Friday, December 29, 2006

Top stories of the year

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

JUST like in golf and tennis, there are four tournaments considered “Majors” in chess and they are Corus, Morelia/Linares, Sofia and Dortmund. This, of course, does not include the granddaddy of them all, the Olympiad and the World Championship.

In Corus, Anand of India and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria shared equal first in Group A, Magnus Carlsen and Motylev also shared Group B, while Suat Atalik of Turkey won Group C.

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Levon Aronian of Armenia won the Morelia/Linares tournament while Topalov again snared Sofia. Kramnik showed his class by winning Dortmund.

The Chess Olympiad is held in even years and is organized by the World Chess Federation. This year’s version, the 37th Olympiad, was held in Turin Italy.

The surprise men’s winner was Armenia winning the gold medal followed by still another surprise, China, which won the silver and the USA, bronze. In the women’s section, Ukraine won the gold followed by Russia and then China.

China’s rise in chess has been phenomenal and experts are of the opinion that within the next 10 years it might overtake even the giant, Russia. Now, most of the top women players are Chinese.

The next Olympiad will be held in Dresden, Germany in 2008.

Easily the top chess story of the year was the unification match between Classical champion Vladimir Kramnik against Fide champion Veselin Topalov from Sept. 21-Oct. 13 in Elista, Kalmykia, Russia which was mired in scandal. Dubbed “toiletgate” by journalists covering the event, Topalov accused Kramnik of cheating by using a computer program using wireless technology, which he accessed by going to the bathroom. Kramnik was counted as going to the bathroom 25 times, which is not normal.

Kramnik forfeited Game 5 after refusing to play when the appeals committee altered the conditions of the match. The match was tied 6-6 after 12 regular games and Kramnik won the rapid tiebreak, 2.5-1.5.

Another significant event of the year was the match between the newly-crowned champion Kramnik against the latest chess program Fritz 10, which the machine won, 4-2, without losing a game. The match was played in Bonn, Germany from Nov. 25-Dec. 5. Kramnik was guaranteed 500,000 euros had he won the match.

In the first game observers believed Kramnik missed a win and the computer won the second after Kramnik made what might be called the “blunder of the century” when he overlooked a threatened mate-in-one. Games 3, 4 and 5 were drawn and the computer won the 6th game for a 4-2 win and the match.

The match is extremely important in the history of man and a milestone in the development of artificial intelligence.

On the local level, Anthony Makinano is now a Fide master while Lingky’s son Kimkim Yap has now come of age and considered the best of the Cebu-based players.

He recently won the knockout tournament held the other week at E-Mall and Bibo’s chess club over a field that included almost all the top players in Cebu.

Bojie Lim of Rose Pharmacy continued his sponsorship of chess all-year round.

Incidentally, the top Cebuano players are International masters Rico Mascarinas, who is based in Singapore together with Lingky as instructors and Manila-based players Richard Bitoon, Barlo Nadera and Europe-resident Joseph Sanchez.

The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association Inc. had a successful year with its monthly tournaments and the holding of regular tournaments for kiddies 13 years old and below. Bombi Aznar, an honorary member of Cepca, founded the Pardo Chess Academy for children and encouraged the further training of children on the barangay level.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa Claus came early for Mike, Dante and Bong

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

LAST Sunday, Dec. 17, was a red-letter day for members of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association Inc. (Cepca), the country`s premiere chess club. On that day, we had the induction of the new officers for 2007, Christmas party and Grand Finals. Also inducted were the new members of the club as well as a side tournament for those who did not make it to the Grand Finals.

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Venue was at the Stella Maris Seamen Centre and there was food galore and beer flowed like there was no tomorrow.

Everything went according to plan except that the program started 30 minutes late and our guest of honor and inducting officer, honorable Vice-Mayor Michael Rama was, as usual, on time and he had to wait until all the officers were present.
Entertaintment was provided by Zaldy Tabanao, a member of the club and a professional singer.

