Friday, January 29, 2016

Pestaño: Saudi cleric issues ban on chess

ISLAMIC fundamentalism is on the rise, severely affecting civilized society, and it has extended to chess.
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullaziz declared chess the “work of Satan” and issued a religious decree, a fatwa, forbidding the “evil” game. Chess is prohibited. It is gambling. He insisted it is a waste of time and money and is a cause for animosity between players.
Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions including the segregation between men and women in public and reinforces a ban on women’s driving.
Throughout history, chess has been banned on political, social, and religious grounds. In the 14th century, Charles V (1337-1380) banned chess in France. In 1061, Roman Catholic Cardinal Petrus Damiani (1007-1072) banned the clergy from playing chess.
In 1966, chess was banned in China as part of the Cultural Revolution. In 1994, chess was banned in Afghanistan by the Taliban – anyone caught playing chess was beaten or imprisoned.
“Saudi Arabia trying to ban chess is stupid, but we should be more concerned about their bans on human rights and democracy” says Garry Kasparov.
Many Islamic scholars also say there is no reason to believe that the game violates the tenets of Islam. The Saudi Chess Association has written a letter to Fide to assuage concerns.
“We thank our friends all over the world who showed concern regarding chess in Saudi Arabia. It is worth mentioning here that, in general, and for us as Muslims, all sports can fall into being religiously illegal once it involves gambling, directing players away from religious practice (prayers, etc.) and of course if they lead to creating hatred between players.
The Saudi Chess Association (SCA) is officially recognized by the Saudi Olympic Committee and is a full member of FIDE, the Asian Chess Federation as well as the Arab Chess Federation. Many local events and seminars are being organized and run as scheduled in all the cities of the Kingdom with an increasing number of participants from all ages. Also, the SCA is scheduled to take part, once again, in the next World Chess Olympiad as well as other regional and international FIDE events.
Moreover, the Saudi Chess Association is currently in the last stages of implementing the Chess in Schools program aiming to widen the grass-roots in exploring local chess talents. Many thanks and best regards, Yaser Al Otaibi,General Secretary”
McDonald’s. Our lady journalist and my favorite chess player Keith Claire Morala has sent in this report.
“Aldritz Pondoyo wrapped up the over-all champion trophy in the 1st McDonald’s Jones Cup Chess Championships 2016 last Jan. 23 at the McDonald’s Jones Branch, Cebu City.
After a series of wins, Pondoyo finally sealed a draw in the last round against Adrian Basilgo and claimed his solo champion spot for the 17-under Boys Category with 5.5 points.
Nathaniel Berdon and Marc Villarojo finished even at 5 points. Berdon bagged the second place while Villarojo settled for third after the tiebreak.
In the 13-under Boys Category, Rejel Perandos and Arje Villarin finished tied at 5 points with Perandos winning the tiebreak for first place. Jervy Villarin and Raniel Perandos finished at third and fourth places, respectively.
Glysen Derotas and Lyan Portes also finished with a tie at four points but a superior tiebreak had Derotas winning the 17-Under Ladies title.
Naureen Bagano also came up with a sparkling effort as the Top lady player in the 13-under category. The event, which had six rounds, attracted 54 players.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Pestaño: 100th birth anniversary of Paul Keres

THE World Chess Federation has declared 2016 as the year of Paul Keres, the great Estonian grandmaster who would have turned 100 last Jan. 7.
Keres died in 1975 at the age of 59 from a heart attack. He was given a state funeral and more than 100,000 were in attendance.
He has long been considered a national hero and was even voted Estonia’s Sportsman of the 20th Century. Though long considered one of the world’s strongest players, Keres never became a world champion.
Born in the city of Narva, Estonia (then a part of the Russian Empire), Keres was introduced to chess by his father and his older brother, Harald, and had a natural affinity for the game of strategy almost from the start. Keres became a three-time Estonian schoolboy champion, in 1930, 1932, and 1933.
Keres narrowly missed a chance at a world championship match on five occasions. He won the 1938 AVRO tournament, which led to negotiations for a title match against champion Alexander Alekhine, but the match never took place due to World War II. After the war, Keres was runner-up in the Candidate’s Tournament on four consecutive occasions.
Due to these and other strong results, many chess historians consider Keres the strongest player never to become world champion. He was nicknamed “Paul the Second”, “The Eternal Second” and “The Crown Prince of Chess.”
He was one of the very few players who had a plus record against Capablanca. He also had plus records against World Champions Euwe and Tal, and equal records against Smyslov, Petrosian and Anatoly Karpov. In his long career, he played no fewer than 10 world champions. He beat every world champion from Capablanca through Bobby Fischer (his two games with Karpov were drawn), making him the only player ever to beat nine undisputed world champions.
He wrote a number of chess books, including a well-regarded, deeply annotated collection of his best games, “Grandmaster of Chess”, “The Art of the Middle Game,” and “Practical Chess Endings.” All three books are still considered among the best of their kind for aspiring masters and experts. He also wrote several tournament books, including an important account of the 1948 World Championship Match Tournament.
He is the only chess player in the world whose portrait has been on a banknote. Also, on the occasion of his 100th birthday the Bank of Estonia issued a 2-Euro-coin showing the image of the Estonian grandmaster. A stamp has also been issued.
Several Estonian cities have streets named after him. There are monuments to Keres in Pärnu and Tallinn, and in 2016, a monument will be built in his birthplace Narva. Many books have been written about his life and games, there are also several plays and movies about Keres.
There is a Paul Keres Memorial Tournament played in his honor and usually takes place in Vancouver, Canada and Tallinn, Estonia.
An annual international chess tournament has been held in Tallinn every other year since 1969. Keres won this tournament in 1971 and 1975. Starting in 1977 after Keres’ death, it has been called the Paul Keres Memorial Tournament. From 1991, the tournament has been held yearly and has changed into a rapid event. From 1999, this tournament also had a women’s section.
In the past twenty years, apart from this rapid tournament, several other memorial tournaments have been played in honour of Keres.
In 1975, Keres won a tournament in Vancouver. It was his last tournament he would ever play in, as on his way back to his native Estonia, he died from a heart attack. There has been an annual memorial tournament in Vancouver ever since.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pestaño: Muslims-Christians Friendship tournament

