enormous talent, Steinitz was very great too.

Alekhine was great, but I am not a big fan of his.

Maybe it’s just my taste. I’ve studied his games a lot, but I much prefer Capablanca and Morphy. Alekhine had a rather heavy style, Capablanca was much more brilliant and talented---he had a real light touch. Everyone I’ve spoken to who saw Capablanca play still speakS of him with awe. If you showed him any position he would instantly tell you the right move…

“Capablanca really was fantastic. But even he had his weaknesses, especially when you play over his games with his notes he would make idiotic statements like “I played the rest of the game perfectly.” But then you play through the moves and it is not true at all….. He wanted to change the rules [of chess] already, back in the twenties, because he said chess was getting played out. He was right. Now chess is completely dead. It is all just memorisation and prearrangement. It’s a terrible game now. Very uncreative.”

So there you are. In the interview, Bobby says that he does not want to play chess anymore.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Chess deaths II

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Harry Nelson Pillsbury was the United States chess champion from 1897 until his death of syphilis in 1906. The stigma surrounding the disease makes it unlikely that he sought medical treatment. At that time the disease was potentially fatal.

Along with Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer ,Pillsbury ranks as one of America`s greatest chess players ever .He was a very strong blindfold player and could play checkers and chess simultaneously while playing a hand of whist and reciting a list of long words.

Another disease potentially fatal at that time was tuberculosis, the scourge of the third world. Chess players who died of the disease were Rudolf Charousek (1873-1900) ,Cecil de Vere (`1845-1875) and David Janowsky (1868-1927).

Charousek was a Jewish Hungarian player who was described by Reuben Fine as the John Keats of chess He was one of a few players who a plus score against world champion Emanuel Lasker who said “I shall play a championship match with this man someday”.

Cecil Valentine De Vere (1845-1875) was the pseudonym of Cecil Valentine Brown, the winner of the first official British Chess Championship, in 1866.

He played chess effortlessly and elegantly without recourse to chess study or theory; in this respect he was not unlike Capablanca. His meteoric rise to fame and equally dramatic decline has been compared to Morphy and he is often cited as 'The English Morphy.”

David Janowsky was a French-Polish player who is considered one of the best players in the 20th century.Like Anand today, he was a very fast player and is known for his play with the two bishops, Capablanca says of him: “When he is in form he is a devastating player.”

Thomas Wilson Barnes born 1825 was one of the strongest English players in the 1850's. He's best remembered for having more wins against Paul Morphy in friendly play than anyone else. Being overweight he decided to reduce his size, but the loss of 130 pounds in 10 months was more than his system could handle and resulted in his death in 1874.

Henry Buckle is known more in history as the author of the monumental work, the History of Civilization, which is considered one of the greatest literary feats ever. It is said that he read 10 hrs a day for 17 years in preparation to writing this book. On his travel to Beirut and then Nazareth he was infected with typhoid fever and died in Damascus in 1862.

Dying due to car accidents were Janos Flesch (1933-1983) and Guillermo Garcia (1953-1990). Flesch was a Hungarian international master who is best known for claiming a world record simultaneous exhibition by playing 52 boards. Guillermo Garcia Gonzales was born 1953 in Cuba. He earned the IM title in 1974 and the GM title in 1976. He also won three Cuban Championships (1974, 1976, 1983).

Borislav Kostic was a professional chess player from Serbia. From 1923–1926, Kostic travelled all over the world, including Australasia, the Far East, Africa, India and Siberia, demonstrating his exceptional skills, generating interest in chess and forging new links with people across the globe. He was undoubtedly a brilliant publicist and ambassador for the game, although this probably prevented him from realising his full potential as a player. He died of blood poisoning from a scratch in 1963.

Nikolai Krylenko is considered the father of Soviet chess. Of the 14 classical champions 9 are Russians and the man mainly responsible for this phenomenon is Krylenko. However, he was executed during one of Stalin`s purges in 1938.

Vera Menchik died as a result of the bombing of London and was of British-Czech origin.She was the first female world champion in 1927 and defended her crown 6 times.