Friday, July 27, 2007

Meet your Pinoy grandmasters

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

A CHESS grandmaster is as rare as a five-carat diamond. Out of the estimated 600 million players worldwide, only 946, at the latest count, are grandmasters. Five of them are Filipinos. Six if you consider the late Rosendo Balinas.

Eugene Torre has the distinction of being the first grandmaster from Asia, the world’s most populous region.

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He became GM in 1974 when he won the silver medal in board one, behind future champion Anatoly Karpov, in the Nice Olympiad, France. Bombi Aznar was the team manager or captain then.

Eugene has played in the Olympiad for 19 consecutive times and is on his way to beating the record of 20 appearances by Lajos Portisch of Hungary.

In 1982 he qualified for the prestigious candidates matches. Incidentally, he was our guest in 1990 and I played several games with him at the then Cebu Plaza.

Tall and good-looking, he was voted one of the 10 sexiest celebrities in the 70’s and even starred in a movie Basta Isipin mo Mahal Kita, opposite Vilma Santos, who was once romantically linked with him.

It is well known that Eugene is Bobby Fischer’s best friend and he was his second in the 1992 rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia.

Although Rosendo Balinas Jr. died in 1998, no list can be complete without mentioning his achievements. He was a lawyer by profession and a journalist. In 1967 when Bobby Fischer visited Manila to play the country’s best 10 players in a series, only Balinas held the future World Champion to a draw.

He achieved his greatest victory at the Odessa International tournament in 1976, where he won with a score of 10/14 and was undefeated against all Russian opponents.

It was only the second time that a foreigner won on Russian soil. The last was 35 years before by Capablanca.

Back in the mid-80’s it was my habit to go to Luneta on Sundays and waste my money playing with the masters who congregate there. One of those I played with was a young lad whom I later knew as Rogelio “Joey” Antonio. I lost very badly even though he gave me odds of two pawns! Back then, most masters, even IMs, were wary of him although he was relatively unknown and untitled.

He has played many times in the Olympiad mostly on board 2 behind Torre. In Istanbul 2000, he scored 7/10 for a performance rating of 2682.He has a reputation of being one of the best-dressed player in the local and international circuit.

Another fixture in Luneta in the 80’s was a little boy of about 7 who, during weekends, came with his father or uncle and an elder sister.

He was already playing with the crocodiles there and his sister was holding her own. Nelson Mariano II is now a grandmaster and his sister, Christine Rose has become a five-time Ladies National Champion.

Nelson earned his third and final norm in the Asean Masters in Bangkok in 2004. He is also a many time Olympian, and his
three wins and 3 draws record in Bled, Slovenia in 2002 is considered his best performance.

Our fifth grandmaster, Bong Villamayor, is mostly inactive. According to him, he has semi-retired three times. He currently works as director of training, programs and development for Power Chess Asia based in Singapore. He became a GM in 2000.
He is also offering his services as coach/trainer for a fee through the internet.

Finally, Mark Paragua has the distinction of being the youngest National Master when he was nine years old and the youngest Filipino GM at 20.

At the 1998 Disney World Championship, he emerged champion in the 14 under division, beating current sensation Bu Xiangzi of China via tiebreak.

He qualified for the World Championship in Tripoli, Libya losing to Victor Bologan in 2004 in the first round. He also qualified for the World Cup 2005, where he upset GM Sergei Movsesian, whose rating was a high 2632 in the first round. He narrowly lost in the next round via tiebreak to an even stronger opponent Alexey Dreev, who is rated 2697.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Deuterium, Pichay and the RP eliminations

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

ONE of the most unique tournaments in Cebu was held last weekend at the Collonade Mall and the winner was the star of the show—the Deuterium computer.

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In the 7-round format, the computer won 6 games with one draw. This, I did not expect as there were a good number of strong players, who participated.

The program won over Ferdinand Carlos in the first round, struggled against Alleri Somosot in the second, saved a losing position versus NM Rogelio Enriquez in the third and upset the highly rated Kimkim Yap in the fourth.

It continued its winning run in the fifth by prevailing over Glenn Pardillo. The veteran Mario Mangubat was almost winning in the sixth round but the computer managed to save a draw. In the last round, Odillon Badilles, the son of the legendary Asing Badilles, failed to hold on to his position.

According to the computer designer and inventor, Ferdinand Mosca, the program is rated at 2200 Elo, which is the rating of most National Masters. I expected the highest rated player in the tournament, Fide master Anthony Makinano, to play the computer but the draw prevented it, as Makinano lost in the first round. I suggest that a one-on-one be held soon between Anthony and the computer. How about it Ferdinand?

