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.

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