Friday, September 28, 2007

Close fight seen for 10 slots

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I WAS expecting the Chinese to claim at least six slots to the World Cup but a surprisingly strong showing by the Indonesians ,Indians and Filipinos might reduce it to four.

The story of the tournament though is the rise of the unheralded Cebuano Kim Steven Yap, a 19-year-old student, to unexpected stardom. Despite an eighth round loss to Darwin Laylo, who has a story to tell himself, Kim is only half point from bagging his first IM norm.

Talking to him, he is even targeting an outright GM norm which is a very tall order indeed considering the quality of the opposition. There are still three rounds to play and he needs to score 1 and 1/2 points more.

The highest performing Pinoy is Darwin Laylo with 5 1/2 points after 8 rounds.

Darwin was not even expected to play as he was serving a six-month suspension but was lifted for this tournament. Darwin needs only ½ point in his last three games to finally gain his third and final norm and become a grandmaster.

My favorite player Eugene Torre is practically out of the top 10 as he suffered back-to-back losses versus Das Neelotpal of India and Ni Hua of China, the top seeded player in the tournament. I expect both gentlemen to enter the winners’ circle.

Here is my fearless forecast on the magic 10 players: Zhang Pengxiang, Wang Hao ,Ni Hua, Zhao Jun, Megaranto Susanto

Darwin Laylo, Rogelio Antonio, Gopal G.N., Utut Adianto and Neelotpal Das.

The contest is very close though as there is still an eternity to play with three rounds to go. An additional 20 players still has a mathematical chance to share the limelight depending on their performance in the remaining games.

SIDE EVENTS. A side event of the tournament is the Cebu Open, which attracted about 70 players, featuring P54,000 in prizes.

Another one is the executives tournament which starts today at 1 p.m. in the same venue. Registration is P500 with P8,000 going to the champion. Time control is 25 minutes per player, seven rounds Swiss. About 15 members from the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association are expected to play led by its president Mat Matuco.

The Philippines now has 12 new Fide arbiters, three from Cebu. Twenty five aspirants registered for the four-day seminar conducted by Fide honorary president Florencio Campomanes, Fide secretary general Ignatius Leong of Singapore, Dr. Andrzed Filipowicz of Poland and the arbiter of this Asian Championship, Casto Abundo.

The new Fide arbiters from Cebu are NM Roger Abella, who provided me the insights of the whole tournament, Marvin Ruelan and University of Cebu coach, Luis Navaja.

The point men for this Asian Individual Championship are Tournament Director Willie Abalos and Cebu Chess Federation president, Bogie Lim.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. Vishwanatan Anand of India has practically snatched the World Championship with a lead of 1 and 1/2 points over his closest pursuer, Boris Gelfand of Israel after the 11th round. Only a miracle can stop the Indian from becoming undisputed World Champion.

There are still three rounds left and a lead like that is like leading by 50 points in the last quarter of a basketball game.

Anand is the only unbeaten player in this 8-man double-round robin format. He drew both his games versus Kramnik and Gelfand and garnered a win each over Grischuk ,Aronian ,Morozevich and Svidler.

Round 11 Standings: 1. Anand, Viswanathan 2792 7.5; 2. Gelfand, Boris 2733 6.0; 3. Kramnik, Vladimir 2769 5.5; 4. Leko, Peter 2751 5.5; 5. Aronian, Levon 2750 5.5; 6. Grischuk, Alexander RUS 2726 5.0; 7. Svidler, Peter RUS 2735 4.5; 8. Morozevich, Alexander RUS 2758 4.5.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hosting the Chess Olympiad

By Frank "Boy” Pestaño

FOR the past several weeks, I was looking forward to the 6th Individual Asian Chess Championship at the classy Cebu International Convention Center as I wanted to meet as many grandmasters as possible in my lifetime. You see, my childhood heroes are not Superman, Batman or whoever but Mikhael Botvinnik, Paul Keres, David Bronstein and other chess legends.

I would have wanted to cover the tournament for Sun.Star but last Tuesday evening I was afflicted with a severe case of allergy that up to now makes me feel utterly uncomfortable and sore. My doctor told me that I was lucky that it had not spread to my larynx but to make sure that my lungs are okey, I will have an x-ray this afternoon.

I was excited to read in the Sun.Star issue last Thursday that National Chess Federation of the Philippines President Prospero Pichay and Gov. Gwen Garcia will bid for the hosting of the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Cebu.

