Unsung hero

Chess Piece
Bobby Ang

Posted on January 17, 2017

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) has inaugurated their Online Grand Prix. This is to become the chess platform for official FIDE rated online games and FIDE titles. There are many online chess servers existing, but the difference now is:

On the FIDE online server the real names of the players will be used. In all the other servers you put up a “handle,” an alias under which you will play. There are many good reasons for this but the practice has also undoubtedly led to abuse hiding behind the shield of anonymity.

Arena GM Henry Lopez
Your online games will become part of your official record, and there is rating alignment with over the board games.

FIDE titles are given based on your online rating. There is a server which monitors players’ activity and informs a player if he becomes eligible for a title. If a player accepts the title then it is awarded after the appropriate fees are paid through paypal. This title is also automatically recorded in the player’s profile card on FIDE.

The FIDE titles available are: Arena Grand Master (roughly ELO 2000), Arena International Master (ELO 1700), Arena FIDE master (ELO 1400) and Arena Candidate Master (ELO 1100).

FIDE has already started organizing regular events such as the FIDE Online Women’s World Blitz Chess Championship, the Online Juniors’ World Championship, etc. etc.

Guess what? A Filipino has been dominating the online tournaments. His name is Henry Lopez, he is an Arena Grand Master (AGM) and he won the 6th and 7th FIDE Online Grand Prix. Who the heck is he?

Henry Lopez is a polio victim who has risen above his disability. He was born Nov. 27, 1980 in Barangay A.O. Floirendo, Panabo City to Winefredo and Concepcion Lopez. The youngest among four siblings, he was struck by polio at the age of two. His brother Christ Lopez taught him chess at the age of six but it was only five years later that Henry’s interest really perked up.

He would play in the Panabo City Chess Club every weekend and was exposed to different types and styles of players, some bookish and some out of book. All of this knowledge and theory was soaked in like a sponge and Henry twice qualified for the Shell National Youth Active Chess Championship Grand Finals in 1998 and 2000.

He went to Holy Cross of Davao College in Davao City from 1999-2004 as a Chess Varsity scholar and finished with a degree of AB Major in History. With him in the lineup the Holy Cross of Davao College dominated Davao City intercollegiate competition and even held mighty De La Salle University to a 2-2 tie in the University Games hosted by Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental in 2001. This was at the time that DLSU was dominating the UAAP chess competition led by Oliver Dimakiling and the Aton brothers (coincidentally, all of them are from Davao).

In 2000, there was the life-changing Millennium Grand Prix chess tournament sponsored by the Philippine Chess Society. This was a knockout format tournament with a P1 million first prize. The Social Security System, through its EVP Horacio Templo, sponsored the participation of several chessplayers with disabilities and foot all the bills for their participation including transportation, food and accommodation in Manila. Aside from Henry Lopez, other beneficiaries were FM Sander Severino of Silay City, Negros Occidental, NM Jasper Rom of Cebu, Rainier Labay and Liolen Tubianosa of Manila and Brian Priete of Davao City. Henry Lopez, Sander Severino and Jasper Rom did especially well in the Grand Prix and henceforth they were recognized as the top players with disabilities in the country.

Five years later in 2005, FM Sander Severino and Henry Lopez were called to man the national team for the 3rd ASEAN PARAGAMES hosted by the Philippines. This event brought a lot of gold medals for the “Pearl of the Orient” and up to the recent ASEAN PARAGAMES Singapore 2015 the Philippines continue to dominate the chess competition.

Henry Lopez is currently a member of the Philippine National Team in Chess full time in the Athletes With Disabilities (AWD) funded by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) by virtue of the recent amendment of the Sports law in the country R.A 10699 which finally recognized officially the athletes in the PWD sector.

December 2016 was to mark another stage in his chess development when he joined the FIDE Online Arena and earned the Arena Grand Master (AGM) title. Last Dec. 25-26, Henry won the 6th FIDE Online Grand Prix which was participated in by 164 players from 50 Federations (including 27 FIDE flag players) among them one GM,two IM, five FM and 80 Arena title holders (15 AGM, 34 AIM, 23 AFM and eight ACM). The Grand Prix consisted of four blitz tournaments (3 mins. each) and four bullet tournaments (1 minute +1 second increment) all 9 rounds Swiss System.

In January 2017, he won the 7th FIDE Online Grand Prix as well.

Enough talk! Let us take a look at some of his games! Henry’s style has always been marked by solidity. Commit a mistake and he will make you pay for it.

* * *
Ibañez, Raul -- Lopez, Henry Roger [C93]
04 2nd Gov. Petilla Open Leyte Park, PHI (1), 26.06.2004

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0 -- 0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.h3 0 -- 0 9.c3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Ng5 Rf8 12.Nf3 h6 13.Nbd2 Re8 14.Nf1

After 14.a4 Bf8 15.Bc2 exd4 16.cxd4 Nb4 17.Bb1 c5 18.d5 Nd7 we have transposed to the Zaitsev Variation, one of the main battlegrounds of the Kasparov vs Karpov world championship matches in the ’80s and ’90s.

14...Bf8 15.Ng3 g6

[15...Na5 16.Bc2 Nc4 17.b3 Nb6 is the main line of the Ruy Lopez Smyslov Variation.]


White usually plays 16.Bc2 here to give additional protection to the e4 -- pawn.