Inducted as officers for 2007 were Emmanuel “Mat” Matuco,president; Dante Arguelles, internal vice- president; Percival Fiel, external vice-president; Jun Olis, press relations officer and secretary; Felix Balbona, treasurer; and Rene Casia, auditor. Also elected were chairmen of the important committees of the club namely, tournaments—Mandy Baria, ways and means—Norway Lara and FYP-membership.

Inducted as new members were Solon Bagalihog, Caesar Fernandez, Mike Banebane, Rey Reroma, Ronald Hamac, Glenn Dakay, Benjamin Sanchez, Bernabe Sanchez and Manuel Abucay

Playing in the Grand Finals were the following monthly winners : Dante Arguelles-January, Jun Olis-February, Maggi Dionson-March, Percival Fiel-April, Jongjong Melendez-May, Mike Banebane–June, Fabio Abucejo-July, Joe Atillo-August, Mandy Baria-September, Ramon Pangilinan-October, Nikki Estenor-November. NM Bombi originally seeded to the Grand Finals did not play due to a prior commitment.

Grand winner was Dante Arguelles with 7 wins, one draw and 2 losses for a total score of 7.5 pts. Second placer was Maggi Dionson and third Nikki “boy” Estenor.

In the side event among non-qualifiers, the winner was Bong San Pascual and second Jessa Balbona.

Grand Prix winners (those who had the most number of points in the monthly tournaments) were led by Miguel Banebane followed by Maggi Dionson, Mandy Baria, Felix Balbona, Dante Arguelles Rene Casia, Percival Fiel Junard Labadan, Joe Atillo and Manny Abucay.

Dante, Bong and Mike received as their special prize a Timex Executive watch each, courtesy of Timex Phils. Inc. All the qualifiers and grand prix winners also receive special prizes.

Asian Games. For the first time, chess became a part of the Asian Games recently staged in magnificent splendor in Doha, Qatar last Dec.1-15. The Philippines was represented by Ronald Dableo, Darwin Laylo and Jedara Docena.

Three gold medals were at stake, one each for men and women in rapid control and mixed team under classical control.

Men’s gold medalist was the surprising Murtas Kazhgaleyev of Kazakhstan, silver to Dao Thien Hai of Vietnam and bronze to Bu Xianghi of China. Laylo could only managed 8th place while Dableo placed 15th.

Women’s winners were Koneru Humpy of India, Zhao Xue of China and former world champion Zhu Chen formerly of China but now playing for Qatar due to her marriage to a Qatari Grandmaster. Jedara was a respectable 12th placer amidst very strong competition.

In the mixed team event, India as expected, snared the gold medal while China was a solid 2nd.The surprise 3rd placer was Iran. The Philippines was around the middle at 8th.

Friday, December 15, 2006

David Bronstein, in memoriam

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

IF you are very observant, in the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love,” the early part of the picture shows a game being played by “Kroonsteen” and “McAdams.” It was based on an actual game between Bronstein and and Boris Spassky in the 1960 USSR championship.

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One of my childhood heroes while I was just learning how to play chess in the early fifties (so now, you can guess how old I am) was the late David Bronstein who passed away a few days ago at the age of 82. My late father had the good habit of cutting clippings in the newspaper featuring games of top players like Mikhael Botvinnik , Vassily Smyslov, Bronstein and Paul Keres, the leading players at that time.

According to various articles culled from the Internet and Chessbase, David Bronstein was born on Feb. 19, 1924 in Bila Tserkva in Ukraine. He defeated Boleslavsky in the candidates’ tournament in Budapest in 1950 to become the challenger for the world title against reigning champion Mikhael Botvinnik. He later became close with Boleslavsky and married his daughter Tatiana, who was at his deathbed when he died.

He was described as a creative genius and master of tactics by chess lovers all over the world and the story goes that he had been forced to lose the match to Botvinnik.

Bronstein came close to actually taking it from Botvinnik, when he was leading by a full point up to game 22. He lost game 23 and then drew 24 and the match, which left the incumbent world champion Mikhail Botvinnik in place. Under Fide rules, in case of a tie the champion retains his title.

