Friday, October 9, 1998
A little snag, but players cooperated
By Quah Seng Sun
IT WAS not exactly an ideal start the World Chess Federation (Fide) had hoped for, but the situation in Elista, where the 33rd Chess Olympiad is being played, was probably out of Fide's control.
The Chess Olympiad was supposed to have started on Sept 27 but because the hall, which was under construction, was not ready in time, Fide had no choice but to delay the start of the competition by two days. This meant the number of rounds were reduced from 14 to 13, and the rest days reduced to two.
Surprisingly, if reports from Elista were true, participants received this news with understanding.
The chief arbiter of the Olympiad, Geurt Gijssen, said: "I was amazed how the team captains wanted to cooperate and I consider it a positive meeting. Everybody understood the situation."
The former Fide president, Florencio Campomanes, commented that it was the best example of the Fide spirit he had seen.
But I believe the Fide Players Council chairman, Dutch grandmaster Jan Timman, probably summed up the true feelings of the players when he said that they went to play chess and had to accept the conditions since there were few alternatives.
Still, the players seemed satisfied with the living conditions in Elista. The Americans, usually the most vocal of critics, observed that no matter how bad the situation, there were very little complaints. Perhaps this was because they did not expect much either. But the delayed start of the Elista Olympiad was not Fide's only embarrassment. When the event began, the Fide home page at http://www.fide.com/elista98/olympiad.htm boasted of a daily update of the results. There were also a lot of photographs taken of the players, officials, the chess village and general places of interest in Elista.
Then, last Saturday, the home page was hacked. Anyone who logged onto the web site was greeted with a black screen and a message reading "hacked to Kasparov". There were no clues as to the origin of the hacker. Since this episode, the Olympiad news is officially released by Chess Planet at http://www.chessplanet.com.
At the last count, there are 110 men's and 72 women's teams at the Olympiad. Malaysia is represented, of course, but with only Wong Ji Zing, Ismail Ahmad, Ng Tze Han and Azahari Mohd Nor in the men's team. A women's team was not sent because of lack of funds.
By all considerations, the Malaysian team must rank as one of the weakest sent overseas in recent years. Jimmy Liew and Mok Tze Meng were not in the team due to work commitments. Mas Hafizulhelmi and Lim Chuin Hoong did not participate because of their coming examinations. And Lim Yee Weng, just back from a tournament in Dubai, thought that he had been away from his studies too long. Moreover, he was too tired to travel again.
The first round was a real baptism of fire for our players. There was no time for warm-ups, no practice games. In the first round, they met the Russia "3" team and was demolished 0-4. Let's face facts. The Russians are strong. I think even if we had played their fourth, fifth or whatever team, we would still have lost to them. That is a measure of the depth of players they have.
But our boys did not lack courage. Looking at the results so far, I know they have fought hard in all their matches. In the second round, they met Faroe Islands but were unfortunate to go down 1-3 to them. Wong and Ng drew their games.
In the third round, luck finally smiled on the Malaysians. This time, they were at the giving end of a 4-0 score to San Marino.
And in the fourth round, the Malaysians edged Luxembourg by a 2 1/2-1 1/2 score. The fifth round saw our boys go into their toughest match to date. Against the Mongolians, our boys acquitted themselves very well with a 2-2 draw. Wong and Ng won their games.
In the sixth round, the Malaysians came unstuck against Portugal, losing by 1/2-3 1/2. The draw was salvaged by Ng.
Meanwhile, among the top teams in the event, the most startling result came in the fifth round when the United States completed a 4-0 rout of the Netherlands. It was quite an unexpected result as very little separated the Americans from the Dutch.
On the first board, Timman met Alex Yermolinsky and lost a hard-fought game. Seirawan, Kaidanov, and DeFirmian contributed to the slaughter by beating Van Wely, Nijboer and Piket respectively.
At the end of the sixth round, the United States held a slim half-point margin over its nearest rival, Russia "1". The Americans had 18 points and the Russians 17 1/2.
The two teams had met in the preceding round and the match had gone to the Russians by a 2 1/2-1 1/2 result. Ukraine and Bulgaria were a further point behind in the standings with 16 1/2 points each, while Armenia, China and Estonia all had 16 points each.
Most of the top players in the world are playing here, but there are absentees too. Missing from the line-up are the Russian trio Gary Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and Vladimir Kramnik, while Viswanathan Anand is not in the Indian team.
There was excitement in the women's Olympiad as well. The most unexpected result came in the third round when the favourite, Georgia, fell 0-3 to a completely unheralded Vietnam team.
The Chinese team's play was very steady and they now lead with 14 1/2 points. Ukraine has only 13 points, while Romania, Estonia and Georgia have scored 12 1/2 points so far.
Johor Baru event
PLAYERS in the south can take part in the Jotic open chess tournament which is jointly organised by the Johor Baru District Chess Club and the Johor Tourism Corporation. This event will be played this Sunday at the third floor of the Bangunan Jotic in Johor Baru.
Entry fee is RM15 per player. For more details, contact Narayanan Krishnan ( 07-3338215).
New chess corner in Penang
THERE is good news for players in the north. Beginning this Sunday, chess players have an additional place to meet at the Berjaya Georgetown Hotel which is next to the Midland One-Stop Centre.
The hotel is providing a corner in their lounge on the first floor for the Penang Chess Association (PCA) to hold their chess activities every Sunday from 10am to 12.30pm. Starting in November, the PCA will organise weekly quiz contests and winners will receive prizes sponsored by Berjaya Georgetown.
Other activities such as exhibitions, lectures and category tournaments will be planned later.
The Berjaya Georgetown-Penang Chess Association joint project will provide Penang chess players a much-needed focal point in the city to meet and play chess. Besides this place, the PCA also maintains another meeting place at the RABB clubhouse in Bandar Bayan Baru on Sunday afternoons.