Battle of GMs 1977

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Loyola Grandmasters Match 1977
Philippines, Jan. 22-April 25, 1977
Final Result

GM Eugene Torre 2550 6.0-4.0
GM Rosendo C. Balinas, Jr. 2420 4.0-6.0

Format: Unlimited match with the 1st to win 6 games taking the series. Draws do not count towards the final score.

Time Control: 40 moves in 2½ hours each. Then an hour for every 16 moves each after that

Who is Asia’s first chess grandmaster? Everyone knows it is Eugene Torre. Who is Asia’s second chess grandmaster? Strangely enough many people get this wrong, the correct answer is Rosendo Balinas.

Balinas was considered the strongest Asian player during the 1960s and early 1970s, before the emergence of compatriot Eugenio Torre. “Bali” won international chess tournaments in Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, and Odessa, USSR, during the period. At the 1966 17th Chess Olympiad in Havana, Cuba, Balinas scored 15½ points out of 20 games and was awarded the individual silver medal award, behind gold medalist Mikhail Tal, who scored 11 points out of 13 games. In the 1967 Meralco “Beat Bobby Fischer” match series in Manila, of the top 10 Filipino players, Balinas was the only then Philippine national master to hold the future world champion to a draw:

Balinas, Rosendo C. Fischer, Robert James [B70]
Manila “Beat Bobby Fischer,” 1967

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.g3 g6 7.Bg2 Bg7 8.0–0 0–0 9.h3 Bd7 10.Nde2 Nc6 11.b3 b5 12.Be3 Qc8 13.Kh2 Qc7 14.Nd5 Nxd5 15.exd5 Nd8 16.Bd4 Rc8 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Qd4+ Kg8 19.c3 e5 20.dxe6 fxe6 21.Rad1 Nf7 22.f4 Qc5 23.Qxc5 Rxc5 24.Rd3 Rfc8 25.Rfd1 a5 26.g4 Kf8 27.Re3 Ke7 28.Bd5 Kf6 29.g5+ Ke7 30.c4 Nd8 31.Nd4 bxc4 32.bxc4 Kf7 33.Rde1 exd5 34.Re7+ Kf8 35.Rxd7 Rxc4 36.Ree7 Rxd4 37.Rxh7 Kg8 38.Rhg7+ Kf8 39.Rh7 ½–½

In 1975, Balinas achieved a 5-5 score at the Manila Marlboro Classic International Chess Tournament, a half point short of the grandmaster norm, tying with Gligoric for 6th-7th place. Balinas defeated prominent grandmasters of the caliber of Lev Polugaevsky (Russia), Bent Larsen (Denmark) and Lubomir Kavalek (USA).

His wonderful performance led to an invitation to play in the Odessa International Tournament, a powerful event which included Lev Alburt (Ukrainian Champion and future US Champion), Vladimir Savon (1971 USSR Champion), James Tarjan (a mainstay of the US Olympiad team) and the legendary David Bronstein. The other Eastern bloc countries sent their representatives as well: GM Jan Plachetka (Czechoslovakia), GM Georgi Tringov (Bulgaria), GM Istvan Bilek (Hungary), GM Lutz Espig (East Germany).

There was speculation that Bali was invited by the Soviets to teach him a lesson — during the Marlboro tournament he had rather unwisely been involved in a heated argument with Polugaevsky, who undiplomatically remarked that Balinas’ wins were due to luck and he responded by shouting at the Soviet delegation that he was not afraid of any of them.

Well, we will probably never know the reason for the invitation (imagine, the USSR extending an invitation to a player in a remote corner of the world, and this guy was not even no. 1 in his own country!) but grasped the opportunity with both hands and scored the biggest victory of his career. If you want to know more about this chapter in Philippine chess then shame on you for not buying my book Inside Philippine Chess vol 1! I wrote a round-by-round account on it under the title “The Conquest of Odessa.”