Ferdinand, the sponsor of the tourney, is a mechanical engineer who works in Norway. He used to be a chess varsity player during his college days at Cebu Institute of Technology. He says that he owes to chess the discipline and perseverance that is needed to succeed working in a foreign land.

Here are the results of the seventh and final round in the top five boards: 1.) Deuterium-Badilles, 1-0, Ruy Lopez 2.) Makinano- Enriquez ,1-0, Nimzo Indian 3.) Yap-Voltaire Sevillano 0-1, Sicilian, 4.) Carlos Moreno III –Mangubat, 0-1, King‘s Indian, 5.) Irwin Ababat- Bonn Tibod ,0-1, Scilian.

Final Standings 1.) Deuterium (6.5) 2.) Makinano (6.0) 3.) Sevillano (6.0) 4.) Mangubat (5.5) 5.) Badilles (5.5) 6.) Leo Cortes (5.5) 7.) Tibod (5.5) 8.) Enriquez (5.0) 9.) Christopher Tobalado (5.0) 10.) Joel Pacuribot (5.0).

Pichay Memorial. The National Chess Federation of the Philippines will be sponsoring again the 4th Prospero Pichay Sr. Memorial Tournament at Cantilan, Surigao del Sur this coming Aug. 12-15. The format will be a nine-round Swiss with the registration fee pegged at P200. The tournament will be Fide rated.

I am expecting the exodus of top players to Surigao to fight for the P100,000 cash prize. Runners up will get P40,000 and P20,000 respectively.

Rep.Pichay may have lost his bid in the last senatorial elections, but he has won the hearts of countless chess players all over the country for his dynamic leadership.

RP Elims. Scheduled later this year is the Asian Indoor Games in Macau. The national federation is calling all interested players to join the eliminations on July 23-27.

It will be held at the Marketplace Shopping Center located along Kalentong Avenue in Mandaluyong City. The top nine male players and top 10 female players will qualify for the finals, together with the country’s five grandmasters.

The top four players in the men’s and women’s teams will then be sent to Macau for the games on Oct. 25 to Nov. 2.

Cepca News. Our monthly tournament will be this coming Sunday, July 22, at the Deep Blue Café in SM City starting at 1 p.m. Format will be a five-round Swiss with handicapping.

Another upcoming tournament is the Asian GM Competition in September. It will be hosted by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines in coordination with the province of Cebu. All Cepcans must be united to make this tournament a success as we all have roles to play.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Clinton, Gloria and the American presidents

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

BILL Clinton was a member of the Georgetown University chess team while studying there in 1966-68. He totally supported the Chess-in-School program during his administration and his favorite player is Garry Kasparov, who is his friend.

Clinton even has a recipe called the Lemon Chess Pie. Chelsea, his daughter, also plays chess in the internet.

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One of his classmates at Georgetown was a bright lady named Gloria Macapagal, whom I understand, also plays chess. This fact is based when she made the ceremonial moves during the 1st Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Cup with GM Alexander Onischuk in November of last year. Also, she grew up in Iligan, where chess is the number one sport. She also plans to introduce the Chess-in-School program in our country.

I featured a column not too long ago about chess-playing heads of states, which received favorable feedbacks and was extensively quoted in various chess blogs. I mentioned in that column that I was going to write about chess-playing American presidents.

Does Ronald Reagan play chess? The only clue I have to answer this is the very impressive and one of a kind chess set that was obviously made to order. It is displayed at the Ronald Reagan Library.

Another one of a kind chess set was given to John F. Kennedy on his birthday in 1962 by a long-time friend. It was magnificent. Nobody gives this kind of gift unless the recipient plays the game. It is entirely made of rare wood, alligator, ivory and ebony. The set is hand carved with an African motif. The details on both the board and the pieces are exquisite. There is a gold presidential three-inch seal and an engraved signature of the late president.

It is probably one of the rarest memorabilia of Kennedy. It was returned to the donor when he died. Kennedy’s son, the late John Jr., also played chess.

It seems that chess sets were the favorite gifts given to American presidents. These sets are now on display at the Smithsonian Institute. Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson received magnificent sets that truly befit Presidents.

The only clue that Gerald Ford may have played the game was when he declared Oct. 9 as national chess day.

Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, wanted to become a chess master when he left the White House. He bought chess books and a computer program to improve his game. He stopped playing serious chess in 1997 and admitted that he does not have the talent to further improve his game. Amy, his daughter, also plays chess.

Presidents who had the talent for the game and considered first rate players were Rutherford Hayes, who learned to play chess from his mother; James Garfield, whom an 1880 newspaper described as a superb player; and Thomas Jefferson, who played Benjamin Franklin, an equally strong player.

When Franklin was in Paris, he joined the Salon des echecs Chess Club and paid 96 francs in 1786.

