Checkmate, Uncle Bob!!

January 9, 2011

c/o Businessworld Dec 2010

Sports

Posted on 08:55 PM, December 16, 2010

Chess Piece — By Bobby Ang

Dream team?

With the Philippines’ successful showing in the 2010 Asian Games Team Championship, I have read several posts declaring GMs Wesley So, Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio, John Paul Gomez and Darwin Laylo as our “dream team.”

This is a discussion which is repeated over and over again every time we come out with a good performance. GM Torre has been in so many of our national teams — would you like to read about his opinion here? He considers the 1974 Nice Olympiad squad as the true “dream team” of the Philippines. Due to the popularity of the article I wrote last week which gave an excerpt from the aborted Torre book, I have decided to share another one, in GM Torre’s own words.

1974 PHILIPPINE CHAMPIONSHIP

Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Center

March 15 — April 11, 1974

1. IM Eugenio Torre, 15.5/19

2. IM Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, 13.5/19

3-4. IM Renato Naranja, Rosendo Balinas, Jr, 12.0/19

5-6. Ramon Lontoc, Jr, Glenn Bordonada, 11.5/19

7. Roberto Kaimo, 11.0/19

8-11. Roger Abella, Roger dela Vega, Glicerio Badilles, Rico Mascarinas, 10.0/19

12-13. Edgar de Castro, Julian Lobigas, 9.0/19

14-15. Vic Torre, Rafaelito Maninang, 8.5/19

16. Susano Aguilar, 8.0/19

17. Cesar Caturla, 7.5/19

18. Mariano Acosta, 6.5/19

19. Edwin Edillon, 5.0/19

20. Roberto Lopez, 1.0/19

(by way of history, the top 6 placers of the 1974 championship was the basis for the formation of the Nice Olympiad team)

The 29-year-old Bob Kaimo was among the leaders for much of the tournament and was very unlucky to finish just half a point out of the cutoff. I sort of empathized with him because he showed great determination to make the team and even quit his job with Elizalde & Co. to prepare for the tournament. He was also one of the better-known local players. At around this time Mr. Campomanes had been hosting a TV chess show Chess with the Masters, and its highlight was a competition among National Masters where after the game the winner or sometimes even both players are asked to give their comments, and during the TV broadcast these insights would be spliced together with the actual game for the audience’s benefit. This was a great idea, of course, and Willie Monta won the first edition. In the second year, when the idea had already caught on and became quite popular it was Bob Kaimo’s time to win.

Sadly, this was the closest Bobby ever got to representing his country in the Olympiad team. Soon after he left for the United States and has not competed here again.

The top six were named to the “Philippine Dream Team” which was to represent the country in the Nice Olympiad. We had a real mix of veterans and youth players. Glenn Bordonada represented the up-and-comers. In the 1973 National Students Championship he had tied for runner-up honors with Cesar Caturla and Lito Maninang behind winner Rico Mascarinas. These four were seeded to play in the final round, and here it was Bordonada (three-time UP Champion) who pushed ahead and made the team.

Some people had asked me whether this so-called Dream Team was really the strongest team we have ever formed to represent our company in international competition. If we are to consider ratings, the squads which represented us for the past few Olympiads definitely have a higher average rating than us. I don’t even have to check that. The formula to determine team ratings is to get the top 4 boards and get the mean of their ratings. In 1974 I was 2450, Rudy Cardoso 2385, Nats Naranja 2395 and Balinas was unrated, which means an assigned value of 2200. That means our team is rated 2358.

The top four boards of our 2006 Turin Olympiad team is GM Mark Paragua (2617), myself [Torre] (2543), GM Joey Antonio (2539) and IM Darwin Laylo (2406) — do we even have to bring out our calculators to see that the Turin team far outrated Nice?

The measure of a “Dream Team” could also be the number of titled players, in which case the Turin team with three GMs, one IM and two FMs is decidedly superior to our Nice squad which only had three IMs.

How about final placing? Well, Nice did pretty well at 11th place, but the 1988 Thessaloniki team with myself, Mascarinas, Ruben Rodrigue, Joey Antonio, Eric Gloria and Rogelio Barcenilla did one better by finishing 7th. The 1968 Lugano team which finished 14th without a single titled player also has claims to the best finish considering that they were seeded very low (there were still no ELO ratings then) and it was a great shock for them to outdistance England and Israel in their preliminary group.

So why do I still maintain that the 1974 Nice Olympiad team is the “Dream Team” for the Philippines?

First, it was the strongest possible team at that time. Unlike the practice, regrettably usual in these times, when a qualifying tournament is announced with limited notice, giving no time for the provincial players to participate, the 1974 championships was a product of a nationwide talent search. Maybe Ruben Rodriguez, who was campaigning in the United States and could not participate, or Bob Kaimo or Rico Mascarinas could have beefed up the team, but there were only 6 slots available and someone had to give.

Second of all, the composition of the team had all the “name” players. Ramon Lontoc, Jr. was an 8-time National Champion whose first title was in 1931, before the second world war, at the age of 14. He was among the first four National Masters of the Philippines, who were declared as such as the top four placers of the 1956 Representatives’ Tournament the others being Florencio Campomanes, Rodolfo Tan Cardoso and Glicerio Badilles. He had entered the championship with only one goal: to gain renewed recognition but managed to put together a string of victories, including against Cardoso, Naranja, De Castro, Bordonada and Kaimo, among others.

Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, the pride of Alaminos, Pangasinan, was the first Filipino Asian Zonal Champion (1956), and as early as 1956 was already a part of the Philippine national team (this was in Moscow). His great play there earned for him the title of Asia’s first International Master.

Renato Naranja was our 1958 Junior Champion and over the next 10 years consistently participated in, and won, several national tournaments. In 1969 he became the Asian Zonal Champion, ahead of Walter Shawn Browne, at that time playing for Australia but who was soon to transfer to the United States. Here is something interesting — after his result in this Zonal Browne was invited to play in a grandmaster tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he earned the grandmaster title by tying for second behind Boris Spassky. He was later to go on and win the US Championship six times, a number exceeded only by Bobby Fischer and Samuel Reshevsky.

And then of course there is Rosendo Balinas Jr, who dominated Philippine chess in the ’60s. He was the only player to hold Bobby Fischer to a draw in the “Beat Bobby Fischer” series sponsored by Meralco in 1967. Here is that thrilling game which even had Fischer impressed.

Balinas, Rosendo Carrean — Fischer, Robert James [B70]

Meralco (5), 1967

<Bobby Ang>

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