Monday, September 19, 2016

How to be a Chess Master?

According to its Handbook, FIDE awards the following titles for “over-the-board standard chess" - Grandmaster (GM), International Master (IM), FIDE Master (FM), Candidate Master (CM), Woman Grandmaster (WGM), Woman International Master (WIM), Woman FIDE Master (WFM), Woman Candidate Master (WCM).

These titles are “valid for life from the date confirmed.” But how are these titles awarded?

“Titles may be awarded for specific results in specific Championship events, or are awarded on achieving a rating as laid down in these regulations. Such titles are confirmed by the Qualifications Committee (QC) Chairman on advice from the FIDE Office. They are then awarded by FIDE.

Titles are also awarded based on applications with norms with a sufficient number of games. These titles shall be awarded by the General Assembly on recommendation by the QC that the candidate meets the requirements. The Presidential Board or Executive Board may award titles in clear cases only, after consultation with the QC."

Simply, if you want to be bestowed the title of “Grandmaster”, there are four things necessary - 

“First, score three Grandmaster results or ‘norms’ in FIDE-sanctioned tournaments;
Two, reach a minimum rating of 2500 in the FIDE rating system;
Three, have the federation to complete all the required paperwork including norm certificates and pay the processing fees;
Four, receive conferral by FIDE.”

However, achieving a “master title” in chess is not easy. The road to that much coveted title is riddled with frustrations. IM Silman in an article about getting an IM or a GM title says that - 

“Getting an IM or GM title demands endless effort. You will fail, you will continue to study, you will fail again, etc. etc. for years. Pain (losing and failing is agony, and few can handle it as time goes by), time (as I said a moment ago, years and years), and money (chess books, chess software, traveling to tournaments, chess teachers, etc.) must all be dealt with to become a grandmaster.”

While a “title” is important, it is not necessary to enjoy chess. Just like the old man at the chess plaza, chess is a means to enjoy life in the most simplistic manner. With chess, everyone can control a kingdom and be a “king” or a “queen”. The game does not discriminate between young and old, rich or poor. Chess speaks a universal language understood by everyone. It connects all people and it does not recognize any form of boundaries.

A title hunt despite the tremendous effort it entails is never wasted. After all the training, study, books, coaches, and tournaments - everything will eventually translate into improving yourself as a chess player and as a person.  Always remember that chess gives several benefits which far outweighs any "title". Just play and enjoy chess!

Friday, September 16, 2016

42nd World Chess Olympiad (Baku, Azerbaijan)

The 42nd World Chess Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan from September 1-22 has just been concluded with Team USA taking the gold in the Men’s Division and China for Women. This spectacle is considered to be one of the most number of participants with more than 180 countries.

Final Position: Torre, Eugene (PHI/White) vs. Ly, Moulthun (AUS/Black)
42nd World Chess Olympiad; Round 11; Baku 2016; 1-0

Eugene Torre captured the bronze medal on Board 3 with a sterling performance of 10 points (out of a possible 11) anchored on 9 wins and 2 fighting draws.  It was the Torre that we used to know during the entire Olympiad. He was undefeated at age 64! It is his record breaking 23rd appearance at this biennial event and hopefully not the last!  We cannot forget how Torre led the Philippines to its highest (7th place) finish in 1988 at Thessaloniki, Greece.

Despite the heroics of Torre, the Philippine Men’s Team unexpectedly landed on 58th place after a regrettable defeat to the Australians in the final round (1.5 – 2.5).

The Women’s Team finished 38th overall - a great improvement compared to their 64th place finish in Tromso, Norway two years ago.  This Olympiad, while marred with setbacks and frustrations, is historic after Janelle Mae Frayna earned a Woman Grandmaster Title - a first in Philippine Chess.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chess Means Being Physically Fit!

I already wrote about the need of being physically fit to play better chess.  While we often see chess players appearing statue like in deep thought hardly moving except the pieces, the game actually requires them to be physically fit.  The idea is not ironic but plain reality. Magnus Carlsen the current World Chess Champion considers physical training as an integral part of training the mind.  Carlsen was quoted saying – 

“Training your brain is just as important as training your body… It’s just like a muscle – if you’re not using it, you can lose it.”

Thus, it is a very important point to remember that indeed “physical fitness promotes mental fitness." . In any kind of tournament, being “under the weather” is something that would necessarily affect the way you play chess. History has shown that being physically fit is synonymous to playing great chess. Take a look at one of the greatest chess player of all time, Alexander Alekhine who gave up smoking and drinking to win against Capablanca in their 1927 Championship Match. 

To get better at chess, get out, run, bike, swim or do any kind of physical activity! It is best not only for your body but for your mind as well.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Manila: Is it Still Worth the Visit?

Manila Bay at Dusk
Manila, the capital of the Philippines is a city of contrasting realities. It has lots of inconvenience yet somehow the city has its own unique charm that makes every visitor wants to visit and revisit it again and again.

From the moment you arrive at the airport to your hotel, the traffic congestion that greets you immediately makes everyone think twice of whether or not it was a right decision to visit the city. While the authorities have done everything practicable in solving the traffic mess, the situation on the road appears to be beyond finding that much needed solution. Perhaps, traffic is a problem that is meant to stay for such a long time and everyone has no choice but to continually move on despite the problem.

Another thing that makes travelers and visitors reluctant in visiting Manila is the much-publicized notorious scheme at the airport where bullets are planted at the bags of visitors.  While this situation is definitely alarming, we can trust that the authorities are doing their best to resolve the issue. The said notorious scheme should not deter travelers from visiting Manila and enjoying the beauty of the Philippines. 

