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Filipino Chess Master Can Paint Your House, or Portrait, Too

Pinoy Newsmagazine, News Feature, Mariano Anong Santos Posted: Sep 03, 2009

Chicago, IL--Next time you need a painting job, you may hire Arnold V. Benesa. If the work calls for a fresh coating of paint for your home, thats fine, he is a house painter and a general maintenance guy. Thats how he earns his living.

But if you want your portrait done, let Arnold do it. He is very good at it.

When he says he can cut your hair too, hes not kidding. He is a good barber, too. Arnold has many good skills but it is in chess that he excels.

I visited his apartment at North Clark Street a few days after the death of the legendary chess master Bobby Fischer. The walls of his apartment are lined with portraits of world chess masters.

I hit his soft spot when I mentioned Fischer. Arnold recalled that he met the master in Manila when Fischer was a guest of then President Marcos. How he wished now that he had taken time to have his picture taken with the tempestuous genius of the board. He admires his classic moves.

As tribute to his idol, he finished an oil painting of Fischer as he appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine back in the 1970s.

That, along with the portraits of some 12 other masters that he had finished, will be donated to a chess museum in Florida, Armold said.

Occasionally, Arnold accommodates a commissioned work from a friend or a relative like his cousin Ven who asked him to paint a portrait of his late father (Arnolds uncle) which seemingly watched them while they played a round of chess on the day I visited them.

Ven Benesa who finished a fine arts degree from the University of Sto.Tomas concedes that his cousin Arnold is a natural. Arnold has no formal training in art. But he discovered his talent quite late in life.

Arnold was a mechanical engineering student at the Far Eastern University when he just got bored and dropped out of school. But words about his talent on the chess board had spread, until the San Miguel Corporation hired him as a waste management inspector. In reality the firm wanted him to head its chess team.

San Miguel was not disappointed. For seven years, the firm dominated the chess tournament championship until one day the bohemian in Arnold caught up with him and he just get tired of winning prizes. He quit the firm along with the competitive circuit of chess champs.

He turned his attention to an empty canvass and tried his hand on oil painting. Even his brother who was then the art critic of the Philippine Daily Express was amazed at his hidden talent. Before he knew it he was hanging around the whos who in the world of Philippine art.

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