Remember Mario Mangubat?

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Flashback to the 1979 Philippine National Chess Championships. This was 40 years ago and at that time we were still indisputably the no. 1 chess country in Asia. The rise of China and India as world chess powers was still many years in the future. Regional rival Vietnam on the other hand had just been reunited and the country as a while was still politically and economically isolated from the rest of the world and there was no indication of organized chess at any level. To sum it up, in 1979 there were only two International Grandmasters in Asia and both of them were from the Philippines.

I don’t want to hear anyone complain that Walter Shawn Browne, who became a GM in 1970, is an Australian. Even the Australians consider Ian Rogers as their first GM, and he got that title in 1985. Browne was born to an American father and an Australian mother in Sydney, but his family moved to New York when he was three. That was where he grew up. He couldn’t qualify for the interzonal through the United States zonals so he went back to Australia to qualify through the Asian Zonals. The problem was that it transpired that the Asian players were not the pushovers he believed them to be. In particular Renato Naranja, at that time the Philippines’ top player. The two of them tied for first in the 1969 Asian Zonal tournament in Singapore and drew both play-off games. Since Naranja had the better tie-breaks he would be the one to go to the 1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal. Walter Browne did not stay in Australia long and he moved to California in 1973.

Both the semifinals and the finals of Asia’s most prestigious national championship were held at the spacious Philippine Chess Federation (PCF) headquarters in Intramuros. In the qualifying event there was a surprise as a 20-year old student of the University of Visayas, Mario Mangubat, topped the event. He led the other qualifiers which included national masters Glenn Bordonada, Lito Maninang, Cesar Caturla, Mariano Acosta and Ricardo de Guzman. Other qualifiers were two-time junior champion Andronico Yap, Remigio Ferido, Rommel Tacorda of Bicol and Mirabeau Maga of Davao.

The Toyota car dealer Autosphere announced a special bonus for the tournament: anybody who wins all his games will receive a brand new Toyota Corolla. This prize of course was targeted at GM Eugene Torre who was the prohibitive favorite to win the title, but that same Mario Mangubat who came out of nowhere to compete in the chess finals defeated him in the third round.

Mangubat, Mario — Torre, Eugene O. [B22]
Nat’l Open Championship (final) Manila (3), 26.04.1979

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.d4 Bg4 6.Be2

By the way, with the knight on f6 instead of c6 taking on c5 is considered best for White. But with the Nc6 the text move is the most common continuation. I am afraid there is not enough space to further expound on this. For the time being you just have to take my word for it.


I have always maintained that Black should exchange pawns on d4 first before this move. Why? See note to next move.


A more aggressive continuation is 7.h3 Bh5 8.c4 (this move would not have been available had Black exchanged pawns on d4 on move 6) 8…Qd6 9.g4 Bg6 10.d5 the following moves are not forced but serve to illustrate the dangers that Black is facing: 10…Nb4 (10…exd5 11.cxd5 Nb4 12.Qa4+ Kd8 13.Na3 White has a nice attack) 11.0–0! f6? (even after the better 11…Nc2 12.Nc3! Nxa1 13.Nb5 Qb8 14.Qa4 Black is not in a good place) 12.Nc3 Nc2 (12…exd5 13.cxd5 0–0–0 14.Bc4 Nc2 15.Nb5 Qb8 16.Rb1 Nd4 17.Nfxd4 Bxb1 18.Ne6 Bg6 19.Bf4 Qa8 20.Nbc7 Qb8 21.Nxd8 White wins) 13.Nb5 Qb6 14.Bf4 e5 15.Nxe5! fxe5 16.Bxe5 0–0–0 (16…Nxa1 17.Nc7+ Kf7 18.Nxa8 Qd8 19.f4!) 17.g5! h5 18.Rc1 Nb4 19.Bc7 White has a decisive advantage. Nunn, J. (2605)-Sher, M. (2520) Vejle 1994 1–0 26.

7…Nf6 8.Na3 Rc8 9.h3 Bh5 10.Qa4 cxd4 11.cxd4 Be7 12.Nb5

White’s threat is 13.Bc4 Qd8 (13…Qd7? 14.Ne5! Nxe5 15.dxe5 and black does not have time to protect his knight as White will win by Nd6+ followed by Bb5) 14.Nxa7 Ra8 15.Nxc6 Rxa4 16.Nxd8 Rxc4 17.Nxb7 Bxf3 18.gxf3 Rxd4 19.Be3 White has two isolated passed pawns on the queenside.

12…0–0 13.Nxa7 Nxa7

[13…Ra8? does not work: 14.Nxc6 Rxa4 15.Nxe7+ winning back his queen]

14.Qxa7 Rfd8 15.Qb6 Rd6 16.Qb4 Qe4 17.Be3 Qd5 18.Rfc1 Rxc1+ 19.Rxc1 h6 20.Bc4 Qe4 21.Be2?!

