Friday, February 26, 2010

Comparing Wesley So and Le Quang Liem

JUST like China, over the past two decades, Vietnam has shifted from a centrally managed economy to a socialist market economy and has experienced rapid growth.

Known as “Doi Moi,” the policy was aimed at making the country self-sufficient in food production and basic commodities and reducing state intervention in business.

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This has resulted in more resources being channeled to sports in general and chess in particular.

When Eugene Torre became Asia‘s first grandmaster in 1974, Vietnam was at the bottom of the barrel. Now, they are dominant in Asean chess and slowly but surely gaining the respect of the world chess community.

An exciting chase between the chess prodigies Wesley So and Le Quang Liem is dramatically unfolding as to who will first breach the 2700 rating and the next level, the world top 10.

Wesley at 16, two years and seven months younger, is considered the better player, primarily due to his dramatic performance in the World Cup last December.

However, two major tournaments have changed all that. Liem recently was solo winner of the toughest open in the world, Aeroflot 2010, and gained an amazing 25.8 Elo.

A day earlier (without any rest), he was tied for second place at the strong Moscow Open and added another 16.2 points to his cap for a mind-boggling 42 Elo to reach 2689, just 11 shy of 2700. He is now in the top 50 in the world.

He also won the 4th Kolkata Open Tournament ahead of 13 higher-rated players in September last year. The tournament got international attention due to the Tkachiev incident where the Russian maverick fell asleep at the chessboard because he was totally drunk and could not finish the game.

An example of how Vietnam supports their world-class players was the news in 2008, which said that Liem will receive US$35,500 from the Vietnam Chess Federation to raise his Elo rating to over 2600 and then 2700.

The Federation planned to spend the money on Liem’s participation in four international competitions per year.

He will also enjoy a foreign tutor three months per year,
and learn chess from an expert over the Internet three hours per day.

Wesley, on the other hand, studies by his lonesome. He eked out only 9.3 in his last two contests, 4.7 in Corus 2010 (Group B), where he placed fifth, and 4.6 in Aeroflot Open 2010 where he tied for 7th-19th. His live rating is now 2666.

There is some good news, too. PSC Chair Harry Angping said So will be included in the “elite group” headed by netters Cecil Mamiit and Treat Conrad Huey and bowler Biboy Rivera. He will thus get a monthly stipend of P20,000 plus a choice of international stints on a quarterly basis.

Angpin added that the PSC would be willing to put up P1-2 million to finance So’s training this year.

Wesley needs at least two or three more tournaments to reach 2700, provided he plays well while Liem needs only one. If this is a tennis game, the score is: advantage Vietnam!

In the Asian Continental Championship held in Subic last year, Liem defeated Wesley to first qualify to the World Cup although he was eliminated in the first round while Wesley reached the quarter-finals.

Labogon Open IM Kimkim Yap was the solo winner in the Open section followed by Venancio Loyola,Voltaire Sevillano, Nelman Lagutin, Yves Fiel,Joel Fernan,and Adonis Buenaventura.

Among the Kiddies, the champion was Felix Shaun Balbona.Runners-up were Alan Pason, Raymond Abelan, and John Francis Balbona. Ladies winner was Jessa Balbona followed by Sofia Balite and KC Morala.

Incidentally, Kimkim will be playing in the Kuala Lumpur Open International on April 6-13 courtesy of Boojie Lim of Rose Pharmacy.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Linares, Aeroflot and Labogon

Thursday, February 18, 2010
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Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

WIMBLEDON is to tennis as Linares is to chess. The tournament, usually played around mid-February, is taking place in Andalusia, Spain, from Feb. 13 to 24 and features six top players whose average rating is 2757 (no player is below 2700) and is a category 21 tournament.

Along with Corus, Sofia and Nanjing, it is part of the Grand Slam Circuit and is one of the strongest annual tournaments in the chess calendar.

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The players are Veselin Topalov, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk, Francisco Vallejo Pons, Boris Gelfand and Vugar Gashimov, who is playing in his strongest tournament. Time control is two hours for 40 moves, then another hour for the next 20 moves, then 20 minutes for the rest of the game. It also has a 30-second increment (starting from move 61).

A game can sometimes last for seven hours or more.

