Friday, May 30, 2008

Meet the women grandmasters

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THEY’RE all weak, all women.

They’re stupid compared to men.

They shouldn’t play chess, you know. They’re like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn’t a woman player in the world I can’t give knight-odds to and still beat.”—Bobby Fischer

Maybe Bobby was right. There are about 1,109 grandmasters in the world right now and only 11 are women or about one percent. I featured women chess before and I am still puzzled why they are very weak in chess. It is surely not lack of intelligence but could be a combination of factors like fewer players, social pressures or biological differences which is most likely.

Judit Polgar, born July 23, 1976, is from Hungary. She is by far the strongest female chess player in history. In 1991, she achieved the title of grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 4 months. She was, at that time, the youngest person to do so. Polgár is ranked No. 21 in the world in the April 2008 Fide rating list with an Elo rating of 2709, the only woman on Fide’s Top 100 Players list, and has been ranked as high as number eight.

Nona Gaprindashvili, born May 3, 1941, is a Georgian chess player, the sixth woman world chess champion (1962–1978), and first female Grandmaster.

Born in Zugdidi, Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union), she was the strongest female player of her generation. In 1978 Gaprindashvili became the first woman to be awarded the Grandmaster title.

Maia Chiburdanide, Jan. 17, 1961 is a Georgian chess grandmaster, and the seventh (and youngest) women’s world chess champion. Her Elo rating in the April 2008 list was 2489, making her the 15th highest-rated female player in the world. She was awarded the grandmaster title in 1984.

Susan Polgar was the first woman to earn the title of grandmaster in regular competition. She was the women’s world chess champion from 1996 to 1999.

In October 2005, Polgar had an Elo rating of 2577, making her the second-ranked female player in the world at the time, after her sister Judit Polgár.

Pia Cramling, born on April 23, 1963, is a Swedish chess player and is currently (as of April 2008) ranked the No. 4 woman in the world by Fide.

Since the early 1980s, she has been one of the strongest female players in the world. She regularly plays in the Swedish (Men’s) team in the World Chess Olympiads.

Humpy Koneru, born March 31, 1987, is from India. Her October 2007 Fide Elo rating was 2606, placing her at No. 2 in the world for women (behind Judit Polgar), breaking the record of 2577 set by Susan Polgar for the second-highest ranked female player in chess history and becoming the second female player ever, after Judit Polgar, to breach the 2600 Elo mark

Alexandra Kosteniuk, born April 23, 1984, is from Russia with a Fide rating of 2515. She is one of the most beautiful among women chess players and has been promoting chess as a fashion model.

Antoaneta Stefanova, born April 19, 1979 is from Bulgaria, and is a former Women’s World Chess Champion. Her Fide rating of 2538 in the April 2008 list makes her sixth in the world among active female players.

For the past 10 years, Chinese women have dominated the game and there are now three Chinese grandmasters—Xie Jun, who became a world champion in 1991; Zhu Chen, who became a GM in 2001 and Zhaoqin Peng in 2004 who is now a Dutch citizen.

CEPCA. Our monthly contest for May will be on June 1 as it is the only available date. Venue is at Deep Blue SM City and it will start at 2 p.m.

As my internet connection in the house is out of order, there will be no chess puzzle for this week. It will be resumed next Friday.

Last week’s winner is Rizaldy Cortezano. Key move is Rc2 and 27 got it right.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bobby Fischer the movie

By Frank “Boy' Pestaño

SINCE Bobby Fischer died last January, I have always believed that Hollywood will feature a movie on the great chess genius.

Universal and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have tapped Kevin Macdonald (The last King of Scotland) to direct “Bobby Fischer Goes to War,” a drama about the upstart triumph over Boris Spassky in Iceland in 1972. It is based on the book by David Edmonds and John Eidinow and scripted by Shawn Slovo. Production will begin later this year.

