Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What To Do When Under Attack

One of the most difficult situation in a chess game is being under attack. When your king is in peril and your opponent"s pieces are poised for a kill, what is the best thing to do? Being attacked in  a chess game is a common experience. It is something that is part of the game and is very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. No matter how skillful you are (in the opening or in the middle game), there would always be a situation where you would be in the defensive.  An attack or counter-attack is often launched by your opponent when you least expect it. After several moves, you just realized that your opponent's pieces are now concentrated in a particular focal point in your position and there are threats everywhere -  in this kind of situation, putting on a poker face is a great help. Do not look at the clock! Keep calm whatever fire is there on the chessboard.

Fischer vs. Bernstein (after 15___Bh2)
How to properly handle an attack from your adversary is one skill every chess player should learn. But being calm and composed despite how inferior your position is should be a primordial skill of every chess player. By being calm, there is greater chance of finding that one single resource that can bail you out from your predicament. Resorting into a "panic mode" will just make the situation worse. Always remember that a "chess game is not won until it is won". Even in seemingly innocuous positions there can be a chance to save your position and the game - try to find, at the very least, "drawing chances". A half point is better than none at all. 

Your opponent may be a very strong player but he is still human bound to commit mistakes. If move after move, your reply to your opponent's attack builds a defensive wall that frustrates him, chances are your opponent can commit a mistake. To err is always a human attribute.  What is important is to concentrate and simply focus on your defensive resources. Just think about it - if you are already in a lost position, what do you have lose anyway? Instead of prematurely resigning, it is better to play on for a few more moves until you are convinced that there is no other option left but to raise the white flag. 

This game between Fischer and Bernstein demonstrates how to properly handle an attack. Fischer was on the defense but played actively in the Queenside frustrating the attack and eventually winning the game.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Importance of Counter-Attack

Matov vs. Fischer (after 16. Na4)
There are very long games in chess or games that went to a hundred (100) moves or more. But, there are also chess games that are done in twenty five (25) moves or less. The number of moves however is not always and indication of the intensity of the struggle on the chessboard. More often than not however, chess games in twenty five (25) moves or loss is a result of a "blunder" or plain oversight. In games between titled players, short games are often a result of a brilliant reply in a seemingly innocuous position.

If we look at the above position, Matov just played (16. Na4) attacking Black's Queen. Fischer, instead of moving his Queen replied (16.___Nc4) counter-attacking White's Queen. If Black's Knight is taken by the Bishop; then  Black's Queen will retake the Bishop attacking both the Rook at f1 and the Knight at a4. Fischer, eventually won a piece in this position and the game.

Ayala Triangle Gardens (Makati City)

Ayala Triangle Gardens
Paseo Corner Makati Avenue
Corner Ayala, Makati City

After a good night rest, I walked from my hotel to Ayala Triangle Gardens for some exercise. I aim to be physically fit despite a very hectic schedule. Being physically fit is essential to our health and it is necessary to play competitive chess. It is said that part of Bobby Fischer's preparation in chess tournaments is to isolate himself and exercise. It is not ironic that the game of chess requires not only a healthy mind but a fit body as well. If we look at the players in a chess game, they hardly move. The mental exertion however is extremely exhausting and takes a toll on the body.

Ayala Triangle Gardens is the site of the Annual Festival of Lights during the Christmas Season. At the start and at the end of the day, this area is a joggers' haven, pet paradise, food alley, picnic area, nature preserve or simply an open and breathing space amidst all the concrete that is Makati. If literally lost in the heart of this country's financial district, just head here to find your way. Ayala Triangle Gardens is where the major arteries of Makati City converge - Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas and  Makati Avenue. If yearning for fresh air, a place to relax and unwind,eat or have coffee, be with nature or simply to escape the concrete jungle - this is the place to be.

I really appreciate development that takes into account open spaces and integrating the idea of preserving or re-creating nature. Having more trees, plants and greens in open spaces is rejuvenating! It lightens the stress and provides a wider perspective about life as if saying that life is not just a big air-conditioned box. There are greens outside! This is what I like here and UP Town Center - both are designed in such a way that there is fusion of the natural environment and man made concrete. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Red Planet Hotel (Makati City)

Red Planet Hotel, Makati Avenue
E. Mercado Cor. Calderon Streets
Kalayaan Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City
Tel No. 632 8170888

One great thing about this hotel is its close proximity to Century City Mall - the venue for chess tournaments usually organized by the Makati Chess Society. After the tournament, tired chess players can try its Spa Services. Just call the front desk for a service appointment at your own room. Next time, I will try their one hour "Green Tara Signature Massage".

Just a minute walk from the hotel is a vibrant nightlife along Burgos Street known for various restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars. A very ideal place to forget that best but missed chess move.  It is also a place to celebrate if luck has been on your side during the tournament. Win or lose however, I intend to continue playing chess. To win a tournament is a primordial goal of every chess player. But, chess is not all about winning. It is how a game is won or lost. It is how strategy and tactics is executed that adds to chess artistry and theory.  For most chess players, it is the love for the game that inspire them to join tournaments.

What I like about this hotel besides its excellent location is the feeling of being secure given the CCTVs in every floor and the Electronic Card Access in the elevator and in the room - a standard in other high end hotels. I remember our stay in LimKetKai Lux Hotel in Cagayan de Oro where security is prioritized.

