Friday, April 25, 2008

Chess in stamps

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

STAMP collecting is probably the most popular hobby in the world with estimates of up to 35 million adherents worldwide. I used to collect stamps while I was in high school and was able to almost fill up two albums. I did not specialize, which is the common practice today among typical collectors.

Some of the most popular topics are animals, flowers, politicians, butterflies etc. Many countries have issued stamps that feature their athletes, leaders, flags, flora and fauna. You can learn a lot about a country’s history by collecting their stamps.

Another topical collection might center on sports and among the strong specialty area are chess stamps. Over 140 nations have issued chess stamps but surprisingly, the Unites States is not one of them.

The Philippines has issued several chess stamps. The first was in 1962 which featured our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, playing chess priced at 10 centavos.

The second is the same stamp with an overprint celebrating the inauguration of President Ferdinand Marcos and Vice-President Fernando Lopez in 1965.

Remember the Anatoly Karpov vs. Victor Korchnoi World Chess Championship in Bagiuo City in1978? Two postage stamps were issued to cover the event with amounts of 30 centavos and P2 .

The 1992 Manila Chess Olympiad was also covered with two stamps priced at P2 and P6. I remember it was held at the Philippine International Convention Center and was probably the best Olympiad ever.

The original “Jose Rizal playing chess” was again reissued in 2000 priced at P5 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the APO philatelic Society.

In 2005, three sports stamps were issued to commemorate the 23rd Southeast Asian Games and one of them featured a chess board priced at P6.

The first chess stamp, is one of a set of five issued to commemorate the 1947 Balkan Games, held in Bulgaria, in which chess was one of the sports.

Hungary was the winner of the chess competition, with a team comprising Bakonyi, Benko, Barcza, Florian, Fuster, Gereban, Szabo, and Szny.

The second set of chess stamps commemorated the 18th official World Chess Championship held in The Hague, Netherlands, March 1-25, and in Moscow, April 10-18, 1948. The tournament was held as a result of the death of the champion , Alexander Alekhine on March 24, 1946, and was between Botvinnik, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, and Smyslov. Each player played each other five times. Mikhail Botvinnik of the USSR, was the winner.

Among the most popular chess stamps sought after by collectors is a set of six chess stamps issued by Cuba in 1951 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the defeat of Emmanuelle Lasker by Jose Capablanca in 1921.

The chess stamps issued by Romania in 1963 are highly priced now and are rare because of imperfections in printing. These are being auctioned on e-bay.

Talisay and Cepca. The Talisay Chess Club led by its president Atty. Richard Abangan and secretary Manny Manzanares, a former Cepca president, will be holding a weekly tournament at their clubhouse in San Roque proper every Sunday starting May 4. Format is seven rounds Swiss with a time control of 15 minutes per player, play to finish.

Also, the Club’s monthly contest will be at the Talisay South Central Square, Lawaan on May 10 to 11. It is also a seven rounds Swiss but with a longer time control of 30 minutes. Cash prizes are at stake for both tournaments. For registration contact Manny at 0915-720-6457.

Tournament director Joe Atillo has announced that the April tournament of Cepca will be this Sunday April 27 at Deep Blue SM and starts at 1 p.m. Kiddies and Juniors will be on the same date and venue but begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Summer chess fiesta

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

LOCAL chess players never had it so good. Under the dynamic leadership of Prospero "Butch" Pichay, NCFP has sent a lot of them abroad to hone their skills as well as to earn that elusive IM or GM norms. I have lost count but a good number of them are women as well as children.

Jayson Gonzales is now a grandmaster, the third after Darwin Laylo and Wesley So under Pichay's term.

To top it all, scheduled this summer are three big tournaments that is unprecedented in the history of Philippine chess.

Starting on April 22 to 30 is the "Battle of GMs" featuring the country's top players at the Manila Pavilion. Committed to play are GMs Wesley So (2540), Mark Paragua (2537), Joey Antonio (2529), Eugene Torre (2519), Jayson Gonzales (2467) and Bong Villamayor (2425).