This film will not be a complete biopic, but instead will focus on his match against Spassky, which became a symbol of the Cold War between the US and Russia. The match, as depicted in the book, is alternately nail-biting and hilarious, as Fischer’s nutty personality leads to totally unreasonable demands on the Icelandic organization.
There is no denying that Bobby Fischer was one hell of an interesting character.

I wrote about this monumental match years ago dubbed “Match of the century” and I would like to quote some portions of my article.

“They called it the match of the century, the greatest confrontation in chess ever. I’ll take you back to the summer of 1972 when chess, for a few weeks, was king and larger than life.

It was a microcosm of the Cold War; each player would bear the responsibility of his country’s honor. Every chess player in the world was closely watching the match and suffering the antics of Fischer. If he won, he would instantly become the legend who had single-handedly defeated the vast Soviet chess machine and the system that spawned it.

There were several personalities who were directly involved in the match. First there was the young television executive named Mike Chase. He was an avid chess player and a member of the Marshall Club. He knew there was a terrific story about the Fischer vs. Spassky match. He said, “No one believed then that chess could be a spectator sports. The only way to capture the American public was to televise the games live.”

Chase got approval from the public television WNET and created what would prove to be an historic event. He invited a co-member of the Marshall Club, Shelby Lyman, for commentary on the demo boards, and grandmaster Edmar Mednis for in-depth analysis. He also had his wife Chris handle the introduction and chitchat.

Their chemistry was electric. As the match went on, New Yorkers loved it and soon the match spread around the country and around the world. At bars around the city, televisions were tuned to chess instead of baseball, housewives would write down the moves for their husbands who wanted to know what Mednis said.

“As the games went on,” Chris later wrote, “the match became a rage, a fad and a hit show. Everyday the switchboards would light up with people trying to help Bobby make his next move.

Reviewers were saying it was great entertainment, even addictive, and people who did not play or understand chess would watch it anyway. Even little girls would bake cookies for Shelby.”

The show was tremendously important for several reasons. It was the first-ever coverage of a chess match, and five hours for every game at that. It popularized the game all over the world as never before and put chess, which was considered a parlor game, into mainstream sports.

Chess players were respected as real, interesting and creative individuals totally at odds with the caricatures—screwballs, layabouts, absentminded—current at that time. And finally, chess professionals now have much to thank the match as prize money rose and appearances became fashionable.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to become a grandmaster

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

THE title Grandmaster is awarded to world-class masters by the world chess organization Fide. Apart from “World Champion,” Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain. It is awarded for performance in tournaments and once achieved, the title is held for life.

There are several criteria before one is conferred the title or gets a GM norm.

1.) The applicant must have an ELO of at least 2500 at some time or other 2.) The minimum rating of the opponents must be greater than 2250.3.) Play to be governed by the Fide Rules 4.) The number of games played per day must not be more than two. 5.)

Time control during play must be at least 120 minutes. 6.) An International arbiter must be in charge 7.) The applicant must play at least nine games in each of the tournaments to qualify and needs a total of 27 games in two or more norms for a GM title 8.) There must be at least two federations other than those of the applicant 9.) The applicant must play at least three GMs in a nine-round tournament 10. The applicant must have a performance rating of 2601 to get a GM norm 11.) Where a player exceeds the norm requirements by one or more full points, then the length of the tournament is considered to be extended by that number of games when computing the total number of games.

An applicant is awarded automatically a GM title if he reaches the last 16 in the World Cup, wins the Women’s World Championship, the World Junior Championship or the Senior Championship. A nine or more games performance rating of 2600 plus in the Olympiad or Continental Championship is equal to a 20-game norm.

As of January 2008, Fide listed 1109 GMs, with 1002 counted as “active.” The GMs represented 81 national federations, of which the top five were Russia with 174 GMs, Germany 67, the Ukraine 64, the USA 61, and Serbia 46. A total of 13 federations had 25 GMs or more. The Philippines has eight. If the goal of Fide is to promote the game, the organization has certainly succeeded with estimates of over 700 million players worldwide.

