After a momentary spurt of popularity following the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972, chess had been in the doldrums for decades. Lately, the genie is out of the bottle once again as the game gains a sudden surge in popularity, thanks to the lockdown amidst the onset of Covid-19.
A typical Maranao chess set PHOTO COURTESY OF BASHER HASSAN OF TUGAYA, LANAO DEL SUR
While many events like had either been cancelled or put on hold indefinitely, online chess had chalked up an unprecedented spike on the chart as a game of choice the world over.
Chess in the Philippines had surged online as 4G continues to stabilize at 12mbps in Metro Manila. With fast connectivity, speed chess (5-minute games) and even bullet chess (1-minute games) had become possible with barely perceptible time lags, and this adds excitement to the game. With millions of registered players worldwide in any one chess site (i.e. lichess and chess.com), more and more newbies are lured into the game.
But when did chess came to the country? Manuel Lara in his article A Short History of Chess in the Philippines placed the introduction of the game to coincide with the coming of the Sharfs and Sayyds, namely Sharf Kabungsuwan and Sharf Alaw around 1400. But a cursory glance into the naming of the chess pieces among the Irann-Marana reveals their atura (atura) to have an ancient provenance in Sanskrit: Datu = Rju or Ratu (king); Mantri =Mantri (queen); Gadia = Gaja (Bishop); Tr = Ratha( rook); Bidak = Bhata or Pidati (infantry or pawn).
Perhaps, one incontrovertible evidence that chaturaga have been with us since around the 10th to 12th century at the height of the Sri Vijayan empire is best offered by a few passages citing the game in the 17-cycle Darangn epic of Mindanao.
In the atura, the only concession to Arabic naming convention is the baidaq (pawn) which in Irann-Marana is bdak. The Arabic fil for Bishop, which had been taken up by the Spanish as alfil had never quite caught up with the locals. But the Spanish term for castling (short or long) enroque had been adopted locally in the Philippines when modern chess had been introduced by the friars and the elite.
Chaturaga (Sanskrit: ; caturaga), or catur for short was widespread among the nobles of Southeast Asias entrepts. In Tuhfat al Nafis, it is related that in Johore, when Tuan Si Bujang (Raja Kechil Abdullah) planned to kill Indra Bongsu, the Yam Tuan Muda of Johore, he had bribed the rayai (sea gypsies) not to announce the approach of his fleet. There sneaking into the Pengkalan Rama, he found the Yam Tuan Muda absorbed in a game of chess, and slewed him.
In Maguindanao and Sulu, the game goes back a ways since the heyday of the early rajs and had always been a big part of the cultural tradition of the datus, panglimas and sultans. It was part of the acculturation of young princes and princesses to cultivate the necessary flair for playing the game.
Many British and Dutch envoys and Chinese country traders had to wait for long hours at the courts lounge while the sultan was absorbed at a game of chess. In wakes (tibau), feasts and merry-making (kakriyala), chess was ubiquitously present. Even when the Moro were on raiding expeditions, the nakhodas of the fleet of padaus (prahus) played chess on the upper decks to pass the time on long voyages in the high seas.
Contrary to popular belief, the atura predated the Spanish Ajedrez in the country. The way the datus in the courts had played the turan had not changed much then, oblivious of the development and reform in the game in the centuries leading up to the coming of the Americans. What the Spaniards had brought into the ajedrez in the Philippines is the type that incorporated the great reform of 1485, which created modern European chess, ushering in a period of rich development in chess technique.
Among the Irann-Marana, the battle array (tabbiyya) in the initial positioning of the pieces situates the opposing kings on adjacent files instead of on the same file. What this translates to was that the game become highly volatile as tactically each side tries to castle-short and pawn-storm the opposing king on the other wing. This greatly reduced the opportunity for subtle positional manoeuvring to flourish.
In Lanao, the carving of ornate chess sets became a specialty of the town of Tugaya. Their craftsmen fashion ivory and buffalo horns into intricately carved chess pieces. This tradition had been with them since time immemorial. However, the proliferation of cheap chess sets that follow international design prescription of FIDE (Fdration Internationale des checs) had denigrated the skills of traditional makers of chess sets.
In terms of prowess in playing the game, in Lanao, the ancient chess tradition reached its apogee in Raman, where many prodigies over the generations were encouraged by the elite as their representative whenever a match with a visitor is called upon.
