Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The other presidential elections

Thursday, April 22, 2010
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By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

THE presidential elections will be held this year after a long reign by the incumbent.

I am not talking about the Philippine presidential elections, but the Fide elections, which will be held in Khanty Mansiyk, Russia in conjunction with the 39th Chess Olympiad on Sept. 10 to Oct. 4 this year.

There are so far only two candidates, both Russians--incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov.

Past Fide presidents were: Alexander Rueb, 1924 to 1949 (25 years); Folke Rogard, 1949 to 1970 (21 years); Max Euwe, 1970 to 1978 (eight years); Friðrik Ólafsson, 1978 to 1982 (four years); Florencio Campomanes 1982 to 1995 (13 years); and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, 1995-present (15 years) .

There is some sort of conflict here. According to Fide rules, only one candidate can be nominated by a member of the federation meaning, in this case, the Russian federation.

Since both are Russians, I don't know how it will proceed. What I know though is that in exceptional cases, any rule can be waived by the general assembly.

The latest news is that Kirsan will be the official candidate of the Russian Federation but Karpov may be allowed to run anyway by the General Assembly to provide an alternative viable candidate.

Another recent development is that the German Federation is nominating Karpov as its candidate since he has been a member of the German chess club 1930 Hockenheim for 16 years. Fide rules also allow this setup.

There are 169 federation members in Fide. Fide follows the one-member, one-vote policy, a la United Nations.

The last attempt to unseat Ilyumzhinov was in 2006 when Dutch businessman Bessel Kok failed in his election bid. At the time Karpov said "even a dickhead would do a better job than Ilyumzhinov."

Already, this election is turning into a Battle Royale. Big federations are already announcing their choice. US, Germany, France are going to Karpov, while the influential Turkish Federation and the Continental presidents-- Boris Kutin (Europe) Ali Nizar (Africa), Khalifa Mohammed Al-Hitmi (Asia) and Jorge Vega (Americas) confirmed their support for Kirsan and his team.

Karpov said, "Upon being elected Fide president , it is my intention to bring Fide back out into the open and raise the profile of chess throughout the world. I plan to accomplish the above agenda by relocating Fide offices to major cities of the world such as Moscow, Paris and New York."

Here is what they say about Kirsan.

"He has spent more than $50 million from his personal pocket for Fide during his presidency of over 15 years. I believe that this should be respected. Kirsan has supported several events with huge prize funds, assisted veteran grandmasters all over the World, donated sets and materials to Federations as well as hosting several key events."

"All Fide tournaments today are organized under excellent conditions, with large prize funds, an intensive calendar every year, and 169 member Federations today."

If I were to decide the Philippine vote, I would go to Kirsan.

OPON CHESS. The 2nd Mariano Dimataga Cup Open will be held from April 24 (elimination round to select the top 16 players ) to 25 at the Basketball Court beside Opon church, starting 8 am.

Format is 7 rounds Swiss with a time control of 30 minutes per player, play to finish. Registration is P200.

The prizes for the Open Category are P6,000 for the champion, P3,000 for the second placer, and P1,500 for the two losing semifinalists.

There will also be a Kiddies Section. For details call Rene Romero at 09324051689 and Aldwin Daculan, 09167175484.

Tournament Arbiter is Felix Poloyapoy Jr.


Anand vs. Topalov

Thursday, April 15, 2010
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By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

THE biggest event this year is just around the corner. Viswanathan Anand of India will defend his title versus Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria from April 21 to May 12 in Sofia.

The format is best of 12 games and time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20, then 15 minutes to finish with 30-second increments.

If the score is tied 6-6 there will be rapid tiebreaks.

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Prize is $3 million.

Sofia Rules are in effect, meaning no draws are allowed unless approved by the arbiter.

There are some interesting conditions of the match. They are too numerous to mention but a major one is that there will be no visual contact between the players. A special curtain made in Germany will be installed. How it is designed is beyond me.

Anand won the Chess Oscar in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. The Chess Oscar is awarded to the year’s best player, who is determined by a worldwide poll of leading chess critics, writers, and journalists—which, by the way, includes this writer. The poll is conducted by the Russian chess magazine 64.

