Chess Piece

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

Current Top Standings (7 of 9 rounds)
1-2. Grandmaster (GM) Surya Shekhar Ganguly IND 2621, GM M. Amin Tabatabaei IRI 2587, 5.5/7
3-8. GM Wei Yi CHN 2728, GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov UZB 2546, GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2641, GM Parham Maghsoodloo IRI 2688, GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2714, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2701, 5.0/7
9-17. GM Susanto Megaranto INA 2512, GM SP Sethuraman IND 2664, GM Alireza Firouzja IRI 2607, GM Lalith Babu MR IND 2529, GM Rinat Jumabayev KAZ 2602, GM Baskaran Adhiban IND 2695, GM Wen Yang CHN 2604, GM Wang Hao CHN 2730,GM Rustam Khusnutdinov KAZ 2470, 4.5/7
18-26. GM Ni Hua CHN 2683, IM Xu Yi CHN 2536, IM Nodirbek Yakubboev UZB 2556, GM Abhijit Kunte IND 2469, IM Ricardo de Guzman PHI 2357, IM Nguyen Anh Khoi VIE 2480, IM Liu Yan CHN 2495, GM John Paul Gomez PHI 2450, GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami IRI 2537, 4.0/7
Total of 64 participants
Time Control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added after every move starting move 1.
The 17th Asian Continental Chess Championships started Monday last week in the Tiara Oriental Hotel in Malugay Street, Makati City. This was sort of a rush affair – the hosting of the event was just awarded to the Philippines some time in late October and the organizers had to scramble to put it together, what with it being Christmas with most hotels and function rooms unavailable for a straight 2-week booking.
At the last minute everything fell into place and when Senator Manny Pacquiao came through with his sponsorship to top up the support of the Philippine Sports Commission the event was finally green-lit. I should commend GM Jayson Gonzales for the great job in getting this very prestigious event off the ground considering the very short notice.
This tournament is a World Cup Qualifier and the top 5 here will be seeded directly into that 2019 World Cup to be held in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, from Sept. 9-Oct. 2, 2019. As BW readers know the World Cup is a very cash-rich event — even the first round losers go home with $6,000 in their pocket to console themselves with. And this is on top of having the top 2 placers proceed to the Candidates tournament which will determine the challenger to Magnus Carlsen for the 2020 world championship match.
In view of the high returns involved the Chinese came to compete with a strong delegation headed by International Grandmasters Wang Hao (2730), Wei Yi (2728) Ni Hua (2683), the 2014 World Junior champion Lu Shanglei (2636) and several others. Even former World Women’s Champion GM Tan Zhongyi (2508) came. The very pretty Ms. Tan is not one of the favorites to finish among the top 5 but, having already achieved the highest title in women’s chess, she is now trying her hand at the men’s competitions, and she is no pushover in either category.
The top Vietnamese (GMs Le Quang Liem 2714 and Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son 2641) and Iranians (reigning World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo 2688, GMs Alireza Firouzja 2607, M. Amin Tabatabaei 2587 and Ehsan Ghaem Maghami 2537) both came in force as well.
Unfortunately, the tournament schedule clashed with India’s national championship which, in addition to the prestige of the event, also featured good prizes (1st place is Rs 500,000, the equivalent of around P370,000) and one automatic slot to the World Cup. The Indian players were split on which competition to join but finally a very strong delegation came to the Philippines headed by GMs Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (2701), Baskaran Adhiban (2695), SP Sethuraman (2664) and Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2621), Abhimanyu Puranik (2544), Lalith Babu MR (2529), Shardul Gagare (2504) and Abhijit Kunte (2469).
Now, of course, highly-rated players like Vidit are used to having their hotel room and board underwritten by the tournament organizers, but this is an official FIDE competition in the world championship cycle and the rules stipulated that the organizers only give complimentary accommodation to one official representative of each country. Vidit, being a last-minute entry, was not the official representative of India. Perhaps that might have been what led to the brouhaha on the eve of the tournament.
Vidit took to the social media late on Sunday evening to vent out his frustration at the “exorbitant” rates being charged by the hotel. “Players are charged five times more and forced to stay in this place where basic necessities like cleanliness, proper food and water are not provided,” Vidit wrote in his post.
I quote from Chessbase India: Vidit continues, “After paying $150, there is no internet in the room. Food provided is awful. There is even no drinking water in the room(!!).” He continues “Me and my colleagues Abhijit Kunte and Lalith Babu went outside to buy water, but then the most unexpected incident happened. We were attacked by local goons who possessed weapons. We were cornered and then attacked. We tried to flee but we were chased and finally marginally escaped. We are still trying to recover from this horrible incident. The saddest part is that upon informing this to organizers they remained aloof and ignored the seriousness of the issue.”
“What kind of an event is this? Players are charged five times more and forced to stay in this place, where basic necessities like cleanliness, proper food and water are not provided. This is sheer exploitation of players. I am writing this post so that FIDE and the authorities will take the rightful action.”
Lalith Babu to the Times of India: “We had gone out to get SIM cards to contact our families when two miscreants cornered us. They seemed to be armed and we somehow freed ourselves from their clutches. We ran as fast as we could and just about managed to escape.”
Abhijit Kunte: “We had a visit by the commissioner and our statements were recorded. It’s somehow a distraction from the daily routine we follow in the tournaments. It’s very uneasy to be confined to the hotel room, but hopefully things will improve. Our focus has changed from preparation (for the tournament) to getting the basic amenities in place, and this incident (of attack) has affected a lot.”
This terrible occurrence was published in leading chess websites around the world including the no. 1 site “Chessbase.” The First Secretary of the Indian Embassy in Manila even reached out to the players to check what happened and what it can do to prevent any further incident. Chessbase India even complained to Emil Sutovsky of FIDE and he responded that “The event is under the auspices of Asian Continental Federation, however as it is a part of World Championship Cycle, FIDE will not stay aside. I already inquired the organizers, and I look forward to hearing their side of the story. However, no explanation for 300-400% surcharge is valid. And FIDE will look into the measures to remedy the situation ASAP — not limiting ourselves to just agreeing [that] it is not OK. But before making any strong statements, we will need to hear from the organizers.”
It would have been a truly shameful occurrence, that is, if it were true.
The Tiara Oriental Hotel where the players were billeted was within walking distance of a police station and the area is secure. In fact, the Precinct Head visited the organizers and players involved and invited them back to the station to review closed-circuit TV feed of the streets at the time of the incident.
It turned out that the three players went out and passed by a group of children (not armed goons) and two of the kids (who were half the size of the players) asked them if they could spare some change. The players ignored the beggars and went back to the hotel. Nobody was “cornered and attacked by armed goons.”
This was at the eve of the tournament and all the other concerns about basic necessities were addressed immediately by the organizers the very next day. Vidit did not need to go to social media for this — he merely had to voice his concerns to the organizers on their shortcomings and they would have fixed whatever was wrong. That’s part of who we are — that’s Filipino hospitality.
As to the over-charging of room rates, they were comparing the rate of a stripped-down room rate with no amenities at all with that of a single room with breakfast, lunch and dinner and function room. Most players took the option of a double room which is $85 per person. No chess organizer here in the Philippines would stoop to milking visitors from foreign shores by marking up hotel rates. Maybe this is done in other countries, but not in the Philippines.
Messrs. Vidit, Lalith, and Kunte, this is not a game. You have done much harm to the image of the Philippines, and all Filipino players are affected by this. Please keep in mind that you are here as representatives of India and as guests of the Philippines. I will say nothing more.
It is time to get to the chess.
If you look at the table above you will see that the top places are occupied by foreigners and the highest-ranked Filipino players are balikbayan IM Ricardo de Guzman and GM John Paul Gomez, both tied for 18th place. All of the locals are out of the running for any of the coveted top-5 places.
One bright spot is Paulo Bersamina’s beautiful takedown of 3rd seed Le Quang Liem.