In 1972 there were only 88 GMs with 33 representing the USSR. This huge increase is because Fide ratings have an inherent inflationary effect, making grandmaster norms much easier to achieve because of more tournaments and easier travel. According to one researcher, ratings inflated by about 100 points between 1985 and 2000.

In order to restore the full prestige of the GM title, it is sometimes suggested that it ought to be reserved for those who are serious contenders for the World Championship. Former world championship runnerup Nigel Short has even suggested that the title should be abolished.

Incredible. I have always been an admirer of Vassily Ivanchuk ever since he played in Manila in 1988 in the World Juniors together with Anand and Econg Sevillano.

The prestigious M-Tel Masters competition is now on-going in Bulgaria famous for its “Sofia” rule meaning no draws are allowed unless with the consent of the arbiter.

Vassily 2740 has rolled to an incredible five straight wins in the first half over Veselin Topalov 2767, Teimour Radjabov 2751, Levon Aronian 2763, Ivan Cheparinov 2696 and Bu Xiang Xi 2708 for a performance rating of 3537, the highest ever achieved by a player.

Second Philippine Open. Although Wesley So and Joey Antonio did not place as expected, Bong Villamayor and Julio Sadorra took up the slack and tied for first with Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, Li Chao and Zhou Weiqi of China with similar 8/11 points.

The 3rd Philippine Open will start tomorrow with Eugene Torre playing after a good rest.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chess for the visually impaired

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

IN A November 2004 article, “Magnitude and Causes of Visual Impairment”, the World Health Organization estimated that in 2002 there were 161 million (about 2.6 percent of the world population) visually impaired people in the world, of whom 124 million (about two percent) had low vision and 37 million (about 0.6 percent) were blind.

The first Braille Chess Club has its origin in Germany in February1924 and can be considered as the first club of its kind.

The International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) was formed in 1958 thru the initiative of a blind mathematics teacher and chess player from England, Reginald William Bonham. Originally consisting of nine Western European countries, it has since grown to a network of 50 member countries all over the world.

Its purpose is to promote the game among blind players and hold regular tournaments among its members. Important team tournaments are the Olympiad and World Cup held every four years. There are also individual contests such as the World Championship for Men and Women, Youth Championships, European, Asian and American Championships.

The International Chess Federation (Fide) accepted the IBCA as full member in 1994. The Association of blind players with an international affiliation was allowed to play against the national teams of other countries on an equal footing, using especially designed chess sets and clocks.

They had their best performance in the 1998 Olympiad in Elista, Kalmykia, Russia placing at 50 to 52 in a tie with Austria and Iceland among 110 teams. In the Women’s event, the IBCA tied with the Philippines at 49th to 50th places among 72 teams.

An exceptionally good player is Milenko Cabarkapa from Belgrade, who has played in several Oympiads and has an International Master title. James Slagle won the first US Championship for the blind in 1971. The American master Albert Landrin (1923-) participated in the World Chess Championship for the Blind and played all his games from memory, without use of a board.

Everybody knows that the late famous celebrated soul singer Ray Charles, who was probably the best in this generation, was born blind. But only a few know that he was an avid chess player and a very good one. He learned chess late in life and it was his only hobby. I estimate his playing strength at 2200 ELO, which is master level.

TOURNAMENT NEWS. The first Fide Grand Prix tournament took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, from April 20 to May 6. There were three winners who tied for first, namely Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the surprise of the tournament Wang Yue of China and host entry Victor Gashimov, who all scored 8/13.

Sergey Tiviakov of the Netherlands and Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine won the European Individual Championships with identical 8.5/11 in a field which attracted 337 players in the Men’s section including close to 200 GMs and IMs.

After winning the “Battle of GMs,” Wesley So, the world‘s youngest grandmaster at 14, is a hot favorite, despite the presence of foreign GMs, to win the twin International Philippine opens which started yesterday at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center in Olongapo City.

