Friday, September 26, 2008

Topalov is new No. 1 in chess

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

WHEN the official Fide ratings will be released on Oct. 1, a lot of changes will take place. Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria will take the No. 1 position and previous topnotcher, world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, will be relegated to fifth place.

The Chess Grand Slam Final has just concluded in Bilbao, Spain, and was a six-player double-round robin event, the strongest in the history of the game ( a category 22 tournament).

The prize fund for the event was 400,000 Euros, with the winner receiving 150,000 Euros, the second place 70,000 Euros, etc. and the 6th placer getting 30,000 Euros. The prize is unprecedented and only the World Championships have exceeded the amount.

The scoring is also unusual with three points for a win, 1 for a draw and zero for losing the game. A draw is only possible with the consent of the arbiter.

The big surprise of the contest was that Anand, who was favored to win, instead finished a shocking last place .

Here are the final scores: Topalov (2777) 17 points; Magnus Carlsen of Norway (2787) 13; Levon Aronian of Armenia (2751) 13; Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine (2781) 12; Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan (2744) 10; and Anand (2798) 8.

Live ratings for the World Top 6 players now are 1.) Topalov, 2.) Alexander Morozevich of Russia (2787), 3.) Carlsen, 4.) Ivanchuk, 5.) Anand 6.) Vladimir Kramnik of Russia (2772).

WESLEY AND EUGENE. I was expecting Wesley So to sneak into the World top 100 this October but he did not perform as expected in the just- concluded PGMA Cup which was won by the resurrected Eugene Torre.

Instead, Wesley had a performance rating of 2460 to lose 14 Elo and ends this quarter with an estimated rating of 2615, while Eugene gained a massive 28 to close at 2560.

It is interesting to note that Eugene and Wesley will face off on Feb. 10 next year with an unprecedented pot money of P1,000,000 and the winner pocketing P600,000.

The 14-year-old So and the 56-year-old Torre will play a total of 12 games starting at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City. Two games each will then be played in Davao and Iloilo, and if the match is tied, the players will return to QC. A knockout game will be played if the duel ends in a tie.

The two GMs had split their three previous games and this match will be Fide rated. Sponsor is QC Rep. Matias Defensor.

KOSTENIUK. The Women’s World Championship 2008 has just concluded in Nalchik, a city in the Caucasus region of Southern Russia and the capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. Sixty-four players were eligible to play in the knockout event, which has a prize fund of $450,000 with the champion winning $60,000 and the runnerup $30,000. Due to the Russia-Georgia conflict the Georgian players and a few others decided not to participate.

Aleksandra Kosteniuk 24, defeated Hou Yifan, 14, 2.5-1.5 , in the final by winning the first game and drawing the rest of the next three games easily to become the 2008 World Women Champion. She succeeds Xu Yuhua who went out in the second round. In recent years China has dominated the event and Kosteniuk is the first Russian women’s champion since Elisabeth Bykova (champion 1958-1962).

She is considered one of the most beautiful players today and her motto is “beauty and intelligence can go together.”

Alexandra learned to play chess at the age of five after being taught by her father. She is married to Swiss-born Diego Garces, who is of Colombian descent, and 25 years her elder.

Hou Yifan of China is the toast of the chess world and by reaching the finals of the championship has also made her the youngest Super GM replacing our Wesley So.

Little known stories about Mikhail Tal

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

TAL (Nov. 9 1936 to June 28 1992) was a Soviet-Latvian chess player and the eighth World Chess Champion. He was often called “Misha” (a diminutive for Mikhail) and also “The magician from Riga” for his daring combinational style.

Many authorities consider him to have been the greatest attacking player of all time.

Tal’s heyday was when he beat Bobby Fischer, 4-0, during the candidates matches in Yugoslavia in 1959.

He was awarded a GM title without having been an IM first. The other one I know of was our Rosendo Balinas, who was the second foreigner, after Capablanca, to win a major tournament in Russia.

In the 1966 Havana Olympiad, Tal was hit in the head with a bottle and beaten up because he was flirting with someone’s wife. He was taken to the hospital and missed five rounds.

Tal suffered from bad health, and had to be hospitalized frequently throughout his career, mainly for kidney problems.

Eventually one of his diseased kidneys was removed. Tal was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker. He was also briefly addicted to morphine.

Tal died in a Moscow hospital, officially of kidney failure. But his friend and fellow Soviet grandmaster Genna Sosonko reported that “in reality, all his organs had stopped functioning.”