THE most unique tournament in Cebu, or even in the country in a long time, was the Muslim-Christian tournament held last weekend at the Colonnade Mall in Cebu City. In the light of the enmity of these two religions, this comes as a breath of fresh air.
While talking with some of the organizers, some of them from Marawi City. I was reminded of one of my happier days as I was assigned in Lanao del Norte covering the cities of Iligan and Marawi in the late 60s. This was before Martial Law and there was no trouble between Christians and Muslims then.
They informed me that our dealers, Hadji Nasser Masorong and Tominaman Gani, have long passed away. However, one of my closest friends, Acmad Tomawis, a dynamic businessman and later a congressman whom I gave a service station and a kerosene outlet in Lake Lanao, is still very much active. Apparently, he is related to some of the organizers in this tournament.
When you enter Marawi, you can immediately see and feel that this is a unique city unlike other places in the Philippines. It is officially known as the Islamic City of Marawi and the capital of Lanao del Norte and is relatively big with a total population of over 180,000.
They have a University there with high standards comparable to that of UP. The Maranaos are the most educated minority group in the whole Philippines and there are many Maranaos with Masters or Doctoral degrees.
I used to stay overnight in the guest room of Maranao Timber, the biggest logging and veneer plant in the country operated by US Plywood. I am also reminded of a close friend, a lady British teacher in chemistry at Mindanao State University. Apparently, there are also British Peace Corps volunteers.
Our lady guest columnist and my favorite player, Keith Claire Morala sent in this report.
“International Master Kim Steven Yap claimed the solo champion spot in the 1st Cebu Muslim-Christian Friendship Open Chess Tournament was hosted last January 9-10, 2016 at Colonnade Mall, Cebu City.
IM Yap ended the Open Category on 6.5 points out of 7 grueling and closely fought rounds, winning six and drawing one. His only half-point round was a third-round draw with eventual second-placer Allan Salientes.
Salientes played out a final win in the last round against Ronald Ganzon to place second with six points.
Fide Master Anthony Makinano, Edsel Montoya, and NM Rogelio Enriquez were at joint third to fifth places with 5.5 points apiece.
Carlos Moreno, Yves Fiel, Fernandito Pialan, Ronald Ganzon, Richard Natividad, and William Retanal, Jr. shared the the 6th to 11th places with 5 points.
Meanwhile, Aldritz Pondoyo, KC Morala, and Jeremy Pepito ended the Kiddies and Ladies Category in dead heat at 6 points.
Pondoyo, who won over Pepito in the fifth round but suffered his only loss to Morala in the sixth, bagged the first place courtesy of a better tiebreak score.
Nicole Gocotano placed fourth with 5.5 points, while John Lester Belano, Aaron Resma, Lyan Portes and KC Belano settled in 5th to 8th at 5 points.
The tournament was attended by 108 players and was organized by the Association of Cebu Muslim Professionals and Entrepreneurs, Inc. in cooperation with Cebu Executive and Professional Chess Association.”
Here are the officials and board members of the Association of Cebu Muslim Entrepreneurs and Professionals Inc. : Datu Abubacar S. Gunang – President, Abdul Azis Mayaman – Treasurer, Basleymar Marsangca ,Alimoden Amama,Junaid Amer,Fattah Macayong,Omar Masangca, Masabong Macarampat, Bong Umpar, Samad Rangaig, Samad Solaiman and Elias Matuan.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pestaño: GM loses title for cheating