16...exd4 17.Bxd4?!

Loses a pawn. Better was 17.cxd4 Na5 (not 17...Nxe4? 18.Nxe4 Rxe4 19.Bd5 Re7 20.Qc2 with an attack on the knight in c6 and the pawn on g6) 18.Bc2 Nxe4 19.Bxe4 Bxe4 although here Black has complete equality.

17...Nxd4 18.Nxd4 c5 19.Nf3 Nxe4 20.Nxe4 Rxe4

[20...Bxe4 21.Bxf7+! with complications based on a potential queen check on d5. So why allow them?]

21.Rxe4 Bxe4 22.Bd5 Bxd5 23.Qxd5 Ra7

Black has wound up with a pawn plus.

24.Re1 Qa8 25.Qd2 Kg7 26.Nh2 Re7 27.Rxe7 Bxe7 28.Ng4 h5 29.Ne3 Qe4 30.Nf1 d5 31.f3 Qe5 32.g3 h4! 33.gxh4 Bxh4 34.Qe3 Qd6 35.f4 Bf6 36.Kg2 d4 37.Qd2 Qd5+ 38.Kg3 Qxa2 39.f5 dxc3 0 -- 1

Rudy was not given a chance to recover after his inexact opening.

* * *
Lopez, Henry Roger -- Dimakiling, Oliver FM [E11]
04 2nd Gov. Petilla Open Leyte Park, PHI (5), 27.06.2004

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 Bb4+

This is known as the Bogo-Indian.

4.Bd2 a5 5.a3 Be7 6.Nc3 d5 7.Qc2

GM Dejan Antic wrote a theoretical on this line in ChessBase magazine and opined that 7.Bf4! is the best continuation for White. “It is just a transposition to the Bf4 line of Queen’s Gambit Declined variation where the moves inserted, a3 and a5, clearly favor White, as a3 is just part of the system.”

7...0 -- 0 8.e3 c5 9.Rd1 Nc6 10.dxc5 Bxc5 11.Bd3 h6

I am sure Oliver gave much thought to 11...d4 but it doesn’t seem to work here: 12.Ne4! Nxe4 13.Bxe4 and Black is in danger of losing a pawn. If 13...h6 14.Bc3 e5 15.Nxe5!

12.0 -- 0 Qe7 13.h3 Rd8 14.Ne2 e5 15.cxd5 Rxd5 16.Bc4 Rd8 17.Bc3 Re8 18.Ng3 Qc7 19.Nf5

The threat is 20.Nxh6+ gxh6 21.Qg6+

19...Be6 20.Bxe6 Rxe6 21.b4! axb4 22.axb4

This b4 -- pawn is immune to capture as the queen on c7 is unprotected.

22...Bf8 23.Qb2 b5 24.Rc1 Qb8 25.Ra1? Rxa1 26.Rxa1 Nd5!

Overlooked by White. Now the b4 -- pawn is lost.

27.Be1 Ndxb4 28.Qb3 g6?

Black in turn loses back the pawn.

29.Nxh6+ Bxh6 30.Bxb4 Nxb4 31.Qxb4 Bf8 32.Qe4 Re8 33.Qd5 b4 34.Ng5 Qc7 35.Ra6 Kg7 36.Rc6 Qe7 37.h4 Rb8 38.Qb3 Rb7 39.g3 Qe8 40.Rc4 Ra7


White is not yet done pushing for a win.

41.h5! Be7

Not 41...gxh5 42.Qb1! (targeting h7) 42...e4! 43.Qd1 (43.Nxe4 Qe6 44.Qb2+ f6 45.Nd2 Rd7 46.Rd4 Rxd4 47.Qxd4 Qg4 it looks like the game will end in a draw) 43...f6 44.Rxe4 Qg6 45.Ne6+ Kg8 46.Rh4 White is clearly better.

42.Rc8! Bd8 43.hxg6?

A pity. 43.Qxb4! would have gloriously crowned the white attack. The point is that h5 -- h6+ followed by Qh4 is now threated. For example:

43...Rd7? is refuted by 44.h6+! Kh8 (44...Kxh6 45.Qh4+ Kg7 46.Qh7+ Kf6 (46...Kf8 47.Qh8+ Ke7 48.Qxe5+ Kf8 49.Nh7+ resign) 47.Rc6+ Kf5 48.e4+ Kxg5 49.Qh4#) 45.Qb6 Qe7 46.Qxd8+ Rxd8 47.Rxd8+ Qxd8 48.Nxf7+ wins easily;

43...gxh5 44.Qe4 Kh6 45.Qf5 the Black king is in very grave danger.

43...Kxg6 44.Nf3

[44.Qd3+! would still have won: 44...Kxg5 45.Rxd8 Qe7 46.Qh7! Kf6 (46...Qxd8 47.Qh4+) 47.Qh6+ Kf5 48.e4+! Kxe4 49.Qh7+ f5 50.Qh1#]

44...Kg7 45.Qxb4 Qd7 46.Rc1 Bf6 47.Qe4 ½--½

Henry was in bad time trouble and offered a draw, which was accepted. Even at this stage he might still be winning.

For obvious reasons, International Grandmasters Wesley So and Eugene Torre get all the attention whenever we talk about Philippine chess, but let us not forget people like AGM Henry Lopez who are bringing honor to the Philippines in the other fields of competitive chess.

Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.