Whenever Tal would be in the hospital, he kept on escaping and can be found in the local chess club playing all day long.

Tal loved the game in itself and considered that “Chess, first of all, is Art.” He was capable of playing numerous blitz games against unknown or relatively weak players purely for the joy of play.

Tal was the briefest world champion reigning for 1 year and 5 days. The longest reign is held by Emanuel Lasker for 26 years and 337 days.

He was born with only three oversized fingers on his right hand but that did not stop him from playing the piano—Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Rachmaninov were his favorite composers. Musicians and painters, not chess players, were his closest friends.

Before Tal went to school, he was already able to multiply three-figure digits in his head and was allowed to skip two years in a row.

He was completely oblivious to material things. When he became champion he was given the best Soviet car at that time ,a Volga, but he never even considered to get a driving license and gave the car to his brother.

When he was asked if he was a morphine addict, he replied “Oh no, I am a Chigorin addict.” Chigorin was a famous Russian grandmaster.

In 1974 in a tournament in Poland, he was playing Adamski with both players in time trouble. Adamski’s flag fell but Tal lost a piece and resigned. At that moment Tal’s wife said “Black has not yet made 40 moves.” The arbiter intervened and awarded the win to Tal, who went on to win the tournament.

While strolling in Moscow, he was approached by a young girl if she could talk to him for a moment. He was so embarrassed because the lady proposed to have a child with him.

He once invited fellow GM Anthony Saidy and wife Engelika to a nightclub. They ordered one liter of vodka and Saidy had an ounce, Engelika another ounce and Tal the rest.

He purposely played moves that created the maximum complications for both sides. He once said, “One doesn’t have to play well. One only needs to play better than his opponent.”

He was so intimidating during his peak that he made seasoned grandmaster opponents shudder with fear.

Many thanks to Edmund Beronio for sending me his collection of chess information. He is an industrial engineer and works as the plant manager of a carrageenan factory in Cavite. His favorite players are of course, Tal and Fischer.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Meet Eugene Torre, Asia's first Grandmaster?

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE third PGMA Cup is now on going at the Duty-Free Fiesta Mall in Parañaque up to Sept. 13 with a format of 9 rounds Swiss. At stake is $40,000 with the champion pocketing the lion’s share of $6,000 and the runners up getting $5,000 and $4,000.

Playing are 22 GMs, 12 IMs, 1 WGM, 3 FMs and 1 WIM, totaling 72 players including 33 foreigners.

The tournament has been a revelation of sorts, more like the resurrection of the one of the most revered players of the planet. Eugene Torre has made a strong statement (he is not in the Olympiad team to Germany) with five straight wins and a draw in the sixth round to lead the field. I don’t recall Eugene playing this well at the start for more than two decades.

In 1974, then 22, he became Asia’s first Grandmaster (more on this later) by winning the silver medal in Board 1 in the World Chess Olympiad held in Nice, France behind future world champion, Anatoly Karpov. The team captain and also Philippines Chess Federation President at that time was Bombi Aznar.

The high point of his career came in the early 1980s when he was ranked world No.17 and successfully went on to qualify to be a candidate for the world championship after tying for first with Lajos Portisch during the 1982 Toluca Interzonal.

He was a celebrity in the 80s due to his daily one hour TV program “Chess Today”, and was once voted one of the 10 sexiest men in the Philippines.

He starred opposite now Batangas Governor Vilma Santos in a film produced by Sampaguita Pictures titled “Basta’t Isipin Mo, Mahal Kita” and was allegedly linked to her romantically by media.

He is not the only sportsman though to be featured in a movie. Others have been Mona Sulaiman , Rolando Navarette, Lydia de Vega , Anthony Villanueva, Onyok Velasco and a few others.

He was a TOYM awardee in 1974 and is the only sportsman elevated by the Philippine Sportswriters Association to the Hall of Fame.

Eugene has been honored and is accepted all over the world as Asia’s first GM. In a region comprising more than a third of the world’s population, this is really unique and a tremendous accomplishment.

However, I came across an article that claims that the first Asian GM was Russian Alexander Zaitsev (June 15,1935 to Oct. 31, 1971), who became GM in 1967 well ahead of Eugene. His finest achievement was a share of first place at the 1968/69 USSR Chess Championship of Alma Ata. He was born and raised in Vladivostok, Russia.

Where is Vladivostok? From what I have read thus far, it is considered to be a part of Asia and is situated at the head of the Golden Horn Bay not far from the Russo-Chinese border and North Korea in the Far East. Japan is about 100 miles away.

