Friday, July 17, 1998Chess
Our Golden Boy Shines againBy Quah Seng Sun
ALL right, let's come clean. What have you been doing during your nights in the past month? Seated in front of the television set, I suppose.
Well, I have to admit that that was what I did, to a reasonable extent, of course. After all, who can avoid the lure of the year's greatest sports spectacle? The magic and skills of strikers like Ronaldo, Zidane, Suker and others, crudely counterbalanced by the overpowering bombardment of Ricky Martin's overhyped soccer anthem!
We shall not be witnessing the World Cup again until the year 2002, but four years can be considered a relatively short wait for football.
I have been waiting patiently for the past 14 years for it to happen, and I am glad to announce to readers that it has happened at last! After 14 years, Malaysia has her second international master!
There are no prizes for guessing who this player is. It can only be Mas Hafizulhelmi who is currently our strongest player. While your eyes and mine were on France, Mas Hafizul had quietly drifted into Singapore to take part in an international tournament there.
This was a double round-robin event with a six-player field, and Mas Hafizul was one of three players chasing for a title norm. He had earlier obtained two international master norms at the First Saturday tournaments in Hungary last year and hungered for a third one to fulfil the requirements.
Mas Hafizul has had various other attempts at his third norm, including the Asian junior chess championship in Iran last month, but the results had not been encouraging. In Singapore, he finally made sure that the norm would not elude him this time.
Our player had a rather inauspicious start to this tournament. In his first game, he could only manage a draw against Singapore's Mooi Kok Onn and he followed this with another draw in his second game, against Singaporean international master Hsu Li Yang. Disaster struck in the third game which he lost to Singaporean Fide master Terry Toh.
Two draws then followed, against Vietnam's international master Tu Hoang Thong and Chinese international master Wu Shaobin, and so, at the midway point of the tournament, Mas Hafizul was lying in fifth place with only two points from five games.
For Mas Hafizul to achieve an IM norm, he would need to score a total of six points from the 10 games. After the first half of the event, it looked like a tall order for him as he would now require four points from the remaining five games.
Luckily for him, his indifferent start to the title chase seemed to awaken him. For in the second half of the tournament, Mas Hafizul was a changed player. Firstly, he accounted for both Mooi and Hsu in the sixth and seventh games and then he agreed to a draw with Toh in the eighth game.
He fought to overcome Tu in the ninth game, which left him needing only half a point to realise his dream. In the final round of the tournament, the dream became a reality when Wu agreed to split the point with Mas Hafizul.
Final standings: Wu Shaobin (6 1/2); Hsu Li Yang (6 1/2); each, Mas Hafizul (6); Terry Toh (6); Tu Hoang Thong (4 1/2); Mooi Kok Onn (1/2).
Incidentally, it was also in Singapore way back in 1984 when Malaysia obtained her first international master. Fourteen years ago, Jimmy Liew was a joint winner of the second leg of the Asian IM chess circuit in Singapore, and this result gave him the necessary norm for the international master title. Liew was rewarded RM5,000 by the Malaysian Chess Federation for his success; Mas Hafizul should receive a similar sum too.
With this IM title now, it is expected that Mas Hafizul will now allow chess to take a back seat for the rest of the year. Already, there are indications that he is not interested to play in the Elista Chess Olympiad as he will be sitting for the SPM examinations this November.
Bayview so far
IN the fifth round of the eighth Bayview Chess League last Sunday, Penang Free School 'A' further extended their lead in the Premier Division after beating Methodist Boys School 3-1.
Old Frees Association 'A' drew 2-2 with Chung Ling Old Boys Association while Chung Ling High School 'A' beat Universiti Sains Malaysia 3 1/2-1/2.
In other matches, Chung Ling High School 'B' beat MSSPP Juniors 2 1/2-1 1/2, and Pessca beat Old Frees Association 'B' 2 1/2-1 1/2.
Division One saw three drawn matches: Penang Free School 'B' with Penang Development Corporation, Union High School with Chung Hwa Confucian 'A', and Chung Ling High School 'D' with Penang Free School 'C'. St Xavier's Institution 'A' beat Hewlett-Packard 2 1/2-1 1/2, while Chung Ling High School 'C' beat Penang Chess Association Novices 4-0.
In Division Two, MSSPP Girls drew with Chung Hwa Confucian 'B'. Their lead is now shared with Penang Free School 'D' which beat Methodist Boys School 'B' 3 1/2-1/2. The Police scored a 3-1 win over Penang Chinese Girls High School, while Dynacraft beat Westlands Secondary School 4-0. The encounter between St Xavier's Institution 'B' and Chung Ling High School 'E' was drawn. Standings:
Premier Division: PFS A (17); OFA A (14); CLHS A (13 1/2); CLOBA (12 1/2); MBS A (9 1/2); Pessca (9); MSSPP Jrs (7); OFA B (6 1/2); CLHS B (6); USM (5).
Division One: PFS B (16 1/2); CLHS C (16); SXI A (14); PDC (13); CLHS D (9 1/2); Hewlett-Packard (9); PCA Novices (6); PFS C (6); Chung Hwa A (5); Union (5).
Division Two: MSSPP Girls (14); PFS D (14); Police (13 1/2); Chung Hwa B (13); SXI B (12); CLHS E (10 1/2); MBS B (9 1/2); Dynacraft (8 1/2); PCGHS (3 1/2); Westlands (1 1/2).
The round-by-round results of the Bayview Chess League can be viewed on the Penang Chess Association homepage (www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Stadium/2379/).
Meanwhile, the sixth round of the chess league will be played this Sunday beginning 10am at The City Bayview Hotel's revolving restaurant. The hotel is sponsoring the use of their premises for the weekly games.