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So struggles to raise Filipinos’ pride in Berlin

“The place of chess in the society is closely related to the attitude of young people towards our game.” 
–Boris Spassky

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Carlos “Sonny” Padilla Jr. was the toast of Philippine sports in 1975 when he earned praises from Don King, among other top honcos of world boxing, for his impressive handling of the Ali vs Frazier “Thrilla in Manila” in October.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos rejected the three American referees brought by the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) and insisted on “inexperienced” 42-year-old Padilla to be the third man in the ring.
In summer the following year, however, the loud cheer did not only shift from boxing to chess, it transferred from Padilla to 24-year-old chess sensation Eugene Torre, Asia’s first Grandmaster (GM).
In the 1976 Marlboro-Loyola Kings Challenge chess tournament held in Manila, Torre (2505) made history by becoming the first chess player in the world to finish clear first ahead since Anatoly Karpov (2695) had become FIDE World Chess champion.
Torre, who notched his full GM norm at 22 in the 1974 Nice Chess Olympiad, did not only top the tournament, he also whipped the Russian world champion and two other GMs–Yugoslavia’s Ljubomir Ljubojevic (2620) and United States’ Walter Browne (2585).

MOMENT

Torre’s shining moment came seven years later in Alicante, Spain when he became the first Filipino to qualify for the Candidates Matches, a tournament that would decide the next FIDE World Championship challenger.
From April 4 to 26, 1983, the Filipinos followed Torre’s struggle against GM Zoltan Ribli of Hungary.
With no Internet then, I followed the results in the Manila Bulletin and its sister publication, Tempo, which had access to the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.
There were six qualifiers from three Interzonal tournaments plus two seeds for a total of eight with the winner facing Karpov in 1984.
Robert Ang, accounting professor in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, recalled that “there were very unhappy circumstances before Torre’s departure for Alicante when he faced the prospect of being unable to leave for Spain due to lack of support. Financial difficulties hounded him every day and played havoc on his physical and mental preparation for the match. Finally, on literally the last minute the President of the Philippine Chess Federation Federico Moreno managed to come up with the tickets for Spain.”
After nine rounds, Ribli, older by only one month to Torre, crushed the Filipino, 6-4. The Hungarian, a two-time European Junior Champion and is now an international arbiter, was ousted in the next round by GM Vasily Smyslov, 6.5-4.5.
Smyslov, who died eight years ago at 89 in Moscow, was clobbered by future World Champion Garry Kasparov, 8.5-4.5
Smyslov, who lost to GM Mikhail Botvinnik in the 1953 World Chess Championship in Moscow, advanced to the semifinal round over GM Robert Huebner of West Germany.

STAGE

Torre’s highest accomplishment was the same stage reached by 24-year-old Filipino Wesley So (2799), formerly the world No. 2 player who is now representing the United States.
So could eclipse Torre if he wins the Candidates Tournament 2018 that would determine 27-year-old World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger.
The tournament romped off on March 10 and winds up on March 28 in Berlin, Germany.
So, the highest-rated Filipino GM, was at the bottom with two defeats and a draw after three rounds of an eight-player double round robin chess tournament.
So is in the league with GM Sergey Karjakin (2763), GM Levon Aronian (2794), GM Ding Liren (2769), GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2809), GM Alexander Grischuk (2767), GM Fabiano Caruana (2784), GM Vladimir Kramnik (2800).
Like Torre in Alicante, Spain, So needs the moral support of his countrymen as he struggles in Berlin. Although So now plays for the US, his battle is also our battle; his pride is also our pride; whether he wins or loses, So has already lifted the spirit of Filipinos by this scintillating performance of reaching the Candidates Tournament, a feat no other Filipino chesser in international chess competitions has achieved, except Torre, now 66.