THERE is a guideline in Fide that once you have attained the title of grandmaster it is forever. However, for the first time in the history of chess (or since the title was first officially given by Fide in 1950),a GM was stripped of his title for cheating in a tournament and was also banned for three years by the Fide ethics commission.
Last April, GM Gaoiz Nigalidze, champion of Georgia in 2013 and 2014 and winner of the Al Ain Open in 2014, was caught cheating in the 2015 Dubai Open, where his smart phone was found hidden in the toilet. The case was sent to the FIDE ethics commission, which investigated and ruled on it, and has issued its first judgment on cheating since the Anti-Cheating Commission was created.  
The FIDE ethics commission deemed Nigalidze guilty of violating clause 2.2.5 of the FIDE Code of Ethics and sanctioned him with a three-year ban and revocation of his grandmaster title. The clause punishes “cheating or attempts at cheating during games and tournaments. Violent, threatening or other unseemly behavior during or in connection with a chess event.”
According to FIDE, Nigalidze admitted his guilt and voluntarily withdrew from participation in all tournaments. However, FIDE decided to start the ban on Sept. 6 2015. It would have been in line with similar cases in other sports to backdate the suspension to April, so that Nigalidze can play chess again in April 2018.
The federation decided that Nigalidze can keep his IM title “in recognition of his remorseful and cooperative conduct in the investigation.” Rated 2563, Nigalidze can earn back is GM title by scoring three GM norms in the future.
The anti-cheating guidelines adopted by FIDE recommend up to a three-year ban for a first offense and up to a 15-year ban for a second or later offense.
It was not the first time a player was caught cheating at the Dubai Open. In 2008, an Iranian player was also banned from the tournament after he was found to have been receiving help from someone who was watching the game’s live broadcast on the internet and was sending the moves through text messages.
Over the years, there have been many accusations of collusion, either of players deliberately losing (often to help a friend or teammate get a title norm), or of players agreeing to draws to help both players in a tournament.
In 2011, IM Greg Shahade wrote that “prearrangement of results is extremely commonplace, even at the highest levels of chess. This especially holds true for draws... There is a bit of a code of silence at the top levels of chess.”
The subject had been partially broached by Alex Yermolinsky a few years earlier, saying “ It’s no secret how people act when facing a last round situation when a draw gives no prize...People will just dump games, period.” It is also true here in Cebu and organizers cannot do anyhing about it.
Frederic Friedel reported that the PCA had considered running a series of open tournaments in 1990s, but for similar reasons declined, saying that deliberately losing games was “very real in the many open tournaments that are staged all over the world.”
One of the earliest known cases of using technology to cheat occurred in the 1993 World Open. An unrated newcomer wearing headphones scored 4.5/9 in the Open Section, including a draw with a grandmaster and a win over a 2350-rated player. This player seemed to have a suspicious bulge in one of his pockets, which appeared to make a soft humming or buzzing sound at important points in the game. When he was quizzed by the tournament director, he had no knowledge of simple chess concepts, and he was disqualified.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Pestaño: The most significant events last year

ASIDE from a big number of major tournaments, these are the most significant events the past year in the order of importance to the Cebu chess community.
Without any doubt, the sudden and unexpected death of Felix Balbona shocked the whole community. He was in the middle of a chess game when he suddenly collapsed. Brought to the hospital, he was declared dead on arrival. He was a valued member of Cepca and one of the pioneers and a pillar of strength of the club.
A unique family, Felix and Juliet brought up their children—Jessa,Felix Shaun, Marq Gabriel, John Francis and James Andrew—to be chess players.
Cepca was 25 years old last year and celebrated their silver anniversary with a grand party giving special awards to the past presidents of the club and selected members, one of whom was Felix. Also recognized was Handuraw Pizza and Marie Ernestine School.
The highlight of the celebration was the biggest tournament in Cebu in 2015 and the publication of a silver anniversary magazine chronicling the past achievements and history of the club. To my knowledge no club in the Philippines has done this and very few in the whole world.
Chess in Schools is a prime objective of the World Chess Federation and is now mandatory in a great number of countries worldwide. The game improves the learning, thinking, analytical power, and decision-making ability of a child and is extremely helpful in brain development.
The first and only school in the Philippines to include chess in the curriculum is Marie Ernestine School both in their Mactan and Talamban campuses for Grades 3 to 6. Just like any subject, the children are given grades for their acquired skills.
Following the furor of the Paris bombings and killings, Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was put on a US sanction 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. As a result, he resigned temporarily as president until cleared of all charges but has sought legal procedures and filed for damages against the USA.
The following news was recently posted on Facebook “Our beloved chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov passed away. Kasparov was born on April 13, 1963 in Baku. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.”
Hundreds of fans immediately started writing their messages of condolence on the Facebook page, expressing their sadness that the talented 52-year-old chess grandmaster was dead. However the December 2015 report has now been confirmed as a complete hoax and just the latest in a string of fake celebrity death reports. Thankfully, the former World Chess Champion is alive and well.
This one though is real. Walter Shawn Browne died last June 24 in Las Vegas Navada at the age of 66 in his sleep. He was a six-time US Champion (1974, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1983) as well as numerous opens, Wijk aan Zee (twice), Lone Pine, and five medals in the Olympiad. He was also a professional poker player often financing his chess this way. A Chess legend.
Not every chess legend has a “GM” before his name. IM Emory Andrew Tate Jr., 56, was participating in the Sam Shankland Open tournament last October 17 when he collapsed in the middle of the game. After receiving first aid, he was taken to a local hospital where he was attended to, but later passed away. Tate died doing what he did best and doing what he loved to do. Just like Felix Balbona at the same age.