Low key af­fair

All is quiet on the Asian front.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LEISURE - QUAH SENG SUN

THE first time is al­ways very event­ful – the first time you take part in a lo­cal tour­na­ment, the first time you re­turn home with a prize, the first time you rep­re­sent the coun­try in a sports event. For or­gan­i­sa­tions, it may be the first time your game is fea­tured in a multi-sport event like the SEA Games, or the Asian Games.

I re­mem­ber when chess was first in­cluded in the SEA Games in Viet­nam in 2003, the Malaysian Chess Fed­er­a­tion (MCF) made a lot of fuss over the fact.

Rightly so, be­cause it also marked the first time the MCF ever went any­where un­der the ban­ner of the Olympic Coun­cil of Malaysia (OCM).

Chess was also in the 2005 SEA Games in the Philip­pines and the Malaysian chess play­ers were also right there mix­ing with the ath­letes of the other sports. But there­after, for the 2007 Games in Thai­land and the 2009 Games in Laos, chess was dropped.

Nev­er­the­less, there is also the Asian Games which is a much big­ger and more sig­nif­i­cant mul­ti­sport event than the SEA Games. When chess was in­tro­duced to the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, there was much hope that the MCF would par­tic­i­pate, but it did not.

But be­ing ab­sent once does not mean be­ing ab­sent a sec­ond time. This year at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, the Malaysian chess play­ers are fi­nally there.

It was a rather small con­tin­gent of three chess play­ers that were picked for duty in Guangzhou: Mok Tze Meng, Alia Anin Bakri and Nur Nabila Az­man. They would play in only the men’s and women’s in­di­vid­ual rapid chess tour­na­ments and come home im­me­di­ately. There would be no Malaysian team in the men’s and women’s clas­si­cal chess tour­na­ments.

When I asked the MCF sec­re­tary about this, he said that ev­ery­thing boiled down to mainly two is­sues: fund­ing and player avail­abil­ity.

As far as the OCM was concerned, chess was in their B cat­e­gory of games, which means that if the MCF wanted to play in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the fed­er­a­tion or the play­ers would have to raise their own funds.

As for player avail­abil­ity, many of them were indis­posed due to work. Some had al­ready taken time off for other tour­na­ments so it was near im­pos­si­ble for them to play again this year. So a de­ci­sion was taken not to play in the team events.

All that was left was for Mok, Alia and Nur Nabila to play in the in­di­vid­ual rapid chess events. Per­haps be­cause of this, the MCF de­cided against in­form­ing the Malaysian chess pub­lic about our par­tic­i­pa­tion in this Asian Games. Per­son­ally, I feel that in­stead of keep­ing it very low key, the MCF should still have an­nounced it just for the record.

Mok played in the men’s rapid chess in­di­vid­ual tour­na­ment and fin­ished 38th, while both Alia and Nur Nabila par­tic­i­pated in the women’s rapid chess in­di­vid­ual tour­na­ment and fin­ished in the 22nd and 28th spots, re­spec­tively. Both events con­sisted of nine rounds of rapid chess games and these were com­pleted in four days.

As a mea­sure of the strength of the men’s rapid chess tour­na­ment, 12 of the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries sent their top grand­mas­ters. In­deed, Mok found out the hard way that ne­go­ti­at­ing his way through this mine­field of grand­mas­ters was no easy task. His quest for a first grand­mas­ter ti­tle norm will have to wait.

The rapid chess gold medal went to Uze­bek­istan’s Rus­lan Kasimdzhanov who scored 7½ points. Kasimdzhanov was the FIDE world chess cham­pion in 2004 and he had been work­ing with Viswanathan Anand in prepa­ra­tion for the lat­ter’s world chess cham­pi­onship matches in 2008 and 2010.

Viet­nam’s Le Quang Liem also scored 7½ points but he had to set­tle for the sil­ver. The bronze medal went to China’s Bu Xiangzhi.

The women’s rapid chess tour­na­ment also fea­tured sev­eral top­class play­ers that in­cluded three with full-fledged grand­mas­ter ti­tles.

The Chi­nese grand­mas­ters made a clean sweep of the top medals with Hou Yi­fan, as the out­right win­ner of the event, tak­ing the gold and Zhao Xue the sil­ver. In­dia’s Dron­avalli Harika took the bronze.

Mean­while, there are 17 teams tak­ing part in the men’s team tour­na­ment and 12 teams in the women’s team tour­na­ment. In both events, China are the top seeds for the gold medal. The ninth and fi­nal round of both events is sched­uled for to­day.

Up next

> The Perak In­ter­na­tional Chess As­so­ci­a­tion, the Perak Schools Sports Coun­cil and KLK Ber­had will jointly or­gan­ise the Perak closed cham­pi­onship at the De­wan MSN in Ipoh to­mor­row and on Sun­day. Only play­ers born, re­sid­ing and work­ing in the state are el­i­gi­ble to take part. Nine rounds, 45-minute time con­trol games. En­try fees are RM15 (PICA mem­bers and play­ers be­low 16) and RM20 (oth­ers). Con­tact Yunus (% 013-390 8129) to reg­is­ter.

> Kids For Chess camp for be­gin­ners, in­ter­me­di­ate-level and as­pir­ing tour­na­ment play­ers will be held at the Pan­dan Lake Club in Pan­dan Per­dana, KL, on Dec 1-2. En­try fee is RM90 per head. Clos­ing date is Nov 30. More in­for­ma­tion at kid­s4chess.com.

> The Pe­nang Chess As­so­ci­a­tion (PCA) will hold the an­nual Pe­nang Chess League at the SJKC Kheng Thean in Jalan Van Praagh, Ge­orge Town, on Dec 4-5. Seven rounds, one-hour time con­trol games. En­try fees per team are RM150 (open cat­e­gory), RM90 (un­der-18 teams) and RM60 (un­der-12 teams). En­tries close on Dec 1. Call Tan Eng Seong (% 012-429 9517) for de­tails.

> The PCA will stage the Pe­nang Her­itage City in­ter­na­tional open at City Hall in Ge­orge Town, on Dec 8-12.

This will be a FIDE-rated event with a RM5,000 first prize. Nine rounds, full time con­trol games. En­try fees for the open tour­na­ment are RM50 (Fide-rated player), RM150 (PCA mem­ber) and RM180 (oth­ers), while for the chal­lengers sec­tion, RM30 (Fide-rated player), RM50 (PCA mem­ber) and RM80 (oth­ers).

Con­tact Tan Eng Seong (% 012429 9517 / es­tan64@streamyx. com).

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