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Posted by on March 17, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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Pacquiao-Roach love affair: Walang forever

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”
–Hal Borland
By Alex P. Vidal
 
 
NEW YORK CITY— For 17 years, Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach became boxing’s version of Kirk and Michael Douglas, Julio and Enrique Iglesias, and Arthur Jr. and Douglas MacArthur.
They were a father and a son who epitomize congruence and plausibility.
It seemed like they were destined to swap engagement rings and share an epitaph.
No amount of intrigue and jealousy from other trainers and pugilists could put a dent on their solid romance as athlete-coach.
Not even a boarder wall could divide boxing’s most sensational and formidable partners.
Their collaboration since 2001 has produced some of the finest and head-turning performances in the history of prizefighting since Welsh sportsman John Graham Chambers wrote the Marquess of Queensberry Rules in 1865.
Their tandem has bankrolled the fistic game’s richest deal ever imagined, richer than what Muhammad Ali had earned in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974 and “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975 combined.
Unlike David and Jonathan, whose covenant of friendship has been recorded in the books of Samuel, the Manny-Freddie liaison has been written in the mayhem inflicted on some of the marquee names run over by the Pacquiao Express.

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“Walang forever,” so goes the bakya Tagalog saying.
“Everything is ephemeral: on a long enough timeline, everything ends,” suggest the minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
“Your relationships will end. Your happiness will end. Your depression will end. Your life will end. Nothing lasts forever–not even those diamonds in the advertisement.
Yet we live our lives like the best things will continue into perpetuity–like the good stuff will stick around and the bad stuff will go away once we obtain everything we want. But, good or bad, life is limited: everything is eventual, endings are inevitable.”
In his comeback fight on June 24, 2018 in Malaysia since losing to Jeff Horn in Brisbane on July 2, 2017, Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) will fight Golden Boy Promotions’ ace fighter, WBA welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) for 12 rounds without Roach on his side.
For the first time since Pacquiao made a debut in Las Vegas in 2001 versus Lehlo Ledwaba for the IBF super-bantamweight diadem, Roach won’t train him before a championship bout.
The 29-year-old Pacquiao’s training will be supervised by his childhood buddy, Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez, and will be mostly held in Mindanao starting April.
It appears there was a falling out between Top Rank’s Bob Arum and the MP Promotions owned by the senator-boxer regarding the latter’s tax troubles with the IRS which has remained unsettled.
The Malaysia fisticuffs need at least $15 million and Arum remains skeptical unless an affront fund of $5 million has been released.
 
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Posted by on March 11, 2018 in BOXING, SPORTS

 

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I love you, New York City Marathon

“The marathon can humble you.”
–Bill Rodgers

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — My coverage of the 47th New York City Marathon on November 5 was the most thrilling.
I became a sports journalist and spectar rolled into one.
As soon as I saw Shalane Flanagan emerge in the lead pack escorted by two motorcycles and a Ford vehicle carrying a flashing time (2:20:34) in the Central Park’s Fifth Avenue, I yelled.
I itch to cheer the runners as they were about to complete the 42.195-kilometer race was irresistible for someone who witnessed the tight race as it happened.
Seeing the runners being egged and cheered by the crowd evoked past memories when I myself was running in the Nike and Milo Marathons in the Philippines in the 80’s.
I chose that area, some 800 meters away from the finish line, because it’s a picture-perfect camera ambush, and because only a handful of fans were comfortable or brave enough to wait in that isolated route.
LEAD
I was surprised to see a Caucasian leading the women’s race alone. In the past when I covered the same event on the same spot, I saw African runners dominate the distaff side.
The white lady turned out to be Flanagan, who became the first American to win the race at 2:26:53 since Miki Gorman accomplished the feat in 1977.
Flanagan bested three-time champion and recent London Marathon champion Mary Keitany of Kenya by a minute (2:27:54).
Using a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge cellphone camera, I captured Flanagan, Keitany, Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska (2:28:08) as they struggled and barreled their way to the final 800 meters of the biggest and most prestigious marathon on earth.
What made the race so special was Flanagan, who crossed the finish line crying and yelling, ended United States’ drought in the New York City Marathon.
Rounding out the women’s top 10 were: Edna Kiplagat (2:29:36), Allie Kieffer (2:29:39), Sara Dossena (2:29:39), Eva Vrabcova (2:29:41), Kellyn Taylor (2:29:56), Diane Nukuri (2:31:21) and Stephanie Bruce (2:31:44).

VICTORY

Flanagan’s victory was big. She foiled Keitany’s attempt to equal the record of Grete Waitz to become the second woman to win the New York City Marathon four times.
It came five days after the bike path terror attack in Lower Manhattan killed eight and raised questions about security for Sunday’s event.
That hit home for Flanagan, a Massachusetts native who completed the 2013 Boston Marathon shortly before a bomb went off at the finish line, killing three and wounding more than 260 others.
The men’s category also pulled a lot of drama. When the lead pack arrived on the area where I positioned myself, Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor was in front being chased by countryman Wilson Kipsang.
In a mad dash to the finish, Kamworor held off Kipsang by three seconds. He logged 2:10:53 against Kipsang’s 2:10:56. Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa finished third at 2:11:32.
Rounnding out the men’s top 10 were: Lemi Berhanu (2:11:52), Tadesse Abraham (2:12:01), Michel Butter (2:12:39), Abdi Abdirahman (2:12:48), Koen Naert (2:13:21), Fikadu Girma Teferi (2:13:58) and Shadrack Biwott (2:14:57)
It was one of the smallest margins in the New York City Marathon’s history, it was learned.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in SPORTS

 

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‘World champions’

“Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.”
–Joseph Heller

13006620_10206130189196605_589309284076281549_nBy Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — If he did not quarrel with a fellow spoiled brat, many Filipinos wouldn’t know that Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri is a “former world champion in arnis.”
Incensed that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV accused him and Senator Dick Gordon of “trying to whitewash the investigation of corruption in the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID)”, Zubiri “accepted” Trillanes’ challenge for a “war” boasting that “I did not become a world champion in arnis for nothing…”
True or not, who are we to doubt Zubiri’s claim that he is a former world champion in arnis? (Although I personally haven’t read any press release or news item that extolled the Bukidnon lawmaker’s exploits in the combat sport otherwise known as “Eskrima” and “Kali”.)
Aside from Zubiri, they also have Senator Manny Pacquiao as world boxing champion.

ABUNDANCE

The Philippine senate actually has abundance if not packed with “world champions.”
In fact, the upper house, as an institution, has also been reputed as a “world champion” — in producing plunderers, clowns and mediocre legislators.
If amassing unexplained wealth via “pork barrel” is a world championship, who can beat our Janet Napoles-inspired Filipino legislators?
They could even wrap up the “team championship” or dominate the medal tally.
And if there is a “world championship” in their respective talents, styles, and categories, Senators Leila De Lima, Vicente “Tito” Sotto, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Frank Drilon, Gringo Honasan II, Alan Peter Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay; and Trillanes IV might win handily and be considered also as “world champions.”
De Lima in love affair; Sotto in plagiarism; Honasan in coup d’tat; Drilon in balimbing game; Lacson in Houdini-like escape; Cayetano in sip-sip game; Recto in playing safe attitude; Binay in underdog effect, Trillanes in quarreling, to mention only a few.

 
 

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Like Hillary, Kovalev wins but loses in the judges’ ‘electoral college’

“As much as I love boxing, I hate it. And as much as I hate it, I love it.” –– Budd Schulberg

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Bad news for Vladimir Putin. Good news for his “favorite”, President-elect Donald J. Trump.
We have boxing’s version of the puzzling “electoral college”, the decrepit system that denied Hillary Clinton the presidency despite besting Trump in the popular votes in the recent election.
We respect the judges’ verdict, an identical 114-113 unanimous decision in favor of American Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), but the night belonged to dethroned Russian world champion Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) in the battle for WBA, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight belts on Saturday night (November 19) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
With 84 percent KO in his ledger, the 33-year-old warrior, born in Kopeysk, Russia, should have prevented a “hometown” decision by finishing off the 32-year-old challenger from Oakland in the early rounds.