Balinas had over-fulfilled the GM norm requirements in Odessa, but he needed another one to get the full title (remember, he missed the norm by half a point in the Marlboro tournament). However, in the Haifa Chess Olympiad which followed shortly, the legendary David Bronstein (he played in Odessa) suddenly proposed Bali for the grandmaster norm title. His reasoning was that if you put the results of Marlboro and Odessa together he would have enough points for the required norms (pooling of results from different tournaments is explicitly not allowed in title applications, but you will admit it makes a quite convincing argument!) and besides Balinas’ beautiful and creative play clearly makes him worthy of the title.

The Filipino delegation, most notably Hon. Florencio Campomanes, very strongly lobbied for the approval of this title application, and having the backing of such a distinguished person as David Bronstein made the difference. Rosendo C. Balinas, Jr. was awarded the title of International Grandmaster viva voce.

Well, now that the Philippines has two international grandmasters and the rest of Asia had none the next question is who is stronger. There was a clamor for this match and Loyola Life Plan, spearheaded no less by its Chairman of the Board and former Senate President Gil J. Puyat, saw to it that the question is answered.

Game 1. Torre accepts a poisoned pawn and nearly pays dearly for it when Balinas goes into attack mode right away. A costly miscalculation by Bali in a very strong position allows Torre to bring his king to safety though and win the game with his extra material. Strangely enough, Black’s dubious pawn grab was later on recommended by GM Joe Gallagher in “Beating the Anti-Sicilians.” The trail of abbreviated victories by White left in the wake of the book is a good illustration of not believing everything you read.

Balinas, Rosendo C (2420) — Torre, Eugenio (2550) [B51]
Loyola Grandmasters Match ’77 Manila (1), 22.01.1977

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 Ngf6 5.0–0

This is one of the first games where White offered the pawn sacrifice. 5.Nc3 is the normal move.


Torre accepts the challenge. The usual continuation is 5…cxd4 6.Qxd4 and now either 6…e5 or 6…g6. Many years later the Irish-turned-Swiss GM Joe Gallagher wrote a book on “Beating the Anti-Sicilians” in 1994 and he recommended taking the e4–pawn, just as Eugene did. The move has not fared very well.


Another good way of going about the attack is 6.Qe2, intending to bring his rook to d1. 6…Nef6 7.dxc5 dxc5 (7…e6 8.Rd1 Qc7 9.Nc3 Qxc5 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Nd5! exd5 13.Re1 0–0 14.Bxd7 Bxd7 15.Qxe7 Bc6 16.c3 intending to take on f6. I don’t see a way out for Black) 8.Rd1

• 8…Qc7?! 9.Ne5 a6 10.Nc3! e6 (10…axb5 11.Nxb5 Qd8 (11…Qb8 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Nd6+ Kd8 14.Nxf7+ wins) 12.Nc6 bxc6 13.Nd6#) 11.Bf4 axb5 12.Nxd7! everything is forced 12…Qxf4 13.Nxf6+ gxf6 14.Qxb5+ Ke7 15.Qb6 Bh6 16.Qxc5+ Ke8 17.Nb5 1–0 S.Berezjuk-A.Buligin, Minsk 1996.

• 8…a6 9.Bc4 e6 10.Ng5! Qb6 (10…h6? 11.Nxf7! Kxf7 12.Qxe6+ Kg6 13.Bd3+ Kh5 14.Qh3#) 11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.Nxe6 Be7 13.Re1 Ng8 14.Bf4 Ra7 15.Nc7+ Kf8 16.Nd5 Qd8 17.Nxe7 It is great for White to know that other international players have lost in the same dramatic fashion, which suggests there are plenty more potential victims out there! 17…Nxe7 (17…Ndf6 18.Nxc8 Qxc8 19.Bd6+ Kf7 20.Qc4+ 1–0 P.Velicka-C.Johann, Passau 2000) 18.Bd6 Ne5 19.Qxe5 b6 20.Nc3 Rd7 21.Rad1 1–0 J.Barle-T.Van der Vorm, Vienna 1996.


