Friday, November 27, 2015

Sicilian Defense

The Sicilian Defense (1.e4 c5) is considered as the most combative reply to white's e4. With “c5”, black fights for the center by challenging white with the control of the “d4 square” and at the same time avoiding equal positions while creating lot of counter chances. To many players, they consider this defense as the only and ultimate reply to “e4”.

The great and well known practitioners of this defense are former World Champions Garry Kasparov with his “Najdorf Variation” and Bobby Fischer noted for his favorite, the “Sozin Attack”.

White's usual reply is “Nf3” followed by “d4” that forces the issue on the control of the center immediately. The struggle between the two sides is intense and often leads to a loss or a win depending on which side is able to handle the pieces more effectively. Usually however, the side that is able to activate the pieces early and gains control of the center ends up victorious. Due to its very combative nature, "fighting draws" are common scenarios on the board rather than tranquil maneuverings often seen in more positional openings.

In the Sicilian, there are several games where white attacks on the kingside. On the other hand, black takes chances on the queenside. I have seen several games where white employs a pawn roll on the kingside and black attacks on the queenside initiated by a knight and queen. The side that is able to successfully lunch the attack and gains the initiative often wins the game.

 If you are an “e4” player, it is often that you would meet this defense since it is the most common reply to the king's pawn opening. Thus, if you are accustomed in playing “e4”, learning the intricacies of the Sicilian Defense is a way of life. Without a solid foundation or a working knowledge of the basics of this opening, facing this defense for the first time on the board can be very challenging. If you are an “e4” player, it is a best move to have familiarity with anti-Sicilian systems whose main objective is avoiding its main lines such as the “Kan”, “Kalashnikov”, “Pelikan”, Dragon, “Taimanov”, “Richter-Rauzer”, “Scheveningen” and the “Sozin Attack”.

Instead of the usual "1. e4 e5", the move "c5", immediately creates tension
and a very radical imbalance on the chessboard. Somehow black is able to challenge white in controlling the center by avoidance of the usual symmetrical position. The next couple of moves in the Sicilian Defense show how to systematically take control of the center squares and create counter play.

If we study several games with black employing the Sicilian defense, we can see the tension on the chessboard. The struggle between the players is intense making this defense a very exciting one and worth the time to study.

If you are a beginner in chess, learning the basics of the Sicilian defense can give you the proper fundamentals in playing chess correctly. Once you reply “c5” to the  popular “e4”, it immediately sets the tone for an exciting struggle on the chessboard.

The Sicilian Defense may not be the “perfect” defense to the “e4” opening but it can give your opponent a very difficult time finding the correct play and it would eventually give you better chances in winning your game. 

This defense definitely commands respect.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Working Freelance (Perfect for Traveling and Playing Chess)

It’s the dream job - no commuting to work, flexible working hours and best of all - you are your own boss. If you are dreaming about this, then you are dreaming about freelance work. Best thing about going freelance is - without that structured 9 to 5 schedule – it is perfect for traveling and playing chess.

But, you will not get there by just dreaming …start right now! Be positive and get to work! Watching television all day will not make you your own boss.  Have you read about this?

“If you don’t start building your dreams right now, 
someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

If you have been dreaming of transforming yourself from a “clock puncher” to working on your own pace and time, the right time to start is now! Again, if you start right now at this instant and work freelance, imagine the benefits – working at your own pace and time; no need of dressing up for work; No commute; or worrying about your children at home!

But of course, this is better said than done! I know it is not a reality to just leave your monthly paid job of sure income and plunge into freelancing work without a plan. However, keep in mind that successful people make a start and never stop until their dream is made into a reality.

The Internet has made Working Freelance Easier

Decades ago, working freelance is a very difficult and almost an impossibility. Freelancers are often referred to with doing work independently, but only around the neighborhood. Word of mouth and a few advertisements posted on walls are your only way of making your work or business known.

With the advent of the Internet, working freelance and playing chess has become more convenient and easier. Making known your services and talent is no longer limited to your circle or around your community but accessible to the whole world.

The Internet has made the world smaller and communication is just a matter of click in real time. With this technology, working freelance is now realistic and clients abound throughout the whole world. Work is no longer limited. It is now an open field of work.

While there are plenty of “scams” or illegitimate and fraudulent  freelance work on the web, there are still several work at home or online sites that are reliable, legitimate and actually pays.  