Imprecise. Better was 21.Ne5! intending 21… — 22.Bd3 Qd5 23.Rc5 Qxa2 24.Qxb7 Black’s position is falling apart

21…Rc6 22.Qd2 Rxc1+?

Better is 22…Bb4! 23.Qd1 (23.Qxb4 Rxc1+ 24.Bxc1 Qxe2 and GM Eugene would have equalized.

23.Qxc1 Nd5 24.Nd2! Qh4 25.Bxh5 Qxh5 26.Qc8+

Now Mangubat has untangled his pieces and will be winning at lest one more pawn.

26…Kh7 27.Qxb7 Qd1+ 28.Nf1 f5 <D>


Black’s forces are showing signs of life. How will White counter them?

29.Qa6! f4 30.Bd2 Qb1 31.Qxe6 Qxa2

[31…Qxb2 32.Qxd5]


Mangubat had to have seen this a few moves back.

32…Bf6 33.Be5 Qa8 34.Ng3 Bxe5 35.dxe5 Kh8 36.Qf7 1–0

After 36.Qf7, in the light of White’s threat to play Nh5 followed by Qxg7 checkmate, Black had to go 36…Qg8 37.e6 Nf6 38.b4 it is hopeless.

After this loss GM Eugene just picked himself up and went about the business of winning his 9th national title. He conceded a draw to Luis Chiong in the later rounds but won all his other games.

1979 Philippine National Open Chess Championship
PCF Headquarters, Intramuros, Manila
April 24–May 6, 1979

Final Standings

1. GM Eugene O. Torre, 10.5/12

2. NM Glenn Bordonada, 8.0/12

3–6. NM Rafaelito Maninang, NM Cesar Caturla, Andronico Yap, Luis Chiong, 7.5/12

7. IM Rico Mascariñas, 7.0/12

8–9. NM Ricardo de Guzman, Mario Mangubat, 6.0/12

10. Mirabeau Maga, 5.0/12

11. NM Marianito Acosta, 3.5/12

12. Rommel Tacorda, 2.0/12

13. Remigio Ferido, 1.5/12

Mario Mangubat used his pet Sicilian Alapin to defeat the top two finishers Torre and Bordonada, but could not sustain his momentum and finished at 50%.

A few years later Mario packed his bags to try his luck in the United States and exited from the Philippine chess scene.

Why am I bring this up now? Remember a few columns ago I wrote about President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to approving in May 2009 the inclusion of chess in schools curriculum in primary and secondary schools across the country? At that time they had declared that the Department of Education (DepEd) shall adopt chess as another strategy to promote the development of higher order thinking skills and values among Grades 3 to 6 in the Physical Education department. Chess will continue at the secondary level.

The National Chess Federation had never taken advantage of this boon and up to now there has been zero results in the area of the adoption of chess in the school curriculum.

I recently discovered that Mario Mangubat returned to the Philippines many years ago and currently works at the Land Transportation Office in Cebu, and he is heavy into chess promotion in the area.

His son, Mark Mangubat (no mean chessplayer himself) — he holds the title Arena Grandmaster (AGM) from the FIDE online chess site — has, together with Mr. Rafael Osumo, another serious chess fanatic, picked up on that DepEd initiative and are trying to make chess part of the basic education in Southwestern University-PHINMA. In fact, the school has started offering “Chess Times” to its students and, last September 26, , they included chess among its competitions in their annual Basic Education Day.

With the help of International Arbiter Felix Poloyapoy Jr., the event featured one of the biggest chess tournaments in Cebu City with about 280 pairs of players facing off against each other at the University Coliseum. The 7-round Swiss chess tournament.

So what is “Chess Times”? This is part of SWU Phinma’s initiative which requires students to attend to a scheduled number of chess hours every week.

Chess Time, one of the initiatives under the Stem-based curriculum being implemented this school year for Grades 1 to 7, is designed to teach students 21st century skills, such as communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, computational thinking, decisiveness, and wise judgment.

“Chess teaches the kids all these skills while developing their focus, discipline, and strategic thinking. It is one gateway for Stem education, and our chess program in the school is the path through that gateway for our budding future grandmasters,” said Glenda Roble, Basic Education principal.

Mark Mangubat said he sees a lot of potential talents in this young group of chess players. He is currently trying to form SWU chess teams to the Cebu City Olympics next month.

People like Mark Mangubat and Rafael Osumo are exactly what we need to once again compete in chess on the world stage. I really hope that chess organizers and promoters all over the Philippines take note of their initiative, and replicate their efforts in the other schools all over the country. This is the only way we can climb back from the chess depths we have fell into.

Bring back the days of Philippine chess dominance!


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.