Pestaño: Philippines is a chess-loving country

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Thursday, August 7, 2014


OUR country is rich in chess history, admired and recognized by other nations. We hold several records and milestones.

Eugene Torre became Asia’s first Grandmaster by winning the silver medal in the Chess Olympiad in Nice, France in 1974. Considering that Asia has a third of the world`s population and most countries in Europe and the Americas had no GMs then, it was an amazing achievement.

He also holds the world record with 22 stints in the Olympiad with more coming. Still consistent at 63, he won the 2014 National Open and thus gained a place in the current Olympiad, now being played in Norway.

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If I remember right, Eugene was unofficially ranked eighth in the world back in the 80s when he qualified as a candidate to the world championship cycle.

He appeared in a movie opposite Vilma Santos “Basta isipin mo mahal kita,” with whom he was romantically linked. He was a perennial guest of “Seeing stars with JQ” TV show. Joe Quirino was a well known chess fanatic.

He was also Bobby Fischer’s best friend. One of my prized pictures is that of Eugene together with my late father when I invited him for dinner in our house a long time ago.

Florencio Campomanes was the president of Fide from 1982 to 1995 and honorary president from 1996-2010. The membership of Fide grew by about 50 percent during his tenure.

“Campo” was highly educated. He had a B.A. in political science from UP in 1948 and was a Fullbright scholar at Brown University, where he earned his M.A. in 1951. He undertook doctoral studies at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., from 1949 to 1954. Ferdinand Marcos had the highest respect for him.

He was a chess columnist in the Manila Times and Manila Chronicle in 1954-61 and had his own TV show in 1974-82, where I appeared as guest several times. He gave me then a Kamagong chess set.

The richest ever world championship match was between Anatoly Karpov and Soviet defector Victor Korchnoi, it was held in Baguio in 1978 due to the influence of “Campo” with Marcos. The conditions of the match were changed for the first time since 1951: The first player to win 6 games was declared champion. Karpov won 6-5 with 21 draws.

According to most chess historians, the best Olympiad ever was Manila in 1992, thanks to our chess-playing president Corazon Aquino.

Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics competed as independent nations. There was also only one united German team.

Formerly parts of Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia appeared independently.

This Olympiad also marked the final appearance of Czechoslovakia--now Czech Republic--and the re-appearance of South Africa after being banned for sometime because of Apartheid.

The Philippines (Cebu) gained a place in the Guinness World Records, for holding the world’s biggest chess tournament with a total of 43,157 participants, held from October 2011 to January 21, 2012

I was one of the “expert” witness when it was submitted to Guinness for official approval.

The whole project was conceptualized and implemented by Edward Hayco, who was assisted by the late NM Roger Abella..

Cepca. Our August tournament will be this Sunday with several ladies varsity players as guests (free registration). The ladies are Jessa Balbona, Roxanne Tampus and Jazelle Villarin of USJ-R; Airene Robillos, KC Morala and Laila Nadera of USC; and Marvie Abucay of UC.

The prizes total P7,000 thanks to our sponsor WNM Susan Itaas. The champion gets P2,000 and the second and third placers go home with P1,500 and P1,000, respectively.

Prizes will be given up to seventh placer, while the top three ladies get P500, P300 and P200.

It will be held at Handuraw Gorordo and will start at 2 p.m.

(boypestano@gmail.com, www.chessmoso.blogspot.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 08, 2014.

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