Friday, March 30, 2007

Chess-playing billionaires

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

THREE weeks ago sent me a list of the richest men in the world and the number 1 for the past 10 years now is Microsoft founder and chairman William “Bill” Gates (born 1955) with a net worth of over $56 billion.

He is the most successful entrepreneur in the personal computer revolution and his riches are primarily due to his intelligence and foresight. For the past several years now he has pursued a number of philanthropic donations, at latest count $30 billion, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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He is a well-known chess player with a rating of about 1578, at one time reaching a peak of 1690, and his foundation has sometimes donated to various chess organizations.

Another chess-playing billionaire is Carl Icahn (born 1936) who is known as a corporate raider after his hostile takeover of TWA in 1985. He is the chairman of Imclone, American Real Estate partners with investments in Time Warner and a host of major companies including casino interests in Las Vegas. He is a self made man with a fortune estimated at $9 billion.

Carl once said that “chess is one thing I am really good at, I could have been a master or something, but there was no future in it.” His predatory skills learned in chess have made him the king of corporate checkmates and the most feared takeover specialist in the world.

A chess playing billionaire in the world of finance is George Soros who is a financial speculator and stock investor. He was well known for “breaking the Bank of England” on Black Wednesday in 1992, earning a billion dollars on “one day’s work.” His wealth has been estimated at $8.5 billion.

His currency speculation has made emerging nations become “open societies” that are more tolerant of new ideas and different modes of thinking and behavior.

Another high-profile chess player in the 60s and 70s was the late Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975) famous for his wealth and love affairs. He married Jacqueline Kennedy (widow of American President John Kennedy) that was the talk of the world for quite sometime. He made his billions by becoming the most successful shipping magnate in the 20th century.

He had a notorious love affair with opera diva Maria Callas despite the fact that they were both married and ended only when he married Jacqueline. He is one of the few persons in the world to die of myasthenia gravis, a rare disease.

Another chess-playing billionaire is Barron Hilton (born 1927), an American heir and Chairman of the Hilton Hotel chain. His younger brother “Nicky” was once married to Elizabeth Taylor (1950) and has a younger half sister whose mother is Zsa Zsa Gabor. His Wealth is estimated at $1 billion.

He is listed as one of the “Chairmen of the Chessboard” in an article written by Robert Levy,Dun`s review,1975.

When Barron`s father, Conrad, died in 1979, he left most of his wealth to the Roman Catholic Church and almost none to his children. Barron contested the will claiming he was partly responsible for the family wealth and won.

Terence Chapman is a London businessman whose company specializes in IT and software products for financial institutions. He is a very good player by any standard. A fellow chessplayer asked him the question: “What odds would you need to beat Garry Kasparov?” “Two pawns,” was Terence’s answer.

The Garry Kasparov vs. Terence Chapman Charity Challenge actually took place on April 21-22, 2001 with the latter making a substantial donation to the Kasparov Chess Academy. Kasparov only had 6 pawns and 60 minutes while chapman had 8 and 90 minutes.

The result was an interesting 2/12 -1/12 victory by Kasparov.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Blindfold play and Melody Amber

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE Café de la Regence in Paris was the favorite playing ground of chess players from all over Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. On one table was a brass plaque saying “Napoleon Bonaparte used to play at this table.”

Melody Amber is a one-of-a-kind tournament in the chess calendar. It is usually played during March at the fabulous Fairmont Hotel in Monaco.

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Only the world’s top players are invited by its sponsor Dutch billionaire and champion of postal chess Joop von Oosterom. It is named after his daughter Melody Amber that started in 1992. Total prize fund for this year is $288,000 and the players are treated like Royalty.

Format is blind chess and rapid play. In each round, players play both rapid and blindfold chess against the same opponent.

For the uninitiated, one would think that blind chess is difficult. For grandmasters it is a piece of cake and my personal observation is that anybody interested enough can play blind chess if practiced constantly with the proper technique.

Significant and mind boggling simul blind chess exhibitions in the past have been done by Morphy, Pillsbury, Alekhine, Flesch, Reti and Koltanowski. The most impressive is the 47 boards feat by the legendary Miguel Najdorf with the result of 39 wins, 5 draws and 3 losses.

Blindfold chess is useful in increasing one’s playing strength but is deemed a health hazard if carried to extremes. The mental problems of Morphy and Pillsbury were due to, they say, too many bindfold simul chess exhibitions.