Eugene Torre said So has all the makings of a future world champion just like Fischer. “Wesley is a rare find,” Torre said recently. “He has an exceptional talent and has a potential to be a world champion. This is a great opportunity to have a kid like him. He is still young and dynamic. He has a bright future, and we all need to support him.”

XMOPI. To all former employees of Mobiloil Phils Inc. please check your website at for the latest news and guidelines.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

World’s youngest GM gets on a roll

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

WESLEY So, the world’s youngst grandmaster at 14 is leading the “Battle of GMs” held at the City State Hotel in Manila with 6.5 points after eight rounds with a win over fellow GM Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor despite having the black pieces.

Eugene Torre drew with NM Oliver Barbosa to remain undefeated and Cebuano IM Richard Bitoon demolished Hamed Nouri in 33 moves of a Scotch to tie Eugene at second with 5.5 points.

GM Joey Antonio versus IM Julio Catalino Sadorra and IM John Paul Gomez against GM Jayson Gonzales are half a point behind after similar fighting draws. IM Rolando Nolte is now in solo sixth place after scalping FM Ferdie Donguines in 31 moves of an English opening.

“Masuerte ako ngayon,” said So, who is now rated 2561, an increase of 21 Elo over his April Fide rating of 2540 after winning the tough Dubai Open and a massacre of sorts over GM Susanto Megaranto, who qualified to the World Cup last year, in their one-on-one duel in Jakarta the other week.

In the Women’s category, the frontrunner is Catherine Perena with 6 points followed by Shercila Cua with 5.5. Rulp Ylem Jose is alone at third with 5 points. Cebuana Jenny Rose Palomo has 2 in this strong tournament.

GRAND PRIX. The first Grand Prix is taking place in Baku Azerbaijan and is a full round robin among 14 pre-selected participants from April 20-May 6. Six tournaments will be held in the next two years among 21 top players with each player under contract to play in four tournaments. The winner of the Grand Prix will play the 2009 World Cup champion in an eight-game match for the right to challenge the World Champion in 2010.

Here are the standings after nine rounds; 1.) Alexander Grischuk of Russia (6) 2.) to 3.) Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan, Wang Yue of China (5.5) 4.) to 7.) Teimour

Radjabov of Azerbaijan, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, Shakrihriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan, Michael Adams of England (5.0) 8.) to 9.) Etienne Bacrot of France, Gata Kamsky of the USA (4.5) 10.) to 11.) Peter Svidler of Russia, Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine (4.0) 12.) Ivan Cheparinov of Bulgaria (3.5) 13.) Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia (3.0) 14.) David Navara Czechoslovakia (2.5)

EUROPEAN INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. This is one of the major tournaments in the chess calendar and this year’s Mens’ edition attracted close to a mind-boggling 200 GMs and 100 IMs in the biggest gathering of GMs this year.

It is taking place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria from April 20-May 4 and is 11 rounds Swiss.

Three players are in the lead after eight rounds with 6.5 points, Emil Sutovsky Israel, Pavel Tregubov Russia and Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia.

In the Women’s division, which attracted 159 players, the leaders with 7 points after nine rounds are Pia Cramling of Sweden, Katyrena Lahno and Anna Ushenina both of Ukraine.

Amazing morale. Mobiloil Phils Inc., a multinational petroleum company that practically ceased operations in 1983, was an exceptional employer that treated all its employees with dignity and respect. With very few exceptions, morale was high and camaraderie among its employees even higher.

It is just amazing that after more than 25 years , the bonds of friendship are still there and although its former employees are scattered all over the world, we will have a reunion January, Sinulog time, next year here in Cebu to renew ties.

Tony Dumagsa and Ferdie Quioco, both based in the US are spearheading the reunion together with the Cebu group led by Bunny Pages. Expected to attend are a big delegation from the USA and Canada. Some will be coming from Australia and Europe including expatriates.

If you were a former employee ,you must attend.