I first became aware of Anand back in 1988 when he won the World Junior Championship in Manila. At that time, three were favored by the experts to win the title: Anand, Vassily Ivanchuk and Cebuano Enrico “Econg” Sevillano.

Much earlier than that, in the early 70s, Anand who was a 10-year-old, came to the Philippines with his father, who had accepted a job as a consultant in the Philippine National Railways. It was here in the Philippines that he became a chess fanatic and his mentor was the late NM Hector Cabido.

In an interview he says “My mother taught me how to play when I was six. We moved to the Philippines shortly afterward. And there they had a TV program that was on in the afternoon, when I was in school. She would write down all the games that they showed and the puzzles, and in the evening we solved them together. I won a lot of prizes especially chess books.”

He studied in Don Bosco while here.

I was also watching this TV show back then and also got some prizes including a kamagong chess set from the host, Florencio Campomanes, who became Fide president.

Topalov won the 2005 Chess Oscar. He was ranked No.1 in the world from April 2006 to January 2007, and had the second highest Elo rating of all time (2813). He regained the No. 1 ranking again in October 2008, and officially remained No. 1 until January 2010, when he fell behind Magnus Carlsen.

He defeated Gata Kamsky also in Sofia, Bulgaria in February 2009 to be the challenger for the World Chess Championship 2010.

Topalov is known as a strong tactical and streaky player, and likes unclear lines where he can out-think his opponent.

With the white pieces, Topalov likes to play the Sicilian, Ruy Lopez, French and Queen’s Indian. With black, his favorites are the Sicilian Najdorf, King’s Indian, Ruy Lopez, Queen’s Pawn and the Modern Benoni.

Anand is at home playing white with the Sicilian, Ruy Lopez Closed, French, Sicilian Najdorf and Caro-Khan. With black, he can hold his own against anybody with the Sicilian, Queen’s Indian ,Semi-Slav, Queen’s Gambit Accepted and Caro-Khan.

Kimkim Yap had a respectable 6/9 score in the just-concluded Kuala Lumpur Open to finish in a tie with 10 others from 10th to 19th. It was won by Girl Wonder Hou Yifan of China who had 7.5/9. Julius Joseph of the Philippines also got an IM norm.

I cannot recall any other recent major tournament where the solo winner was a woman. And this girl is only 15 years old!

Next stop for Kimkim is the Thailand Open which started yesterday. He is joined by fellow Cebuano Richard Bitoon. After that, it’s the Asian Continental in Subic.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Did the Apostles play chess?

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Israel have found one of the largest ever cache of rare coins from the time of the reign of Herod Archelaus, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said on Wednesday. It was found in a cave in the Judaean Hills near Jerusalem.

The cache includes 80 gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons. But what was intriguing was the discovery of an ossuary box, which included what looks like a chessboard with some playing pieces.

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While the idea of an ossuary makes some individuals squeamish, ossuaries have been a part of human life for thousands of years. The bodies of prominent Jews in first century Palestine were interred in multi-chambered tombs and allowed to decompose.

The process usually took about 18 months. After decomposition, the bones of the deceased were gathered and placed in a small stone burial box called an ossuary. This practice was common during the Hasmonean Dynasty (about 150 BC) to just after the Bar Kochba (bar Kochva) Revolt (approximately 150 AD).

This is not the first time that an ossuary was found. In fact, hundreds of them dating to this period have been found in excavations in Israel.

Some have inscriptions (like the James and Ciaphas ossuaries).

Most have no inscriptions. Ossuaries also come in different sizes. Different sizes for men, women, and children have been found.

The most famous ossuary was discovered in October 2002 in a Jerusalem cave. The box apparently once contained the bones of James, the brother of Jesus. According to the Biblical Archeology review the James ossuary may be the most important find in New Testament Archeology.

Another famous ossuary discovered was that of Caiphas, the high priest.

According to the latest hypothesis, chess was probably invented in Chaturanga, India (not China as some historians postulate) around the third to fourth century AD.

Apparently it was played much earlier as somehow the game reached Palestine in the first century or earlier.

Herod Archelaus (23BC-18AD) was the son of Herod the Great who inherited the southern part of his kingdom—Judaea, Samaria, and Idumaea. Jerusalem was his capital. He reigned from 4 BC TO 6 AD.

