It is widely known in boxing that sparring sessions aren’t always telling, and that one party is usually trying a lot harder than the other. It is quite possible that Manny Pacquiao was engaging in chess’ version of the sparring session the other day.
Currently, the eight-time world champion is sponsoring a major chess tournament in his native Philippines, and as part of the realm of his activity he squared off against the event’s organizer, Filipino grandmaster Eugene Torre, in a match consisting of 20 moves.
Pacquiao battled Torre to a draw, which was quite encouraging, regardless of the circumstances. After the twenty moves were concluded, the two agreed that the match would be halved and shook hands. Perhaps this was an arrangement that was made beforehand, but the crowd in attendance did not seem to mind very much.
Torre is an estimable player; in fact, he is the first grandmaster from Asia. So what Pacquiao accomplished would appear to be nothing to sneeze at. He is something of a student at the game, coining out with a Queen fianchetto variation as his defense, and Torre was summarily impressed.
Pacquiao informed the Philippine Star, which interviewed him after this match, that he was playing chess even before he became a boxer, so it is a sport that is very close to his heart. Hence his support of chess as it is played at its highest levels.
His presence is unquestionably felt at the Asian Continental Chess Championship, which is unfolding at the Midas Hotel in Pasay City through May 27. There is $100,000 in prize money up for grabs, with the winner taking home the “Manny Pacquiao Chess Cup.” And the top finishers get to go to the World Cup in Norway in a few months. Pacquiao not only loves chess, he also feels compelled to support sporting activities that take place in his native land as an overall part of his role as a congressman.
By all accounts, a good time was had by all. Pacquiao autographed a pair of boxing gloves for Torre, and the former champ received a marble chess board from Torre. Could there be a career for Pacquiao in chess after his boxing days are over? Perhaps not, but there are those who have suggested PacMan might be a natural for the bizarre hybrid game of chess boxing, which involves a little chess and a little punching, as players alternate doing each. That kind of contemplation seems a long way off, however, as Pacquiao continues on the road toward what might lead to a fifth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez.
This is basically one of the last leisure activities Pacquiao will take part in before embarking on serious training for a bout against Brandon Rios on November 23. He has not fought since last December, when he was knocked out by Marquez, and when he gets back into action it will be in Macau, because he has determined that the taxation scale in the United States was not something he wanted to endure. The fight will be held at a special time in order to accommodate live pay per view in the U.S., and it will also find a pay per view audience in China, which will be bolstered by the appearance of Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming.