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Perspective by Peter Long

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

 

17th Asian Continental
Chess Championship
(2nd Manny Pacquiao Cup)
Open Division
Tiara Oriental Hotel,
Makati City, Philippines
Dec. 10-18, 2018

FINAL STANDINGS

1-3 GM Wei Yi CHN 2728, GM M.Amin Tabatabaei IRI 2587, GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2714, 6.5/9

4-11 GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly IND 2621, GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2641, GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov UZB 2546, GM Parham Maghsoodloo IRI 2688, GM Lalith Babu MR IND 2529, GM SP Sethuraman IND 2664, GM Baskaran Adhiban IND 2695, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2701, 6.0/9

12-19 GM Susanto Megaranto INA 2512, GM Ni Hua CHN 2683, GM Abhijit Kunte IND 2469, GM Rinat Jumabayev KAZ 2602, GM Alireza Firouzja IRI 2607, GM Wang Hao CHN 2730, IM Nguyen Anh Khoi VIE 2480, GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami IRI 2537, 5.5/9




Total of 64 participants

Time Control: 90 minutes for the 1st 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added after every move starting move 1.

Recently we had to go through the unpleasantness of one of the top players in the region, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, complaining about the tournament conditions during the Asian Continental Chess Championships. His complaints about being threatened by armed goons outside the hotel has been proven to be false, but there was some truth to his grumblings about the hotel room not being of a sufficiently high quality for such a prestigious event.

One of my friends in the region, Peter Long, is an experienced organizer who has served as an International Arbiter in many events. I asked him to comment on the tournament conditions for the players during the tournament and this is what he wrote:

PERSPECTIVE BY PETER LONG
My life in chess really began when in 1980, as the Malaysian Junior Champion, I participated in the Asian Junior Championships held in Baguio, Philippines.

The contrast could not be greater for one coming from a national schools championship held during term breaks where we slept on desks in classrooms and played in the school hall and where the only open tournament in the country was held on evenings in a school library.

Some might be old enough to remember the Philippines as I experienced it then as the most advanced country in Asia!

In chess terms, undisputed No. 1 in Asia, boasting Asia’s first Grandmaster and a candidate for the World Championship in Eugene Torre in a time when there were few International Masters and getting a FIDE rating was an achievement by itself!

What did the Philippines do right then in organizing?

First, the players had the stage, left, right and center. They and their games were the focus and the public, corporate sponsors, government and the chess community all saw this.

Second, perfect conditions, be it the high-profile playing venue or the hotel where all stayed and where meals were five-star, and with no expense spared with hospitality.

All this came together at the highest level and in the best possible way at the Manila World Chess Olympiad which is till today, if not ranked the best ever, certainly in everyone’s top three.

But what about the prize fund you might ask? Of course there has to be reasonable attractive prizes but look around the region you will see that the big successes like the Bangkok Chess Club Open and JAPFA Chess Festival have adopted exactly this formula without a big prize fund a major factor!

Perhaps if anything is to be added to a proven winning formula, it is essential today to have high-speed Internet access and for the games to be broadcast live.

SELF-ASSESSMENT
From my talks with Mr. Long It appears that the hotel accommodations and food for the participants in the tournament were OK but nothing special. One important item though that was overlooked was that no provisions were made for special dietary needs for vegetarians and those unable to eat pork or beef for religious reasons.

High-speed Internet access was available to some but not all. There was no live broadcast of games, and, to me the most important of all, the tournament was not open to the public.

In short the tournament organizers just provided the bare minimum but they could have done much more. Contrast this with the events of the Philippine Chess Society in the early 2000s where the players would be housed in a nearby serviced apartment with excellent conditions and shuttle cars to transport the players from hotel to playing hall to shopping malls, where the tournament would be held in the giant SSS Auditorium with seating arrangements for the public, with sensory boards where the moves of the players are immediately flashed on giant screens so the public can follow the moves, with separate press rooms and analysis rooms and even a parallel open tournament to entice the best players in the country to come and play, spectate and comment on the games.

In fact, the tournaments were so legendary that organizers from other countries would come and watch what we were doing!

We have got to bring those days back when tournaments were really events for the players and the public. Where chessplayers would all congregate to celebrate the game that we all love.

Then and only then will the Philippines get back our glory days in chess.

All this criticism is of course meant to be constructive, the road we should take going forward, for the 2018 Asian Continental Chess Championship was a rush job and the organizers barely had a month to put the whole thing together. We cannot be too harsh on them.

On the chess side of the equation too we have to do some self-assessment. Take a look at this game from the first round.

Pascua, Haridas (2442) —
Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi (2701) [D74]
17th Asian Continental-ch Open 2018
Makati City (1.4), 10.12.2018

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Nf3 0–0 7.0–0 Nc6 8.Nc3 Rb8 9.e3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 b6 11.Qe2 Bb7 12.Rd1 Qd7 13.e4 Na5 14.Bf4 Rbc8 15.Rac1 e6 16.h4 h6 17.e5 c5 18.dxc5 Qa4 19.cxb6 axb6 20.Nh2 Bxg2 21.Kxg2 h5 22.Nf3 Qc4 23.Qe3 Qxa2 24.Bh6

[24.Qxb6? needlessly complicates the position after 24…Nb3 25.Rb1 Rxc3]

24…Nc4 25.Qf4 Bxh6 26.Qxh6 Qa8 27.Qf4 Rc5 28.Kg1 Qb8?