RESCUE

But orthodox Kovalev allowed Ward to be rescued by the judges when he failed to put him away for good after scoring a second round knockdown which was worth 55 electoral college votes in the presidential race.
But unlike Clinton who gamely accepted her upset defeat, the Russian KO artist could only complain: “It’s the wrong decision. I don’t want to say my opinion. The witnesses are here – they saw it. It’s my job. It was a fight of my life. I am disappointed in the judges’ decision. He got maybe a few rounds, I agree with that. I kept control. I lost maybe three rounds the whole fight.”
He added: “Of course, I want a rematch and I will kick his ass. I want to show good boxing. I am against here it is the USA and all the judges were from the USA. He is a boxer. It’s a sport, don’t make it politics. It’s a sport and I won the fight!”

‘NOT SURPRISED’

Ward, who earned my admiration when he blasted to smithereens the incredible Chad Dawson for the WBC and WBC super-middleweight crowns in 2012, believed he won the bout: “No, I was not surprised when I heard the decision, I don’t’ know where you got that from. I know it was a close fight – the crowd you can hear they thought I won…I have been a champ before I knew it was going to be a tough fight – it was the first time in my career I was dropped.”
Ward added: “He did everything I expected him to do. He started to show up as I expected he started to fight like I expected. My coach did a great job…It’s hard for me to call myself great. At the end of the day I am a two-weight division champion. Of course, I would do a rematch. I am not going to negotiate a fight right now I will go home and relax and see what’s next.”

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in BOXING, SPORTS

 

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I’m not dead, says Pinoy chess champ

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  — MARK TWAIN

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — The oldest Filipino to win a category title in the World Chess Open championship has surfaced after a long hiatus to belie reports he was dead.
“I came here to prove them wrong,” Normando “Andy” Bragat Punzalan, 72, told this writer in an exclusive interview at the Elmhurst Park in Queens, August 15, referring to reports.

“In fact, I’m looking for the person or group of persons in this park who spread the rumor that I have died,” fumed Punzalan, who holds a United States Chess Federation (USCF) National Elo 1769.

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SELFIE with a background showing Punzalan playing versus Indonesia Master Thomas.

Rumors of Punzalan’s death spread in Elmhurst Park July 2016, where he used to hone chess skills together with other fellow Filipino-American chess players.
He claimed credit in bringing super GM Wesley So in the park to play with local chess aficionados in exhibition matches.

RATED

Rated No. 2120 in the United States, Punzalan, who has lived here for more than 30 years since moving from Novaliches, Quezon City, blamed “envy” as the source of the false story.
Fellow Fil-Am chess player Melchor “Choy” Florescio alerted Punzalan about the rumors in a telephone call, but persuaded him from identifying the rumor mongers.
Chess aficionados in the park feared swindlers might once again use the opportunity to solicit donations for a “dead” compatriot.
“Ever since I won in Philadelphia (venue of the 7th Annual World Open Under1800), I have been hearing ugly rumors about me. Some people just can’t accept that I could win a chess title in my senior years,” narrated Punzalan, who was 70 when he ruled the category championship.
Punzalan claimed he also topped the tournament in the senior category in 2015.

VICTORY

When his victory became known in the community, Punzalan said envious characters also circulated a story that he was a TNT (Tago Ng Tago or illegal immigrant) in a bid to destroy him in the chess federation.
He chided those who cast doubts on his credentials to check the internet saying he did not want to argue with them.
“I had to show my ID to prove that I am an American citizen,” sobbed Punzalan, who recently engaged an Indonesian known in the park as “Master Thomas” in a series of blitz games.
In an incident during a winter season years back, detractors ribbed Punzalan after a drunken elderly Fil-Am he accompanied home fell to the ground and suffered cuts on his head.
“My detractors claimed I intentionally pushed the elderly person. I was the one who offered to bring the person home, yet I ended up as the contrabida. My critics never stopped maligning me only because I won a chess title,” he exclaimed.