The poet and fictionist Salvador Rico Barros (1910-1940) had discovered the native chess talents of Maranao highlanders during a visit to his elder brother, Vicente Barros (1887-1966) who had been stationed as US Army Major in the Moro Province. Barros was surprised to learn that highly skilled chess players abound around the lake despite their lack of knowledge of chess theory and training. He had singled out one promising player by the name of Datu lip of Raman. But there was one problem: their brand of chess followed the archaic rules of the atura.
Barros who envisioned a great potential for Datu lip, helped him transition from the traditional Maranao way of playing chess to the modern version of the game. In no time, Alip got a wind of mastering the international standard, including the use of chess clock. Barros then had arranged the travel of Alip to Manila with help of the Sultan of Raman Alauya Alonto, who at the time was Municipal Manager (Philippine Independence Commission) in 1924 under then Governor-General Frank Murray. Datu lip happened also to be a close kin of Sultan Alonto.
In Manila, the Club de Ajedrez was perhaps the only organization which set up individual matches and tournaments in the capital, a forerunner of the Philippine Chess Association. It was located at the Cosmopolitan Club Building at the foot of Sta. Cruz Bridge. Among its original organizers was Dr. Fernando Canon Faustino y Alumno (1860-1938).
In Ramon Lontocs book Fifty Golden Years of Philippine Chess History, he had listed Canon as the first Filipino chess champion in 1908. Canon is better known as a childhood friend of Jos Rizal. Like Rizal, he was a polyglot who spoke six languages. He has pursued his medical studies at the Universidad Central De Madrid. He and his wife brought the first copies of the Noli Me Tangere into the Philippines. Perhaps, it was his closeness with the national hero that influenced Rizal to include in his novel an episode of a chess game between Crisostomo Ibarra and Kapitan Basilio.
It was in the Club de Ajedrez, that a match was arranged between Adolfo Gutierrez, then national champion, and Datu Datu lip of Raman. lip then went on to become the national Commonwealth champion in 1925. According to Napoleon Macapundag, a son of Macapundag (Sultan sa Ramain), Datu lip had the distinction of playing in a simultaneous exhibition against the then world champion Alexander Alekhine in 1932 at YMCA Manila. The Russian had been in Manila at the invitation of Ismael Amado, who he had met in New York.
Since then, more Maranau chess aficionados switched to modern chess, although as late the 1970s, the old atura continued to be played in isolated pockets of the countryside.
Today, in the hinterlands of Lanao, life is slow, and atura remained a pure pastime with the betel-nut chewing folks of the countryside.
The tradition of carving intricate chess pieces by craftsmen weakened as their ranks dwindled. Heirlooms, which used to be the pride of every clan were lost to war and natural calamities. Worse, what had been salvaged became the prey of unscrupulous collectors, or sold to museums, here and abroad.
The author had seen a few of the old Maranau atura on display in New York and Chicago in 1995, which had been part of the loot of the American scouts.
Arrayed along with other artifacts like the gador, kutyapi, and other ensembles, the chess pieces, seen from their glass encasements, looked like mounted ghost warriors from a dimming past. This state of affair was lamented by the Maranao semanticist, Dr. Guimba Poingan. He said that when we forget an avocation, a craft, or a tradition, everything associated with it even the language go away hook, line and sinker.
The full version of this story, with anecdotes on three more great players: Datu Sandangan, Mir Sultan Khan and Yusoph Pangadapun, are available at http://www.manilatimes.net.
About the author: Sharief is a palaeographer on kirim and jawi scripts, Iranun genealogist, and a resident historian on Southeast Asia with the PMTC Institute of Iranun Studies. He had placed 1st Runner Up (unrated category) in the World Open Chess Tournament in Philadelphia, 1993 and had been a US Candidate Master before he retired in the game.
