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.

Pinoy Votes: Sun.Star Election 2007

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.

No comments: