Thursday, January 25, 2007

Recent Bobby Ang Articles on Philippine Chess

by Bobby Ang

It looks like Wesley So is bent on breaking all Philippine chess records (the good ones only – some other titled players are taking care of the bad ones). Already the Philippines’ youngest ever Olympian at 12 years of age, youngest ever International Master at 13, and now he enters the record books once again as the youngest ever Philippine champion at 13.

Do you know whose record Wesley broke?

Ramon Lontoc, Jr. was born on August 27, 1917. At the age of 5 he learned the rudiments of the game from his father and elder brothers who were themselves strong players. In 1925, at the age of 8 (!!), he was crowned National Junior Champion. In 1931 he won the Metropolitan Championship, the unofficial Philippine championship and later that year he defeated the reigning national titlist, Adolfo Gutierrez in an official challenge match with the score of 4-2 and 6 draws to become champion at 14. In 1932 he drew his game (this was in consultation with Dr. Ariel Mencarini, but it is acknowledged that Lontoc was the one calling the shots) with Dr. Alexander Alekhine in a simultaneous blindfold exhibition during the world champion’s visit to Manila.

Lontoc was to win the national crown seven more times and, at the age of 57, came back from retirement to qualify for the “dream team” (Eugene Torre, Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, Renato Naranja, Rosendo Balinas Jr., Ramon Lontoc, Jr., and Glenn Bordonada) to the 1974 Nice Olympiad. This was the high point of Philippine chess, for in the Olympiad the Philippines made history: it placed 11th, defeated powerful chess squads from Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Eugene Torre got his grandmaster title – he was also silver medalist on top board, second only to Anatoly Karpov.

2nd Cong. Prospero A. Pichay Cup
National Open Chess Championship
December 2006

1 IM Wesley So, 7.5/9
2 IM Ronald Dableo, 7.0/9
3-9 IM Darwin Laylo, GM Mark Paragua, IM Oliver Dimakiling, GM Nelson Mariano, Julius Joseph de Ramos, IM Yves Ranola, Oliver Barbosa, 6.5/9
10-15 John Paul Gomez, Jan Emmanuel Garcia, FM Fernie Donguines, IM Barlo Nadera, Jerome Balico, IM Jayson Gonzales, 6.0/9
16-25 Rhobel Legaspi, IM Richard Bitoon, Arlan Cabe, Emmanuel Senador, IM Petronio Roca, Efren Bagamasbad, Adrian Pacis, IM Chito Garma, Rolando Nolte, FM Mirabeau Maga, 5.5/9

Total of 80 players

Here is Wesley’s last round game against Richard Bitoon which sealed the title for him.

So,Wesley (2411) - Bitoon,Richard (2433) [B42]
Pichay Cup National Op SM Manila (9), 12.2006

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Ne7 6.Nc3

GM John Emms thinks that 6.0–0 is more accurate here so as to answer 6...Nec6 with 7.c3 but I think it is only a matter of taste. Some people don't like to dabble with positional subtleties and prefer to go straight for the throat, people like Wesley So.

6...Nec6 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0–0

The recommended line in "Beating the Sicilian 3" against Black's Sicilian Kan formation is 8.Qh5! d6 9.Be3 Nd7 10.f4 b5 11.0–0–0 b4?! 12.Na4! e5 13.f5 0–0 14.g4! and White has an automatic attack. This is Mikhalchishin,A (2465)-Dorfman,J (2540)/ Lvov 1983 1–0 (45).

8...0–0 9.f4 d6 10.Qf3 Nd7 11.Bd2 Nc5 12.Nxc5 dxc5 13.Be3 b5 14.e5 Qc7 15.Ne4

The sequence Nf6+ followed by Bxh7+ is in the air. Both sides must have considered the threat carefully with differing conclusions.


"I dare you" says Richard.

16.Nf6+ Bxf6

Of course 16...gxf6 17.Bxh7+ Kxh7 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Qg4+ Kh8 20.Rf3 is forced mate.

17.Bxh7+! Kxh7 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.exf6 Ne7!

The only way to keep the game going. 19...gxf6 20.Qg4+ Kh8 21.Rf3 gives us the same mating theme as in the variation given above.

20.fxe7 Re8

[20...Qxe7? 21.Bc5]

21.Rf3 Qxe7 22.Rh3 f5 23.Bd4

Threat is Qh8+ followed by Qxg7 mate.

23...e5 24.Bxe5 Qc5+ 25.Kh1 Rxe5 26.fxe5 Qxe5 27.Rf1

Wesley is still winning, but more accurate is 27.Rd1! Bb7 (If 27...Qe7 then 28.Rd8+ Qxd8 29.Qh8+ snares the queen) 28.Qh7+ Kf7 29.Rg3 Bc8 30.Qg6+ Ke7 31.Qc6 Rb8 32.Rxg7+!