Also playing are IMs John Paul Gomez (2464) and Julio Catalino Sadorra (2455), FM Fernie Donguines (2362), and NMs Rolando Nolte (2420), Oliver Barbosa (2403) and Hamed Nouri (2392).

At stake are trophies and cash prizes, with the champion pocketing P200,000. The first and second placers will receive P150,000 and P100,000, respectively.

Other cash prizes are P75,000 for the fourth placer, P50,000 for the fifth placer, and P30,000 for the sixth to eighth placers.

Here are the women who have pledged to join the mixed tournament: Catherine Pereña (2234), Sherily (2132) and Shercila Cua (2203), Rulp Ylem Jose (2044), Jenny Rose Palomo, Jedara Docena, Aices Salvador (1998), WIM Beverly Mendoza (2072), Chardine Cheradee Camacho (2106), Kimberly Jane Cunanan, Christy Lamiel Bernales, and Enerose Magno.

Remember Jenny Rose? She is from Cebu and is studying under a chess scholarship in Manila. She used to play with Cepca members and is a head-turner.

INTERNATIONAL. Two big Open International tournaments are scheduled this summer with $70,000 in cash prizes. The Second Philippine Open International Tournament starts May 6 to 15 at the La Legenda Hotel in Subic Bay Freeport, and will be followed immediately by the third Philippine Open from May 15 to 24.
Registration is free for GMs and players with Fide ratings of 2450 and above on both tournaments.

For other players, the registration fee, corresponding to their Fide ratings is:2400 to 2449-$50; 2300 to 2399-$75; 2200 to 2299-$100; 2100 to 2199- $125. Fide ratings below 2100 (based on the April 2008 Fide list) cannot join the event.

Forty thousand dollars in cash prizes shall be awarded in the first competition, with the breakdown as follows; first place ($6,000), second place ($5,000),third ($4,000), fourth ($3,000), fifth ($2,000), sixth ($1,500), seventh ($1,300), eighth ($1,200) and the ninth to 14th placer will get S1,000. The 15th to 18th placers will get between $900 to $600, while the those in the 19th to 32nd place will get $500, each.

Cash prizes shall be shared equally among tied players.

On the other hand, prizes are slightly lower in the second contest with a total $30,000 in prize money.

The format for both competitions are 11 rounds Swiss with time control at 90 minutes per player plus 30 seconds increment from move 1.

GMs shall be provided free accommodation on a twin sharing basis, from one day prior to the opening to one day after the closing ceremony.

Deadline for Registration is May 1 and 10, respectively. Entries after the deadline shall pay double the registration fee.

DUBAI OPEN. Former Sun.Star sports editor and Cepca member Jobannie Tabada competed in this contest from April 6 to 15 won by "Boy wonder" Wesley So. He scored a respectable 5/9 in this strong tournament with 131 players from 25 countries including 29 GM/WGM, 21 IM/WIM and 22 FMS.

He defeated WGM Mohota Nisha, FM Somoff Abdo ,WIM Pourkashiyan Atousa, Debashis Das and C. Natarjan of India.

Starting today, I will be featuring a chess puzzle on a regular basis.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

10 ways to tell you are winning

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

ALTHOUGH sometimes comical, these are true incidents. These gentlemen are not ordinary players but the cream of the crop. It just shows that the game can bring out the worst of even the sanest individual in some situations. Many thanks to Coach Leopold Lacrimosa of Scottsdale, AZ, for compiling this list.

1.) Your opponent stands on the table yelling at the top of his lungs “Why must I lose to this IDIOT!” ala Aaron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) who is considered one of the most influential players and writers in chess history and whose influence is still felt today. Many chess openings and variations are named after him, the most famous being the Nimzo-Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4)

2.) Your opponent leaves the tournament hall without resigning or stopping the chess clock and doesn’t return alaCurt Von Bardeleben (1861-1924), a German chess master who committed suicide by jumping out of a window in 1924. He was playing world champion Wilhem Steinitz in Hastings 1895 when he did this.

