Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Anatoly Karpov vs. Eugenio Torre (Manila, 1976)

Say the name Eugene Torre in the Philippines and everyone would think about chess.  His name is synonymous with chess and everything there is about chess. He has brought a lot of honors for the country. He is an icon and inspiration to all Filipino chess players.

Eugene Torre is Asia’s First Grandmaster. He obtained that feat at age 22 after winning the Silver Medal in the Chess Olympiad in Nice, France. At this time, Torre is representing the country in a record 22nd appearance in the Olympiad currently being held in Tromso, Norway.

Here is one of his most memorable game where he beat reigning World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov in a sharp Sicilian encounter - 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Bayview Park Hotel (Manila)

If you desire a quick escape from the unpredictable weather, try Bayview Park Hotel along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Booking a room was a breeze.  I was able to book a room even without a credit card. When I called the reception, the girl with a very accommodating voice simply asked my name and the schedule of my stay at that’s it, I was able to reserve a Superior Room. Perhaps this convenience is due partly to the fact that the rainy season has already set in or the hotel has a very efficient booking procedure.

It has been raining lately and the unpredictable weather gives that feeling you just want to lay down and cuddle up in bed. With the rains - often on and off -  most out of town schedules are either rescheduled or postponed indefinitely.  There seems to be no way to enjoy the outdoors.

In the Philippines with only two seasons – the dry and wet – one has to be creative in enjoying the latter. During the wet season, that usually commence in June but due to climate change often extends beyond August, one of the best thing to do is to have that relaxing “staycation” I crudely define as the art of enjoying a very relaxing vacation in a hotel fully enjoying its amenities at the most affordable rate.

One weekend we stayed for a night at Bayview Park Hotel. This hotel is located in front of the US Embassy and the Museo Pambata.  It is a walking distance to Rizal Park and that newly renovated landmark – the Luneta Hotel. But, one thing great about this hotel is its being in front of Roxas Boulevard. In the morning, the whole stretch of this boulevard transforms into a jogging and a biking path.

I woke up early at around 6 am, got my folding bike and since it was a Sunday, joggers and bikers are all over the whole boulevard. As I biked from the US Embassy to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I really cannot help thinking about the fate of Manila Bay. It used to be a tourist spot. The famous sunset is still there but everything I hear is how to reclaim this bay and convert the area into a commercial and recreational center. Saving Manila Bay seems to have become the least priority.

I find the hotel staff of Bayview Park Hotel to be commendable. We stayed only overnight but they have rendered good service. The reception and almost every employee in this hotel appear to be service oriented. I think however that the hotel’s Wi-Fi, gym and the pool can benefit from some improvement and repairs.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Glimpse of Fisher Mall (Quezon City)

Fisher Mall is the newest landmark in Quezon City. It opened in January 29, 2014 but it was only last weekend that I got the chance to visit this mall. And one good thing about it is that parking is free and spacious. It was a Sunday  but much to my surprise there were plenty of parking spaces located at the basement. Just after a few turns, we easily found a parking space.

Having a free parking space is a plus for any mall. As a car owner, I often ask why I need to pay for parking space when I am already patronizing the mall? With so many malls being built, there are very few malls that offer a free parking space - one of which is SM Fairview in Quezon City. I never expected that a posh mall such as Fisher Mall would provide a free parking space. I hope that this policy remains for a long time.

Up the elevator, we headed to a clean and a well-lighted food court.  Aside from the usual fastfood chains, I was surprised that one of the best tasting lechon – Elar’s lechon -  is here.  The long queue of customers is a testament to the great taste of this lechon.

We continued to walk around Fisher Mall fully appreciating its cool ambience. We asked ourselves, which mall can it be compared with. I began thinking of other malls.  SM Aura in Taguig came to mind. I think however that this mall is comparable with the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.  While Fisher Mall is not as huge compared to the MOA, the former’s design has creatively and intelligently made it classy and comfortableOnce inside the mall it is easy to forget that the place used to be the site of the Pantranco Bus Terminal.

At the 3rd floor of this mall, there is a church where masses are held with the following schedule:

Novena Mass Celebration
First Wednesday of the Month
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
6:30 PM

First Friday of the Month
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
6:30 PM

Sunday Mass Celebration
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
4:00 PM – 5: 00 PM (Chinese Mass)
Anticipated Mass Schedule 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM, Saturday

Fisher Mall also has a chic and state of the art cinemas where photos of old Filipino screen icons are displayed reminiscent of the Eastwood Cinemas in Libis, Quezon City.  

Fisher Mall is indeed a mall goers' paradise.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Why Get a Folding Bike?

The concept of a folding bike was at first something out of a science fiction magazine. It was an idea coming out for the quest of that ultimate convenience of having a bike that can be tucked while in commute or folded inside a trunk of a car. The early folding bikes that were released on the market were very difficult to fold, heavy, of questionable performance and is in fact more inconvenient than  the usual bikes.

At this time however folding bikes seemed to have been perfected and polished. They are now lighter, easier to fold, and more convenient to carry. Its riding performance is almost comparable to regular bikes. Folding bikes are also relatively cheaper compared to regular mountain bikes.  I have seen folding bikes being sold for as low as P 3,000.00. But of course, if you desire a much lighter folding bike you got to be ready to shell out more.

I bought my folding bike for P 7,000.00 in Cartimar – the same place where I bought my mountain bike.  At first, I was apprehensive buying this type of a bike. However, I felt that I needed a bike that can be folded inside the trunk and can be carried easily.

I have been using my folding bike for a month now. I do not have any complaints except that the seat has to be adjusted occasionally after riding on bumpy roads. The bike is easy to fold, relatively light, safe and stable enough for the ride. I can say that my folding bike performed beyond expectations.