Read the original here:
- Training young dogs walking this way and that is a gift these days - Minneapolis Star Tribune - February 20th, 2021
- 'A tactical mind' - The inside story of how Dean Smith became Aston Villa's very own grand master - MSN UK - February 20th, 2021
- This is very unfortunate to have such incident: Jhulan Goswami on Manu Bhaker Delhi Airport incident - India Today - February 20th, 2021
- What prison libraries have to offer insidetime & insideinformation - InsideTime - February 17th, 2021
- Maxfield says unbeaten for Godolphin with stroll in the park win in the Grade 3 Mineshaft at the Fair Grounds - Past The Wire - February 15th, 2021
- Montville Recreation Offering Winter and Spring Programs - TAPinto.net - February 15th, 2021
- New Jersey Fencer Tsapatsaris Moves to Greece for Olympic Dream - The National Herald - February 15th, 2021
- A beautiful mind: Tom Brady has mastered the art of quarterbacking - The Boston Globe - February 7th, 2021
- Gary & Paul O'Donovan: 'Mam always sternly warned to never let a woman get in the way' - Irish Examiner - February 7th, 2021
- Beggars leave behind Jaipurs streets to pick up vocational skills - The Siasat Daily - February 7th, 2021
- Raise of the Sun | Connecticut Pro Basketball | journalinquirer.com - Journal Inquirer - February 6th, 2021
- One Year of On-Demand IT Training Special Promotion - CIO Dive - February 6th, 2021
- Kill the Homothetic Army: Gen. Guy Hubin's Vision of the Future Battlefield - War on the Rocks - February 4th, 2021
- Revealed: The best chambers for training and quality of work 2021 - Legal Cheek - February 3rd, 2021
- Coral Springs Recognizes Over 20 Members of the Community During Black History Month - Coral Springs Talk - Coral Springs Talk - February 3rd, 2021
- Watching The Queens Gambit? Master the game of chess with this extensive training bundle - KSAT San Antonio - February 1st, 2021
- Thomas Tuchels transformation from crazy man to chess-style tactics grandmaster detailed by former team- - The Sun - February 1st, 2021
- MLB Players Are Pissed With Rob Manfred Again, This Time Because Of Possible Spring Training Delay - Awesemo.com - February 1st, 2021
- Three reasons why you should play chess The Badger Herald - UW Badger Herald - January 28th, 2021
- To err is not just human: U of T researchers develop AI that plays chess like a person - News@UofT - January 28th, 2021
- Robert Saleh's journey to the New York Jets began with 9/11 epiphany - ESPN - January 28th, 2021
- Chess during downtime: How the Corps wants to increase 'thinking' in Marine infantry - Marine Corps Times - January 26th, 2021
- Using chess to help deal with addictions - Chessbase News - January 26th, 2021
- Gerry Thornley: Without crowds, matches are just upgraded training sessions - The Irish Times - January 26th, 2021
- Here's where Peoria council District 1 candidates stand on taxes, business growth, pensions - Peoria Journal Star - January 26th, 2021
- Robert Saleh's journey to the New York Jets began with 9/11 epiphany - ESPN Philippines - January 26th, 2021
- Welcome to FIFA.com News - The Week in Quotes - FIFA.com - January 25th, 2021
- Premier League stars share their tips on how to stay positive during the national lockdown - Ghanasoccernet.com - January 23rd, 2021
- This surprising pre-round warm-up will improve your game, according to a study - Golf.com - January 23rd, 2021
- Brittany Bowe starts abbreviated international season, hungry to return as queen of 1000m - Home of the Olympic Channel - January 23rd, 2021
- The influencer who is a chess star and the Beth Harmon of our time - The Courier - January 15th, 2021
- Former professor and an internationally rated chess player, Raghavan is taking chess to underprivileged k - Times of India - January 9th, 2021
- Ex-Viking Everson Griffen: 'It's Never Been About the Money!' - Heavy.com - January 9th, 2021
- Hobbies: January is the perfect time to explore new activities | GUIDON - Myguidon - January 9th, 2021
- A year like no other: The good, bad and sad of Indian sport in 2020 - Scroll.in - January 4th, 2021
- 17 Hoboken + Jersey City News Stories You Missed This Week - hobokengirl.com - January 4th, 2021
- Stop the pawns! - Chessbase News - December 31st, 2020
- In Beginners, a Writer Takes Up Chess and Surfing and Singing and Juggling and - The New York Times - December 31st, 2020
- The year of innovation: The 2020 silver linings playbook, brought to you by sport - ESPN India - December 31st, 2020
- How generation Z are taking over the cycling world - Cycling Weekly - December 31st, 2020
- Up close with Anand - BusinessLine - December 31st, 2020
