Friday, April 27, 2007

Pride and sorrow of chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

KNOWN as the “Pride and Sorrow of chess,” Paul Morphy was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 22, 1837 to a well-to-do family. His father, Alonzo, was a lawyer, state congressman, state attorney general and State Supreme Court justice while his mother belonged to a prominent French Creole family.

Both his father and uncle were avid chess players. According to his uncle, Ernest, known as the “Chess King of New Orleans”, nobody taught Paul how to play and recounted how little Paul, after watching a game between him and his father, told him afterwards that he should have won the game. They were both surprised as they did not known that little Paul knew the moves.

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After that, his family encouraged him to play and at the age of nine, was considered one of the best players in the city. A General Winfield Scott once visited the city in 1846 and let it be known that he would only play with the best player in town. When Morphy was introduced to him he was at first offended thinking that he was being made fun of but was assured that the boy was a prodigy. Morphy beat him easily not once but twice.

In 1850, the strong professional player Johann Lowental met the same fate and lost three times.

Paul abandoned chess for a while and concentrated on becoming a lawyer. At the tender age of 19, he had earned his law degree and admission to the bar. but was too young to practice. He is said to have memorized the entire civil code of Louisiana!

With time to spare, he participated in the First American Chess Congress, winning it handily and was now hailed as the chess champion of the United States.

Still too young to practice law, Morphy decided to go to Europe. Arriving in June of 1858, he quickly crushed all the players there, including England`s very best, the Rev. John Owen.

Finding no more worthwhile opponents, he proceeded to France and visited Café de la Regence, where he soundly defeated the resident professional, Daniel Harrwitz. Despite suffering from intestinal flu, he insisted on going ahead with his match against Adolf Anderssen, the European champion at that time, who came all the way from Germany just to play the now famous American chess wonder.

Despite his illness Morphy won easily, grabbing seven wins against two losses and two draws. Andessen now attested that in his opinion, Morphy was the strongest to ever play the game.

He went home and returned to England in the spring of 1859, where he was sought after by the best people including Queen Victoria. His chess supremacy was now accepted and he played mostly exhibition games including blindfold games.

Nobody wanted to play against him despite giving odds such as a pawn and move and he decided to go home where major cities received him with popular acclaim.He was now the most popular person in America where manufacturers sought his endorsements, newspapers asked him to write chess columns and he thrilled the public with exhibitions. They say that his mental problem later was a result of too many blindfold exhibitions.

He wanted to start now his law career but Civil war broke out. Opposed to secession, he went to Paris to avoid the war .His principled stance against the war was unpopular in the South and he was unable to practice law. He also refused to play chess again saying that chess is not a serious occupation.

His final years were tragic. He spent his remaining years wandering around in the city, talking to people no one could see and feeling persecuted.

Morphy was found dead in his bathtub on July 10, 1884 at a still young age of only 47.

“Morphy, I think everyone agrees, was probably the greatest of them all”—Bobby Fischer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tkachiev, Kosintseva grab European crowns

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

MORE than 600 players from 43 nations played in the recently concluded 8th European Championship in the chess city of Dresden ,Germany from April 2-15,2007.

There was actually an 8 player tie after 11 rounds in the men`s section Vladislav Tkachiev won the tie-breaks beating Ivan Cheparinov (1.5-0.5) Dmitry Jakovenko (1.5-0.5) and Emil Sutovsky 2-0 in the final. Sutovsky reached the final by beating Konstantin Sakaev (1.5-0.5) and Dusko Pavasovic (1.5-0.5).

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Tatiana Kosintseva snatched the Women`s event by an amazing 2 full points over sister Nadezhda , Antoanetta Stefanova and Hungary based Vietnamese Hoang Thanh Trang with 10 points out of 11 for a performance rating of 2774.

Here are the top 9th –16th placers: 9. Gustafsson Jan 2588 GER 7½ 10. Tomashevsky Evgeny 2641 RUS 7½.11 Almasi Zoltan 2675 HUN 7½ 12. Malakhov Vladimir 2679 RUS 7½ 13. Galkin Alexander 2590 RUS 7½ 14. Laznicka Viktor 2608 CZE 7½ 15. Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter 2693 ROM 7½ 16. Nevednichy Vladislav 2528 ROM 7½ .