Can somebody correct me please.

Hou Yifan. Don‘t look now but Wesley So has unofficialy lost his claim to fame as the youngest GM in the world. That status now belongs to the Chinese sensation Hou Yifan born Feb. 27, 1994 and 141 days younger than Wesley. And, she is a girl!

Just this month , Fide referred to her as a “GM-elect”, indicating that her Atatürk norm (2nd) had been confirmed. This means that Hou Yifan has qualified for the title of GM last month (3rd norm) in the World Juniors, where she finished tied at third, at the age of 14, making her one of the youngest GMs in history and the youngest female.

She is now in the semifinals of the 2008 Women’s World Championship playing against India’s Koneru Humpy. The other pairing is between Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia against Pia Cramling of Sweden. Whatever happens it will be East vs. West in the finals.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Kim Steven Yap, a rising star

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

CHESS is in his blood. His father is NM Lincoln Yap, who is working as a chess instructor and arbiter in Singapore and his mother is Mona Ruelan, daughter of the late NM Marcelo “Loloy” Ruelan.

His uncle is IM Rico Yap Mascariñas, a chess coach in Singapore, who, for a long time, was the country’s second best player after Eugene Torre, and a Board 2 gold medalist in the 1982 Chess Olympiad in Lucerne, Switzerland! Another uncle is Fide arbiter Marvin Ruelan, who orchestrates a lot of the local tournaments.

Kimkim, 20, an AB English student at the University of Cebu, recently played in the fifth IGB Dato Arthur Tan Malaysia Open where he snared his second IM norm with a 7.5/12 performance when he placed ninth including tiebreaks in a field of 112 highly rated players.

He would have achieved a nine-game GM norm had he won his game against compatriot GM Darwin Laylo in the ninth round instead of a tie.

He defeated WIM Suveges Navelle of Australia in the first round and missed the winning move versus GM Dzhurmaev Marat of Uzbekistan in the second, which ended in a draw.

He went up against GM Sermek Drazen of Croatia in the third round but missed the drawing move, and easily won his fourth and fifth games over Kamal Abdullah and Ian Udani, who are both Malaysians.

He won again in the sixth round over IM Julio Catalino Sadorra and halved the point with another Pinoy in the seventh round, IM Ronald Dableo. In the eighth round, he manhandled IM Oliver Dimakiling in the game featured below.

With his fine performance, I estimate Kim‘s new rating is not at 2359.

He is aiming to get his final norm at either the Pichay Cup at the Duty Free Mall in Parañaque on Sept. 13-20 or the Singapore Mixed Masters in December.

Sponsoring Kim’s trip to Malaysia were Boojie Lim of Rose Pharmacy, Kelly Uy of Cebu Progress Marketing, Bombi Aznar of SWU and Augusto Go of UC. US-based doctor, Darcy Tabotabo has also expressed his intention to help this remarkable lad.

It is interesting to note that Kim is up 2-0 versus current sensation Wesley So in their heads on match.

WESLEY AGAIN. Wesley So hogged the limelight with another impressive performance, to tie at second in the First Capital Dragon tourney in Vietnam after a 6.5/9 result. His live rating is now estimated at 2622.

He is one of the favorites in the twin International tournaments scheduled one after the other at the Duty Free Mall in Parañaque, the $40,OOO PGMA Cup on Sept. 6-13 and the $30,000 top purse of the fourth Prospero Pichay Cup.

Thirty-four foreign players have already confirmed their participation.

If Wesley places in the Top 3 in each of these contests, his rating will go up to around 2640, which will place him in the world’s Top 100, when the official ratings will be released on Oct. 1. Wow na wow! Soooo great already at only 14 years old!

SPAIN. The Bilbao in Spain, an on-going competition ending on Sept. 13, is the strongest ever in history (Category 22- ave Elo 2778) and has had its share of several firsts. The “Bilbao” rule is in effect meaning no draws are allowed, unless approved by the arbiter. Furthermore, the scoring is unusual, with a win at 3 points, draw 1, and loss zero. And it is played in the town plaza, inside an “aquarium”.

The prize? A cool Euro 400,000 or $585,000. The champion will get 150,000 euros, while the runners up will get 70,000, 60,000 for third, 50,000, 40,000 and 30,000 euros.

The six participants in the event belong to the world’s Top 10 list– Viswanathan Anand (1), Magnus Carlsen (2), Vasili Ivanchuk (3), Véselin Topálov (6), Teimur Radyábov (7) and Levon Aronián (10). It is one of a kind really.