Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pestaño: Felixberto Balbona—pure chess lover

FELIX, 56, was a soft-spoken man and in all the years we have been together, I’ve never heard him raise his voice. I admired him because he was kind, generous and he was a pillar of strength to our club.
Not once did he refuse my request for financial assistance to some of our tournaments and I’ve never heard him complain about anything. In fact, he was one of only a few members, who received an award in our Silver anniversary, despite not being a founder nor a past president of the club.
I met him 25 years ago when I organized a team tournament with the help of the late National Master Ben Macapaz, who was the tutor of all his children on chess.
The team tournament was composed of players of the same profession and Felix was the leader of the CPAs together with another Cepca member, now based in the USA, Susan Itaas. My team of chemical engineers included Bob Inocian and Pablito Argamosa. I also recall two lawyer teams composed of Alex Tolentino, Damaso Uy and Bebs Andales (presently a councilor of Cebu City).
Felix raised all of his children to be chess players like him because he had the firm belief that playing the game on a regular basis from early childhood will improves the learning, thinking, analytical power, and decision-making ability of the child and it is extremely helpful in brain development.
He has been proven right. All of his children—Jessa, Felix Shaun, Marq Gabriel, John Francis and James Andrew—are scholars, disciplined, well-behaved and confident. Jessa is also a CPA like Felix. She graduated cum laude and is presently connected with the prestigious accounting and management firm Sycip, Gorres and Velayo.
Felix’s life was taken away from us too soon and it is hard to understand why tragic things like this happen to such good people. However, this is a question without an answer and we should not dwell on the loss of our dear friend, a husband and father. Even though he may be gone, his memory will live on in all the members of Cepca and all the chess players in Cebu forever.
It is incredibly sad that his life ended so soon and I cannot put into words how much I will miss him. Felix, I appreciate your friendship and will never forget you.
Our esteemed president, Jerry Maratas says, “I am deeply saddened by his sudden passing. He was a pure chess lover that even with his last breath, he was playing the sport that he really loved. But more than that, he was such a good and humble family man. He was a great loss to Cepca. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his bereaved family,”
Jun Olis also said, "He was just playing the game he cherished and loved most, when suddenly death appeared uninvited and in a most shocking fashion, struck with blinding swiftness. Just like a thief in the night, catching everyone unaware and unprepared, We have lost one of the club's pillar of strength - a kind, generous, unassuming and dedicated family man." 
If you visit an on-going big chess tournament, you can immediately feel the tension in the air. A study of top level chess shows that the players have elevated blood pressure and experience a lot of stress.
Felix is not the only one nor will he be the last. Vladimir Bagirov (64), Efim Bogoljubov (63), Jose Capablanca (53), Ed Edmondson, Forry Laucks, Paul Leonhardt (57), Frank Marshall (67), Cecil Purdy of Australia (73) , Vladimir Simagin (49), Johann Zukertort (44), Gideon Stahlberg (59), and Herman Steiner (50) all died while playing chess or just finishing a chess game. NM Ben Macapaz that I mentioned earlier died while on a chess simul exhibition last year at Timex, Mactan.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pestaño: One big tournament after another

LAST weekend marked the end of a great tournament --the London Chess Classic. The tournament was the third and final leg of the Grand Chess Tour, a newly formed circuit of three premier chess events organized by former World Champion Gary Kasparov.
Here are the final scores: 1.) Magnus Carlsen (5.5), 2.) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (5.5), 3.) Anish Giri (5.5), 4.) Levon Aronian (5.) 5-7.) Alexander Grischuk, Fabiano Caruana, Michael Adams (4.5), 8.) Hikaru Nakamura (4), 9.) Viswanathan Anand (3.5), 10.) Veselin Topalov (2.5).
In addition to the tournament win, Magnus also clinched the top place in the Grand Chess Tour with a total of 26 points, three points ahead of his nearest rival, Anish Giri. Magnus finished another year as the best chess player in the world.
Qatar Open. The 2nd Qatar Masters Open 2015 just got bigger and better and will be the strongest Open chess tournament in history. Reigning world champion and world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen is playing together with this amazing cast--Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin and other 2700+ giants. Wesley So is also playing!