Working freelance however is not a panacea for work related issues and definitely not a get rich quick scheme. Scams and illegitimate work from home abound the internet. Those who intend to work freelance has to be very careful in choosing legitimate work or projects advertised  as a "freelance engagement".

If you intend to travel and play chess,  why not try freelance work and leave that very limiting cubicle of yours.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Joining Non-Master Chess Tournaments in the Philippines

Are you a chess enthusiast and you want to join a chess tournament in the Philippines?  If you are yet to attain a master level, there are several non-master chess tournaments you can join to acquire a rating or probably be a National Master in the future. These non-master chess tournaments are usually held in malls such as the Alphaland SouthGate Mall in Makati.

For schedules of these tournaments, you can check out websites such as the Philippine Chess Portal or of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.  Chess tournaments for non-masters are usually held during weekends to encourage more participants. 

If you intend to join non-master chess tournaments in the Philippines be ready for a whole day of chess encounters. Usually, the tournament comprise of seven (7) rounds. The first round is played before lunchtime and the succeeding rounds are played at around 1 pm.

There is a modest registration fee before the start of the tournament. Registration usually starts at 9 am and since there is a limit on the number of participants be at the venue at around such time. If you are early at the venue there is a better chance for you to join the tournament prior to reaching the allowable number of participants.

Since the tournament usually consists of seven grueling rounds of intense chess, have an adequate sleep prior to joining the tournament. Lack or inadequate sleep affects your capability in playing intelligent and competitive chess. You have to be at your best when participating in these tournaments. Chess is a game that requires not only intellectual preparation but physical stamina as well.

Traffic in Metro Manila is very unpredictable and is known to be notoriously slow, head to the venue a little earlier than the usual. Have an idea of the traffic. It is always a best move to arrive at the venue early as it gives you time to relax and prepare for the tournament.

If it’s your first time to attend the tournament at such venue, do some prior research of its location and get an idea on how to reach it. If the venue is in the malls, bring a jacket. Given the malls air-conditioning, a jacket is one necessary and useful apparel.

Bring a ball pen. Even if recording the moves is not mandatory, a ball pen is necessary during registration and in signing your score sheet after the game. I noticed that during tournaments, there are players who forget to bring a pen. Borrowing a pen from your fellow chess player should be avoided.

Prior to joining chess tournaments (including those exclusively for non-masters) familiarize yourself with the fide rules of chess. Read the rules particularly the rules on "touch move", "replacing the promoted piece", "claiming for a draw", "displacement of pieces" and the "the clock".  Before the start of the tournament, the arbiter explains the rules of chess and the regulations governing the tournament. Listen intently and politely ask questions if there are matters you need to clarify.

During play, follow strictly the rules. Before making your first move check your pieces and the clock if it’s functioning correctly.  If you notice some lacking pieces, matters that need adjustment or some problems with the clock call the attention of the arbiter immediately to avoid disagreements during and after the game.

Before the game, shake the hand of your opponent. After the game, win or lose, do not forget to sign your score sheet and submit the result to the arbiter. Usually, it is the winner of the game who submits the score sheet.  Before you leave, put the pieces back to their original position. Leave the playing area quietly and avoid disturbing other players whose games are still in progress.

Winning a chess game, just like in any other sport, is something to be proud of. If you win, be humble but appreciate the efforts of your opponent. If you lose, congratulate your adversary, accept it, move on and continue playing until the last round. Do your best in every round and enjoy the tournament. 

Before I end, I noticed that there is no strict dress code in non-master chess tournaments in the Philippines. Despite that, chess players playing in these tournaments should endeavor to dress appropriately. Avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts. Chess is a game of  Kings and we must always dress the part.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Tactics to Stay Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines

When traveling in the Philippines, be ready to face its notorious traffic
 and its unpredictable weather condition.
Traveling - whether in the Philippines or in other countries - takes a toll on your health. With all the walking, running, hopping from one ride to the next, booking and taking flights, haggling for better prices, changing hotels or hunting for new accommodations, coupled with various activities from morning til night -  traveling definitely requires a healthy body and staying that way.

If you are one of the million tourists and foreigners who have made the best decision to travel to the Philippines, it is necessary for you to stay healthy to enjoy your stay. Getting sick while in the midst of your travel in the Philippines is heartbreaking. It can mean losing the rare opportunity to enjoy the beaches of Boracay, the beauty of Davao, the mystic island of Camiguin and other tourist attractions.

