Chess With Manny Benitez' This game we all love...

I just learned the passing of sir Manny Benitez’, a great chess columnist and friend, from Wesley So’s
post on social media Facebook which also through sir Ignacio Dee of Manila Standard Today.

I wrote this little obit for Chess Philippines: Manny Benitez, a pillar of chess reporting, died on Tuesday at the age of 80, his widow Annie said. The wake is at Paz Funeral Homes, Araneta Avenue, Chapel B. Cremation is on Tuesday morning.

Well-known for his Manila Times scoop on the murder case that led to businessman Harry Stonehill’s departure from the Philippines in the early 1960s, Benitez became night editor of the Manila Times before moving to the Times Journal as a deskman who was sent to cover special events like the 1974 MNLF hostilities in Mindanao.

In 1978, he was sub-editor at the South China Morning Post and later the Hong Kong Standard. He was editor-in-chief of the post 1986 Manila Times and had a spell as sub-editor and columnist at Today.
But chess was a passion for Manny who wrote columns and reported on chess events at the South China Morning Post and the Hongkong Standard. He wrote a small book on Kasparov winning the 1985 world championship published by the South China Morning Post. As far as I know only Butch Llamas, our kumapre with Ed Andaya and Joey Antonio, has a copy.

After Today folded, Benitez began a weekly electronic chess newsletter where he wrote on various local events and chess news. After two years in ended on 2007. He was the first to write on the rising Wesley So and pointed out he will become part of the elite.

Chess lovers made Benitez’s column part of their Sunday reading fare and even clipped his column as I saw from parents who brought their kids to tournaments.
His column occupied one half of Today’s sports page, spiced with little turns of phrase and analysis. Such writing is rarely seen now. Before Wesley’s battle with Giri, let us remember Manny Benitez.

My fascination to his chess column started since 1993, with my brother started collecting his Weekly column entitled “Chess Games and Stars” and shift to “Chess Gems And Stars” published weekly and every Saturday on Phil Star broadsheet before transferring to TODAY entitled “Chess With Manny Benitez”. His column provides games with great analysis, trivia and puzzles. It also provides updates of the upcoming and ongoing tournaments that only can be checked through newspapers that time which unlike today it is easy to know what are the latest and upcoming chess events thanks to the world wide web and the meteoric rise of social media.

We actually collected every chess columns in the newspaper we learned like “Your Move” of sir Glenn G.M. Bordonada on broadsheet Inquirer, “Let’s Play Chess” by NM Edgar de Castro on Philippine Star, “Shelby Lyman On Chess” and “On The Chess Beat” by Frankie Lacambra & Tony Benedicto. But the most I cherished was sir Manny’s column because it never fail to provide a good game analysis, trivia and updates. I was become too upset when there are case I missed the issue because sometimes the news stand has no TODAY delivered or I am too busy and forgot to buy.

While collecting his column, my brother and I are manually simulating the analysis over the board. Chess computing is not that available before or you can have one if you can afford. His’ column gave us more in depth learning of chess through his games analysis.

It was 1994 when we started to participate answering his chess column problems. That time solving chess problem is hard, you need to simulate it overboard and write every possible solutions until you get it right. Unlike today you just open your mobile phone, open a chess app, clear the board, place the pieces in coordinates and click, “solve for mate” and presto! It will give you the shortest possible moves of a mate. One more thing, sending the solutions to his column is via the postal mail or snail mail which now they called. You have to send it right away to reach the deadline to post your name in the resolver that got the right answer to publish on the next issue of the column otherwise your name will be listed on the late solvers list.

Later on I became an avid contributor of regular puzzles to his column together with Salvador Suratos of Cabanatuan, Catalino Pestaño of Capiz, Severino Pagaduan of Quezon City, Christopher Valdoz of Old Balara, and the most famous puzzle builder and contributor among them is Joselito P. Marcos of Lae, Papua New Guinea. Take note that only original puzzle was being published and screened by Joselito Marcos for some improvements.


Sporting a new look! That was the article title when he started using my contributed logo

It was Thursday, October 3, 2002 when I onced designed and proposed a logo for his weekly column which to my delight he used! That started our email exchanges like a son to a father.


What did I do to preserve his columns? I consolidate and photocopied it to preserve the texts. Because I know the newsprint will not to last. I come up with 2 volumes bookbinded including some of my executive tournament games compiled.


Volume II treasure of compiled Chess With Manny Benitez'column

When he shifted and write newsletter “Weekender”, i still receiving and I still contributing originally composed puzzles. We still exchanges word of concerns. Until I never heard of him.

My deepest sympathy to the Benitez’ family, may his soul rest in eternal peace. Truly his passion and love to chess contributes a lot to aspiring talents through his magnificient chess column writing which rarely seen now. And I’m sure sir Manny will be happy now watching us. Farewell to you my friend, sir Manny. As you always end your complimentary closing remarks…

“Fraternally yours”

Problem Corner:

THIS puzzle, which passed muster when screened by JP Marcos, is dedicated by its creator to the memory of his father, who died in April 16.


Originally composed by author and published May 11, 2013

White to move and mate in 5 moves:
White: Kd7, Qd8, b3, c2, c4, d5, e2, e4, f3
Black: Kd4, c5, d6, e5