MANITOBA'S Filipino population is starting to show its dominance in the local chess scene.
The Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba was the site of a tournament last week that drew 70 players, making it one of the biggest open events in recent years.
It was the second tournament at the centre this year, organized by MLA Ted Marcelino. The politician wants to enhance the profile of chess among young people and other residents of the Tyndall Park area, and it seems his efforts are succeeding.
Marcelino's assistant, Rey Sangalang, was a key organizer of the tournament, along with Arvin Dawa. The Manitoba Chess Association also pitched in to help stage the event.
Although many participants were from the Filipino community, the tournament was open to anyone. Twenty-six people entered the open section and another 44 played in the Under-1700 section.
Nilo Moncal seemed headed for victory in the open, but lost in the last round to Marcos Valentino. That set up a four-way tie for first between Moncal, Valentino, Aron Kaptsan and Jason Repa. Each player won $220 from the healthy $2,000 total prize fund.
In the playoff blitz matches to decide the trophies, Repa beat Moncal and Kaptsan defeated Valentino in the semifinals. Then Repa won the final to take the first-place trophy.
Two unrated players dominated the Under-1700 section. Emil Vianzon had five straight wins, earning a $200 prize. Second place, a half point behind, went to Josef Quintana, who earned $150.
The tournament was supported by Larry Vickar of Vickar Auto Group and Darin Hoffman of Mosaic Funeral Home. Additional sponsors were Pampanga Restaurant, Pilipino Express and radio station CKJS.
It's an exciting development to see the participation of so many strong players from Winnipeg's Filipino community in organized tournament play. You only have to visit the Garden City Shopping Centre and its giant exhibition chess set to see how popular the game is in the community. But by entering formal tournaments, players focus more on serious competition and are sure to enhance their skill levels even more.
-- -- --
I had a couple of opportunities last week to see how chess is flourishing among young people in Winnipeg. First, I took part in a casual afternoon of blitz and bughouse chess at the Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association last Sunday. It was terrific to see so many young, strong players practising their skills.
Josh Henson and Jeremie Piche were on hand to organize the event, and they thought it would be helpful for a couple veterans like John Burstow and me to take part and offer another dimension to the activities.
The next day I visited Faraday School in the North End and spent lunch hour with the junior chess club, organized by teacher Albert Yanofsky. Albert's uncle was Abe Yanofsky, the best chess player Winnipeg has ever produced, and a prodigy when he was a youngster.
Two dozen enthusiastic kids in grades 2 and 3 were present, all eager to soak up some more chess knowledge and challenge me to a simultaneous exhibition. I could see their eyes widen when I told them that by studying chess they could improve their critical thinking and their performance in subjects like mathematics.
Chess is one of those games that can be played at little or no expense by players of all income groups. But the resulting benefits in organized thinking, patience and self-confidence are crucial for kids. Through the efforts of teachers like Albert, kids are getting a valuable and enriching experience.
-- -- --
This week's problem: Mate in 2 (Morse). Solution to last problem: White mates with 1.Qd3.