Friday, August 28, 1998Chess
Bad time for chess
By Quah Seng Sun
THESE days, things are simply not going well for the World Chess Federation. Apart from the problems surrounding their president Kirsan Iljumzhinov who faces questions concerning the death of a critical opposition newspaper editor in the Soviet Kalmyk Republic, there have been calls by various parties to boycott the Chess Olympiad next month in Elista, the republic's capital.
The main call to boycott this event comes from an organisation known as the Glasnost Defense Foundation. Among many things, this little-known body claims that the money for the Chess Olympiad was obtained by violations of Russia's state and human laws, and that money meant for industrial and agricultural development in Kalmykia was diverted to build the many facilities for the Chess Olympiad.
There are also two damning articles written by a woman player from England, Sarah Hurst, in two reputable international chess magazines, Chess and New In Chess. She went to Elista, enjoyed Kalmykian hospitality and then proceeded to proclaim that the Kalmykians are not ready to hold the games.
In her articles, Hurst roundly condemns Iljumzhinov and the organisers, and tears apart their preparations. She then makes an impassioned plea to players to join in a boycott of the Chess Olympiad. So far, it looks like many of the top chess players of the developed nations in Europe and also Australia have been duped by her and will not be going to Elista.
But the World Chess Federation has been fighting back. In a recent circular to all its member national chess federations, Fide says it will continue to rely on the findings of properly constituted competent legal organs in Russia. Fide claims there is no truth that the people of Kalmykia were taxed or extorted by their government to host the Chess Olympiad.
Nevertheless, Fide concedes that things can still go wrong even with the best planned and excellently executed programmes. Unforeseen problems can still emerge to detract from most of the positive aspects of the event, says the federation.
The Elista Chess Olympiad is not the only sticky problem facing Fide in recent weeks. Another potential problem looks set to explode from Shenyang in China where the women's Candidates final match between Alisa Galliamova-Ivanchuk and Xie Jun was supposed to take place.
On Aug 15, the date when the match between the two players was to start, the Chinese organisers were left to twiddle their thumbs when Galliamova failed to turn up in Shenyang.
Subsequently, the International Chess Association of China issued a statement that, due to Galliamova's non-appearance, Xie Jun had qualified to face reigning women's world champion Zsuzsa Polgar for the title.
The association also wants compensation from Fide for the inconvenience and embarassment to the organisers and match sponsors following Galliamova's no-show.
Interestingly, it was reported in Mark Crowther's The Week In Chess website that Galliamova wanted to play half of the match in her home city of Kazan, in Russia, but the city could not raise the US$120,000 (about RM500,000) needed for the second half of the match. She considered the conditions unfair, hence leading to her non-appearance. An appeal against the default looks imminent.
Four simultaneous chess events featuring three of the country's top players are being planned for Sympo98, a showcase event which will be held at the same time as the Commonwealth Games in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, next month.
According to the Malaysian Chess Federation, international master Mas Hafizulhelmi is scheduled to give a simultaneous chess display at Sympo98's "The Challenge'' Pavilion on Sept 12 and 13.
On Sept 19, national master Mok Tze Meng will give a similar display. The final simultaneous chess display on Sept 20 will involve international master Jimmy Liew.
These three top Malaysian players have agreed to play against 50 opponents at the same time. On these four days, the simultaneous chess displays will begin at 2pm and the playing sessions are expected to last about five hours.
Visitors to Sympo98 on these days will be eligible to play against Mas, Mok or Liew, subject to the availability of places. No fee will be charged for their participation, except for the entrance fee to Sympo98 itself which is RM10 for adults and RM5 for children. Anyone winning against the MCF players will receive a prize from the organisers.
Sympo98 is a support facility offered to the people who come for the Commonwealth Games. The sprawling site, covering some 7ha of land leased from Technology Park Malaysia, is adjacent to the National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil. Although the Commonwealth Games begins only on Sept 11, Sympo98 will be open to the public from Sept 3 onwards.
Other attractions at Sympo98 include a Malaysian food fair featuring both local and Western cuisine, an amusement park, an information technology cyber-mall, an education fair pavilion, a bazaar selling made-in-Malaysia products, an arts and culture centre, and a centre for live entertainment.
The 17th Merdeka team chess championship starts this afternoon at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. Seven rounds have been scheduled for this event. Today's rounds are at 3pm and 7.45pm; tomorrow's at 9am, 1pm and 4.30pm; Sunday's at 9am and 1.30pm.
Prizes for the state section are RM2,000, RM1,500 and RM1,000. The winner will also receive the Deputy Prime Minister's challenge trophy. The five prizes in the youth section are RM1,000, RM750, RM500, RM300 and RM150. The Merdeka youth challenge trophy will also go to the winner.
In the open section are seven prizes. The winning team will receive RM2,000 and the runner-up RM1,500. The other prizes are RM1,000, RM800, RM600, RM400 and RM200. In addition, there are special prizes for the best government department, women's, school and family teams.
In Johor Baru, the eighth Johor Baru open Merdeka tournament, jointly organised by the Johor Baru District Chess Club and Johor Land Bhd, will take place on Sunday at the Dewan Menara Komtar. Cash prizes will be given to the 10 winners of the open, under-16 and under-12 sections.
The Miri Malay Association and the Shell Lutong Club will jointly organise a two-day Merdeka Day chess open in Miri. Four games will be played tomorrow and the remaining three on Sunday. There are 10 prizes on offer.
Bandaraya Chessmaster 98
Players in the south can look forward to another tournament in Johor Baru next month. This time, the Johor Baru District Chess Club will organise the Bandaraya Chessmaster 98 tournament on Sept 13 together with the Persatuan Perkhidmatan Perbandaran Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru.
This event will be divided into the open, government body, under-16 and under-12 sections. The open and age-group sections will each offer 10 prizes (cash for the open section and vouchers for the two age-groups) while the government body section will have five cash prizes.
The biggest prizes are reserved for the open section where the winner will receive RM1,300. The second prize is RM800, third prize RM500, fourth prize RM400, fifth RM300, sixth RM250, seventh RM200, eighth RM150, ninth RM100 and 10th RM50.
Entry fees are RM30 for the open and government body sections, RM7 for the under-16 section and RM5 for the under-12 section. The closing date is Sep 7t and only the first 350 entries will be accepted.
For more information, call Sarwan Sirkam (07-228 2607), Shaan Shah Mohd Nasir (019-751 2010) or Narayanan Krishnan (07-333 8215).