It starts tomorrow and will end on Dec. 30, so the players will be spending Christmas there. The hefty prize fund is $130,000, with $27,000 for the first prize men’s division and $8,000 for the first prize of the women’s division. There will also be appearance fees for the top players.
Tata Steel. The 78th edition of the Tata Steel Chess 2016, also known as the Wimbledon of chess, will take place from Jan. 15 to 31 2016 in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands. The participants are Magnus Carlsen (2850), Fabiano Caruana (2787), Ding Liren (2781) Anish Giri (2778), Wesley So (2767), Sergey Karjakin (2766) Michael Adams (2744), Shakhryar Mamedyarov (2743), Wei Yi (2737), David Navara (2730) Hou Yifan (2683) and Loek van Wely (2632.)
With an average rating of 2750, the top tournament once again has a strong field of participants. All eyes will be on the new sensation, Wei Yi from China, who is only 16. He won the Tata Steel Challengers in 2015, thus obtaining a slot in this year’s Masters. He is already on the threshold of the world’s top 20. Wei Yi’s countrywoman and the world’s strongest female player, Hou Yifan, will participate in the main tournament for the third time.
It is also interesting how Wesley will perform here.
Pacquiao Random team. The second Manny Pacquiao Random Chess Team Championship, which offers a total cash prize of P1.5 million pesos, started yesterday at Gen. Santos City.
Pacquiao will be giving away P400,000 for the winner in the team event . The second placer gets P220,000 and the third placer earns P130,000.There are roughly 300 players in 74 teams.
In the individual event, the winner will take home P50,000, while the second and third placers will win P30,000 and P20,000 respectively. 
Cepca grand finals. The grand finals of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (CEPCA) tournament will be held at Handuraw Pizza along Gorordo Avenue this Sunday . The club’s Christmas party will follow after the tournament.
Among those who will see action in the ‘Battle of Champions’ are two-time grand champion Jimmy Ty Jr., Rey Flores, Arnold Cadiz, Tony Cabibil, Amado Olea Jr., Carlo Maraat, Stein Torres, Jojo Muralla, Peterson Sia, Rogelio Enriquez, Ross Yamyamin, and Martin Kwan for Group A.
The other qualifiers as champions in Group B are Regelito Hortelano, Ruel Hortelano, Jun Kidlat, Elmer Odango, Jerry Maratas, Felix Balbona, Mike Tinga, Jojo Paredes, Jessa Balbona, Michael Ventulan, Edwin Cablao, and Romy Pialan. There will also be a tournament among the non-qualifiers with some invited ladies varsity players and gifted kiddies.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Pestaño: US imposes sanctions on Fide president

FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been checkmated. Following the furor of the Paris bombings, the reactions has spread across the globe with France, United Kingdom, Canada ,Germany and Russia joining the airstrikes against the Islamic State and .
It has spread to the world of chess as well. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was put on a US sanctions list on Nov. 25 for providing support to the Syrian government. This means that any assets he has in the US are to be frozen and US citizens are prohibited from having any dealings with him.
Following a unanimous decision by the Fide presidential board, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has stepped down temporarily as Fide president. For the moment, Fide deputy president Georgios Makropoulos is the acting president. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is no longer representing the World Chess Federation. This decision was taken during a three-hour presidential board meeting in the Royal Olympic Hotel in Athens last week.
“Following the announcement by the US Department of the Treasury that the US levied sanctions against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian citizen and Fide President, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has informed the presidential board that he will withdraw from any legal, financial and business operations of Fide until such time as Mr. Ilyumzhinov is removed from the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list,” Nigel Freeman, Executive Director of FIDE, wrote on the Fide website.
“Mr. Ilyumzhinov advised that he has initiated legal procedures in the US aiming to request additional information and reverse restrictive measures put by the US Department of the Treasury,” Freeman said in his statement. “During the next Presidential Board meeting, Mr. Ilyumzhinov will update the Board as to the progress of the legal procedures.”