3.) Your opponent begins to complain about interference by spectators, the noise of traffic, toothache, headache, backache, the foulness of your breath, bad lighting, blinding lighting, defective chessman, a board too large, a board too small, hypnotism, the Government, the IRS, ala Amos Burn (1866-1912), an Englishman who was one of the strongest players in the 19th century and a writer. He was known for his superior defensive ability.

4.) In an adjourned position, your opponent seals the move “Aufgegeben” (riddle) ala Hans Mueller (1896-1971)

5.) Your opponent picks up his king and throws it across the room, ala Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946), former world champion who was known for his fierce and imaginative attacking style and was a highly-regarded chess writer.

6.) Your opponent starts mumbling “Nobody has ever won a game by resigning,” ala Xavier Tartakower (1887-1956), a Russian born French chess player, writer and 1935 polish champion famous for his quote “There is only one mistake in chess—underestimating your opponent.”

7.) Your opponent shows his overwhelming disgust by grimacing distastefully, closing his eyes, shaking his head violently, then turning aside, pushes the chessman away from him as if they were poisoned, ala Rudolph Spielmann (1883-1942). “The master of attack,” he was also known as “the Last Knight of the King’s Gambit.” His daredevil play was full of sacrifices, brilliancies, and beautiful ideas. This was exemplified, for example, in the Carlsbad tournament, 1923, when he did not have a single draw.

8.) Your opponent grabs you and throws you out the window, ala Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1924) nicknamed “Black Death”, who dominated the British chess world during the latter part of the 19th century. At one point, he was No. 2 in the world with a string of tournament victories behind him.

9.) Your opponent suddenly stands up and, grabbing the wooden chess board, breaks it over your head, ala William the Conqueror (1027-1087) who defeated England in the battle of Hastings in what is known as the Norman Conquest.

10.) Your opponent begins to describe you as the greatest patzer in chess history and then denounces the tournament committee for inviting people whose chess is so wretched that it sickens a real master, ala David Janowski (1868-1927), a leading Polish chess master. Capablanca annotated some Janowski games with great admiration, and said, “when in form [he] is one of the most feared opponents.”

Due to numerous requests, you can now access all of my previous articles at my blog,

Friday, April 11, 2008

Chess and saints

By Frank Pestaño

A SAINT in the Catholic Church is as rare as a 5-carat diamond. A chess playing one is even more so.

There are several reasons for this. Chess was invented between the fifth to sixth century probably in Iran or India and only spread to the middle east in the eighth century by the Muslims and to Europe around the 10th century via Spain.

Most of the saints of the church became one (saint) prior to this period.

I guess that if chess was played in the first century, I am sure that some of the apostles would have been playing the game. Additionally, during the middle ages, when monasticism and religious fervor were at its highest, the game of chess was banned at one time or another by most bishops and abbots in their jurisdiction as a “sin” or waste of time.

There are only three chess-playing saints that I know of. The most prominent one is a lady, St. Teresa of Avila known in the Church as Saint Teresa of Jesus (1515-82). Unknown to many, she is the patron saint of chess players and was a Carmelite nun and mystic. She was a leading writer during the Counter Reformation and the first female to be named Doctor of the Church in 1970.

In a previous article about her, I penned, “She wrote that we should play a “spiritual chess” with the Beloved of our hearts and that we should checkmate Him. She adds that He cannot escape from our moves and would not even wish to.”

Saint Thomas Becket or St. Thomas of Canterbury, (c. 1118 – December 29, 1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.

He engaged in conflict with King Henry II over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. His best friend was the King himself and they played a lot of chess together. People close to them say they have “one heart and mind”.

Saint Charles Borromeo (1538 –1584) was an Italian saint and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Owing to his influence over Pius IV, he facilitated the final deliberations of the Council of Trent and he took a large share in the drawing up of the Tridentine Catechism(Catechismus Romanus).

He was once playing a game of chess and someone asked him what he would do if he were suddenly informed that he was to die within the hour. He replied that he would continue the game, because he was doing it for God’s glory and he desired nothing better than to be called to God in the midst of an action that he had begun for the glory of God.

There has been a lot of talk that the late John Paul II would someday be canonized as a saint.