The top 10 in the Women`s section: 1. Tatiana Kosintseva RUS 10 2. Antoanetta Stefanova BUL 8 3. Nadezhda Kosintseva RUS 8 4. Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 8 5. Ekaterina Atalik TUR 7.5 6. Iweta Rajlich POL 7.5 7. Ekaterina Korbut RUS 7.5 8. Monica Socko POL 7.5 9. Nino Khurtsidge GEO 7.5 10. Irina Zakurdjaeva RUS 7.5.

Kasparov arrested. Garry Kasparov, considered to be the greatest chess player of all time was arrested in Moscow just recently for attending a political rally but released after a detention of 10 hours in jail.

Garry, who is very critical of the Putin leadership and an advocate of human rights heads the United Civil Front Organization based in Moscow.

More than 9,000 troops had been mobilized by the government to stop the rally from going ahead.

The planned march came as Russia warned “it wanted the extradition of London-based exile Boris Berezovsky, who told the UK's Guardian newspaper he was plotting "revolution" to overthrow Vladimir Putin,” according to BBC News reports.

The strong willed former champion has consistently warned his supporters that Putin has rolled back democracy.

Philippine Open 2007. More than 50 players, including 13 grandmasters from 8 countries are competing in this 9 round Swiss tournament at Subic organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines under the leadership of its president, Prospero Pichay.

Chess players never had it so good until now in this country as this is the 4th major tournament organized by the honorable congressman from Surigao. Total prize money in this open is $40,000 with $6,000 to the champion followed by $5,000, $4,000, $3,000, $2,000, etc.

As expected, the Chinese completely dominated the tournament. They won the 1st 5 places and had 7 players in the top 10. Here are the final results after 9 rounds: 1-3 .Wang Yue CHN 2656, Zhang Zhong CHN 2621, Ni Hua CHN 2654, 7.0 pts 4-5. Wang Hao CHN 2838, Zhao Jun CHN 2554, 6.5 pts. 6-8. Ghaemmaghani Ehsan 2599 IRI, Megaranto Susanto INA 2530, Li Shilong CHN 2552 6.0 9-10. Li Chao CHN 2525, Eugene Torre PHI 2532, 5.5 pts.

Previous “majors” were the Cantilan Open in Surigao, Sinulog Open in Cebu and the President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo Cup, also international.

Cepca news. We had a successful monthly ( April) tournament last Sunday at Stella Maris. The winners were 1st- Tony Cabibil, 2nd–Joe Atillo and 3rd–Mike Banebane. Juniors champion was Cy Balbanera followed by Nikki Sabiquil and Yuri Cauba. Kiddies went to Kyle Sevillano with John Francis Balbona at 2nd and Patrick Osorno at 3rd.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chess-savvy football players


THERE is no doubt that soccer is the most popular game in the world and the World Cup in Germany this June and July is the most awaited event of the year. With chess being popular, it is no surprising that there are well-known soccer players who also excel in chess.

Simen Agdestein. Called the Striker Grandmaster, he was, at one time, the world No.16 in chess, the first Norwegian GM and champion at 15, he shared the first place in the 1986 Juniors, ahead of Bareev, Piket and Anand. He was a member of Norway’s national soccer team, when Norway was still very good but stopped playing because of a torn knee.

He is in the limelight again as the trainer of chess wonder boy Magnus Carlsen, who recently qualified for the candidates’ matches.

He currently works at an academy in Norway, teaching chess and football.

GRAND OLD MAN. Vlastimil Jansa. He is a GM from Chechoslovakia, who was a national champion in 1964, 1974 and 1984. He was also a member of the national soccer team in the 1960s and the author of the popular book “Dynamics of Chess Strategy,” a book that explores the stages of play between the planning and early middle game.

He is the grand old man of Czech chess nowadays as Hort, Kavalek, Pachman, Filip and Smekjal are mostly inactive.

Bela Soos. Although his highest rating in the 1960s was only in the 2400s, he was considered a strong master and was also a national soccer player of Romania.

Charles Wreford Brown. He is credited for inventing the word soccer as an abbreviation for “association football.” He was a captain of the English football team in the 1890s and he also played cricket. He was a keen chess player, who took part in the 1933 British Open.

Osie Ardiles. He was a midfielder and a member of the Argentinian team that won the World Cup in 1978. A competitive and skilled player, he was a cult hero in England when he played for the Tottenham Hotspurs.

He was sent home to Argentina as a result of the Falkland War, thus missing most of the 1982-83 season.

He is more famous for his career in football management, being the manager of Blackburn Rovers, Swindon Town, Newcastle United, West Bromwich, Guadalajara (Mexico) and Racing Club in Argentina.
He is also responsible for the creating the “diamond formation,” the 4-4-2 style with left-sided and right-sided attacking and defensive midfielders. He is also a skilled chess player using his chess analytical skill in football.

