Saturday, September 9, 2006


[Bobby Ang]

On Sunday we will observe the birthday of the second International Grandmaster from Asia, Rosendo C. Balinas, Jr., born 10th September 1941 and passed away 24th September 1998. He got his International Master title in the 1975 Melbourne Zonal Tournament, and the International Grandmaster title in 1976. Balinas was a lawyer by professional and also one of the best chess writers we have ever had.

IN the 60s and 70s Balinas had a well-followed chess column in the Graphics Magazine and later on also wrote for several newspapers. At the same time he was among the strongest Asian chess players, winning internationals in Hongkong, Singapore and Manila. Today, to mark his day of birth, let us go back in time and follow one of his great performances – this is the 1968 Meralco Open.

1968 Meralco Open
Jan 15-Feb 2, 1968

Final Standings
(W=wins, D=draws, L=losses)

W D L Total
1 Svetozar Gligoric 11 2 2 12.0/15
2 Rosendo Balinas 11 2 2 12.0/15
3 Renato Naranja 9 4 2 11.0/15
4 Ruben Rodriguez 10 2 3 11.0/15
5 Roumel Reyes 9 2 4 10.0/15
6 Julian Lobigas 7 4 4 9.0/15
7 Bela Berger 8 1 6 8.5/15
8 Edgar de Castro 6 5 4 8.5/15
9 Carlos Benitez 6 2 7 7.0/15
10 Glicerio Badilles 5 3 7 6.5/15
11 Eugenio Torre 4 4 7 6.0/15
12 Lim Kok Ann 3 5 7 5.5/15
13 Susano Aguilar 5 0 10 5.0/15
14 Samuel Estimo 5 0 10 5.0/15
15 Poul Rasmussen 1 2 12 2.0/15
16 Lee Keng Cheong 0 2 13 1.0/15

The tournament composition was made up of 11 finalists from eliminations nationwide and included 5 invitees – the favorite GM Svetozar Gligoric of Yugoslavia, at that time one of the world’s top players, IM Bela Berger of Australia, Lee Keng Cheong of Malaysia, Thai Master Poul Rasmussen and Dr. Lim Kok Ann of Singapore. The latter was in the future to become the long-time Secretary General of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) during the Presidential term of Hon. Florencio Campomanes.

In the very first round there was a sensation – GM Gligoric underestimated his opponent, tried too hard to win and was upset by Roumel Reyes.

Gligoric,Svetozar - Reyes,Romuel [D36]
Meralco Open Manila (1), 15.01.1968

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0–0 7.Bd3 h6 8.Bh4 Re8 9.Nf3 c6 10.Qc2 Nbd7 11.0–0 Ne4 12.Bxe4 Bxh4 13.Bh7+ Kh8 14.b4 Be7 15.b5 Bf8 16.Bd3 Bd6 17.bxc6 bxc6 18.Na4 Nf6 19.Nc5 Qe7 20.Rfc1 Ne4 21.Bxe4 dxe4 22.Nd2 Bf5 23.Rab1 Rab8 24.Rxb8 Rxb8 25.Ncb3 Rc8 26.Nc4 Bb8 27.f4 g5 28.fxg5 Qxg5 29.Qf2 Rg8 30.Ne5 Qh5 31.g3 f6 32.Nf7+ Kh7 33.Nd2 Qh3 34.Nf1 Rf8 35.Rc5 Be6 36.Nxh6 Kxh6 37.Rxc6 Kg7 38.Nd2 Bd7 39.Rc1 f5 40.Nb3 Bd6 41.Nc5 Bc8 42.Na4 Qh5 43.Nc3 Ba6 44.Nd5 Rc8 45.Rxc8 Qd1+ 46.Kg2 Bxc8 47.Nf4 Ba6 48.h3 Bb4 49.g4 Qd2 50.gxf5 Qxf2+ 51.Kxf2 Bc4 52.a4 Kf6 53.Nh5+ Kg5 54.Ng7 Bf7 55.Ne6+ Kxf5 56.Nc5 0–1

Rosendo Balinas took his chances and sprang into the lead, closely pursued by Gligoric and Berger. Bali was the defending champion and in fine form, as can be seen from his dismantling of Lim Kok Ann.

Balinas,Rosendo - Lim,Kok Ann [C05]
Meralco Open Manila (2), 16.01.1968

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ndf3 cxd4!? 8.cxd4 Nb6 9.Bd3 Bd7 10.Ne2 Be7 11.0–0 h5?!

The usual treatment for Black in this line is to allow his opponent complete freedom in the kingside while he prepares to go into action on the queenside. An important part of this master plan is the advance of Black's a-pawn. Dr. Lim prefers to make a blockade of the white squares in his kingside.

12.a3 a5 13.b3 g6 14.Kh1!

The Bobby Fischer maneuver - Kh1, Rg1 and g4.

14...Kf8 15.Rg1 Kg7 16.g4! hxg4 17.Rxg4 Rh3 18.Neg1 Rh5 19.Ra2

White's plan of attack is Ra2-g2, Ng1–e2-g3 followed by f4-f5.

19...Qh8 20.Rag2 Be8 21.Ne2 Bh4?

Best is 21...Kf8. The text move is well-motivated - Black wanted to chop off the knight when it lands on g3. However he overlooks a tactical blow ...

22.f5! exf5 23.Rxh4 Rxh4 24.Bg5

Threatening the rook as well as Bf6+ winning the queen.

