Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The BANG (Bobby ANG) Opening

Hello everyone!

Finally! After the very busy schedule I’ve had during the Christmas break, I am now writing my first ever interview for Philippine Chess Chronicles.

It’s January 2007. The year is new, everyone’s perspectives aimed towards a better year for us Filipinos and the whole world. Everything is new or should I say refreshed. I would like to share with you my very first, major article for Philippine Chess Chronicles.

In chess, one must have a decent and sound opening to get you thru chess tournaments, in life, you would always want to open your day, your year with a BANG! In any undertakings, you always want to start or open up with a BANG! Same here with PCC, I want to open this year with a BANG!

An Interview with Bobby Ang. I call it The BANG Opening! Let’s open the year with a BANG! The last thing you’ll hear from an old year and the first major read for PCC. So here it is... Let’s BANG it away!

The interview happened at Alex III along Tomas Morato, December 28, 2006. Yes! Dinner interview and guys, I’ll let you in on a teaser, Sir Bob treated me with good food and a never-ending, free-for-all chess conversation which can only come from him, Philippine’s Number One Chess Chronicler! He is D’ Number One!

"...chess is suppose to make you a better person"

Yes, he has a column called Chess Piece in BusinessWorld and writes 2 articles a week. I have to tell you guys, I took up chess again in 2003 because of the book he wrote about chess, specifically, about Philippine Chess. Who, in his right frame of mind, would not be inspired to play chess again, read up tons and tons of chess books when you come across an author’s dedication page and say, for his last sentence, “to chess fans all over the world, whose obsession with chess rivals my own”!!! Triple exclamation point for good move.

When I asked him how he started writing about chess, he answered:

“I owe a lot to Mr. Manolito Ferrer, or Toto Ferrer, the Manager of the Active Chess Center for Asia (ACCA) and also Managing Editor of CHESS ASIA. He encouraged me to contribute to CHESS ASIA, which is a quarterly publication. I wrote a series called ‘Strictly for Amateurs’ with the idea of coming up with an opening repertoire for the amateur player. I had more than enough time to research on each article and thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process. Later on I also co-wrote the ‘BEST OF CHESS’ series where the top 10 players in the world for the previous year were featured. Toto was also the one who referred me to Businessworld when they were looking for a chess columnist in their sports section.

“Toto is one of those people whose contributions to chess were many and varied but somehow gets overlooked whenever we speak about people who make an impact on chess. He organized the weekly Executive Chess Tournaments in the 90s which brought a lot of people back into chess, and also played a major part in the organization of the Torre-Antonio match in 1999. Toto is a real good guy and I wonder why he has not been tapped more by the local chess authorities. There have been too much corruption in the organization of our local chess tournaments and getting him involved would have been a great first step to professionalizing local tournaments.…”

“You would be surprised at how little integrity there is in the local chess publications. I once wrote a long series in my Businessworld column about the Philippine teams to the Olympiads, and this guy copied large portions of the series and published it in a chess magazine under his own byline. To compound the sin, when one of the readers wrote to compliment him on the article (which was basically mine) he even had the gall to reply ‘boy! I really worked hard on it’ or words of similar effect.

“Another time, when I was Executive Director of the Federation, a publisher came to me asking for help with his chess magazine. I suggested that he publish the official local ratings in his magazine as this is a sure way of increasing his readership. I gave him the official list and imagine my surprise when the magazine was published – this guy had made himself a National Master! And not only that - he made his friends Candidate Masters (at that time this title did not yet exist).


In the book Inside Philippine Chess Volume 1 (IPC), I learned there about Philippine Chess Society and some of its activity, can you tell us more about it?

“Well, Philippine Chess Society has sponsored a lot of chess talents, national, provincial, and international tournaments. I was the Secretary General of PCS and we organized the very 1st Age Group championship in the Kaban ng Hiyas Building in Mandaluyong. More than 600 hundred players joined in 2001. We had 20 and under, 18-under, 16- under, 14-under, 12- under, 10 and under, with each age group having a boys’ and girls’ section. In other words we had 12 tournaments going on simultaneously under one roof. Nowadays the Age Group championships is a regular event in the tournament calendar, but people forget that the Chess Society pioneered this.”