In Monte Carlo, the players play with computer laptops far from the blindfold play of yesteryears where play was full of drama as the players had their backs opposite the board or with a scarf covering their eyes.

After 4 rounds, Kramnik leads the pack with a combined score of 6.5 points followed by Aronian half a point behind. Tournament favorite Anand could only manage 4 points.


1. Kramnik, Vladimir RUS 2766 4.0 2. Svidler, Peter RUS 2728 3.0 3. Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR 2750 3.0 4. Gelfand, Boris ISR 2733 2.5 5. Aronian, Levon ARM 2744 2.5 6. Leko, Peter HUN 2749 2.0 7. Morozevich, Alexander RUS 2741 1.5 8. Radjabov, Teimour AZE 2729 1.5 9. Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2690 1.0 10. Anand, Viswanathan IND 2779 1.0 11. Van Wely, Loek NED 2683 1.0 12. Vallejo Pons, Francisco ESP 2679 1.0.


1. Aronian, Levon ARM 2744 3.5 2. Anand, Viswanathan IND 2779 3.0 3. Morozevich, Alexander RUS 2741 2.5 4. Kramnik, Vladimir RUS 2766 2.5 5. Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR 2750 2.5 6. Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2690 2.0 7. Leko, Peter HUN 2749 2.0 8. Svidler, Peter RUS 2728 2.0 9. Gelfand, Boris ISR 2733 1.5 10. Vallejo Pons, Francisco ESP 2679 1.0 11. Van Wely, Loek NED 2683 1.0 12. Radjabov, Teimour AZE 2729 0.5.

Cepca news. The club’s monthly tournament for March has just concluded and the winners are: 1st, William Retanal; 2nd, Maggi Dionson; and tied for 3rd to 5th are Jade Garzon, Mandy Baria and Nick Cuizon.
We have a new member, Alain Montenegro, an electrical and communication engineer.

Itaas memorial. Come and play at The 3rd Coleto Itaas memorial tournament to be contested this weekend March 24 and 25 at the Bibo Chess Club starting at 1pm. Format is a 7 round Swiss and the top 8 players will play a two-game knockout match to determine the champion.

Total prize money of this tourney is P8,000. Registration fee is P100 with a defaulting fee of P50.

Einstein Puzzle. Dr. Arthur Padilla, a US-based anesthesiologist in Iowa, follows my column regularly in the Internet and together with his sister, Imelda, are fond of logic puzzles. He got the correct answer to Einstein`s puzzle although this acknowledgement is delayed due to lack of space in my previous column.

Imelda, a Summa graduate of the University of San Carlos, is based in Alabama where she is chief financial officer of a window company.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chess-playing soldiers

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE Café de la Regence in Paris was the favorite playing ground of chess players from all over Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. On one table was a brass plaque saying “Napoleon Bonaparte used to play at this table.”

Although the would-be emperor was a first class military tactician and did love the game, he was a pretty rotten chess player.

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Those who have played him says that that he was too impatient with little defensive skills and given to impetuous attacks. He was also a bad-tempered loser that is why his generals would let him win.

Another chess player is the unfortunate British Lt. Colonel Rall. The story goes that General Howe has just dealt Washington his worst defeat capturing 3,000 prisoners and was pushing down towards New Jersey with designs on Philadelphia.

Washington, still retreating with a constantly diminishing force, suddenly turned upon Lt .Colonel Rall`s advanced corps of Hessians on Dec. 26, 1776 at Trenton and captured 1,000 prisoners. This was a major turning point in the American war of independence.

What is known much later was that an Englishman who lived nearby sent his son with a note to Lt. Colonel Rall that Washington was preparing to attack him. Rall was busy playing chess, took the note and placed it in his pocket, unopened.

Next day Washington attacked and won a great victory. Colonel Rall was killed and the note discovered in his pocket. Thus it can be said that the game of chess helped the Americans become independent!

They say that war is a chess game played by gentlemen officers with human pieces. Robert Lee was the most celebrated General of the confederate forces during the American Civil War. He had his own traveling chess set and was an enthusiastic player.

Another soldier who always carried a pocket chess set was America`s Gen. John “Black Jack “Pershing. He served in the Spanish-American war, Philippine war of independence (“insurrection,” according to the Americans), The Mexican Expedition and was the overall Commander of American forces in World War I. Following the war, he served as Army Chief of Staff.