In 1998, the format of the tournament changed from a single round-robin to a double round-robin event (meaning that each participant plays every other participant twice, once with each color).

Luis Rentero, the legendary sponsor of Linares, is notorious for being a strong opponent of short draws in chess, to the point that he offered cash bonuses for playing longer games.

Topalov, who lives in Spain, has never won Linares though he shared first place with Gary Kasparov in 2005. He just lost his No.1 ranking to Boy Wonder Magnus Carlsen, who has signed up to play next year.

Aronian won in 2006 while Grischuk won last year.

After four rounds, Topalov and Grischuk are tied with 2.5, followed by Aronian and Vallejo with 2.0 and then Gelfand and Gashimov at 1.5.

Aeroflot 2010. The 9th Aeroflot Open is taking place from Feb. 9 to 18 in the tourist complex Izmailovo Hotel Gamma-Delta in Russia. The total prize is 180,000 Euros.

There are four open sections (A1, A2, B and C). The A1 section are for those rated 2550 or higher and Wesley So and Darwin Laylo are playing in this section.

It is one of the strongest open tournaments in a long time with more than 30 players rated over 2600.

Two players, Vachier-Lagrave and Bacrot are over 2700.

Le Quang Liem of Vietnam played a magnificent final round victory over Ian Nepomniachtchi to secure sole first place at 7/9 points. Compatriot Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, tied in the lead with Liem going to the final 9th round, lost to Korobov Anton of Ukraine, who moved into second place with 6.5/9 points.

There are four players with 6 points--Alexander Motylev, Zhou Jianchao, Nguyen Ngoc Troungson and Boris Grachev.

Wesley So had a respectable performance with 5.5 points in a tie with 11 others from seventh to 19th. He had three wins, five draws and a loss to Troungson. Laylo’s performance was a disaster. He failed to win a single game.

LOCAL EVENT. Labogon Open Tournament organizer NM Leonardo Alidani called me up to announce their event on Feb. 20 to 21 at the barangay’s social hall in Mandaue City, starting at 10 a.m.

The two-day contest follows the seven-round Swiss system format and has three sections: open, kiddies and women’s. Registration is P150 for the open, P70 for the kiddies and P50 for the women’s.

The champion in the open division will get P4,000, while the second and third will get P2,000 and P1,000. The fourth to seventh placers will get P700, P500, P300 and P200, respectively.

The top finishers in the kiddies’ class will pocket P1,000, P700, P500, P300, P200, P150 and P150. The top placers in the women’s bracket will receive P500, P300, P250, P200, and P100.

The sponsors are the Labogon Chess Learning Center and Boojie Lim of Rose Pharmacy and Barangay Captain Damaso Tumulak.

Interested players may contact Alidani at 0939-4890160.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Israel is excellent at chess

Thursday, January 28, 2010
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Frank “Boy” Pestaño

JEWS are excellent chess players because they are more intelligent, better- educated and more motivated than the average person.

Several times, it has been dangerous to be Jewish, and many hid their faith to avoid persecution. Two such periods were from the 15th to the 18th century during the Spanish Inquisition, and in 1938 to 1945 during the Nazi Holocaust where an estimated six million Jews were killed.

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Even now, Israel is surrounded by nations that do not recognize its right to exist.

The facts are extraordinary. There are at most 13 million Jews in the world today, yet they control Wall Street, the entertainment industry, the diamond trade and big business.

Forty-five percent of the top 40 of the Forbes 400 richest Americans are Jewish. One-third of American multimillionaires are Jewish. Twenty percent of professors at leading universities are Jewish. Thirty percent of American Nobel prize winners in science and 25 percent of all American Nobel winners are Jewish.

The percentage of Jewish households with income greater than $50,000 is double that of non-Jews.

Forty-five percent of the Jews live in the United States, which constitutes only two of the American population. The incredible influence of this small group of people has resulted in a vast transfer of wealth from the United States to Israel, due mainly to the political power of the Jewish lobby.

Big names and thinkers are Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud, among many others.

A big number of actors and actresses are Jewish as well as musicians, scientists and business professionals.

Let us not also forget the original Jews (Hebrews)--Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Mary, Jesus of Nazareth and the main propagator of Christianity, Paul of Tarsus.

