Monday, July 12, 2010

Stories from beyond the board - IM Andronico Yap (1961 - 1990)

The story of this young Filipino master is a tragic one. But let's start with the chess part first.

Andronico Yap talents was given a chance to shine at the 1979 Marlboro Chess Classic in Manila. He was a helper at the event, operating those huge demonstration boards in the days when such things were still done manually.

When one of the participants was unable to show up in time, Yap was picked to take his place - apparently because he was the strongest chess player amongst the staff. So from being a board operator he ended up as one of the participants in a major grandmaster tournament! At that time he was still unrated so his final score - six wins ,five losses and a draw can be considered a wild success. Among his wins are those over the Russian grandmaster Dorfman, fellow Filipinos , Maninang , IM Bordonada and IM Mascarinas, Indonesian IM Bachtiar and Australian master Shaw.

For an unknown , it was certainly a dream debut. At the time, he was widely considered to be the next Filipino grandmaster after Eugene Torre.

I first met Yap when he was in Malaysia for the Asian Junior. He was short and physically small for his age with a round almost angelic face. He looked a good 3-4 years younger than his real age, which I later found out was only three years younger than me. Yet at the time, I thought he was perhaps fifteen when he should already be in his late teens.

I noticed he hardly spoke and only smiled when I asked him questions about himself. I thought he was just shy but I remember the way he behaved which was rather inapproriate. Perhaps this was a manifestation of his disturbed mind which again I only found out much later.

The story was that one day his parents took him to Rizal Park. This is a famous and popular park in Manila. On week-ends you can find thousands of foreigners and visitors there. At the park both of his parents were killed  by robbers right in front of the boy. The damage to his mind is unimaginable.

Orphaned at this early age, he had to work  variously as a dishwasher, shoeshine boy and even as a jaga kereta (someone who watches your parked car for a fee).

Yap eventually became and international master but the grandmaster title eluded him. He did make a first norm but his chess started deteriorating. By the age of twenty-nine he was dead - drowned in the sea. Speculations were that it was a suicide.

When I was informed by my Filipino friends of his death by drowning. I immediately suspected that he had killed himself. Personally, I believe he was mentally unstable all his life, due to the tragedy that happened to him as a child. One does not overcome something like this without professional help and I do not know if he received any.  Another reason could be that he never succeeded in his career. He never managed to achieve the grandmaster title even though he had many chances playing in the USSR and Europe. Going through his games, I found many well-known chess names -Romanishin, Inkiov, Tal, Bagirov, Smagin, Speelman, Sax, Balashov, Tukmakov, Dorfman , Keene and so on. It did not help that at that time, Philippine chess was going through a dark age after Campomanes became FIDE president.

It is quite a cautionary tale for those who choose chess as the only career in their life. You need a fallback in case the chess don't work out so if you think education does not matter as long as you have your chess, think again.


Ramskoky said...

So do you have any regrets putting in insane amount of hours in chess in your teens or as a young adult when you prob could have pursued a safe degree and job security?

John Wong said...

There were many others like Yap who were victims of circumstances, like Ruben Rodrigues, Chia Chee Seng, TN Parameswaran etc to name a few. It goes to show how tough it is to make it on one's effort when your next meal depends on your next move. Most of these players were uncompromising and thus any title had to be earned through tough fights. Several did not make it to GM though they were strong IMs, like Mascarinas, Ricky De Guzman,Enrico Sevilliano, Domingo Ramos, Cris Ramyrat, Adrian Pacis, Glen Boronada to name a few.

Goes to show how critical it is to work with the powers that be, or else your future is ruined.

abdooss said...

There was a Chess Saying - "the Mass thought Chess made Sane People Insane; No, it is the opposite. Chess makes the Insane sane"

I prefer the latter, as Chess helps making monotonous everyday life to be bearable and exciting.

hairulov chessmaniacs said...

Well written story Jimmy! Hope to hear more.



Jimmy Liew said...

Ramone, there is no point in regrets, the past is the past, nothing can be changed. My circumstances could be very different now if I had chosen a different path back then. For example, if not for chess, I would not have met my wife.

Jimmy Liew said...


You do understand the situation very well. Most of the Filipinos you mentioned have left the Philippines to find work. Ruben Rodriguez has passed on. Both De Guzman and Barcenilla emigrated to US. Barcenilla recently completed his GM requirements. Glenn Bordonada gave up chess and now is very successful, I hear he is the Vice President of a large corporation in Philippines. The rest are still in chess working as trainers and coaches.

Unknown said...

There are lots of chess talents in the Philippines, but only a chosen few are allowed to shine and got international exposure. IM Andronico Yap was oftentimes beaten by my cousin, Prudencio Achazo, an erstwhile Pangasinan chess champion and now a respectable bishop-pastor of a Pentecostal church in California. The matches were the so-called famous Pinoy sidestreet "pustahan" ( i.e., betting ) games, wherein the loser would have to pay money ( bet) to the chess winner, and a watcher ( or watchers ) or street observers placing bets on the winning player would also reap money-bets from co-watchers or co-observers putting bets for the losing chess player. IM Andronico Yap loved to play such "betting" games in the sidestreets of Manila even when he was already ordained as a full-pledged IM. My cousin is still "in love" with chess and lamented the fact that most Filipinos with promising talents in sports, like chess, are not recognized by the government sports officials who invariably employ "favoritism" and dip dirty and corrupt fingers into the sports coffers or funds.

Unknown said...

Yes, it's true. Being a professional chess player means battling perennially with penury. That is why most Filipino masters today are employed indirectly with the government forces ( like reserve officers of the Army, Navy, etc.), and some are establishing chess clinics and schools or are employed as chess instructors or coaches in universities or schools with the rank of a faculty member )-- so as not to suffer hunger while campaigning in chess tournaments. Some will go abroad, and work or immigrate in a foreign land, and still continue to play chess.

We can easily recognize

Anonymous said...

Very sad, Jimmy! We became good friends during a tournament in KL in '81 and I never expected that his life will take a tragic turn. He married at a very young age and always talk fondly of his wife and baby and seemed so devoted to them.

Thanks for keeping the memory of him alive.

Rest In Peace Andronico Yap aka Boyette

Mohd Noor

Jimmy Liew said...

Thanks for dropping by , my friend. We are missing you in the chess world :)

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