- 8 movies and shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video from 2020 that sparked larger conversations - VOGUE India - December 31st, 2020
- A Discovery of Witches Season 1 Recap - The Nerd Daily - December 29th, 2020
- France and the United States are fighting for the 17-year-old genius. He had to turn away - R&R Magazine (www.randrlife.co.uk) Rest and Relax - December 29th, 2020
- Ho, Ho, Hockeytown: A holiday guide to Detroit Red Wings' past, present and future - Detroit Free Press - December 26th, 2020
- Holiday happenings in Pittsburgh, from the Hip Hop Nutcracker online to First Night's virtual celebration - NEXTpittsburgh - December 23rd, 2020
- This Years Lakers Are Just Built Different. Time Will Tell If Thats a Good Thing. - The Ringer - December 23rd, 2020
- Timberwolves must defend to win, and Karl-Anthony Towns knows it - West Central Tribune - December 23rd, 2020
- LESSONS FROM THE PAST 12: Are Indians Too Individualistic? - Moneylife - December 23rd, 2020
- The 2020 Vikings offense is good until it has to be - Minneapolis Star Tribune - December 22nd, 2020
- Community groups in the Harborough area get a share of just over 30,000, thanks to the Market Harborough Building Society Charitable Foundation -... - December 20th, 2020
- Meet the modern-day Beth Harmon, a chess influencer who started training when she was 6 years old - Insider - INSIDER - December 18th, 2020
- 2020 in Review | 10 AI Papers That Made an Impact - Synced - December 18th, 2020
- Artoo, take the wheel: U-2 spy plane flies for the first time with an AI co-pilot - DefenseNews.com - December 18th, 2020
- Star Wars: Every Apprentice Palpatine Had (In Canon and Legends) - Screen Rant - December 18th, 2020
- AI co-pilots US Air Force spy plane for the first time - The Next Web - December 18th, 2020
- Meet the modern-day Beth Harmon, a chess influencer who started training when she was 6 years old - Business Insider India - December 18th, 2020
- RING CITY USA OFFICIAL WEIGHTS AND QUOTES AHEAD OF FINAL THURSDAY FIGHT NIGHT OF 2020 Boxing News Boxing, UFC and MMA News, Fight Results, Schedule,... - December 18th, 2020
- Exclusive Giroud and Kante interview | Official Site - Chelsea FC - December 17th, 2020
- Air Force uses AI on military flight for first time | TheHill - The Hill - December 17th, 2020
- Z-Corp in association with OCC launches online platform to teach chess - Times of Oman - December 16th, 2020
- Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold on What It's Really Like to Endure the Premier League's Notorious "Festive Period" - InsideHook - December 16th, 2020
- The View from 2nd Marine Air Wing: The Perspective of Major General Cederholm - Second Line of Defense - Second Line of Defense - December 16th, 2020
- Chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand opens an online academy to find the next Anand - Business Insider India - December 15th, 2020
- 5 Free Ways to Learn How to Play Chess Online and Improve Your Skills - MakeUseOf - December 13th, 2020
- Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Courses Go (Mostly) Virtual for Winter 2021 - ThurstonTalk - December 13th, 2020
- Clean and Clear Advantage Recovery drug rehab has open house - Parkersburg News - December 13th, 2020
- Singapore chess and The Queen's Gambit: Has the Netflix show raised interest in the game? - CNA - December 12th, 2020
- Maybe shake hands and move on? - Plainsman - December 11th, 2020
- Media Bashing of Murray Taken to New Lows - Revenge of the Birds - December 11th, 2020
- The real Queens Gambit: Judit Polgar | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany - DW (English) - December 9th, 2020
- Dear Adult Leaders: We're Still Teaching Like We're Training 19th Century Factory Workers. Think Beyond Classroom Walls to Nurture Innovators and... - December 9th, 2020
- Facebook Gaming Launches The New Black Gaming Creator Program - Bleeding Cool News - December 9th, 2020
- What the Tech? Gadget Gifts: Chess Set and Mirror - Alabama News - Alabama News Network - December 8th, 2020
- 'Capitalists tend to adopt technologies only as and when they suit their purposes' - Morning Star Online - December 8th, 2020
- Wanderers' Jems Geffrard is ready for 2021: 'We have unfinished business' - Canadian Premier League - December 8th, 2020
- "All we have done really is earned another two weeks' training" - GAA Football & Hurling - December 8th, 2020
- Rob Pelinka, Frank Vogel are excited about the state of the Lakers - Silver Screen and Roll - December 6th, 2020
- Online interactive chess training - The Hindu - December 5th, 2020
- India at the Para Olympiad: In conversation with FM Niranjan Navalgund - Sportskeeda - December 5th, 2020