“Another tournament that I am pretty proud of is the Asian Continental Under-16 Championship which was held in Bagac, Bataan. This was where Sander Severino (winner boys’ section) and Arianne Caoili (winner girls’ section) got their FIDE Master titles. The sponsor of this event was PIKNIK snacks of Mr. Andrew Tan (you know, Mr. Megaworld). I made a solemn vow there never to eat any other brand of potato chips other than PIKNIK, and I have made good on that promise until now.

“The SHELL Grand Finals of 2003 was another good event. This was the first major success of Wesley So, who was then only 10 years old but he ran away with the Under-14 Championship. And his games were so awesome! 10 years old and he sacrifices queens!”

“I can go on and on. As to training, we at the Chess Society always say that ‘Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance’.

“We trained Darwin Laylo for the 1999 Asian Junior Championship, and he came within
an ace of winning it, finishing 2nd half a point behind Krishnan Sasikiran, now a super-GM. In the process he beat the Chinese Champion (Liang Chiong) and the Iranian Champion Ghaem Maghami, now also a super-GM.

“We trained and seconded GM Joey Antonio for the 1999 World Championship. We reached the 2nd round where he almost upset Vladimir Akopian, the eventual silver medalist. In an interview after the tournament a journalist asked Akopian who was his most difficult opponent and his answer was ‘that guy Antonio from the Philippines’.

“Another GM we trained was Bong Villamayor. In fact, the Chess Society made him a scholar. We paid him a monthly allowance so that he can give up his coaching duties and concentrate on playing. We trained everyday and sponsored him on a trip abroad where several international tournaments were lined up. When he came back from the trip he already had two GM norms and was co-champion of the Asian Zone. Another tournament was organized in the Philippines (sponsor: Equitable Card Network, Inc. of Mr. Antonio L. Go) to take advantage of his momentum and he did not let us down. Imagine that – a GM in 41 days!

“After Bong got his GM title the Philippine Chess Society picked another scholar to train, but this one was a miserable failure – wouldn’t follow his training regimen, violated the ‘concentrate on your chess’ rule, agreed 9-move draws, etc. After this some of the members of the Board of the Society lost interest and they cancelled the program.

“I wonder if this guy knows just how much he cost Philippine chess. A great pity.”

Sadly, when I asked sir Bob how I’ll be able to join PCS, he replied:

“No you can’t. First, it’s by invitation. Second, the Philippine Chess Center, the PCS’ activity center, is closed. With all the politics and mean-mannered people of the chess community, including betrayal from many of the players which the PCS was helping, most of the board of director’s found it useless to continue with the PCS program. We help out, what do we get?”

Based from what I have digested in your IPC book, you firmly believe in computer assisted chess training and you have used this tremendously to prepare GM Joey Antonio back in 1999 for his World Chess Championship, what is your formula for chess training?

“Everything is computer assisted. We give them a computer, load it up with chess software, teach them how to use chessbase, and how to analyze with this. Obviously, having chessbase is not enough – you have to know how to use it.

“We do database study (this position was played in this tournament by this player and the continuation was etc...), opening surveys and then we do a tree of variations for the player to study. After this he would log in to the Internet Chess Club and play chess against GMs and IMs using the lines we are studying. This sequence was repeated over and over again.

“We also look at endgame tablebases, solve problems and studies (there are also special software for this) and then we zero in on a tournament whose opening preparation we would like to copy. We extract all his recent games and study how he plays the opening. This is an interesting shortcut – a lot of the top players have very well-studied openings suited to their style and we copy his repertoire (assuming, of course, that you have the same style as that player).