Another famous general who played chess though rather poorly was the hero of El Alamein, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. He gave up playing chess on being beaten by his nine-year-old son.

Ferdinand Marcos was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II and was mainly responsible, together with Campomanes, for the Karpov vs. Korchnoi world championship match in Baguio in 1978. The last time Bobby Fischer was seen playing in public was against Marcos on Philippine TV in 1973.

My favorite chess playing soldier is a very good friend and one of the founders of Cepca , Gerry Tomakin. Though he is now 88 years old, he still plays like a tiger in chess. He was a Philippine scout during the war, was captured by the Japanese, and escaped from the concentration camp. He walked all the way to Pampanga from Bataan for one week surviving on the generosity of complete strangers.

Anand wins. Here is the final standings after 14 rounds of the Morelia/Linares Super GM tournament: 1. Anand, Viswanathan IND 2779 8.5; 2. Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2690 7.5; 3. Morozevich, Alexander RUS 2741 7.5; 4. Aronian, Levon ARM 2744 7.0; 5. Svidler, Peter RUS 2728 7.0; 6. Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR 2750 6.5; 7. Topalov, Veselin BUL 2783 6.0; 8. Leko, Peter HUN 2749 6.0.

This tournament will be remembered by the sterling performance of Morozevich who rallied with 4 wins and 3 draws in the last 7 rounds.

Cepca news. Mandy Baria has announced that the March edition tournament of the club will be this Sunday March 18 at the Bibo chess club starting at 1 p.m.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Belonging to the 2 percent

By Frank "Boy” Pestaño

EINSTEIN'S puzzle featured last week Drew 23 correct answers, with feed back from the States, and a few from outside Cebu, including a wrong answer from Afghanistan. According to statistics 98% of the population can’t solve the puzzle.

The answer is the German. If you want a copy of the puzzle, please send an email to my address.

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Here are those who answered correctly:

George Ruiz is a general surgeon connected with Ruiz Derma clinic and is 53 years old. He is a chess player and played before against NM Ben Macapaz and Rico Mascariñas in simul games. He also used to play with chess computers and in fact owns two of these portable units.

Marion Jaimee Uy works in a call center and is 30 years old. Her boyfriend saw the puzzle and asked her to solve it.

Jeremy Elape is only 19 years old and his favorite pastimes are watching TV and solving puzzles. His nickname is “Ippo.”

Khan Francis C. Guieb, 28, is a CPA-lawyer from Malabuyoc, Cebu and took up Accountancy at the University of San Carlos and Law at San Beda College. He is married to a beautiful lady, Connie Navarro.

Homer Jr. Busig will be turning 30 this June 6 and works as operations control assistant at USDI, pier area.

Xavier Veloso is a civil engineer from Cebu.

Jerome Gaerlan is a doctor specializing in Radiology. He is married with three kids and resides and practices in San Fernando, La Union. He used to be a varsity player in chess and in fact won a UAAP gold medal on board five in 1980.

Stephanie Taylor is a 19-year-old computer engineering student at the University of San Carlos.

Adrain Villarin is a 16-year-old student at the USC in Talamban majoring in Mathematics.

Wilson Ng is a businessman who loves technology and has written a computer column in Sun.Star Cebu for 12 years now. He
dabbles in mental games for relaxation and was an avid chess player during his high school days.

Niña Sanchez is a second year student at Cebu City National Science high and thus the youngest of the whole group.

Anne Amores is also a 16-year-old student taking up ECE at the USC. She is from Lapu-Lapu City and is also into music and the arts.

Joel Bangalan was a former faculty member of DLSU and UP, teaching Math and Finance. He is now EVP of Present Value Asia located at Keppel, Cebu Business Park where his principal task is to develop training modules in Finance.

Jerry Maratas is a civil/structural engineer who works as an instructor at the University of San Carlos and Besavilla Engineering Review Center. He is also into private practice in structural design. He is an avid chess player and has expressed interest in joining Cepca.

Gregor Anthony Marcaida is from Manila and is in Cebu on business. He should be in Manila by now and has asked a friend to send him a copy of this column.

May Christina Bugash solved the puzzle with an impressive set of diagrams.

Tom John Pineda is 34 years old and an architect. He wrote me a very nice letter encouraging me about my columns and to keep it up. Thanks Tom.