During his reign, the pope traveled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, including Cebu, more than any of his predecessors.

He was a chess enthusiast. In 1999 FIDE awarded the title “Grand Commander of the Legion of Grandmasters” to him.

The following popes were also noted chess players and I thought Innocent III and Leo XIII were saints.. Innocent III built the papacy into a more powerful, prestigious institution than it had ever been before. Leo XIII is known primarily by two encyclicals, “Rerum Novarum” and “Humanum Genus.”

There is however another side as Leo X is known primarily for the sale of indulgences to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica and excommunicating Martin Luther (also a chess player) and the subsequent rise of the Reformation giving birth to protestantism. Gregory VI was accused of purchasing the Papacy and freely admitted it and was forced to resign.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

World Championship cycle

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

TO UNDERSTAND the present situation, the current undisputed Fide world champion is Viswanathan Anand of India.

He became champion in the World Championship 2007 held in Mexico City from Sept. 12 to 30 in a double round robin format versus the following players: Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Svidler, Alexander Morozevich, Peter Leko, Boris Gelfand, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk. His winning score was nine points out of 14.

However, prior to the match it was decided by Fide that the winner of the tournament will have to play a match with Kramnik, the previous champion (assuming that Kramnik is not the winner).

Here is a brief background. In Elista 2006, the schism, which began with the Kasparov-Short Championship, was to finally end after 13 long years. Bulgarian Grandmaster Veselin Topalov, the winner of the 2005 Fide World Championship in San Luis Argentina was due to play Kramnik, the Classical World Champion, and the winner was to emerge as the single, unified, World Chess Champion. Kramnik won the match.

Fide later announced that future world championships (beginning with the 2008 World Championship) would be decided by matches between the champion and a challenger (no more tournament format).

At the same time, Fide announced that, as compensation for being denied entry to the 2007 tournament, Topalov would have special privileges in the World Chess Championship 2008 cycle. He will play the 2007 World Cup winner Gata Kamsky and the victor will play for the championship against the winner of the Kramnik-Anand match.

Viswanathan Anand will defend his world title against Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn, Germany on Oct. 14th to Nov. 2 this year. The main sponsor is Evonik Industries AG and the prize money is 1.5 million Euros. The contract was signed by both players on Dec. 18 2007.

The Topalov-Kamsky match-up will be held in Bulgaria after the Kramnik-Anand contest with a prize money of $150,000. However, if there is another bidder with a bigger prize money before the April 11 deadline, then it will be held in that winning bidder’s country.

At the same time, Fide instituted the Grand prix events organized by Bessel Kok. The winner of the grand prix events will play the winner of the World Cup 2009 to determine the challenger to the World Champion.

This early, the lineups of the grand prix Events are Peter Svidler, Shakriyar Mamedyarov, Peter Leko, Vassily Ivanchuk, Levon Aronian, Boris Gelfand, Teimour Radjabov, Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin, Michael Adams, Gata Kamsky, Dmitry Jakovenko, Ivan Cheparinov, Alexander Grischuk, Etienne Bacrot and Wang Yue.

Each player must play in at least four out of six events, which will be held in the following countries: Event 1 April 20 to May 6, Baku, Azerbaijan; Event 2 July 30 to Aug. 15, Sochi, Russia; Event 3 Dec. 13 to 29, Doha, Qatar; Event 4 April 14 to 28, 2009, Montreux, Switzerland; Event 5 Aug. 8 to 24, 2009, Elista, Russia; Event 6 Dec. 7 to 23, 2009, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic.

The overall winner will be determined by the points per event computed as follows; first placer 140 plus 40 bonus; second 130 plus 30; third 120 plus 20; fourth 110;fifth 100; sixth 90 with the 14th placer getting 10 points.

The Balbona Kids. The Cviraa chessfest was held in Bohol and the winners in the secondary division (girls) were: First Cebu City with its players Jesa Balbona of USJ-R and Jacel Bucog of UC.

In the elementary division (boys), the winner was again Cebu City and its players were Marq Balbona and Felix Shaun Balbona.

The proud parents of these kids are Cepca member Felix and wife Juliet.