27...Rb8 28.Qh7+ Kf7 29.Rhf3

[29.Rh6! finishes quicker]

29...Rb6 30.Qh5+ Kg8 31.Qg5 Rf6 32.Re3 Qd6 33.Re8+ Rf8 34.Re7 Rf7 35.Re8+ Rf8 36.Rfe1 Bd7 37.Rxf8+ Kxf8 38.Qd8+ Kf7 39.h4 Kg6 40.Re7 Qd1+ 41.Kh2 Qd6+ 42.Kh3 1–0

I must say that I have noticed the maturity of Wesley’s over-all game. From being an occasional brilliancy prize winner he has already grown to a stable performer who can contend on equal terms in the opening, middlegame and endgame.

Immediately after annexing the Philippine crown Wesley went to Singapore to play in the Masters’ Open. I will show you his game vs China’s 19-year old Li Chao, one more from the never-ending gallery of young promising players that they have. Li is much higher rated and despite his youth has played in a ton of tournaments in china. Wesley pulls out an opening novelty from his bag of tricks, gets the advantage, and then vigorously forces home the advantage. He made a 2500+ rated player look like a beginner (excuse me for gloating, but we don’t encounter these situations regularly these days).

So,Wesley (2411) - Li Chao (2508) [C47]
Singapore Masters (7), 29.12.2006

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 0–0 8.0–0 Re8

Li Chao avoids the main lines. After 8...d5 9.exd5 (9.e5? Ng4 10.Bf4 f6 is favorable for Black. Mieses,J-Rubinstein,A/ Berlin 1924 0–1 (37)) 9...cxd5 10.Bg5 c6 11.Qf3 Be7 it looks like black has [ completely equalized. Of course, if you are higher rated than your opponent and want to play for a win, you sometimes avoid the main lines which have the drawback of being heavily analyzed.

9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 Rb8?!

In his notes to the game Reinderman vs Ivan Sokolov from the 1995 Dutch championship, Viktor Korchnoi criticizes this move and suggests that the best course of action for Black would be to set up counter-action against white's e4 with 10...d6 11.f4 Bb7 12.Kh1 Bxc3 13.bxc3 c5 with a very playable game.


A theoretical novelty, and a good one. White wants to put pressure on f6 but the previous try 11.Qf3 didn't work. Black can immediately break the pin with 11...g5 12.Bg3 d6 and there is nothing wrong with his position. To illustrate just how quickly matters can come to a head: 13.Na4? (better is 13.h3! ) 13...c5 14.c3 Ba5 15.Rfe1 Bg4 16.Qe3 Bd7 17.Bc2 Bxa4 18.Bxa4 Rxe4 19.Qxe4 Nxe4 20.Rxe4 f5 Black has won material and soon wraps up. 21.Re6 f4 22.Rae1 Rxb2 23.Bb3 Rxb3 24.axb3 Kf7 0–1 Reinderman,D (2440)-Sokolov,I (2645)/ NED-ch 1995.

11...Be7 12.b3 Bc5+?

The start of a faulty maneuver. 12...d5 was indicated.

13.Kh1 Bd4 14.Ne2!

Maybe Black's idea was 14.Qe1 Bxc3 15.Qxc3 Nxe4 16.Bxd8 Nxc3 17.Bxc7 Rb7 18.Be5 Nd5 but even here White has a big advantage - two bishops, two pawn islands to Black's three, and a dark-squared weakness for the enemy which his bishops will no doubt exploit. Anyway, Wesley's move is much stronger.

14...Bxa1 15.Qxa1

caption: position after 15.Qxa1

Taking stock, we see that Black sorely misses his dark-squared bishop. The pressure against f6 is very strong and in fact the rest of the game looks like a forced win for White.


The normal Sicilian maneuver 15...g5? 16.fxg5 Nh7 does not work here because of 17.g6!

16.Ng3 Re6 17.f5 Re5 18.Nh5 Kh7 19.Qe1

The main threat is 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Qh4.

19...d5 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Qh4 Qe7 22.Qg3 1–0

Li Chao resigns because the only move to prevent checkmate, 22...Qf8, allows 23.Nxf6+ Kh8 24.Qxe5.

Here Botvinnik’s lecture seems relevant:

“If you are going to make your mark among masters, you have to work far harder and more intensively, or, to put it more exactly, the work is far more complex than that needed to gain the title of Master. To begin with, you find yourself up against experienced, technically well-trained tournament players. And then, if your advance is swift, others play against you far more energetically.

“And, thirdly, every successive step up the ladder grows more difficult.

