Tag Archives: chess

How I pick ‘Dr. Hannibal Lecter’

“You will not persuade me with appeals to my intellectual vanity.”

— Hannibal Lecter


 By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY –– I must have picked the wrong guy when I pointed to a tattooed middle-aged hustler in Manhattan’s Union Square for my opponent recently in a “bullet chess” or blitz chess match.

The guy was a look-alike of Anthony Hopkins when he played Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a character in a series of suspense novels by Thomas Harris and introduced in a 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon as a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.

“Dr. Hannibal Lecter” or DHL was only one of the four Union Square mainstays who challenged me for a chess match “for five bucks.”

I would be a hypocrite to deny I chose DHL over the three others after thinking he was a pushover or easy to beat.


Jiggz, who invited me earlier to invade Union Square with a promise to pay my round-trip ticket in the subway from Queens, made everyone’s head turn when she stoutly dangled a $20 bill and ribbed DHL: “Twinti bakzs!”

Without hesitation, “Dr. Hannibal Lecter” quickly retorted: “olrayt!”

I chided Jiggz reminding her the hustlers were only chanting “fayb bakzs”. She insisted for “twinti bakzs”, her voice was irritating and intimidating.

When DHL and I were about to begin the hypnotic three-minute Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation blitz, the crowd intensified, cajoled by Jiggz’s wager braggadocio.

Handling the white pieces, I marshaled 1. e4; DHL replied with e5; 2. Nf3-Nc6; 3. Bb5 a6; 4. Bxc6 and so on and so forth.

If the match didn’t get as far as the middlegame, I wouldn’t notice I was heading for the catastrophe.

DHL, who didn’t nix pieces exchanges before five moves, parried my attacks with a masterful display of grit and proficiency as the partisan crowd egged and cheered him.


Several moves later, DHL’s deadly knight and bishop ripped apart my weakened pawn structure; security in the king side had been badly shattered.

As defeat became imminent, I raised the white flag and shook DHL’s hand.

Instead of planting his teeth hard on my neck as what Anthony Hopkins did to his victims in the “Silence of the Lambs”, Union Square’s DHL gave me a wink and collected Jiggz’s “twinti bakzs”.

DHL and his fellow chess hustlers had moved from the Washington Square Park–Bobby Fischer’s former territory–to the Union Square in 2013.

Jiggz coaxed DHL to play “wan mor game”. DHL said “yes”, I called it a day while the three other hustlers, DHL’s cheering squad, were waving and pleading for me to also play against them “but only for fayb bakzs.

I said “no mas.”

Twinti bakzs were enough. Twinti fayb bakzs will be too much.

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Posted by on April 8, 2018 in PSYCHOLOGY, SPORTS


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In bocca al lupo, Fabiano

“Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people.” –Nigel Short


By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — If Bobby Fischer were alive today, he would spearhead the applause on 25-year-old compatriot Fabiano Caruana.

The reclusive genius died at 64 in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2008 without seeing his dream to see another American-born chess grand master competing for the world chess championship.

When another American, Gata Kamsky (2677), battled and lost to Russia’s Anatoli Karpov (2623) for world championship in 1996, Fischer wasn’t impressed that another American after him was able to take a stab at the world chess crown.

Unlike Caruana (2784), who was born in Miami, Kamsky, 43, was born in Novokuznetsk, Russian and moved only to the United States in 1989.

Fischer, born in Chicago in 1943, was very particular about US-born chess world title candidates and challengers.

He also didn’t believe that that the world chess crown should remain in the hands of the Russians.

Although Caruana is Italian-American, he was born and raised in the US territory.


By winning the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2018 in Berlin March 27, Caruana became officially the third American to battle for the world championship after Fischer in 1972 and Kamsky in 1996.

If Caruana will dethrone 27-year-old defending champion Magnus Carlsen (2843) of Norway in their 12-game match in London in November, he will only be the second American to win the global chess tiara since 1975, the year Fischer relinquished the title, three years after his epic win over Soviet star Boris Spassky in Reykjavik.

In Berlin during the Candidates Tournament 2018 that started on March 10, Caruana sent a strong message when he blasted fellow US player, Filipino Wesley So (2799), in a Catalan match in the opening day.

So finished solo seventh with six points.

In the 14th and last round on March 27, Caruana booked a ticket to London to face Carlsen when he trounced Alexander Grischuk (2767) in Petroff’s Defence, the only victory of the day in the eight-man tournament.

He wound up with nine points, a point ahead of second placer, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2809) who had eight points.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” Caruana, the world No. 3, said afterward. “Coming into today, I wasn’t sure what would happen and things couldn’t have gone better. A few days ago, I thought the tournament was already out of my hands, but somehow things just came together perfectly at the end. I really couldn’t be happier.”

In bocca al lupo, Fabiano or good luck, Fabiano.

Final Standings: 1st Caruana 9 pts, 2nd Mamedyarov 8 pts, 3rd Karjakin 8 pts, 4th Ding Liren 7.5 pts, 5th Kramnik 6.5 pts, 6th Grischuk 6.5 pts, 7th Wesley So 6 pts, 8th Aronian 4.5 pts

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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in 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.


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 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.


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.


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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