Friday, July 11, 2008

Controversies hound RP chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE national chess scene is being rocked by controversies and it involves the major players of the land. Grandmasters Eugene Torre and Joey Antonio relinquished their participation in the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany on Nov. 12 to 25 by not participating in the grand finals to select the members of the team. It is being held in the Kaban ng Hiyas Bldg. in Mandaluyong and started last July 1.

GM Eugene Torre issued an official statement that he does not have anything against the National Chess Federation of the Philippines’ (NCFP) regulation not to seed top players for the Olympiad. “It’s only fair, let’s give chance to others, especially the young. But if they still need my services, I would be very much willing to play for the country,” said Torre.

“We want all the players, regardless of their titles (GMs, IMs or NMs) to participate in the qualifying tournament and earn their spots in the national team. We will not tolerate the old practice of seeding top players to the team,” said NCFP president Prospero Pichay in a short speech during the opening ceremony.

GMs Mark Paragua and Darwin Laylo returned to the country from the United States to be able to compete in the tournament. Also playing are Dubai Open champion GM Wesley So, GM-elect Jayson Gonzales, GM Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor and a host of IMs and NMs..

Twelve players, led by top female player Catherine Perena and semifinal round winner Kimberly Jane Cunanan are seeing action in the women’s division.

RATINGS. Fide recently released its July, 2008 ratings and the top Filipino player is 14-year-old Wesley So at 2577. Eugene Torre and Jayson Gonzales are tied for second and third with identical 2524. Paragua is rated 2523, Antonio has 2516 and Laylo is at 2504.

It is very lamentable that Eugene is not playing. Eugene established a record when he made his 19th consecutive appearance in the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy and moves just one short of tying the all-time record for most appearances held by the legendary Lajos Portisch of Hungary.

Another controversy involving the top guns is the opinion issued by Honorary Fide president Florencio Campomanes Thursday questioning “the decision of the NCFP to enter into a contract with a Singapore-based group for the holding of at least four RP Opens in the next two years.”

During the Asean Chess Confederation board meeting in Vietnam, the NCFP, through president Prospero Pichay, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Singapore-based Intchess Asia to manage all its international competitions in the next two years, including four RP Opens.

“We cannot just give the right to organize such big, national events to a group with no proven expertise in such undertaking,” Campomanes said.

NEW INTERNET CONNECTION. My last three articles were written at the Internet Café of good friend Edmund Suralta as I had no internet connection in the house. To a columnist, having no internet is like a cowboy without a horse or a farmer without a plow. It diminishes the quality of the article, makes it time consuming, expensive and causes anxiety and a lot of hassle.

I finally decided to change my internet provider and now I can play online chess and poker in my favorite websites at the times most favorable. Many thanks to Stella Gran, the Business Specialist of PLDT who delivered what she promised besides being such a nice smart lady and the contractor, Benjo Daraman.

CEPCA. Our monthly tournament will be held this July 13, at the Deep Blue Café in SM starting at 2 p.m. Format is five rounds Swiss and time control will be based on the classification of the member as A,B and C. New members are welcome. I am also requesting all those who will play to bring a 1x1 picture for our new ID.

The venue for the Kiddies and Juniors will be on July 12 at the Opascor Bldg. In front of M. Lhuiller Main office at 1 p.m. Format is seven rounds Swiss

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Campomanes receives highest award

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I HAD a surprise visitor at Handuraw a few days ago and it was no less than the honorary president of Fide himself, Florencio Campomanes, who has spent most of his life with the game. I consider him to be primarily responsible for the current popularity of the game worldwide and expanding Fide membership that now includes most of the countries in the United Nations and more.

He is eyeing the island countries of the Pacific as the next step to really make chess global. The countries number almost a dozen with Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga and Palau among them.

He recently received the Spirit of Sports award from the General Association of International Sports Association, which comprises all sports under the International Olympic Committee. This is the highest honor that can be awarded to an individual, much like the Nobel Prize, but without any monetary consideration. Among the previous awardees were former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Together with the current President of Cepca, Nato Casia, we spent the whole evening playing chess and discussing chess politics.

Also, his contributions and involvement in the development of chess for more than half a century earned him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philippine Sportswriters Association.

The distinctive honor was awarded to the 80-year-old gentleman last Jan. 18, 2007. “Mr. Campomanes deserves this Lifetime Achievement Award,” said PSA ‘s Jimmy Cantor of Malaya.

Along the way, Campo has his share of controversies on all fronts, local, national and international.

Here are some excerpts from an article in Chessbase by the webmaster of Fide, Casto Abundo, who knows him very well.

“Graduating cum laude from the University of the Philippines in 1948, Florencio Campomanes was among the first Fulbright Scholars from the Philippines and was taking his Masters Degree in Political Science from Brown University and Doctoral Studies in Georgetown University, both in America, when he heard of the World Chess Federation. It was auspicious that his thesis was on the nascent United Nations.