24...Qh5 25.Nxh4 Nxd4 26.Qg1 Nf3 27.Nxf3 Qxf3 28.Qxb6 Qxd3 29.Qf6+ Kh7 30.Bh6!

Taking the bishop allows Qh8 mate. Black resigns. 1–0

In the 6th round all three leaders lost (Balinas to Ruben Rodriguez, Gligoric to Susano Aguilar and Berger to Estimo). Estimo, as most of you know, is the current Executive Director of the National Chess Federation (NCFP). Here is his attractive win.

Estimo,Samuel - Berger,Bela [B33]
Meralco Open Manila (6), 23.01.1968

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nde2 Bc5 7.Ng3 d6 8.Be2 a6 9.0–0 Be6 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.exd5 Ne7 12.c4 h6 13.Kh1 0–0 14.Bd3 b5 15.b3 bxc4 16.bxc4 Ng6 17.Qf3 Re8 18.Ne4 Nxe4 19.Bxe4 Rb8 20.g3 Ne7 21.Qh5 Qc8 22.g4 Bd4 23.Bxh6 Bxa1 24.Bxg7 Ng6 25.Bf6 Qxc4 26.Re1 Qb4 27.Bxg6 1–0

And here Susano Aguilar at his best.

Aguilar,Susano - Gligoric,Svetozar [B48]
Meralco Open Manila (6), 23.01.1968

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 Be7 7.0–0 0–0 8.Kh1 a6 9.f4 Qc7 10.Qe1 Nc6 11.Be3 Bd7 12.a3 Rac8 13.Qg3 Kh8 14.Nf3 e5 15.f5 Nb8 16.Ng5 Qd8 17.Rad1 h6 18.Qh3 Bc6 19.Bc4 Qe8 20.Bb3 Nbd7 21.Rf3 Nc5 22.Bd5 Bxd5 23.exd5 Ncd7 24.Rg3 Rg8 25.Rf1 Nf8 26.Nge4 N8h7 27.Nd2 Rxc3 28.bxc3 Nxd5 29.c4 Ndf6 30.Bg1 Qc6 31.Rb3 b5 32.Qd3 d5 33.cxb5 axb5 34.Rxb5 Rc8 35.a4 Ng5 36.a5 e4 37.Qb3 Nd7 38.Qxd5 Qxd5 39.Rxd5 Nb8 40.c4 Bb4 41.Be3 Bxd2 42.Bxd2 Nh7 43.Bc3 Na6 44.Rfd1 1–0

This 6th round massacre allowed NM Roumel Reyes to get within striking distance and even grab the lead in the 8th round, but he was knocked back down the standings by Balinas in the 9th. Bali took a half point lead over Gligoric and maintained this by matching the Yugoslav win for win before he stumbled and lost to Ruben Rodriguez in round 12. Take note of the fighting spirit that pervaded in this tournament. Out of the 120 total games in the tournament there were only 20 draws, or 16% - nowadays you would be lucky if only 50% of the games ended in remis.

In the final round Gligoric had no difficulty defeating Badilles and Balinas razzle-dazzled Estimo with a killing attack out of the opening.

Estimo,Samuel - Balinas,Rosendo [C58]
Meralco Open Manila (15), 02.02.1968

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Qf3?!

The text move was quite poopular in the middle of the 19th century (!) and was reintroduced into tournament practice in the 1920s by Bogoljubow and up to the 1980s people were still using it. Nowadays, though, it does not have a good reputation. Black receives more active and dangerous play for the pawn than in the main lines with 8.Be2.


Current theory holds that the best move for Black is 8...h6, and not the 8...Rb8 or 8...Qc7 given in your old opening books. This is already beyond the scope of our column today, but I’ll try to write something about recent developments in the Two Knights' defence soon.


Black's main responses here are 9...Nb7, 9...Bc5, or 9...Qd7. Balinas now uncorks his special preparation.

9...h6?! 10.Ne4 Nd5 11.Qb8

White is having trouble springing his queen from the corner. If 11.Qxa7 then 11...Nc6 12.Qa8 Qc7 and it is in danger of being trapped.

11...Nc6! 12.Qxb5 Ndb4! 13.Na3?

White should castle.


See? Now he can't.

14.Qa4 Qd4

Threatening ...Qxe4+ followed by mate. Take note that Estimo can't support the kngiht with 15.d3 because of 15...Nxd3+, winning the queen on a4.

15.Nc3 Bc5 16.d3 Qxf2+ 17.Kd1 0–0

Caption: position after 17...0-0

This diagram is just to let you see how wretched White's position is.

18.Re1 Qxg2 19.Bd2 Bf2 20.Ne2 Bxe1 21.Bxe1 Bc8

The exciting 21...Bxd3! 22.cxd3 Nxd3 wins faster, but why quibble?

22.Bxb4 Bg4 23.Kd2 Qxe2+ 24.Kc3 Rc8 25.Nc4 Nd4

Threat is ...Bd7 and the queen is lost because its defence of c2 is needed.

26.Be7 Be6 0–1

Rosendo Balinas tied for first with one of the world’s top players, and overall the local contingent, none of whom were internationally titled, did not show themselves to be in any way inferior to the foreign players.

Just reading those old Meralco bulletins really made me proud of our chess tradition.

Reader comments/suggestions are urgently solicited. Email address is

"This article first appeared in Bobby Ang's column in Businessworld (Philippines) on 08 September 2006"

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