Wenceslao: Chess scandal

Wenceslao: Chess scandal

Chess was one of my favorite sports disciplines when I was younger. That was the time when Eugene Torre became the country’s (and Asia’s) first grandmaster and ushered in the “golden years” of Pinoy chess. Before him, there were the “oldies’’ like Rosendo Balinas (who also became a grandmaster after Torre) and international master Rudy Cardoso.

Among the top chessers in Cebu then was international master Rico Mascariñas, who is now based in Singapore and Enrico Sevillano, now a grandmaster based in the US. I remember Sevillano as a child prodigy then taken under the wings of the late chess enthusiast Bombi Aznar, the father of my batchmate in Southwestern University high school Stephen.

I was playing chess for leisure, not for something lofty. I never became part of the varsity team, not in high school and not in the engineering department where I enrolled in college. But my interest in the game allowed me to idolize the popular players then and silently analyze games.

But with the advances in technology, I found the game becoming too complicated for comfort and lost interest in it. When online chess became common, I used to put a chess app in my cellphone until I thought it was taking over my time that should have been spent for other endeavors. But I did continue to follow the development of the said discipline in snatches. Like I do know that GM Wesley So was once Filipino but now prefers to play in the US as an “American.”

I have also been following the accusation of cheating hurled by current top gun Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian, at rising star Hans Niemann, an American. I was shocked by it because who would have thought years ago that one can cheat in chess and rise in the ranks because of it. That can be done in online chess but rarely in the onboard game that major tournaments play.

It’s sad how modernity is changing lives with technology. For example, robots are now replacing humans in industries. They carry cargo in bodegas and firms are even selling a robot that sweeps the floor on its own. Artificial intelligence or AI is the new thing, and I am sure Pinoy workers are still not putting a premium to it because they still could not imagine what a future with it would be like.

My main concern is the ethical standard that should be set up in its wake. Even now, the world is still grappling with the havoc brought about by the rise of online technology. Social media has destroyed the world that traditional media painstakingly built, notably on the matter of ethical standards. The democratization of information technology has opened a Pandora’s box of social media ills that we are still fighting now.

When Boris Spassky and Robert Fischer fought a world championship at a time when the Cold War was at its peak, chess organizers made sure that cheating would be nonexistent. But those were “primitive” times. The current chess scandal is a more complicated mess.


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