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Monday, March 6, 2017

GM Rosendo Balinas and a Sugar High...Real or Myth?

     Over the years the Philippines have produced a number of well known names: Florencio Campomanes, Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, Rosendo Balinas, Eugenio Torre and recently, Wesley So. 
     Rosendo Carreon Balinas, Jr. (September 10, 1941 - September 24, 1998) earned his IM title in 1975 and the GM title the following year. A lawyer by profession, he was also an acclaimed chess writer and journalist. He was known as "Junior" to his friends. 
     Balinas was considered the strongest Asian chess player during the 1960's and 1970's and at the 1966 Olympiad in Havana, Balinas scored 15.5 points out of 20 games and was awarded the individual Silver medal, behind the Gold medal winner, former World Champion GM Mikhail Tahl. In the 1967 Meralco "Beat Bobby Fischer" match series in Manila, of the top 10 Filipino players, Balinas, then a National Master, was the only player to hold the future World Champion to a draw. 

    Balinas won the Philippine National Championship once and the Philippine Open Championship six times. He shared the 1968 Philippine Open championship with Svetozar Gligoric. Balinas was considered a better player than Eugenio Torre, but his life long bitter conflict with the infamous ousted FIDE President Florencio Campomanes resulted in his frequently being prevented from competing in strong international tournaments.
     A shy man with an easy smile, OTB Balinas was a fighter. His whole career was spent in battling adversity and he only managed to achieve his goals at an age when many people thought he was past achieving them. Balinas served as a role model for kids in the 1970s.
     After the 1968 Lugano Olympiad, Balinas cut back on his career to get his law degree at Jose Rizal University, Manila, The Philippines. Returning in the 1974 Philippine Championship, Balinas showed his was still in form, but the 1974 Nice Olympiad found him playing a lower board (Eugene Torre, Cardoso, Naranja, Balinas, Bordonada, and Lontoc).
     The year 1975 was a success for him. At the Asian Zonal, Balinas earned the IM title at the age of 34. In the Marlboro Chess Classic Grandmaster Tournament he scored wins over Lev Polugaivesky and Bent Larsen, but his greatest victory was at the 1976 Odessa International Tournament, winning with a 10-4 score. Balinas was undefeated against all Russian opponents, and a point ahead of European and Ukrainian Champion Lev Alburt, and the Absolute Russian Champion Vladimir Savon who had been the pre-tournament favorite whom Balinas defeated in their individual game. It was the result of this event that he earned the GM title. His victory made him the only foreigner in nearly 40 years to win a Russian International Tournament on Russian soil. A locally-produced tournament book about the Odessa tournament was never published; instead Balinas wrote a series of articles at the Times Journal, called Odessa Diaries, in which he described his success. 
     Balinas was involved in an odd incident in his game against Jeremy Silman at the 1979 Lone Pine tournament. Around move 10 Balinas pulled out a thermos of hot tea and set it on the table then put a big cup of honey next to it. Silman was shocked when Balinas poured the tea into the honey which turned into cup of thick goo which he than drank. Silman claimed Balinas' eyes immediately glazed over, he smiled and continued the game, which lasted only 12 more moves, in a stupor. 
     Did this sudden intake of sugar really affect Balinas' play and did his eyes really glaze over or is it just a good story? I have read many reports that a sugar high is an urban legend-turned-diagnosis used to describe the energetic behavior experienced after eating sugary foods. The evidence is that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children or adults. 
     In a small 1994 study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, researchers gave boys between the ages of 5 and 7 a placebo, but half the mothers of the study subjects were told their kid had actually taken a dose of sugar. When the authors released the boys back to their parents for supervised playtime, the mothers who believed they were dealing with a sugar-crazed kid rated their children as significantly more hyperactive. That same year, a separate study placed kids on a strict diet high in either sugar or artificial sweeteners and asked parents to keep a log of their kids’ behavior. At the end of the study researchers concluded neither diet made kids any less sharp or less well-behaved than usual. 
     More recently, a 2010 Yale Scientific report discovered that no substantial evidence exists to support the claim that sugar causes hyperactivity. Nonetheless, other experiments show that sugar may influence behavior. 
     One study found that having a large amount of sugar for breakfast led to a severe deterioration of attention span when compared to having no breakfast or eating whole grain cereal.   Another Yale study reported that children given sugar had higher levels of adrenaline, probably because sugar is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, blood sugar rises quickly, which can lead to higher adrenaline levels and thus symptoms similar to those associated with hyperactivity. 
     Balinas lost his battle to liver cancer at 10:45 AM at his home in Antipolo City, Philippines on September 24, 1998. 

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