Augustus denied him the title King and gave him the title Ethnarch with a promise to name him king if he governed well.

He was so unpopular with his subjects that Augustus deposed him, banished him to Gaul and annexed his territory. Appointed to replace him was the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate.

The discovery of this apparent chessboard was intended to show that the person played chess. If he did, there should be other players as well..

Since the apostles were some sort of a fraternity and Nazareth was a small community, I presume that a game as exciting as chess could easily spread. As every player knows, it is a healthy and fun way to pass the time. Thus a chess-playing apostle is very possible, and if one played, it was easy to convince and teach the others.

On further research, I came across an article about excavations in Nazareth that revealed the first dwelling can be dated back to the first century.

The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares).

It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means, who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders.

Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house a “simple Jewish family.”

The shards date back to the late Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.


GM saves own life by winning game

By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

TODAY we celebrate Araw ng Kagitingan to commemorate the fall of Bataan 68 years ago.

More than 80,000 Filipino and American soldiers surrendered after one of the fiercest and most brutal battles in World War II.

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One of the founders of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association, the late Gerry Tomakin was a Philippine scout during the war. He was captured by the Japanese near Bataan but managed to escape. He walked all the way to Pampanga, surviving on the generosity of complete strangers who probably realized that he was a soldier.

During World War II, the US Navy enlisted world champion chess player Reuben Fine to calculate--on the basis of positional probability--where enemy submarines were most likely to surface. Years later, Fine was asked about the project’s outcome, and modestly replied: “It worked out all right.”

In 1918, because he was a legal advisor to bankers, the famous chess player Ossip Bernstein was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka and scheduled for execution. As the firing squad lined up, a superior officer asked to see the list of prisoners’ names and, seeing Bernstein’s name, demanded if he was the International Grandmaster of the same name.

When Bernstein replied in the affirmative, the skeptical officer challenged him to a game. Unless the prisoner won the game outright, he would be shot. Bernstein won
with ease. Having literally won his freedom, he promptly fled on a British ship and settled in Paris.

The world championship match between Viswanathan Anand of India and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria will be from April 21 to May 13.

The match will be played at the Central Military Club in Sofia ,Bulgaria , and will consist of twelve games.

Total prize money is 2 million Euros.

Coinciding with the World Championship is The Asian Continental/individual Open and Women’s Chess Championship from April 20 to 30 at the Subic Exhibition and Convention Center, Olongapo City.

Cebuanos Richard Bitoon,Kimkim Yap and Barlo Nadera are among the invited players. Others are Wesley So (2665), Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr. (2572) and Darwin Laylo (2527). Completing the cast of Pinoy players are GM John Paul Gomez (2507), GM Eugene Torre (2506), GM Mark Paragua (2497), GM-elect Ronald Dableo (2464), IM Oliver Barbosa (2452), IM Oliver Dimakiling (2441), GM Jayson Gonzales (2441), GM Bong Villamayor (2438), IM Rolando Nolte (2420) and IM Emmanuel Senador (2401).

Foreign players expected are Ni Hua (2667), Zhou Jianchao (2650), Li Chao (2613), Krishnan Sasikiran (2686), Pentala Harikrishna (2660), Geetha Narayanan Gopal
(2604), Abhijeet Gupta (2560) of India ; and Le Quang Liem (2689), Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (2642) of Vietnam.

All are grandmasters.

Total prize fund is $50,000 for the men’s and $15,000 for the women’s.

The Asean age group chess festival will be a parallel event which features the region’s brightest in the U8, U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 divisions.

This tournament is a qualification for the 2011 World Chess Cup in Khanty Mansiysk and the women’s World Chess Championship 2012. There will be five qualifiers from both events.

CLINIC. Former Cepca president Manny Manzanares and Councilor Rodi Cabigan of the Talisay Sports Commission are organizing a clinic for beginners and those 14 years and under who have no knowledge of the game.

It is scheduled from April 12 to 30, Monday-Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Talisay City Hall.

Among the topics to be discussed are the basic principles of the opening ,middle and end games.

Registration is at P200 and includes a t-shirt and chess materials. For more details call 2722755.