Tony Juarez is 30 years old, a Cebuano, and intrigued by the title of my column.

Others who answered the puzzle correctly were Dr.Mario Amores of Lapu-Lapu City, Jigs Ty of Park and Go Bakeshop, Banilad, Mandaue City, Glenn Chua of Bank of the Philippine Islands, Subangdaku branch, Mandaue City and Janice Monterola.

Finally the only person who sent a solution via text messaging is Lun Chee Li who loves to play chess and badminton. He is a graduate of Cebu Eastern College and USJ-R with a degree in BSEE .He still remembers my cell number when I used to display it in my columns before.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Einstein’s puzzle, anyone?

By Frank Pestaño

THE first half of the Morelia/linares 2007 is now history and the tournament will resume on March 2 in Linares ,Spain. This has been an incredible tournament with a lot of surprises that shows that at the very top only a thin line separates the players. Except for an absent Vladimir Kramnik, the current World Champion, who is probably on a honeymoon as he just got married , the top players are here.

After a forgettable showing at Corus 2007 last month, the lowest rated player and the youngest at only 15 ,Magnus Carlsen is tied at first with Anand. Along the way, he defeated Ivanchuk, Topalov and Morozevich, losing only to Anand for a midway score of 4.5 pts.

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Anand on the other hand slammed down Carlsen, the hard to beat Peter Leko and the luckless and tail ender Morozevich.

Peter Svidler showed why he is known as “ the wall “ by not losing a game and not winning either .with 7 straight draws.
Levon Aronian, the winner here last year ties Svidler with a fine win over Anand in round 5 and drawing his remaining games except a loss to Ivanchuk.

Topalov, the pre-tournament favorite has surprisingly lost 2 games- to Carlsen and the resurgent Ivanchuk in a tie with the ever solid Leko who lost only one game and drawing the rest.

I have always believed that Ivanchuk when he is on the groove can beat anybody and he is showing it here with a solid performance for solo 3rd.

Round 7 standings: 1. Anand, Viswanathan g IND 2779 4.5; 2. Carlsen, Magnus g NOR 2690 4.5; 3. Ivanchuk, Vassily g UKR 2750 4.0; 4. Aronian, Levon g ARM 2744 3.5; 5. Svidler, Peter g RUS 2728 3.5; 6. Leko, Peter g HUN 2749 3.0; 7. Topalov, Veselin g BUL 2783 3.0; 8. Morozevich, Alexander g RUS 2741 2.0

About 3 years ago I featured in my column a puzzle written by Albert Einstein that pulled in an incredible response of over 40 correct answers aside from a lot of feedback. Some of the answers came from foreign lands and outside Cebu. Here is it again as I`m sure a lot of my readers missed it last time.

EINSTEIN’S PUZZLE. Below is a quiz written by Einstein. He said 98 percent of the people in the world cant’ solve the quiz. Are you among the other two percent? The question is “Who plays chess?”

Facts: 1) There are five houses in five different colors. 2) In each house lives a person of different nationality. 3) No two owners play the same game, smoke the same cigar, or drink the same beverage.

Further details: 1) The Brit lives in a red house. 2) The Swede plays Scrabble. 3) The Dane drinks tea. 4) The green house is immediately left of the White house. 5) The owner of the green house drinks coffee. 6) The person who smokes Pall Mall plays dominoes. 7) The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill. 8) The man living in the center house drinks milk. 9) The Norwegian lives in the first house to the left. 10) The man who smokes Blend lives next to the man that plays Checkers. 11) The man who plays Bridge lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill. 12) The owner who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
13) The German smokes Prince. 14) The Norwegian lives next to the blue house. 15) The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water.

All who answered correctly will be acknowledged in my next column.

Cepca news. From time to time This column gets inquiries from chess lovers on how to become a member of the club.The latest is Martin Lumapas, a nursing graduate, who was a gold medalist in CVRIAA tournaments in 2000-2002 and a silver medalist in the Palarong Pambansa in Naga City. Entrance fee is P500 and annual dues of P200 are required. P100 of the annual dues goes to the National Chess Federation of the Philippines. Welcome to new members Edgar Moncal and Nick Cuizon.

P.S. My internet connection was out for a while but an angel named Eliza Alcover of Globelines taught me how to fix it by phone from Manila. Thanks!