Jews are not generally known to be good in sports. There is one exception though and this is in chess, which is not surprising.

Despite its small population (7.5 million), Israel is ranked as the third top playing country in the world. It is ahead of the USA, China, India, France, England and
Germany. Only Russia and Ukraine are rated higher simply because of their big population.

There are 34 grandmasters, 43 international masters and 145 titled players in Israel and the game is played all over the country by all ages. In addition, there are a good number of GMs and IMs who are citizens in other countries such as Russia, Ukraine, USA, Hungary and other European nations who are Jewish.

The quality and number of chess players who are Jewish or half-Jewish are fantastic and extraordinary. World champions include Wilhelm Steinitz, Emmanuel Lasker, Mikhail Botvinnik, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, Alexander Khalifman and Boris Gelfand.

Other famous players are the Polgar sisters, Aron Nimzowitsch, Miguel Najdorf, Efim Geller, Larry Evans, Reuben Fine, Viktor Korchnoi, Peter Svidler, Richard Réti, Siegbert Tarrasch and Mark Taimanov.

Let us not forget also Boris Alterman, Yuri Averbakh, Joel Benjamin, David Bronstein, Dawid Janowski, Lev Polugaevsky and the great Samuel Reshevsky.

SAN ROQUE. The battle of monthly champions was played last Jan. 24 at the barangay hall of San Roque, Talisay and the grand winner was Gerard Donn Ouano with a
perfect score of seven points.

Runners-up were Krystell Kaytte Ouano, Jeffu Dorog, Loraine Powao, and Steven Keith Pacada.

Sponsors were San Roque Barangay Captain Antonio Cabrera, Jojo Powao and Cepca member Gerry Ouano. Tournament director was former Cepca president Manny Manzanares.

Here is some good news for Cepca members: One of our original members, Yegor Abelita, will try his luck in the 2010 Chess World Open in Philadelphia on March 31 to

April 4 together with his granddaughter.


The secret to true happiness

Friday, February 5, 2010
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Frank “Boy” Pestaño

THE following quotes were made by chess players and are based on common sense or life itself. The effect of the quote is to make the wisdom it tells self- evident.

When you see a good move, look for a better one—Emanuele Lasker

The pin is mightier than the sword—Fred Reinfeld

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I don’t believe in psychology, I believe in good moves—Bobby Fischer

The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake—Savielly Tartakover

Chess is a beautiful mistress—Bent Larsen

There are two types of sacrifices:correct ones and mine—Mikhael Tal

Chess, like love and music, has the power to make men happy—Benjamin Franklin

I have discovered the secret to true happiness in life--chess, true friends and a loving and understanding family—Bobby Ang

Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists—Marcel Duchamp

If cunning alone were needed to excel, women would be the best chess players—Albin

On the chessboard ,lies and hypocrisy do not survive long—Emanuele Lasker

Chess holds its master in its own bonds, shackling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom of the strongest must suffer—Albert Einstein

Every chess master was once a beginner—Chernev

Tactics flow from a superior position—Fischer

Chess is ruthless; you’ve got to be prepared to kill people—Nigel Short

We don’t really know how the game was invented, though there are suspicions. As soon as we discover the culprits, we will let you know—Bruce Pandolfini

The battle for the ultimate truth will never be won. That is why chess is so fascinating—Hans Kmoch

No chess grandmaster is normal; they only differ in the extent of their madness—Victor Korchnoi

Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when they are only wasting their time—George Bernard Shaw

Many have become chess masters; no one has become a master of chess—Siegbert Tarasch

Play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician and the endgame like a machine—Spielman

Excellence at chess is one mark of a scheming mind—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A passed pawn increases in strength as the number of pieces on the board diminishes—Capablanca

The tactician knows what to do; whereas the strategist knows what to do when there is nothing to do—Gerald Abrahams

You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win.You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player—Capablanca
You can only get good at chess if you love the game—Fischer

A man that will take back a move at chess will pick a pocket—Richard Fenton

Chess is so inspiring that I do not believe a good player capable of having an evil thought during the game—Wilhelm Steinitz

When I have white, I win; when I have black I win because I am Bogolyubov.—Bogolyubov.