Le Quang, Liem (2714) — Bersamina, Paulo (2444) [C50]
17th Asian Continental Chess Champions Makati City (1.3), 10.12.2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.h3
Usually White plays here 5.c3 so that Black cannot push his d-pawn to d5: 5…d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.Qb3 Black may need to give up his f7 pawn.
Bersamina opts not to continue 5…d5 though.
6.Nbd2 a6 7.c3 d6 8.Bb3 Be6 9.Bc2 Ba7 10.Nf1 d5 11.exd5 Nxd5 12.Ng3 Qd7
It looks to me like White’s set-up is too slow and Black is at least equal.
13.0–0 0–0–0 14.Re1 Nf4 15.Bxf4 exf4 16.Nh5 Bxh3! 17.Nxf4 Bg4! 18.d4 Qd6 19.Nd3 f6 20.Re4 h5 21.Qe2 Bf5 22.Re3 Bg4 23.Re4 Bf5 24.Re3 Bg4 25.Qf1 Ne7 26.Nd2 c6 27.Nc4 Qc7³ 28.Nc5 Nd5! 29.Re4 Kb8 30.Rae1 Ka8 31.Ne3! Nf4 32.Qc4 Bb8 33.Nf1 h4 34.Re7? <D>
Correct is 34.Nxa6 Qd6 (34…bxa6 35.Rxf4! it is now White who is winning. Black cannot take the rook because of 35…Qxf4 36.Qxa6+ Ba7 37.Qxc6+ Kb8 38.Be4) 35.Qa4 It is still anybody’s game, but White thought that after the text move he is winning…
34…h3! 35.Rxc7
[35.g3 h2+ 36.Nxh2 Rxh2 37.Kxh2 Rh8+ 38.Kg1 Bf3 the end]
Threatening Rh1 mate.
36.Nh2 Bf3! 37.a3 Nh3# 0–1
We will continue our coverage of the Asian Continental Chess Championship on Thursday.
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 for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.