Red Planet Hotel Makati is very ideal for solo travelers and chess players looking for a budget friendly hotel without compromising what everyone is looking for in a hotel. The room is clean with a  32 inch flat screen cable TV, good enough wifi, and (can be more quite) air conditioning. I appreciated the shower in its clean restroom. While the room is small it is designed in such way that space is used efficiently.  Huge mirrors on the headrest and the wall creates more space. The interior is painted in earth colors making it more "sleep friendly". Since I was at the 7th floor at a non-smoking room, it was silent enough for a good night rest which is very important when joining chess tournaments. Inadequate or lack of sleep can negatively affect the way you play chess.

Friday, March 03, 2017

To Err is Human

Chess is a very tricky game. It is not won until it is won! You may have a winning position but a single blunder can change everything. What chess teaches is to be careful at all times. Yet, no matter how careful you are to err is really a human characteristic. Even great grandmasters commit errors.

Korchnoi vs. Fischer (After 31.___Nc6)

In this game,  Korchnoi played 32. Rc1. He was surprised by Fischer's reply of 32.___Qa7 freeing the Knight and eventually winning a piece and the game. Korchnoi should have played 32. dxc6 with a great advantage  given his passed pawn on b4. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Time For Plant-Based Milk

Now that I know the truth about the dairy industry, I have been replacing my usual cow's milk with plant-based milk. I want my milk to be "cruelty free" and I do not want to be part of an industry that separates babies from their mothers. I do not want to drink the anguish, torture and pain experienced by cows and other animals locked up in factory farms to produce milk. Separating new born calves from their mothers in order to produce milk is a totally cruel and disgusting practice. Far from what we are made to believe, dairy milk  is not what we think it is

I am happy to have known the truth and it is totally liberating to make the connection.  We are not "lactose intolerant", we are just not meant to drink the milk of cows and goats. Drinking cow's milk is dangerous to our health! It is about time that we look at other healthier alternatives to dairy milk such as soy and almond milk.

It is good to know that the consumption of plant-based milk is increasing. With more information about the dairy industry and the ill effects of  cow's milk to our health, more and more people  will gear away from dairy. In the near future, plant-based milk will be the norm and dairy will be relegated into a mere option.

When I visit Starbucks, I now opt for  "soy milk without whipped cream". I have removed dairy in my Frappuccino and I have never felt better than before. I no longer feel the guilt of funding an industry that steals the milk of baby cows and I feel a much lighter stomach. Whenever I ask the barista to replace the dairy with soy milk, there is some sort of a reaction and a few questions. But, I am willing to pay a higher price for an organic soy milk rather than the usual dairy for the cows and for health reasons.  

Animals Are Just Like Us

When I get home, the best thing that happens to me  are my dogs. I have ten Chihuahuas waiting for me. I can see their excitement every time I arrive. With their wagging tail and continuous jumping, I know how happy they are upon seeing me. With their antics and comical ways, my stress in the entire work day immediately disappears. I feel welcome to be back home. I suddenly feel significant in the life of someone else.  

Dogs are dogs but they are animals like us who feel excitement, happiness, fear and pain. They hunger, thirst and want to be comfortable. They long to be hugged and loved! There is really nothing different between dogs and us except that they cannot speak. Their only way of expressing what they feel is through their actions.

My very first step in turning "vegan" is having pets. My pets taught me how animals feel. They were my very first best friends. Pets were the first to provide that "connection" in understanding why we should take care of them and not eat them. With pets, it is easy to understand that "animals are here with us and not for us". After re-establishing that connection, it becomes easier to embrace a vegan lifestyle. It now makes sense why "animals are not meant to be ingredients" in the food we eat

A vegan lifestyle is a realization of the sufferings of animals raised for food. With an abundance of information on the Internet, we can no longer ignore the pain and the cruelty inflicted on them for our beef, veal, pork and poultry. The meat industry can no longer hide that these animals do not want to die! If given the chance, they all want to live and enjoy life! If we all realize this fact, we will never enjoy a bacon or ham sandwich again. The taste of that burger will suddenly turn awful and that chicken meal will cause us to vomit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Queen of Katwe

This is a story of about a young girl from Uganda who because of her innate talent in chess has escaped a life of poverty. Her life story is shared and represents the lives of  many  young chess players not only in Uganda but in other countries as well.

While I was watching the movie, I can empathize with the lead character Phiona and her life as she and her family struggled amidst the challenges of poverty. It is seeing through her character how other young but talented chess players in the Philippines are struggling to make ends meet while trying to play chess. 

The difficulties of a poverty stricken life is often a hindrance in playing competitive chess. How can one think clearly with an empty stomach? How can a player concentrate and focus on the board if burdened with problems at home? These are the challenges that Phiona has conquered with the support  and guidance of a missionary and chess teacher.

The movie is moving and inspiring.  For all young chess players born into a life of poverty, this movie gives that motivation to pursue the dream of becoming a chess master whatever the odds may be. This movie showed that an inherent chess talent can be a way to a better life. However, it needs to be stressed that chess talent alone is not enough to realize that dream of becoming a chess master. It requires proper guidance, determination and luck.  

Pursuing a dream means a lot of failures. Success simply means not giving up as it is said “fail seven times, stand up eight”.  In the movie, the lead character suffered setbacks in her quest to become a  chess master. But despite the obstacles, she stood up, never lost focus, and continued to pursue her dreams. In the end, Phiona was able to provide her family a decent home.

Of course, this is not the case for most chess players. Many young and talented chess players do not have a happy ending.  Many do not have the privilege of having support either financially or in training.  Many get lost  in the complexity of life or simply succumb to its challenges.  What is to be remembered however is that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

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