Filipino Chess Player: Rosendo Balinas, Jr.

Jul 17, 2007, 8:03 AM |

Rosendo Balinas, Jr.

Rosendo Carreon Balinas, Jr. (September 10, 1941 - September 24, 1998) was an International Chess Grandmaster from the Philippines. FIDE awarded him the International Master title in 1975 and the International Grandmaster title in 1976. Balinas was a lawyer by profession, as well as an acclaimed chess writer and journalist.

Balinas was considered the strongest Asian chess player during the 1960's and 1970's having won international tournaments in Hong Kong, Singapore and Manila during the period. At the 1966 17th World Chess Olympiad in Havana, Cuba, Balinas scored 15 1/2 points out of 20 games and was awarded the individual Silver medal award, behind the Gold medalist former World Champion GM Mikhail Tal. In the 1967 Meralco "Beat Bobby Fischer" match series in Manila, of the top 10 Filipino players, Balinas was the only then Philippine national master to hold the future World Chess Champion to a draw:

R. C. Balinas-R. J. Fischer, Manila 1967. Opening "Sicilian, Najdorf, Zagreb (Fianchetto) Variation"

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.g3 g6 7.Bg2 Bg7 8.O-O O-O 9.h3 Bd7 10.Nde2 Nc6 11.b3 b5 12.Be3 Qc8 13.Kh2 Qc7 14.Nd5 Nxd5 15.exd5 Nd8 16.Bd4 Rc8 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Qd4+ Kg8 19.c3 e5 20.dxe6 fxe6 21.Rad1 Nf7 22.f4 Qc5 23.Qxc5 Rxc5 24.Rd3 Rfc8 25.Rfd1 a5 26.g4 Kf8 27.Re3 Ke7 28.Bd5 Kf6 29.g5+ Ke7 30.c4 Nd8 31.Nd4 bxc4 32.bxc4 Kf7 33.Rde1 exd5 34.Re7+ Kf8 35.Rxd7 Rxc4 36.Ree7 Rxd4 37.Rxh7 Kg8 38.Rhg7+ Kf8 39.Rh7 1/2-1/2

Balinas was a seven-time Philippine chess champion, winning the Philippine National Championship and the Philippine Open Chess Championship six times. He notably shared the Meralco sponsored 1968 Philippine Open Chess championship title with celebrated Yugoslav Grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric in 1968.

In 1975, Balinas achieved a 5-5 score at the Manila Marlboro Classic International Chess Tournament, a half point short of the grandmaster norm, tying with Gligoric for 6th-7th place. Balinas defeated prominent world chess championship candidate grandmasters Lev Polugaevsky of Russia, Bent Larsen, Denmark, and Lubomir Kavalek of Czechoslovakia. GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Yugoslavia scored 7 points to win this tournament followed by GM Henrique Mecking of Brazil with 6 points. The pre-eminent Philippine GM Eugenio Torre scored 3.5 points tying for the last 10th to 11th places with Norway IM Leif Ogaard.

Rosendo Balinas achieved his greatest victory at the 1976 USSR (now Ukraine) Odessa International Tournament, winning with a 10-4 score. Balinas was undefeated against all Russian opponents, and a point ahead of European and Ukrainian Champion and future U.S. Champion Lev Alburt, and the Absolute Russian Chess Champion Vladimir Savon (the 'Absolute' title was bestowed upon Savon's winning the 1971 USSR Championship ahead of three former world champions Vassily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, and Anatoly Karpov).

Further behind the Odessa tournament were Tallinn and Moscow Champion Ukraine GM Konstantin Lerner, Polanica Zdroj and Sofia Champion Czech GM Jan Plachetka, Twice Moscow Champion GM Mikhail Tseitlin, Bulgarian Champion GM Georgi Tringov, Hungarian Champion GM Istvan Bilek, East German Champion GM Lutz Espig, Riga Interzonal qualifier and U.S. GM James Tarjan, Ukrainian and USSR Vice Champion GM Vladimir Tukmakov, Moscow Champion Anatoly Lutikov, and former World Championship contender David Bronstein. Italian Champion IM Enrico Paoli, IM Fernando Silva of Portugal and USSR IM Felix Ignatiev, ELO 2497 also participated and placed in the lower half of the tournament. The No. 2 USSR player GM Viktor Korchnoi was slated to play but defected in Amsterdam.