[6…d5 7.c4! cxd4 8.cxd5 Nef6 9.Qxd4 g6 10.Qxf6 1–0 (10) Alekseev, E. (2642)-Zakhartsov, V. (2453) St Petersburg 2015]

7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Ng5! e6

Other moves:

• 8…h6? 9.Nxf7! Kxf7 10.Bc4+ Ke8 11.Nc3! The follow-up is Qd3 heading for g6, but Bf4 and Rad1 will also likely follow. (David Smerdon);

• 8…g6? is of course too slow: 9.Bc4 e6 10.Bxe6 fxe6 11.Nxe6 White has a decisive advantage]


[9.Bc4! Be7 10.Bxe6 0–0 (10…fxe6 11.Nxe6 Qb6 12.Qe2 and Black is in trouble.) 11.Qe2! Nb6 (11…fxe6? 12.Qxe6+ Kh8 13.Qxe7 White is a pawn up.) 12.Bxc8 Nxc8 13.Nc3 White has a very good position at no material investment. Jones,G (2578)-Shirazi,K (2403) Aix les Bains 2011 1–0 (39)]

9…Be7 10.Nxe6?!

Premature. Best is 10.Nc3! bringing up an additional piece for the attack, with the point that Black cannot castle: 10…0–0? 11.Nxe6! fxe6 12.Qxe6+ Rf7 13.Bc4! winning.

After 10.Nc3! an Alekseev game continued 10…a6 11.Nxf7! Kxf7 12.Qxe6+ Kf8 13.Bc4 Qe8 14.Bf4 Nb8 15.Qd6! Nc6 (15…Bxd6 16.Bxd6+ Qe7 17.Rxe7 discovered mate coming up) 16.Rxe7 Qxe7 (16…Nxe7? 17.Qxf6+ gxf6 18.Bh6#) 17.Re1 Ne8 18.Qd1 Qf6 19.Nd5 Qg6 20.Nc7 Bg4 (20…Nxc7? 21.Bd6+) 21.Qd5 Rd8 22.Qxc5+ Nd6 23.Bxd6+ Rxd6 24.Qxd6+ Qxd6 25.Re8# 1–0 Alekseev,E (2710)-Krush,I (2492) Baku 2013.

10…fxe6 11.Nc3?

I do not know why Bali did not play 11.Qxe6 Kf8 12.Bc4 after which he has compensation for the piece.

11…a6 12.Qxe6?

Needlessly giving up his bishop. Of course 12.Bc4 is correct. This is based on a miscalculation which I will point out later.

12…axb5 13.Nxb5 Kf8!

Torre sees a way out, otherwise he would have played 13…Ra6 14.Nc7+ Kf8 15.Nxa6 bxa6 16.Bf4 giving up his rook for knight to blunt the offensive.

14.Nd6 Bxd6!

During the game the experts watching assumed that 14…Ne5 was forced, and after 15.Nxc8 Rxc8 16.Qxe5 Black would only be a piece up for two pawns.

15.Qxd6+ Kf7 16.Qe6+ Kg6

Threatening …Re8.

17.Re3 h6 18.Rg3+ Kh7 19.Bxh6 <D>

Position after 19.Bxh6


I believe this is the move that Bali overlooked. Now it is clear that there is no mate and Black’s material advantage will prevail.

• 19…gxh6 20.Qf7#

• 19…Kxh6? 20.Qf5 Nf8 21.Rh3+ Nh5 22.Rxh5#.

20.Rxg7+ Kxh6 21.Re7

Black has to address the threat of Qe3+

21…Qg6 22.Rd1 Nf8 23.Qe3+ Qg5 24.f4 Qf5 25.Re5 Qg4 26.Rd6 Ra6 27.f5+ Kh5 28.Rd3 Rg8

With an eye on mate at g2.

29.Qf2 Rxa2 30.h3 Ra1+ 31.Kh2 Qh4 32.Qxh4+ Kxh4 33.Rxc5 N8d7 34.Rc4+ Kh5

White has to prevent …Ne5.

35.g4+ Kh6 36.Rc7 White forfeits on time. 0–1

We will continue coverage on Thursday.


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