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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Chess in the Philippines

     Unless you live there you probably don't know much about Philippine chess history. The Philippines have produced ten GMs: Eugene Torre, Rogelio Antonio, Wesley So, Darwin Laylo, Jayson Gonzales, Bong Villamayor, Joseph Sanchez, Mark Paragua, and Nelson Mariano II. IM Ronald Dableo has met the norm requirements, but has never achieved the 2500 rating required to be awarded the title. 
     Back in the 1970s and 1980s chess was popular in the Philippines, in recent years it's fallen on hard times. To earn a living GMs have to travel to tournaments in Malaysia and Thailand and even Indonesia and Vietnam. A few, like Wesley So, have moved to the U.S. Many reasons have been cited. One is that first class tournaments are expensive so organizers concentrate on weekend tournaments which are are easier to run and cheaper. In the Philippines about 50 years ago national masters were employed by top corporations and a few government agencies. But the biggest blow came in 2015 when the Philippine Sports Commission lowered the allowance of four GMs (Torre, Antonio, Gomez and Laylo) from the equivalent of about $813 a month to about $195, supposedly because chess was not played at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. 
     One promising player in recent years was Nelson Mariano II (born June 28, 1974) who, after a strong runner-up finish in the Asian Zonal World Cup qualifier in 2007, announced his retirement from competitive chess so that he could concentrate on teaching the game to young players. In 2010 he made his first appearance in a tournament since retiring when he played in the 2010 Merdeka Chess Team Championships held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he scored 6.5 - 2.5. Lately he has been coaching a chess school (Chesskidz). Prior to that he was at Power Chess Asia.
     In 2013 Mariano won a defamation case against Power Chess Asia PTE Ltd. and its manager, which was his former employer, when it was determined he had been maligned by a series of articles that appeared on the internet besmirching his person. The PCA had accused him of incompetence, an outcast, a thief, a liar and poaching the PCA players to his new chess school. He was also accused of ineptitude to coach and conduct chess lessons, a troublemaker and an untrustworthy person with low moral values. Mariano said the PCA criticism of his coaching ability didn’t stand up to scrutiny and they had tampered the news articles it had presented. In the trial the court found all the allegations untrue.
     Florencio Campomanes (February 22, 1927 – May 3, 2010) was a political scientist, chess player, and chess organizer. He was best known as President of FIDE, an office which he held from 1982 to 1995 and the controversy that ensued when he cancelled the 1984–85 match between Karpov and Kasparov after 48 games and winner. The result was disarray in the chess world for the next several years.
     According to the book The KGB Plays Chess, Campomanes, then Vice-President of FIDE, was recruited as an asset by the KGB in exchange for Soviet support for his candidacy as FIDE President. Subsequently Campomanes was accused of helping Karpov retain the world title at all costs. 
     On February 5, 2003, the Philippine anti-graft court convicted Campomanes for failure to account for the Philippine Sports Commission government funds amounting to $238,746. The PSC entrusted these funds to the FIDE for the World Chess Olympiad in Manila and Campomanes was sentenced to one year and 10 months imprisonment, later reduced in 2006 to a fine equal to about $122. The charges against Campomanes were overturned based upon a technicality. There was never any resolution as to the disposition of the money. The Supreme Court of the Philippines decided that Campomanes was not a government official to whom the anti-graft laws applied. Thus as a non-government official, Campomanes had no duty under the law to render an accounting of the missing funds.
     Eugenio Torre (born November 4, 1951) is considered the strongest chess player the Philippines produced during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1974, at the age of 22, he became Asia's first GM and in 1982 earned a spot in the World Candidates Championships. Torre also served as Bobby Fischer's second in the 1992 match against Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia. Torre is still playing and remains a very popular player in the Philippines.
     Rodolfo Tan Cardoso (December 25, 1937 – August21, 2013) was an IM. He earned his title in 1957, making him the first Asian to achieve it. In 1956, he won Philippine Junior Championship. In 1957, he took fifth place in the fourth World Junior Championship in Toronto, which was won by William Lombardy with a perfect score of 11-0. In the same year, the Pepsi-Cola company sponsored an eight-game match in New York City between the 19-year old Cardoso and Bobby Fischer, the 14-year-old U.S. Junior Champion. Fischer claimed the $325 prize with a score of +5 –1 =2. For his win over Fischer see my post HERE.
     He was Philippine Champion in 1958 and 1963. Tan qualified for the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal where he finished 19th. The story goes that during the 1958 Interzonal Bronstein is alleged to have said that some participants, presumably including Cardoso, did not deserve to be in this elite group of players. How ironic that Cardoso scored an upset win over Bronstein in the final round, thereby denying him a place in the 1959 Candidates Tournament. A thunderstorm struck the playing hall somewhere around move 27 and when play resumed Cardoso took advantage of Bronstein's weak defense and it probably didn't help that Bronstein had stayed up all night before the game playing skittles with Tahl.

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