RUELAN MEMORIAL. Eden Diano defeated Aller Somosot in the seventh and final round to snare first place with 6.5 points in this tournament held in memory of the late Marcelo “Loloy” Ruelan, a Cebu Sports Hall of Famer. The tournament was held last weekend at Tisoy’s Sports Restobar along A.S. Fortuna St. in Mandaue.

Second was C. Moreno with six points. Tied for third to eighth places were E. Alesna, C. Cabuenos, A. Salientes, N. Cuizon, F. Abugho and D. Arcilla, all with five points.

Sponsors of this yearly affair are Bombi Aznar, Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca), Mayor Rosemarie Suezo of Tuburan, Manuel Fernandez, Gal Gallarde and Ely Berciles.

CEPCA APRIL TOURNAMENT. This month’s tournament will also be held at Tisoy Sports Restaurant on Easter Sunday at 2 p.m. For the first time, this will be a blitz handicapping contest with time controls at five, eight and 15 minutes for class A,B and C, respectively. Format is seven-round Swiss System.

I am inviting all members to participate as the prizes have been increased and we will have a short meeting before the tournament. Also kindly update your yearly dues.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Chess as a (Royal) game

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I WAS browsing over a book, The Complete Chess Addict , a collaboration by Mike Fox and Richard James, during the Holy Week and I was astounded at the amount of information it contains, including games by famous people such as the legendary Aladdin, Humprey Bogart, Che Guevara, Leo Tolstoy, Karl Marx and many others.

It also has a tremendous amount of trivia which I would like to share with you, readers.

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Shah Jehan (1627-1658) is known for his massive construction projects such as the Red Fort, and Jama Masjid, both in Delhi.

But the most famous of them all is the Taj Mahal, a massive white marble mausoleum constructed for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, along the bank of the Jamuna River in Agra.

It took nearly a decade to build.

Shah Jehan was an avid chess player and sometimes played with living pieces, reputedly 32 virgins.

According to some sources the winner took the virgins as prize. If it happens here most of the members of Cepca will fight tooth and nails with each other just to play.

Another Royal who also played with living pieces, this time palace maids, was the Emperor Ming Huan (712-56) against his favorite concubine Yang Kwei-fei.

You might be interested to know that the great Akbar, Shah Jehan‘s grand father, who developed the Mughal Empire played chess on a giant board ( it still exist at Fatehfur Sikri) with elephants as pieces and horses as pawns.

However, all these are tame compared to King Muley Hassan of Morocco.

His contribution was to use prisoners from the Royal dungeon as pieces. It would be on prime time TV today, beating even Manny Pacquiao fights as the captured pieces are beheaded right on the spot. What made the whole thing even bloodier was that according to legend his favorite opening was the Danish Gambit.

An amusing anecdote was the game between Henry IV, the first of the Bourbons and Francois de Bassompierre, Marshall of France.

Francois shocked the court, himself and the King by breaking wind involuntarily while making a knight move.

With his future hanging in shreds, he still had the presence of mind to say “Your Majesty, my knight will not move if he does not hear the trumpet call.”

The King, it is recorded, made a wintry smile.

King Canute, the first King of all England (the one who commanded the tide to stop), was a sore loser.

He was playing Earl Ulf of Denmark when he blundered, losing a knight. Imperiously he tried to take the move back, but Ulf did not agree.

After a vigorous debate, the Earl knocked the board down. It was literally a fatal chess blunder as the King had him slain for arguing.

The award for best defensive player goes to Prince Valdemar of Denmark. The story goes that he was playing chess with King Knut V when they were attacked by a rival King.

Knut was killed but Valdemar escaped by employing a rarely used side defense— he used the chessboard as shield.
Another homicide in chess happened to Charlemagne‘s nephew, Berthelot.

Renaud de Montauban, a French knight fed up with losing, chose as his particular blunt instrument, a golden chessboard.
He smote Berthelot “so hard that he clubbed him to the teeth,” says Caxton.

King Conchubair of Ireland seems to have his priorities right.

According to Irish legend, he divided his day into three— one third for drinking, one third for fighting and one third to play chess.

CEPCA NEWS. According to Mat Matuco, president of the club, our April tournament will be on Sunday at Stella Maris starting at 1p.m.

The Kiddies and Junior tournaments will also be held simultaneously at the same venue.