“At this stage you have to learn how to analyse and comment on games, for that enables you to criticize your own failures and successes. You have to accustom yourself to practical study at home, you have to devote time to studies, to the history of chess, the development of chess theory, of chess culture”.

I hope whoever is Wesley’s present coach takes note of the next step in his development – the analyzing and commenting on games.

Reader comments/suggestions are urgently solicited. Email address is

"This article first appeared in Bobby Ang's column in Businessworld (Philippines) on 15 January 2007"

by Bobby Ang

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) has issued the January 2007 rating list. Following are the top ten Filipino players:

1 GM Mark Paragua 2573
2 GM Rogelio Antonio Jr 2551
3 GM Eugenio Torre 2547
4 IM Joseph Sanchez 2482
5 IM Oliver Dimakiling 2481
6 IM Darwin Laylo 2476
7 IM Jayson Gonzales 2458
8 IM Idelfonso Datu 2457
9 NM John Paul Gomez 2455
10 IM Ronald Dableo 2453

The player who made the biggest rating gain is John Paul Gomez, who started with a 2387 rating in October 2006 and is now 2455. Usually a 68 point jump like that would be considered incredible, but remember that John Paul has always been a very strong player but limited opportunities to play. As soon as he got the chance to participate in rated tournaments then the rating lists now start to reflect his true strength.

The one who made the biggest drop in ratings is IM Petronio Roca, who lost 27 points and crashed down from ELO 2408 to 2381. But don’t read too much into this – Roca has made a career out of peaks and valleys and his steep rating swings has become a habit. Also the strong medicine he often has to take to control blood pressure naturally affects his playing results.

Roca is respected as one of our best players and indeed he is among the very few who have positive lifetime scores against both Eugene Torre and Joey Antonio. His chess is strong and aggressive and once Roca gets on a roll with a few wins put together then he becomes hard to stop.

Take a look at the following game from the GMA Cup. Even off-form he still can flog the occasional up-and-comer.

Roca,Petronio (2408) - Diez,Boris Michael [B59]
1st GMA Cup International Open CC Duty Free Fiesta Mall (5.25), 20.11.2006

Boris Diez is a junior standout from Cagayan de Oro. He is one of our young players who is computer literate and trains regularly in the Internet Chess Club.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 e5

The Boleslavsky Variation.


In contrast with the Sicilian Najdorf, moving the knight to b3 instead of f3 offers Black good chances, and is hardly used by strong players nowadays. The knight on b3 is badly placed and serves as a target for Black's a-pawn. However, on the plus side, the white f-pawn is free to advance, and for many white players of the Sicilian this is enough justification.


The normal sequence of moves here is 7...Be7 followed by 8.0–0 0–0. However Diez has a different idea which he wants to try on Roca.

8.f4 exf4 9.Bxf4 d5!? 10.e5 Nd7 11.Nd4 Ndxe5?!

Clearly 11...Qb6 12.Nxe6 fxe6 is the better choice, after which Black gets the upper hand due to his better-secured king. However, the text is definitely in keeping with Boris' style, which is to provoke tactical complications. It might not be a good way to play against Roca, though.

12.Bxe5 Nxe5 13.Bb5+ Ke7?!

[13...Nd7? is definitely a mistake which is refuted by 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Qh5+ Ke7 16.Nxd5+!, but 13...Bd7 can be considered]

14.Qe2 Qd6 15.0–0–0 g6 16.Rhe1 Bg7 17.Nf3 f6 18.Bc4?!

An inaccuracy. White should exchange knights first on e5 before putting his bishop on c4, because now 18...Nxc4 gives Black a chance to resist.

18...Nxc4 19.Nxd5+ Kf7 20.Qxc4 Rhd8?

Loses an important tempo. Best is 20...Rhc8 21.Qb3 Kf8 which tales his king away from the dangerous a2-g8 diagonal.

21.Rxe6! Qxe6 22.Ng5+ fxg5 23.Rf1+

The point. Black's queen is lost.


[23...Kg8 24.Ne7+]

24.Rxf6+ Qxf6 25.Qc7+ Ke6 26.Nxf6 Kxf6 27.Qxb7

Two rooks is usually better than the queen, but Black's exposed king gives Roca the edge to capture a few pawns and advance his passed pawns.

27...h5 28.b4 Rab8 29.Qc6+ Kf5 30.a4 Rb6 31.Qc5+ Kf6 32.a5 Rbb8 33.c3 Rbc8 34.Qf2+ Ke5 35.Qe3+ Kf5 36.Kb2 Rd7 37.h4! Rg8

[37...gxh4 38.Qh3+; 37...g4 38.Qg5+ Ke4 39.Qxg6+ Kf4 40.Qxh5]

38.Qxg5+ Ke4 39.Kb3 Rgg7 40.Qg3 Rdf7 41.b5 Rf1 42.Kc4 Rf5? 43.Qd3+ 1–0

Boris Diez resigns. After 43...Kf4 44.Qd4+ followed by 45.Qxg7 is too painful to watch.