He himself wrote in his book The Sorcerer's Apprentice: "I have been asked many, many times if I was obliged to lose the 23rd game and if there was a conspiracy against me to stop me from taking Botvinnik's title. A lot of nonsense has been written about this. The only thing that I am prepared to say about all this controversy is that I was subjected to strong psychological pressure from various origins and it was entirely up to me to yield to that pressure or not."

In the same book, he said, “I had reasons not to become the World Champion, as in those times such a title meant that you were entering an official world of chess bureaucracy with many formal obligations. Such a position is not compatible with my character.”

Bronstein and Keres were, together with Viktor Korchnoi and Bent Larsen, the strongest players not to have won the world championship title.

When Viktor Korchnoi defected from the Soviet Union in 1976, Bronstein was one of the few Soviet grandmasters who refused to sign a letter denouncing him. As punishment, his stipend, a salary paid to all chess grandmasters in the USSR, was suspended, and Bronstein was banned from competing in national tournaments.

He was an early advocate of speeding up competitive chess, and introduced a digital chess clock that adds a small time increment for each move made, a variant of which has become very popular in recent years.

He has also denied rumors that he was related to the revolutionary Leon Trotsky, whose real name was Bronstein, in his book the The Sorcerer`s Apprentice.

Cepca news. Just like the Asean Summit, our Grand Finals, Christmas party and induction of new officers and members led by president-elect Emmanuel “Mat” Matuco was moved from its original schedule of Dec. 10 to 17 due to the typhoon, which after all was just a shower here in the city. Inducting officer is Vice Mayor Michael Rama. Venue is still at Stella Maris near the Supercat terminal in pier 4 and starts at 1pm.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Sad fact: machines are superior

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THROUGH movies such as the highly successful Terminator series, Independence Day, I Robot and other man vs. machine films, man has always been fascinated by the possibility of machines having artificial intelligence.

Programmers have selected chess as the first step towards intelligent machines because of the enormous amount of calculation involved and the popularity of the games as programs can be sold at a big profit to a very large market.

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Just as I predicted, Deep Fritz 10 won over current world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia by a score of 4-2 last November 25- December 5th in the National Art Gallery in Bonn, Germany. The computer won two games including the last in the six-game match. The sponsor was RAG AG, one of Europe`s largest energy companies. Prize fund was one million euros with Kramnik guaranteed half of that and the full amount if he wins.

This is the fourth time that Deep Fritz has played one-on-one against a human as previously it played against Robert Hubner, Gary Kasparov and Kramnik and all games were drawn.

In this match Kramnik faced a new and better version. According to chessbase, “In 2002 the Bahrain version of Deep Fritz (against Kramnik) was able to calculate “just” 2.7 million positions per second…. Deep Fritz 10 now runs at eight million positions per second, which allows the program to search to a depth of 17 to 18 ply in the middlegame…This means that Fritz is looking nine full moves ahead for both sides.”

In Bahrain, Kramnik took an early lead 3-1 but the computer equalized in the end and the series ended a 4-4 draw. Kramnik claimed fatigue in the second half of the match.

The Man vs Machine mania all started with a big splash in 1989 when Garry Kasparov was paired against a program named Deep Thought. Deep Thought was able to calculate ¾ million positions per second per dual-processor. In comparison, the number given for Garry was three positions per second.”

Kasparov easily won the match and the pride of the human race by a score of 2-0 and later commented “I think the computer needs to be taught something – how to resign!"

In 1994 Intel sponsored a round robin blitz tournament featuring 17 GMs and a computer running Fritz 3, played in Munich, Germany. The hardware was an Olivetti with the latest Intel processor, a Pentium 90 MHz. Fritz beat GMs Chernin, Anand, Cvitan, Gelfand, Wojtkiewicz, Hjartarson, Kasparov, Kramnik and Short to finish equal first with Kasparov. In the playoff Kasparov demolished the machine 4:1.

In 1995 Kasparov played 2 matches against computers, the first against Genius, which he beat 1.5-0.5 in Cologne and the second in London vs. Fritz 4, also by a score of 1.5-0.5.

In 1996, Kasparov again defeated a new program named Deep Blue 4-2 and later commented, “Although I did see some signs of intelligence, it's a weird kind, an inefficient, inflexible kind that makes me think I have a few years left.”