At this time, a “state of lawlessness” has been declared as an offshoot of the bombing in Mindanao. Security has been tightened. There are lots of “checkpoints” that have been set up by the police in various key areas all over the country.

Given the present situation and all the other inconvenience travelers experience when visiting Manila, one may ask if it is still worth the visit? Would a solo traveler be safe in the city?  Honestly, I can still say that Manila is definitely worth visiting again and again. It has that certain allure and charisma that you only get to know once you have experienced it yourself. If you are a traveler, it is definitely a great idea to spend a few days in Manila. Try exploring the sights and sounds during the day or night. There are plenty of things to do and... it is safe!

One thing that should not be missed is Fort Santiago located in “Intramuros” or the Walled City and visit its 27 points of interest including the 400 year old San Agustin Church and Museum. Its religious artifacts bring back the past as if everything happened yesterday.  To complete the experience of “walking in the past” take time to visit the National Museum near Rizal Park and see various historical collections and paintings such as the “Spoliarium” which dramatically depicts the carnage that was during gladiatorial fights of the Roman Empire. Since you are already in the vicinity, discover where the Spaniards executed exactly Jose Rizal the country’s National Hero in 1896. In Rizal Park, there is also a chess plaza where you can challenge players of different levels and of various playing styles.

If you are not into that “way back when kind of an adventure” offered by museums, Manila’s nightlife is something you got to experience at least once in your lifetime. The nightlife in the nearby Malate area is hilariously crazy and remarkably entertaining.

Traveling Solo in Manila

Common sense, precaution and having an open mind are the keys for a safe solo travel in Manila. Despite what you read in the papers, the city is practically safe to travel even if you are alone.  If you desire to visit crowded places like 168 Mall in Divisoria always be alert, dress appropriately and keep an eye on your belongings. Just like in any other place, theft can occur depending on the opportunity or existing circumstances. However, while there are snatchers in Manila there are more honest people around. I myself experienced leaving an expensive gadget in a restaurant that was returned to me when I got back the next day. Just take extra precaution and everything will be fine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Hulugan Falls (Luisiana, Laguna)

There are times when the office feels like something else - as if everything is limited by walls and everyone are somehow domesticated to stay and work. Rooms, cubicles, or any other form of work stations emulate a prison where the clock acts like a warden telling people when to stay or head back home. In moments like this, I remember those stunning waterfalls in Cebu, Iligan, Camiguin and Palo Alto. How I wish to be chasing waterfalls at the end of the day!

Time however is something that most of us do not have the luxury of. In life, chess and travel – time is essential. It is valuable and irreplaceable. Once lost, it is gone forever. And despite advances in technology no one has invented nor created a formula on how to save time for future use.  It is at this juncture that we should realize that perhaps, nothing really matters in this world (where everything is fleeting and nothing is permanent) except to spend time to enjoy life, travel and play chess.

To enjoy life, the easiest way is to play chess or travel. Otherwise head to the nearest waterfalls. Just like in chess where players seem to metamorphose into another world, waterfalls create that surreal moment where great thoughts appear to be real. Underneath the cascades is where I want to be as a means of temporarily escaping the convoluted and often boring times in life.

It was not planned but upon reaching Pagsanjan, Laguna, Hulugan Falls suddenly came to mind. I had read and seen a lot of photos about this falls but I just can’t find the time. I had been very busy lately. In fact, most of the time I am busy. I got a lot of things to do from those we consider important and routine.  But somehow on that day I decided to take a day trip.

Getting to Hulugan Falls

I drove to Laguna via the scenic route of Marilaque (Marikina-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon Highway). From Quezon City, I drove to Masinag in Antipolo, Cogeo, Palo Alto Subdivision, passing several beautiful and notable resorts, a Bulaluhan Restaurant, Paseo de Rizal, Sampaloc Road, then to Pagsanjan. I asked for directions where I found myself at a road sign to Hulugan Falls. I was made to park at a vacant lot near the house of the Barangay Captain. After paying the mandatory yet very minimal fee of P15.00, I was advised that all those who intend to trek to the falls are obliged to hire a guide without a fixed rate.

After my guide arrived, we took a tricycle until the end of a newly concreted road. We then started the trek. It was easy at first but the descent is a little more difficult. It rained last night and the way down to Hulugan Falls is muddy and slippery. After taking challenging steps downhill and holding on to some makeshift bamboo railings, we practically survived to reach the falls. At first sight of the falls, I knew the effort was worth it! Indeed, this falls is one hidden gem in the province of Laguna. The first thing that came to my mind upon seeing Hulugan is the Tumalog Falls in Cebu. The former however has a deeper basin for swimming which according to my guide is around 20 feet deep.

It was a very enjoyable experience swimming and marveling at this very stunning gift of nature! When it is nature that creates something the result is truly outstanding.  While I am happy that Hulugan Falls is finally being shared to the public, it is incumbent upon everyone to preserve and protect this wonderful gift of nature.

After almost two hours of swimming, it is time to get back.  Having a guide provides not only convenience but also some sort of security. My guide offered to look after my things while I was swimming and continuously reminded me to be very careful as the rocks were slippery. She likewise provided insights about Hulugan Falls, how the in flock of tourists started and the different ways the community is doing to protect  the falls.

We then headed back to the house of the Barangay Captain for a shower and change of clothes. There are no comfort rooms in the falls and that should always be the case. I would rather be inconvenienced than compromise nature. Thereafter, I paid a minimal fee for the use of the comfort room and then gave some amount to my guide that she gratefully accepted. Before I left, I bought some rice cakes packaged in a locally made basket that I enjoyed very much and is still craving for more.

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