Abraham Lincoln’s chess sets are on display at the Smithsonian. He also taught and gave a chess set to his son, Tad. Another collector of chess sets was John Quincy Adams, who once bought an ivory set that his political opponents accused him of using public funds for. This was not true, but it probably cost him the seat in the 1882 elections.

Theodore Roosevelt played chess during his hunting trips and could possibly have played with Ajeeb the automaton. He kept an astrological chart mounted on a chessboard while in office and often invited chess masters to the White House.

An indication that Ulysses Grant may have played chess is the collectible metallic Civil War chess set that portrays him opposite General Robert Lee, a renowned chess player.

Warren Harding, who died during his presidency in 1923, was an avid chess player and according to some, may have been poisoned by a chess championship contender.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Anand, Kramnik and the Deuterium

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

VISWANATHAN Anand of India retained his status as the best player for the second straight time, while world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia seemed to have a strong hold in Dortmund as he won for a record eight times.

Here are the top 10 players, including their Elo rating and age, in the planet as of the end June: 1.) Viswanathan Anand (2792, 38) 2.) Veselin Topalov (2769, 32) 3.) Vladimir Kramnik (2769, 32) 4.) Vassily Ivanchuk (2762, 38) 5.) Alexander Morozevich (2758, 30) 6.) Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2757, 22) 7.) Peter Leko (2751, 28) 8.) Levon Aronian (2750, 25) 9.) Teimour Radjabov (2746, 20) 10.) Dmitry Jakovenko (2735, 24).

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The big winner for the period is Ivanchuk, who gained 33 Elo points and is now just seven points behind Topalov and Kramnik.
Leko also gained 13 to place at seventh, while Aronian slid down to eight after losing nine. Also a big winner is Jakovenko, who gained 27 to place in the top 10.

As usual, the list is not complete without the women’s ranking: 1.) Judit Polgar (Hungary, 2707, 31) 2.) Kuneru Humpy (India, 2572, 20) 3.) Pia Cramling (Norway, 44) 4.) Hou Yifan (China, 2523, 13) 5.) Zhu Chen (Qatar, 2522, 23) 6.) Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia, 2515, 23) 7.) Tatiana Kosintseva (Russia, 2502, 21) 8.) Anna Ushenina (Ukraine, 2502, 28) 9.) Zhao Xue (China, 2500, 29) 10.) Maia Chiburdanidze (Georgiam, 2496, 46.)

The Sparkassen Chess meeting in Dortmund took place from June 23 to July 1 at the Civic Theatre and had eight participants with an average Elo of 2727, making the event a category 20 tournament. Dortmund is a major tournament in the chess calendar and only the top players are invited.

Final standings after seven rounds: 1.) Kramnik (5.0) 2.) Evegeny Alekseev, (Russia, 2679, 4.0) 3.) Leko (4.0) 4.) Anand (4.0) 5.) Mamedyarov (3.5) 6.) Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 2693, 3.0) 7.) Boris Gelfand (Israel, 2733, 2.5) 8.) Arkadij Naiditsch (Germany, 2654, 2.0).

The games were a disappointment as there were only seven losses in the whole tournament as most of the games were drawn. Kramnik accounted for the three wins, while Alekseev, Leko, Anand and Mamedyarov had a win each.

In the meantime, upcoming on July 14 and 15 at the Collonade Mall along Colon St. is a unique tournament sponsored by OFW engineer Ferdinand Mosca of Norway. He has designed a chess program which he calls Deuterium, becoming the first Filipino programmer to do so. Deuterium or “heavy water” is allegedly found only in the Surigao deep trench.

The 1st Deuterium Chess challenge is unique as the computer program designed by Mosca will be playing in the event. As a bonus, those who will play the computer will get P200 for a win, P100 for a draw and P50 for a loss. By the way, the program is not in the category of the Fritz and Junior series as its rating is only Elo 2200, beatable by strong players.

The first 20 students will get a 50 percent discount on the registration fee of P100, while national masters who join will receive an appearance fee of P500 and international masters P1,000.Total prize money is P15,000, a good figure by local standards.

Here is the inventor of Deuterium, “My full name is Ferdinand Mosca, 38, and my parents are from Surigao del Norte. I graduated with a BS Mechanical Engineering degree at the Cebu Institute of Technology on October of 1992. I was a chess varsity member.

I tried to get a national title before but it was simply too much for me. After graduation, I concentrated on my career. But I will never forget chess because it is one that helped me finished my studies, being a varsity member. But I know now the effect of my dedication in studying chess. I did not know that I was in the right path to self discipline. Imagine, studying chess openings and variations in the middle of the night.”

Ferdinand will fly in from Norway to oversee the whole event.