While the Philippines is a very beautiful country its wet and dry season distresses not only foreigners but locals as well. The country’s weather, affected by climate change, is notoriously a health hazard while traveling. It is now considered the new “normal” to experience a very sunny morning and and a heavy downpour in the afternoon.  With this kind of unpredictable weather condition it is very difficult to stay healthy while on the road.  Common diseases such as colds and flu are prevalent in this kind of erratic weather in the Philippines. Thus, it is very important for travelers, foreigners and first time visitors to get acquainted with the weather and learn about safety precautions to avoid these common diseases and stay healthy while traveling.

Make sure that the water you drink is clean and safe - As much as possible, drink water that is "purified" while traveling in the Philippines. While in most cases, potable drinking water is available in restaurants, cafes and and other food establishments, it is best to politely ask if the water is purified. There are cases where water served from the tap can cause stomach discomfort, illness or other water borne diseases.

While traveling, it is necessary to drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Even during the rainy season (from the months of June to October) the weather in the Philippines is still hot and humid. Just walking for a few miles can mean a lot of sweat and some foreigners may find it very inconvenient. However, consider it as part of the experience.

In far flung provinces, consider bringing your own water container.  In cases where purified water is not available, it is best to boil your water before drinking.

Eat in clean restaurants -  the Philippines is a mecca for foodies and travelers who want to savor the best food or just simply taste something new. In the Philippines, travelers are treated to a wide array of street foods from grilled blood, duck embryo, fish balls, to chicken feet. It is tasty, cheap and a really a must try.  However, caution must be taken when gorging on these street foods.  Be observant of your surroundings and make sure that the area is clean including what you eat.

Bring mosquito repellants – when traveling in the Philippines, it is a good idea to bring and use mosquito repellants. Mosquitoes are common in the Philippines and we know that these insects are notorious in bringing several dreaded diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever. If in case you forget to bring a mosquito repellant try to cover your skin with clothing and protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Avoid contact with stray cats and dogs -  As we travel around the Philippines, we often see a lot of stray cats and dogs. Most of these animals have not been vaccinated and are freely going around the streets, resorts, restaurants and other establishments.  While some of these dogs and cats are cute, cuddly and remind you of your pet at home, it is not a good idea to touch or get near them as these animals may suddenly bite and scratch that may cause rabies.

Get vaccinated before traveling to the Philippines – Given the various diseases that can be potentially acquired while traveling, I suggest that you get completely vaccinated before traveling to the Philippines.

Do not forget to bring your medicines – there are certain medicines that are not easy to find in the Philippines even if you check out the big drugstores. If there are certain medications that you need while traveling  in the Philippines do not forget to bring a substantial amount including your doctor’s prescription.

Get as much sleep and rest as you can – in traveling with so much to see and do there is a tendency for sleep and rest to escape us. If you travel around the Philippines for just several days or even a month, is not enough to fully enjoy what this country can offer. As a result, travelers often lose sleep enjoying the nightlife and then waking up very early in the morning to get to other other tourist destinations.

Wherever you may be, always remember that you need to get at least 7 to 8 hours of  sleep. Lack or inadequate sleep not only affects the way you play chess but also prevents you from fully enjoying your travel. Whenever possible, sleep in the most comfortable hotel or lodging house.  Comfort does not necessarily mean expensive. What is important is that you are able to sleep and get a much needed rest for another hectic day of traveling.

With a very hectic schedule, traveling can be very tiring. To rejuvenate and recharge yourself, it is necessary that you take as much rest as you can during while traveling. Try to get a few hours of sleep while inside the plane or train. Learning how to sleep or rest while traveling to your destination can help a lot in ensuring that you have the energy to do various activities while on vacation. 

Do not forget to wash your hands or use a sanitizer – we all know that by simply washing our hands or using  a sanitizer, we protect ourselves from acquiring various infectious diseases. Our hands carry germs that can cause sickness. By washing our hands properly, we prevent these germs from multiplying and we avoid transferring them to our fellow travelers.

Again, the Philippines is very beautiful and you won't regret making that decision to visit the country. But to enjoy your stay, you got to stay healthy and fit to enjoy what the Philippines has to offer.

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