One bad move nullifies forty good ones.—Horowitz.

Those who say they understand chess, understand nothing—Robert Hubner

A good player is always lucky—Capablanca

BOGO CHESS. There will be an open tournament in Bogo on Feb. 6 and 7. The venue is the Bogo City Plaza and the event will start at 11 a.m. The format is seven rounds Swiss and time control is 40 minutes each player, play to finish.

Champion will snare P4,000 and the runners-up will get P2,000 and P1,000. There will be and additional prizes up to 13th place.

The sponsors are Mayor Junie Martinez, who is celebrating his birthday today, and Rep.Tining Martinez. Joe Muñez is the tournament organizer.

For more queries you can get in touch with Dr. Ben Rodriguez at 09052471258 or 4349241.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February

The Cupid gambit

Thursday, February 11, 2010
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Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

EVERYBODY has something to say about love. Since this is a chess column, I’’ll just continue my tradition of writing about the love affairs of chess players during Valentine’s Day.

One that is popular for Pinoys is the Arianne Caoili and Levon Aronian love affair.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

Arianne, 24, is a Fil-Aussie mestiza and a celebrity dancer on Dancing with the Stars. In chess, she has achieved the Fide Woman International Master title and has a rating of 2235 and a peak of 2309 while still playing for the Philippines in 2002.

During the Turin Olympiad in 2006 British GM Danny Gormally and Aronian had a fight over her in the dance floor, which was a highly publicized incident. It is not surprising as Arianne is considered as one of the most beautiful faces today.

Aronian, 28, of Armenia won the Fide Grand Prix 2008–2009, qualifying him for the candidates tournament for the World Chess Championship 2011. He is also the 2009 World Rapid Chess champion. He is currently No.5 in the January 2010 Fide list with a rating of 2781.

5000 CLUB. Young couple WGM Natalia Pogonina and Peter Zhdanov recently compiled a list of the strongest chess couples in the world who could become members of the honorary “5000 Club”.

The requirements for becoming a member are: 1.) the two chess players should be officially married and 2.) the sum of their peak Fide ratings should be 5,000 or more.

As of this day, the top 10 pairs of the “5000 Club” are:

1.) GM Vassily Ivanchuk (2787) and Alisa Galliamova (2554)=5,341.

2.) GM Alexi Shirov (2755) and IM Victoria Cmilyte (2512) = 5,267.

3.) GM Alexander Grischuk (2748) and IM Natalia Zhukova (2490) = 5,238.

4.) GM Joel Lautier (2687) and IM Almira Skripchenko (2498) * = 5,185.

5.) GM Laurent Fressinet (2676) and IM Almira Skripchenko (2498) = 5,174.

6.) GM Bartosz Socko (2660) and GM Monika Socko (2505) = 5,165.

7.) GM Peng Xiaomin (2657) and WGM Qin Kanying (2501) = 5,158.

8.) GM Mohamad Al-Modiakhi (2588) and GM Zhu Chen (2548) = 5,136.

9.) GM Wu Shaobin (2545) and GM Xie Jun (2574) = 5,119.

10.) GM Oleg Korneev (2671) and WGM Tatiana Kononenko (2442) = 5,113.

*IM Skripchenko got divorced from Lautier in 1997 and married GM Fressinet in 2003.

GM MAROSTICA. I featured this love story before but it’s worth repeating. A unique historical tourist attraction featuring human chess players occurs every September on even-numbered years in Marostica, Italy. This is a true story dating back to 1454.

The story goes that two noblemen, Rinaldo D’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, fell in love with the beautiful Lionora, daughter of Taddeo Parisio, the Lord of Marostica’s castle. As was the custom in that time, they challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of Lionora.

The Lord forbade the encounter. He decided the two rivals should instead play a chess game: Lionora would take the winner as her husband and the loser would marry Oldrada, the younger sister.

The story is said to have had a happy ending, as the winner of the game was Vieri, Lionora’s secret love.

This event is repeated today with participants, just like when the time it happened, wearing costumes of those days. There are also multi-color banners and exquisite parades, ala Sinulog.

Joseph Sanchez is somewhere in France. I am calling on the mother or sisters of Joseph to please text me at 0929-210-4437.I have an important message for him.