His prophecy turned out to be wrong a year later when he lost the rematch to Deep Blue 3.5-2.5. “What we have is the world's best chess player vs. Garry Kasparov.”– IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, when asked why the match got so much attention. IBM also dismissed any rematches, although this was one of the highly publicized events of the year and IBM got a lot of mileage.

So, what we have right now is a sad but true fact that the Machine is now superior to Man in a battle that requires a high amount
of intelligence and memory.

Cepca News. Mandy Baria has announced that the chess Grand Finals of the club will be this Sunday Dec. 10 at Stella Maris starting at 1pm. There will also be a side event among non-qualifiers.

Emmanuel “Mat” Matuco, together with the other officers, will be inducted 13th president of the Cebu Executives and
Professionals Chess Association Inc. To be inducted also are the new members of the club in 2006. Inducting officer is Vice Mayor Michael Rama, a known chess buff.

The Club`s Christmas party follows after the tournament.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Kiddies tournaments in barangays

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE top three leaders on chess in Cebu namely NM Bombi Aznar, Boojie Lim as represented by Marvin Ruelan and The Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) had a fruitful meeting last Monday at Handuraw Café in Mabolo to promote chess development of children thru the holding of tournaments on the barangay level.

It was agreed that there will be a series of tournaments in the barangay to determine their representatives to the Inter-barangay grand team tournament which will be held on January 13 and 14 as part of the Sinulog celebration.

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Members of Cepca will be responsible for the holding of tournaments on the barangay level in coordination with the Barangay captain and other leaders. The tournament is open to those born in 1992 and later and 6 players will form the barangay team, 4 regulars and 2 alternates.

It is expected that a continuing series of chess tournaments and clinics will be in place next year to further develop our young talents.

The Philippines has been left behind not only in Asia but even in the Asean region in the development of chess. There is a big gap between the current top players and the new ones. We need to train and identify new talents. The last Southeast Asian games showed that Vietnam is now way ahead of the Philippines and in fact won all the gold medals at stake. It was a shameful performance and a painful wake-up call.

I am calling the attention of barangay leaders to get in touch with me at 233-8678 if they are interested to hold a kiddies tournament in their respective territories.

Cepca news. The last of the monthly tournaments was held last Nov. 19 at the Bibo Chess club and the qualifier is Nikki Estenor. He will join the following monthly winners for the Grand Finals which will be held at Stella Maris on December 10: Dante Arguelles (January), Jun Olis (February), Maggi Dionson (March), Percival Fiel (April), Jongjong Melendez (May) , Miguel Banebane( June), Fabio Abucejo (July), Joe Atillo (August) , Mandy Baria (September), Ramon Pa-ngilinan (October) and Bombi Aznar (honorary member and seeded to the finals).

Mandy Baria has also decided that our Christmas party will coincide with the grand finals on Dec. 10. For those who did not qualify to the finals, there will be a side tournament to be participated also by selected kiddie players.

Dec. 10 will also be a triple celebration as the new officers and members of the board of trustees for 2007 will be inducted into office. The new officers are Emanuel Matuco-president, Dante Arguelles –vice president, internal, Percival Fiel-vice president , external, Jun Olis –secretary/ pro, Jeffrey Solis –treasurer, Felix Balbona- auditor, Mandy Baria-chairman, tournaments, Boy Pestano-membership and Norway Lara- ways and means.

New members will also be inducted, namely Solon Bagalihog, Jun Bongo, Caesar Fernandez, Benjamin Sanchez, Manuel Abucay, Selencio Felijan, Miguel Banebane, Rey Reroma, Ronald Hamac and Glenn Dakay.

We would like to congratulate Miguel Banebane for posting the highest total score in the monthly tournaments for 2006 and the board of trustees has decided to award him a special prize—a Timex executive wrist watch.

Also to be given special prizes are the following members: Dante Arguelles, Joe Atillo, Felix Balbona, Mandy Baria, Rene Casia, Maggi Dionson, Percival Fiel, Junard Labadan and Manuel Abucay. Together with Banebane, they are the top 10 performers this year.