“It is important, of course, that you develop an opening repertoire which suits you. For example when I worked with Darwin Laylo I noticed that he played a lot of garbage openings with Black and a lot of his losses were due to bad positions he got from the opening. After some study I recommended that he try the Scandinavian and since then his opening results improved and, I daresay, he enjoys the game a lot more.”

“I developed this method of training because of an experience I had in Angeles City. At that time my driver as Ben Flores, a very strong non-master. I was operating an internet café and during the lean hours we would work together and train. After he left my employ he swiftly went up the tournament ladder, became a National Master, and even a member of the national squad to the 1998 Elista Olympiad!”

By this time, the night is getting a little more interesting as we exchange stories behind stories of Philippine Chess. I’m telling you guys, I’d be in jail in a sec if I write them all down. These are stories of corruption, personal level and chess level. Stories that actually happened but remains to be hidden. Known only among the people who were there and of course, for those who get to talk to those “knowledgeable persons” like him. Some of the facts and horror stories from The Dean himself:

Filipino GM whose favorite line is “let’s develop young players” but in reality, the GM has not lifted a finger to develop these young players and even blocked our initiatives to include the National Juniors Champion in the National Team to be sent abroad;
- Did you know that one of our GM was a drug addict who learned chess at the age of 16? When he became good at chess he cleaned up his act and has not touched drugs again;

- There was this master who kept writing articles he knew to be false just so as to get publicity. During a meeting of arbiters I could not contain myself and rolled up a newspaper and hit him;
- That one of our GM wrote the modules for the chess school, but would not admit that he did because he found out that each module was made to run for 8 sessions which was originally intended for only 2 sessions.

- The reason why one of our GM is losing to non-GM’s in our country is that he discovered Love. As what Sir Bobby said “For the first time in his life, he is freed from parental monitoring. I assure you, once he shakes it off, he’ll be back in top shape and be a strong as ever”

- The real story about the formation of NCFP and thus getting the recognition of POC.
- The story behind the term “gatusan” wherein there is even a formula and computation of how much one will earn for the tournament etc.
- How he handled the people of chess community and made them be productive as stewards, chess players etc. As what he stated
“these people can really do wonders for chess, the key is to never let them go wayward, always be in control of them”

By now, I am feeling a bit jaded due to the dizzying amount of horror stories I’ve been hearing. I guess it’s time to shy away from chess stories and try to ask some personal questions with our subject.

Philippine Chess Chronicles (PCC): If I may ask you, aside from chess, what are the things you do outside of the royal game? Although in IPC, you wrote there that you consider chess as your job and your businesses as your hobbies.

Bobby Ang (BANG):
“I am a Certified Public Accountant, and formerly the Head of Accounting and Compliance of Equitable Card Network, the biggest credit card company in the Philippines. When Henry Sy and his SM Group took over the Equitable Banking Group in a hostile takeover I left and am now the FVP for Finance and Compliance of Equicom, a card processor. I sit on the board of 14 companies engaged in various industries. I am also an Accounting Professor in the College of Commerce of the University of Santo Tomas (presently on leave).
I am also the “Judge”, or Chief Adjudicator of the Internet Chess Club, the leading commercial chess server in the world (35,000 active members, hundreds of GMs and IMs play here) where I have been an Admin since 1996.

PCC: I guess that explains why of all the newspapers we have here in the Philippines, you have your Chess Piece Column for BusinessWorld. During your bachelor years, from grade school to college life, do you think girls we attracted to you because of you chess playing skills? Are they mystified?

BANG: “You know what Francis, during my time, geeks and nerds were out as compared nowadays. Nerd is in. But honestly, the greatest attraction girls have on me is having the Surname Ang. For one, Ang is the only Chinese surname that starts with letter A. In school, I always get to seat in front and most of the students in front rows are the ones who listen to their teachers, always get called and recite, almost always the first one to be remembered by their teachers. While those seated at the back rows, having surnames that starts zillion of light years away from A, are the ones who chit-chats with their classmates, do not listen etc. I have no choice but be good, or the best in class.”