To recall, the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila at the Philippine International Convention Center, orchestrated by the now Fide Honorary President Florencio Campomanes, was probably the best ever. It helped a lot also that President Corazon Aquino and her then executive secretary Frank Drilon are chess players. Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a chess player, she will understand Pichay’s bid.

It needs a superb leader and organizer and assistance by the national leadership to host a Chess Olympiad. Aside from the logistics involved, the venue of the tournament and capacity of the host city will be taken into consideration. Cebu has both and more. I hope that Pichay will still be NCFP president by that time as he has done a good job during his current term.

When Fide was founded in 1924, the desire of the organizers was to regularly hold an International Team tournament.

The Olympiad is held every even-numbered years although prior to World War II, the event was sometimes held annually. There was also an “unofficial” series of Chess Olympiads which ended in 1976.

The 2008 Olympiad is due to be held in Dresden, Germany which beat the only other bidder, Tallinn. The 2010 Olympiad is due to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Will it be Cebu 2012?

Gens una sumus! This was the motto adopted by Fide and indeed the Chess Olympiads unite the whole world. The 37th in Turin, Italy in 2006 with 150 Men’s team and 108 Women’s made it the biggest Olympiad ever; every continent was represented. Men’s teams (six players) plus the women’s teams ( four players ), make the modern chess Olympiads the biggest gathering of chess talent in the world. National, International Masters and grandmasters, world champions have taken part in the Olympiads.

1st round results. The most significant result in the first round was the win by IM Mahjoobzardast Morteza (2479) of Iran versus the top seed of the tournament, GM Ni Hua (2681) of China. Another upset win was achieved by IM Al Sayed Mohammad (2469) of Qatar over GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2586) of India, who I understand, already qualifies for the World Cup by
winning Zone 3.2.

GMs Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio and Mark Paragua won over their respective opponents but IM Oliver Dimakiling (2500) was not lucky as he lost To FM N.A. Hussein (2341) of Iraq. Cebuano IMs Richard Bitoon and Barlo Nadera drew their matches against strong opponents, both Vietnamese.

Emmanuel Senador, Ronald Bancod, Rustum Tolentino and Julio Sadorra were on the losing end but Kim Steven Yap (2246) had a feast over highly rated Enamul Hossain (2485 ) of Bangladesh.

Thanks to arbiter Linky Yap for forwarding to me these results.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Understanding the messy championships

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE whole mess started in 1993 when then world champion Garry Kasparov broke away from Fide together with Nigel Short in what he accepts now as “the worst mistake of my career and a serious miscalculation” on his part.

Since then, there has been no undisputed champion until last year when Vladimir Kramnik defeated Veselin Topalov in their Unification Match in Elista, Kalmykia , Russia.

Kramnik (2769) will be facing the top seven players in a double round robin format in the World Chess Championship 2007 in Mexico (WCCT 2007) starting today up to the 30th of the month. The winner, will in the meantime, be accepted by everybody including Kramnik and Topalov, as the undisputed world champion.

The players are Viswanathan Anand (2792, India), Alexander Morozevich (2758, Russia), Peter Leko (2751, Hungary), Levon Aronian (2750, Armenia), Peter Svidler (2735, Russia), Boris Gelfand (2733, Israel) and Alexander Grischuk (2726, Russia). Prize fund is $1.3million.

Also on Sept. 18 to 30 this month a Continental Elimination tournament will be held at the Cebu International Convention
Center to determine the 10 Asian qualifiers to the World Cup.

The World Cup is a 128-player knockout contest and will be staged in Khanty, Mansiysk Russia on Nov. 23, this year.

Fide has instituted a scenario where the interests of Kramnik, Topalov and the winner of the World Cup will be respected.

The scenario favors both Kramnik and Topalov and the other top players are very vocal against it, especially Anand, who is
now rated numero uno.

Fide apparently appreciates the victory of Topalov in the 2005 World finals in San Luis , Argentina and his unfortunate exclusion in Mexico.

According to Fide, the following are the guidelines for the 2007 to 2009 World Championship Cycle. “The winner of the
World Cup will advance to the next stage of the World Championship cycle 2007-2009 and play a match against an opponent to
be determined depending on the final results of the World Chess Championship Tournament (WCCT 2007) in Mexico.

“If the winner of the WCCT 2007 in Mexico is any player other than Kramnik, then a World Championship match of 12 games will be held within the period May to September 2008 between the reigning World Champion (winner of WCCT 2007) and the then previous World Champion Kramnik (match A). The minimum net prize fund will be $1,000,000.