CHESSERS

Punzalan said several Filipino chessers also won in various categories in the past, “but none of them won the title at age 70.”
“I’m not bragging about my achievements (in chess), but I will prove to my critics that I can still play even if I am now 72,” Punzalan said. “I am still active and not yet retiring.”
He plans to participate in the Millionaire Chess Open in Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 6-10, 2016.
Punzalan also reportedly had exposure in the following tournaments: 41st Annual World Open (Ratedgames) Arlington, USA 2013.06.29; 41st Annual World Open (Under1800) Arlington, USA 2013.06.29; 6th NY International (Under1800) New York, USA 2013.06.19; 7th Annual Philadelphia Open (Under1800) Philadelphia, USA 2013.03.27; National Chess Congress (Under1800) Philadelphia, USA 2012.11.23; Boardwalk Open (Under 1800) Asbury Park, USA 2012.10.19; Continental Class (Class B) Arlington, USA 2012.10.04; 40th Annual World Open (Under1800) Philadelphia, USA 2012.07.01; Philadelphia Open (Under1600) Philadelphia, USA 2012.04.04; Eastern Team Championship! (Teamu) Stamford, USA 2011.11.04; 39th Annual World Open (Under1600) Philadelphia, USA 2011.06.28; 38th Annual World Open (Under1600).

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in SPORTS

 

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She is human, after all

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” Marilyn vos Savant

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — We can’t stay on top forever.
Even powerful historical figures have collapsed violently after lording over their domains with absolute authority and almost sphinx-like mythological dominance.
Judas. Ben-Hur. Atahualpa. Hector. Achilles. Philip of Macedon. Caesar. Cleopatra. Nero. Magellan. King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette.
The Romanovs. Rasputin. Mussolini. Hitler. Amin. Suharto. Marcos. Noriega. Ceaușescu. Saddam. Bin Laden. Gaddafi. To name only a few.
In many combats and competitions, there are always upsets and shockers.
Some neck and neck races end up as nail-biting and photo-finish clinchers.
This coming elections, many political dynasties could fold up in shame, shattering their myths of invincibility now that we have an automated poll.
Some political lords could suffer humiliating defeats as their decrepit guns, goons and golds will have no match against the netizens, the emerging intelligent force to reckon with in the age of social media and dizzying technology.

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NOTHING is permanent in this world except change, pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once declared.
Even champions go down in style.
The brutal fall of Ronda Rousey after being knocked out cold by Holly Holm in a dramatic upset Saturday (Nov. 14) night in the main event of UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, should serve as inspiration to all underdogs.
Who doesn’t know Ronda Jean “Rowdy” Rousey?
Only 28 and standing five feet and seven inches, the American mixed martial artists, judoka, and actress from Riverside, California was known as the Mike Tyson of Ultimate Fighting Championship of UFC.
She was unbeaten in 12 fights (nine submissions and three KOs) as bantamweight champion before fellow American Holm, 34, starched her out in probably the biggest upset in UFC history.

FEARED

Holm’s disposal win against the most feared woman in the planet made newspaper headlines in sports even if media were swamped with the Paris terror attack over the weekend.
For many UFC fans, Rousey’s defeat was unexpected and a hail-Mary shocker in combat sport.
Those who followed her career were suspecting that Rousey could be a superhuman, or someone possessed with an extra-ordinary talent not bequeathed on just anyone in fight business because of the way she dispatched opponents in the quadrangle.
Last Saturday Down Under, Rousey proved to us that she was human, after all–far from the way Sylvestre “Rocky Balboa” Stallone and Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger immortalized the good-looking lady.
The most destructive 130-pounder of the distaff side could get a rematch, we are 99 percent sure about that, but her reputation as “the arm collector” (because of the way she strangles opponents and wrecks their arms) and the “baddest woman on the planet” (because of her intimidating eyes) has suffered a dent.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in ELECTION, SPORTS

 

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