Taking his eye away from the f3–knight. This is a mistake because after …

29.Qh6

The threat of Ng5 forces Black to give up material.

29…Rxe5 30.Nxe5 Qxe5 31.Rd4 Qc7 32.Rcd1 Nb2

33.R1d2

For some strange reason Haridas goes for a repetition. If he was looking for a win then it is not so hard to see that 33.Rd7! is very strong:

33…Qxc3? 34.R1d4 picks up an important tempo for White. For example, there is now a threat of 35.Rxf7! Kxf7 (35…Rxf7?? 36.Rd8+ Rf8 37.Rxf8#) 36.Rf4+ Ke7 37.Qxf8+ Kd7 38.Rf7+ and wins Black’s queen next move;

33…Qc8 (34.R1d4 Nc4 (Once again 34…Qxc3?? is met by 35.Rxf7) 35.Qg5 (now the threat is Rd8) 35…e5 and now White can go for either 36.Rd8 or 36.R4d5.

33…Nc4 34.Rd1 Nb2 35.R1d2 Nc4 ½–½

Haridas is playing a superGM, someone rated 259 points higher. Statistically, that means that if they play a 100-game match Vidit is expected to win 82 games against Haridas’ 18. He cannot be faulted then for aiming for a draw in the first round against such a strong GM. However, if he ever wants to become a GM, Haridas must take his chances as they come, and going for a win in a position where he was the exchange up and virtually no chances to lose is mandatory. If he wants to progress to the next step and become a Grandmaster.

As you can see from the table above there were no Filipino players in the top 19. On no. 23 is balikbayan IM Ricardo de Guzman, someone who achieved the International Master title in 1982, 36 years ago!

If the cream of Philippine chess is playing in the Asian Ctontinental Championship and the highest-placed is a 57-year old IM, it does say something about the current state of Philippine chess. Having said that, Kiriks is really a very strong player and the following win is reminiscent of his best days — playing over the entire board, all his forces advancing and the opponent’s retreating, and a nice finish.

Bai, Adelard (2100) —
de Guzman, Ricardo (2357) [E15]
17th Asian Continental-ch Open
2018 Makati City (2.31), 11.12.2018

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 c5 6.Bg2 Bb7 7.e3

More topical is to sacrifice a pawn with 7.d5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.0–0, a very dangerous weapon wielded by Levon Aronian and also used by the famous artificial intelligence chess engine AlphaZero which used it to defeat Stockfish in their famous 2017 match. White prefers a more conservative approach though.

7…Be7 8.0–0 Qc8 9.dxc5 Qxc5 10.b3 Qc7 11.Bb2 d6 12.Nc3 a6 13.Rac1 Nbd7 14.Rfd1 0–0 15.e4 Rac8 16.Nd4 Qb8 17.Qe2 Rfe8 18.h4 g6 19.g4 h6 20.Rc2 Bf8 21.Rcd2 d5! 22.Nc2 Qf4 23.Bc1

Not 23.f3? Bc5+ 24.Kh1 dxe4 25.Nxe4 Bxe4 26.fxe4 Nxg4 (threatening mate on h2) 27.Bh3 Nf2+ with a winning position.

23…Nxg4 24.Rd3 Qh2+ 25.Kf1 Ndf6 26.Rg3

The best move here is 26.Rh3 but White had a trick in mind.

26…Qxh4 27.Rh3

“Trapping” the Black queen but Kiriks had seen farther.

27…Qxf2+ 28.Qxf2 Nxf2 29.Kxf2 dxe4

Black has four pawns for the knight, 5 passed pawns on the kingside and the queens are off so he can just win by advancing his pawns down the board. Easier said than done but IM de Guzman’s skill in piece and pawn coordination is legendary.

30.Ke2 g5 31.Na4 b5 32.Nb6 Rc7 33.Bb2 Ng4 34.Ne3 Nxe3 35.Rxe3 f5 36.Be5 Rf7 37.Nd7 Bg7 38.Bxg7 Kxg7 39.Ne5 Rc7 40.Rd7+ Rxd7 41.Nxd7 Rc8 42.Rc3 Rc7 43.Nb6 h5 44.Ke3 f4+ 45.Kd4 f3 46.Bf1 b4 47.Rc2 Kf6 48.Ke3 g4 49.c5 g3 50.Bh3 Rg7 51.Rc1 g2 52.Rg1 Rg3 53.Nd7+ Ke7 54.Ne5 Rxh3 55.c6 Bc8 56.Kf2 Rh1 57.Nc4 Kd8 58.Nd2 e3+! 0–1

 

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.

bobby@cpamd.net