“At the same year 2008, and after match A, the winner of the World Cup 2007 will play a challenger’s match of eight games against Topalov with a minimum net prize fund of $150,000 (match B).

“In 2009 (within the first six months) a World Championship match will be held between the reigning World Champion (winner of match A) and the winner of match B.

“If the winner of the WCCT 2007 in Mexico is Kramnik, then a World Championship match of 12 games, Kramnik vs. Topalov, will be held within the period of May to September 2008. The minimum net prize fund will be $1,000,000.

“In 2009 (within the first six months) the winner of the World Cup 2007 will play a World Championship match of 12 games against the winner of the World Championship match 2008 between Kramnik and Topalov.

“In case a player wins the WCCT 2007 in Mexico, the World Cup 2007 in Khanty-Mansiysk and the 2008 World Championship Match, then the challenger’s match will be organized as the World Championship Match 2009.”

Whew! Basically in the future, the winners of the World Cup and the Grand Prix will play a match to determine who will challenge the world champion.

CEPCA NEWS. Our September tournament will be this Sunday at the Deep Blue Café SMCity starting at 1 p.m.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The bumpy road to the top of the world

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step. The sixth Asian Individual Chess Championships that will commence on Sept. 19-30 at the Cebu International Convention Center is a continental elimination that will determine the 10 players, who will play in the World Cup 2007 at Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia on Nov. 23.

What is at stake in the biggest competition ever held in Cebu is not the $40,000 total cash prize, which is substantial, but the prestige and the jab at becoming a world champion.

This tournament involves 44 federations in Asia. Each federation is entitled to send a representative who will enjoy free accommodations at the Crown Regency in Mactan.

The World Cup 2007 is a 128-player knockout competition and the winner will play either Kramnik or Topalov for the World Championship in 2009, depending on who will win the World Championship in Mexico City which starts next week on Sept. 12.

The National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) has released the initial registrants and I was surprised that a good number of highly rated players are missing. Upon checking the regulations at Fide, Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan, Sasikiran Krishnan and Pentala Harikrishna of India are absent from this tournament as they are already qualified for the World Cup due to their high ratings.

Players who have less than 2300 Elo cannot play in this competition.

Reviewing the ratings of our players, only 45 have ratings above 2300 and even then some are inactive or are residing abroad. My estimate is that only 10-15 Pinoys will play as the entry fees are on the high side—$100 for NCFP members and $150 for the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) members or about P12,000. This amount is way beyond the capacity of most players unless they can find a sponsor.

Taking a look at the early registrants so far, the Chinese look formidable.

They have entered 10 players, six of them are super GMs namely, Wang Yue (2696), Bu Xiangzhi (2685), Ni Hua (2681), Zhang Pengxiang (2649), Ye Jiangchuan 2632 and Wang Hao (2626). The same players are fresh from their conquest in Russia 52.5-47.5 last week at Nizhniy Novgorod with the men winning a close 25.5-24.5 and the women a devastating 27-23.

Indonesia has its usual reliables Utut Adianto (2583) and Megaranto Susanto (2554). Iran is expected to send Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (2610), the surprise in the Asian Games in Qatar and Elshan Moradiabadi (2540).

India is sending about 10 players led by Shekhar Ganguly (2586), while Vietnam will have Le Quang Liem (2542) and Nguyen Ahn Dung (2537). Singapore has its super GM Zhang Zhong (2634).

Our GMs Eugene Torre (2536), Joey Antonio (2532), Mark Paragua (2525), Nelson Mariano II (2447) and several other IMs are also expected to play.

A side event is the Fide arbiters seminar on Sept. 20-24 at the CICC concurrent with the Asian Individual Championship.

Fide Honorary President Florencio Campomanes will be the lead lecturer. Other lecturers are Fide Secretary General Ignatius Leong of Singapore, Fide Technical Commission Chairman Dr. Andrzej Filipowicz of Poland and ACF Deputy President Casto Abundo. Successful examinees shall be awarded the Fide Arbiter title.

CEPCA NEWS. The winners in the Kiddies and Juniors tournament for the month of August are Jessa Balbona, King James Torres and Shawn Patrick Osorno in the Juniors class and Jeroni Vinculado, Neil Adrian Gelig and the Balbona brothers, Felix Shaun, John Francis and Marq for the Kiddies event.

The September competition for regular members will be on Sept. 16, Sunday at the Deep Blue Café SM City, starting at 1 p.m.