Whew! That is just a piece of what we can actually learn about him. Let’s try to ask him now about his thoughts on Scholastic Chess in the Philippines.

PCC: Sir Bob, do you consider UAAP and NCAA as scholastic chess? I mean the chess tournaments they hold there?

“These are tournaments…”

PCC: So, it’s not scholastic chess, where are we then, Philippines and Scholastic Chess?

“Well, they say NCFP is now trying to negotiate with DepEd. That’s a good sign but if they will put up a chess school for players and chess teachers, they should make GM Villamayor as the Dean. He studied in Moscow… I know of a good chess teacher for children and he goes by the name Roland Yutuc Also, if ever they are (NCFP) formulating scholastic chess, they better have a year to plan ahead”

PCC: With Congressman Pichay’s Leadership, we have seen National tournaments and qualifying tournaments here and there, what are your thoughts and observations on these things?

“Let me tell you this, tournaments are not just for players. Tournaments are for the audience and for other players. It’s a show, showing our best players. Most importantly, tournaments are for the sponsors. Have to make sure that the sponsors are seen and heard. They are the nourishment of the chess development”

PCC: Is there any plan in the nearest future to open Philippine Chess Society again?

“None. As what I’ve told you, the directors were discouraged from their horrifying experience before. Besides, I consider myself retired from chess. For three years I did nothing but play chess, look where it got me to (grins!)… Well, I have my book, I’ve reached the World Championship by training our player and I’ve got my revenge…”

PCC: Sir, there are so many players now, mostly are kiddies and juniors who would benefit so much from PCS’s programs, do you really believe PCS and it’s Center will be closed for good?

“We’ll see”

Before we reach the end of our piece, I'd like to share one of Bobby Ang's game at IECG (International Email Chess Group) which appeared in his book Inside Philippine Chess. Somehow, this game easily caught my amazement just like the first time I got a glimpse of Michael Jordan's dunking prowess in front of his defenders in the late 80's.

BANG: IECG Senior Master Floyd Halwick was seeded number one in my preliminary group with a high IECG rating of 2462. By winning this event, I qualified to play in the semi-finals, although pressure of work forced me to drop out of the semis.

This game was also featured in the December 1999 issue of Chess Life Magazinein the yearly miniature collection of Alex Dunne. Unforgettable!

1.e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. d4 Bg4 4. f3 Bf5 5. c4 e6! 6.dxe6 Nc6!! 7.exf7+ Kxf7 8.Be3 Bb4+ 9.Nc3 Re8 10.Kf2 Rxe3! 11. Kxe3 Bc2!! 0-1 (sorry guys, my tags and html's aren't working so for you to see the game, play it through...)

After …Bc2 Halwick pondered on his reply for a full 10 days, after which he emailed me back with this message: “Congratulations! I have played competitive chess for more than 20 years, and have never lost this badly!”

And to continue...

By this time, it’s almost 930 in the evening and I was so full in my head and in my tummy. Time for some goodbye questions…

PCC: Sir Bob, what would you like to say to our readers worldwide? Any message that you want to share?

“If you play chess, you are also learning about life; don’t let it obscure you or your life in general… Chess is suppose to make you a better person” .


  1. i hope Bobby Ang reconsiders, and also his partners in PCS. Konti na nga lang ang matino sa Phil Chess, umalis pa sila. When PCS launched the nat'l age group in mandaluyong, my two sons played there, and where are they now? My eldest is a freshman at UP and my second son is a UE high school varsity(UAAP Chess Champ). Mr. Bobby Ang, your labor has not been in vain. My two sons are just a small fraction of the fruits of your hard work. Thanks a lot Bobby, and also to the late Sonia Cruz, who encouraged and sometimes took care of my kids in chess tourneys.

  2. Thank you very much for the kind words. These words alone make it all worthwhile.

    bobby ang

  3. Søren Dippel (webmaster of a danish chess site)February 22, 2007 at 3:24 AM

    What has happend with Bobby Ang's column ( on Indochess? Can't find it any more!


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