Campo was a habitué at the Manhattan and Marshall Chess Clubs. He was exposed to organized chess and on his return to Manila co-founded the Philippine Chess Federation and affiliated with FIDE in 1956.

In 1967, Campo invited Bobby Fischer for a series of matches in the Philippines. Years later when Fischer opened the first Philippines International Chess Tournament in Manila in 1973, he was asked why he turned down all other official invitations after he became World Champion and accepted only the one from the Philippines. “I was there in ‘67. I was not champion then, but they treated me like a champion,” Fischer explained.

Campo was the first chess columnist in major Philippine dailies, the Manila Times (1954-56) and Manila Chronicle (1956-1961). He also produced and hosted the first daily TV program “Chess Today” from 1973 to 1982. He was the Philippine Delegate to Fide from 1956 to 1982, Asian Zone President 1960-1964, Deputy President 1974-1982 and Fide President from 1982 to 1995, Fide Chairman 1995-1996 and Honorary President since 1996.

An avid player, Campo was Philippine champion in 1956 and 1960, and tied for second with Edmar Mednis in the 1954 New York State Championship.”

A case was filed against Campo in Manila due to the hosting of the1992 Manila Chess Olympiad. Last December, the Supreme Court unanimously cleared him of all charges. “I took no short cuts and kept my sanity and my sense of humor for 10 years. It was only a matter of a fine of around 100 Euros, but I refused to accept the verdict,” Campo said.

Simul games and the worst record

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

SIMULTANEOUS exhibition (often abbreviated to “simul”) is an event where a very strong player (commonly a grandmaster) plays multiple games at the same time with selected players, usually below master strength and club members.

In Cepca, thru the years, we have invited several masters to play with us and here are some of them (al lGMs); Eugene Torre, James Sunye-Neto of Brazil, Walter Arencibia of Cuba, Jorge Hickl of Germany, Ye Rong Guang of China, the late Edmar Mednis of the US and the late Alexander Wojtkiewiez of Poland.

Edmar Mednis was a respected American author of several books and was born in Riga, Latvia. He migrated to the US after the war and was the first person to beat Bobby Fischer in the US Open. He became famous during the 1972 Spassky vs. Fischer “Match of the Century” when he served as analyst of the games which was televised in the US and some countries that propelled chess to new heights. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 2002 at Woodside, Queens, New York.

He was our guest in Cebu in 1996.

GM Alexander Wojtkiewiez was born in Latvia, but was Polish by nationality. He was a great chess talent in his teens, but his career was interrupted when he was imprisoned for refusing to join the Soviet Army. In 1986 he moved to Poland and later took residence in the US, becoming one of the most active tournament players in the world. He died on July 14, 2006. He was our guest in 1998 and was a regular guy, fond of the ice cold beer and karaoke.

Walter Arencibia is from Cuba who won the 1986 World Juniors. He become a grandmaster in 1990 and was our guest in the same year after the Inter-Zonals in Manila.

He has also represented his country at several Olympiads from 1986 to 2006. His current rating is 2555 which places him third in Cuba and 306th in the world. I have very fond memories of him together with Alex Tolentino.

In a regular simul, no chess clocks are used. The exhibitor walks from board to board in a fixed order. Usually the boards are arranged in a large circle or square. The opponents are expected to make a move when the exhibitor arrives at the board.

In clock simuls all the games are played as normal tournament games, timed by a clock, apart from the fact that the exhibitor is playing on all boards.

Time pressure can become quite severe in such simuls. The most famous Clock Simul was when World Champion Garry Kasparov played the Olympiad team of Germany, who were all strong grandmasters.

The new world record is by GM Susan Polgar for 326 Simultaneous Games Played with a 96 percent win rate in Palm Beach, Florida on Aug. 1, 2005.

Her opponents ranged from 4-year-old Hannah Boshell, who lasted one more round than her older sister, Hunter, to 95-year-old Jona Lerman, who’s been playing the game for more than eight decades.

The Worst Performance ever is by Joe Hayden, 17, who challenged 180 persons to play simultaneous games against him at a shopping center in Cardiff, N.J. in August, 1977. Only 20 showed up, of whom 18 beat him, including Stowell Fulton, 7, who needed only a few moves. Hayden’s two wins were against a man who grew tired of waiting between moves and withdrew—and Hayden’s own mother.

In 1910 the Austrian master, Josef Krejcik, gave a simultaneous display at Linz on 25 boards and lost every single game.

Cepca results. Lawyer Gaudioso “Jongjong” Melendez won the June edition of the Club with five straight wins at the Deep Blue Café SM City last weekend. Second placer was Miguel Banebane with 4 points. Tied at third and fourth spots were Joe Atillo and Nic Cuizon. Mandy Baria and Felix Balbona each scored 3 points to tie at fifth to sixth.