We have several players who entered the rating list for the first time due to their good performance in the 1st GMA Cup. They are:

Hamed Nouri ELO 2418
Sander Severino ELO 2405
Rhobel Legaspi ELO 2328
Efren Bagamasbad ELO 2295

Sander Severino is listed as “no title” in the FIDE lists. This is a mistake. Sander Severino earned the FIDE Master title when he topped the 2000 Asian Continental Under-16 Championship which the Philippine Chess Society organized in Bagac, Bataan. Sander did not enter the rating lists then because he had not played enough rated games, but the title in his case was given because of result, and not rating. I remember seeing his name with the “FM” in the FIDE website when it listed the titled players of the Philippines. This is another issue which the NCFP has to clear up.

Rhobel Legaspi is a former college standout from UST and was a one-time rival of John Paul Gomez for the Philippine junior title. He is an extremely strong player and I am happy that he has successfully passed his first international outing via the GMA Cup.

As to Efren Bagamasbad, a good friend of mine, what can I say. He is likewise a UST graduate from its Faculty of Engineering, and he rose up his profession to become a Quality Control Engineer in Coca Cola, this is a senior manager position. While going up the corporate ladder in the 80s Efren was also monopolizing all the Executive Chess tournaments in the country. He got his National Master title from the 1990 Far East Bank International tournament (the one that Anand one) together with Barlo Nadera, Fernando Latoza and Venerando Malinao.

Hamed Nouri, the controversial star of the 1st GMA Cup, has jumped out of nowhere to land in 17th place with an ELO rating of 2418. You may recall that he defeated three GMs in succession during the Cup (Joey Antonio, Bong Villamayor and Vladimir Belov) and the Russian GM accused him of cheating with a computer during his games.

I treated the accusations with a great deal of skepticism. Belov had implied that such an unknown player could not have played so strongly without the use of external assistance, but I had seen Nouri in action during the 1999 Philippine National Team Championships and can vouch that his tactical skill is of a high level.

GM Bong recently emailed me the score of his game against Nouri in the GMA Cup. You judge for yourself whether he was cheating or not.

Nouri, Hamed - Villamayor,Bong (2430) [A45]
1st PGMA Chess Cup (7), 22.11.2006

1.d4 e6 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 b6 4.Ne2 Bb7 5.0–0 c5 6.Nd2 cxd4 7.exd4 Be7 8.Re1 Qc7 9.Nc4 d6 10.Nf4 Nbd7

Black should already have castled.


The threats start. White has the intention of continuing 12.d5 e5 13.Nf5 with an attack on the king in the center.

11...g6 12.a4 e5

caption: position after 12...e5

Having defended the square f5, GM Bong thought that the coast was clear for his pawn thrust, but Hamed had a resource in mind.

13.Bb5!? exf4 14.Ng4 Kf8

Simply 14...Nxg4 15.Qxg4 is better. Black will follow through with ...a6 and ...Nf6 and he starts emerging from the woods.

15.Qe2 Qd8

[15...Re8? is a blunder. After 16.Nxf6 Black loses material]

16.Bxf4 h5 17.Bh6+! Kg8 18.Qxe7 hxg4 19.Bg5 Qxe7 20.Rxe7 Bc8 21.Bc6 Rb8 22.Bf4 Rb7?

His coaching chores must have dulled his sixth sense, because GM Bong usually has a nice feel for when the game has reached the critical phase and he is obliged to seek counter-chances. The text is way too passive. Much more preferable is 22...d5! 23.Bxb8 Nxb8 24.Bb5 a6 25.Bf1 Kg7 Black has two knights for rook and pawn, but more important than that his pieces have lots of weak squares to work on.


The rook is not going away. Nouri wins first the d6-square after which his passed pawn gets dangerous

23...Kg7 24.c4 Rd8 25.Bxb7 Bxb7 26.d5

Just a little care is needed now - the game is won.

26...Ng8 27.Re3 Rc8 28.b3 a5 29.Rae1 Ndf6 30.Be5 Kf8 31.f3 gxf3 32.Rxf3 Nd7 33.Bd4 Re8?

A blunder in a lost position.

34.Bg7+ Kxg7 35.Rxe8 1–0

Reader comments/suggestions are urgently solicited. Email address is

"This article first appeared in Bobby Ang's column in Businessworld (Philippines) on 19 January 2007"

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