Bobby Ang, a famous and distinguished Philippine chess columnist of Indo Chess and Philippine Business World recounted in his Chess Piece column:

"Vladimir Savon, the Absolute Russian Chess champion pre-tournament favorite, had been upset in the second round by Tseitlin and it was Balinas who jumped into the lead scoring 5.0/6. Savon gave chase and three rounds before the end of the tournament the two leaders met. The Philippine Chess Champion Balinas' decisive win over the Soviet Champion is considered the turning point of the tournament.

Balinas, Rosendo Carreon, Philippines (2365) - Savon,Vladimir A USSR (2545) Odessa, USSR, 1976. Benoni, Classical Defense.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.a4 Qe7 11.Nd2 a6 12.f4 Rb8 13.Kh1 b6 14.Nc4 Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Qxe4 16.Nxd6 Qe7 17.Nxc8 Rbxc8 18.Bxa6 Rcd8 19.Qb3 Nf6 20.Qxb6 Rxd5 21.Qb3 Rd4 22.a5 Ne4 23.Qf3 c4 24.Be3 Rd3 25.Rfe1 Bxb2 26.Bxc4 Rc3 27.Rab1 Rxc4 28.Rxb2 Qa3 29.Rb5 Re8 30.Re5 Rxe5 31.fxe5 Qxa5 32.Rf1 Qd5 33.Bh6 Rc3 34.Qf4 g5 35.Bxg5 Rc6 36.Bf6 Nxf6 37.exf6 h6 38.Qxh6 1-0

Two short draws in the final rounds, vs Bronstein and Tringov, and Balinas had accomplished his miracle. Balinas thereby became the first foreign player to win an international tournament in the Soviet Union since World Chess Champion Jose Raul Capablanca's win in Moscow, 1935 and GM Reuben Fine's wins in Leningrad, 1937 and Moscow, 1937. Balinas' remarkable accomplishment brought great honor to his country, the Philippines, a nation that is sorely in need of heroes."

As a result of his victory in Odessa, FIDE awarded Balinas the grandmaster title. This was most notable, particularly since Balinas' ELO rating was considerably lower than that of other grandmasters, and more so, despite his life long bitter conflict with the infamous ousted FIDE President Florencio Campomanes. Balinas' talent and strength was considered superior than Eugenio Torre, but he was egregiously shut out by Campomanes from competing in strong international tournaments, including the 1992 World Chess Olympiad held in the Philippines. Balinas was rated at 2517 as of June, 1977, placing him 125th out of the top 500 world chess players.

Here is Balinas' most famous game, a scorching win against the famous Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen, who played his beloved Larsen's Opening (1.b3):

Larsen-Balinas, Manila 1975. 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.Bb5 f6 5.d4 e4 6.Ne2 a6 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.c4 f5 9.Nbc3 Nf6 10.Nf4 Be7 11.cxd5 cxd5 12.Rc1 O-O 13.Na4 g5 14.Nh5 Ng4 15.h3 Nh6 16.Rc6 Bd6 17.h4 f4 18.hxg5 fxe3 19.Nf6+ Rxf6 20.gxf6 exf2+ 21.Kf1 Qxf6 22.Qh5 Bd7 23.Qxd5+ Kg7 24.Rxc7 Rd8 25.Rb7 Nf5 26.Rh3 e3 27.Qe4 Kf8 28.d5 Qg6 29.Qf3 Ke8 30.g4 Ng3+ 31.Rxg3 Qb1+ 32.Kg2 Qg1+ 33.Kh3 f1=Q+ 34.Qxf1 Qxf1+ 35.Rg2 Qh1+ 0-1