“The aim is to protect the good name of the organization,” said Zurab Azmaiparashvili, the Continental President for Europe, to “He has the moral right to individually fight for his rights, when he is accused. It’s better for him to do that and not be the Fide President at the same time.”
The decision did not come as a surprise to the Fide Board members, said Azmaiparashvili, who attended the meeting in Athens . “We expected it. It’s a hard decision but it’s the right decision.”
Restrictive measures against Ilyumzhinov were introduced because he was “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayaleh, and Batoul Rida”, the US Department of Treasury said in a statement. He has been linked to financial transactions involving companies associated with another sanctioned person – Syrian businessman, Mudalal Khuri – since 1997, the statement said.
The announcement implies that the Syrian government is actually trading with its biggest enemy on the ground, buying oil from its own refineries, which fell into Islamic State’s hands.
$50 billion. Ilyumzhinov denies the charge and claimed his only contact with Syria was in his role as head of FIDE. Ilyumzhinov also said yesterday he would seek $50 billion in damages from the United States over his addition to a blacklist for alleged ties to the Syrian regime.
“I consider that these accusations are either a mistake or a provocation,” Ilyumzhinov told Russia’s Sport-Express newspaper.
This isn’t the first time 53-year-old Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has found himself at the focal point of world events. In 2003 he visited Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the Iraq War, while in 2011 he was one of the foreign guests of visit Colonel Gaddafi. Libya later faced bombardment by American and other allied forces.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pestaño: fetes GM Antonio

THE London Chess Classic tournament, the last in this year’s Grand Chess Tour, starts today in Kensington, London and ends on Dec. 13.
The Grand Chess Tour was created with one goal in mind: to have a circuit of international events, each demonstrating the highest level of organization for the world’s best players.
The 2015 Tour is a partnership between the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (Sinquefield Cup), Tower AS (Norway Chess 2015) and Chess Promotions, Ltd. (London Chess Classic). The legendary Garry Kasparov inspired the Grand Chess Tour and helped solidify the partnership between the organizers.
Each of the three 2015 Grand Chess Tour events will award individual prize funds of $300,000, with competitors also tallying points toward a tour prize fund of $150,000. The overall tour champion will receive an additional $75,000. The total prize fund for the circuit is $1,050,000.
There are nine participants, who are the same entries in each event, Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The wild card in London is Michael Adams.
The tournament has seven of the top 10 players as of the December FIDE rating list, and the world No.s 11, 17 and 20. The first leg of the Grand Chess Tour, Norway Chess, was won by Veselin Topalov. The second tournament in the series, the Sinquefield Cup, was won by Levon Aronian.
The time control for each tournament in the Tour is 40 moves in two hours, followed by the rest of the game in 1 hour with a 30-second increment from move 41.
Here are the earnings after two legs among the participants: Topalov ($90,000), Aronian ($90,000), Nakamura ($80,000), Anand ($65,000), Carlsen ($55,000), Giri ($55,000), Lagrave ($50,000), Caruana ($40,000), Grischuk ($35,000).
The wild card entry in Norway Jon Ludwig Hammer earned $15,000 while Wesley So also earned $15,000 as the wild card entry in Sinquefield.
Rogelio Antonio Jr. was awarded the GM title in 1993 and is affectionately known as GM Joey. He became the first player in the Philippines’ history to qualify for the World Cup in 2009 and also won the National Championship 13 times! Joey has also played in 10 Olympiads in Board 2 behind Torre. Joey’s tally in the Olympiad has never fallen below 50 percent and in 2000 at Istanbul, he scored 7/10 with a performance rating of 2682.
I am featuring him here because he was recently featured and interviewed in for having played 105,874 games in six years! Probably the most by any player in the world! Here is part of the interview.
Did you have any celebration when you got to 100,000 games? It will be much appreciated if you can give me recognition for the largest number of games in your site. I would like to add that I believe that I have the most numbers of checkmates.
Who are some of the biggest names you’ve beaten on Well I think GM Hikaru Nakamura of USA. I beat him three games and I lost two games in blitz. We also played two games over the board and they were both draws.
You’ve played with Eugenio Torre many times. What have you learned from him? Well I learned a lot from the icon of chess in the Philippines.