As I enjoy riding my folding bike, I cannot help thinking when are we going to see cars that can be folded to save on parking space.

Anyway, if you desire convenience get a folding bike.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Biking Should Be Encouraged?

With the unpredictable increase in the prices of gasoline, alternative methods of transport have to be encouraged and explored. And one of this is biking.  Aside from being an effective tool to combat the sudden increases in gasoline prices, biking is an environment friendly and good for the health mode of transportation.

While traveling along a major highway, I often see a lot of office workers going to work on a bike. I see a lot of them all geared up and apparently risking their lives amidst the notorious traffic and polluted highways. Yet, despite all the risks, I think the idea of using a bicycle to work is practical and should be encouraged by the government.

I was able to talk to someone who rides a bike from his residence to his office.  During our conversation, he impressed me that biking gives that sort of freedom and mobility. He explains that traveling along the road on a bike gives an exhilarating experience that cannot be experienced while you drive a car or commute to work. Biking he says gives that feeling of independence and total control. He was quick to add however that one drawback in biking is safety.  There are limited bike paths or none at all in some of our major highways.

As a country dependent on foreign oil, I think the government should create more bicycle lanes to encourage biking.  Bicycle lanes assure the safety of bikers. In UP Diliman in Quezon City there are bike lanes shared by both bikers and runners.  With these bike paths, bikers are protected from being plowed or thrown out of the path by passing vehicles.

Why biking should be encouraged?

1. Biking is the answer to increases in gasoline prices

Gasoline increases are unpredictable. After a few weeks of euphoria about a reduction in prices, an increase in gasoline prices is suddenly on the news the next day.  In a country that is dependent on foreign oil, biking is an instant and effective remedy against these notorious price increases.

2. Biking is an environment friendly form of a legitimate mode of transport

Imagine if just half of the cars on the highway have transformed into bikes,  that would mean (a) an instant solution to the the unsolvable traffic situation and (b) a reduction of at least fifty percent of all the toxic fumes on Earth.

3. Biking reduces the need for parking space

Government and private offices allocate several square meters of parking space. In some companies the battle for a parking space is sometimes the cause of disagreement among employees. Since several bikes can occupy a parking space of one vehicle, the problem of inadequate parking space in an office is drastically reduced.

4. Biking is good for the health

Several studies have shown that biking has several health benefits. Among others, it is said that biking strengthens the immune system against fatal diseases.  

5. Biking is a great form of exercise

Compared to running, biking is one form of exercise that does not give the joints too much strain. In running, all your weight falls on your knees and feet. In biking, there is less stress and strain in your joints making biking an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone in all age groups. Biking is also a great way to burn calories and get a well-toned body.

6. Biking helps to reduce stress

Start riding a bike, feel the freedom and as the wind starts to kiss your cheeks, your stress seemed to have disappeared in an instant.  With biking, it is easy to feel that you got total control and forget all the problems hounding you in your work and personal life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chess is a Sport

Is chess is a sport or not? Many view chess simply as a game without any physical effort other moving chess pieces on a two-colored board – hence, chess is not a sport. In other words, for those who believe that chess is not a sport considers the presence of “physical activity” as an essential element in order for anything to be considered a sport.

Traditionally, a “sport” involves the exertion of muscles and it requires movement - other than just merely pushing pieces.  In this respect, it is easy to think that basketball is a sport with its fast paced runs, jumps, and breathtaking slam-dunks. When it comes to chess however, most asked if it is a sport has to think deeper and walk around the hall before coming up with an answer.

Those who insist that chess is a sport argues that chess involves the exertion of  muscles in the form of “brain muscles” working each time that a chess piece is moved. Thus, chess should be considered as a sport similar to basketball, football and swimming.

Somehow that “raging debate” whether chess is a sport or not has to end. I think the gauge of “exertion of muscles” or the need for “physical activity” in order for  a particular event to qualify as a “sport” is archaic and limiting. Foremost, sport is not only about muscles – it is also about brains. All forms of sport require the use of the brain. 

Strategy and tactics are essential in basketball, football, tennis, golf and other sports. In chess, all these elements - strategy and tactics – are necessary elements to subdue an opponent or win a game similar to all other sports. In chess, the chessboard is a macrocosm of a football field, basketball court and the golf course. 

While the players in a chess game appear to be in a placid state, the struggle on the chessboard is in no way calm. The battle on the chessboard is intense and both players are passionate to win. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are felt in chess similar to other physical sports.

Maybe it is about time to revisit and modify the true meaning of “sport”.  Its should not be limited to those activities requiring physical exertion.  Perhaps, the correct definition for "sport" -  is any activity that requires skill as differentiated from games purely dependent on luck or chance. In one article, it is said that the International Olympic Committee recognized chess as a bona fide sport.

While there are no muscular movements in chess except in moving the pieces, the game itself has all the elements of a sport - skills are tested, challenged and summoned to vanquish an opponent. Just like in any other known sport -  training and discipline are necessary to win and attain perfection.  In chess, as it other sport, the athlete has to be humble during victories but strong in defeats.

There is really no need to dignify any comment or rant that vilifies or relegates chess into a mere “board game”. Chess is a sport. In fact, any competitor in a high rated tournament can attest that chess is not just a simple sport – it is a gruesome one. As a form of a psychological fight, chess can inflict pain just like in a physical combat.

Chess has been played for centuries.  High officials, noted politicians, aristocrats, screen icons and the common man have played chess as equals perhaps earlier than other known sports. Chess luminaries have played the game into perfection by embracing Spartan like training and discipline.

Thus, in all respects chess is definitely a sport... the moves speak for themselves!

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