Friday, September 4, 1998Chess
The best Merdeka tourney
By Quah Seng Sun
I'M BRIMMING with enthusiasm. I have attended so many Merdeka team chess championships over the years and believe me, this year's event in terms of facilities must simply rate as the best ever!
The Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur proved very conducive for chess playing. The vast playing hall was big enough to accommodate all 74 teams. Looking around, I think there should not be any problem even if 200 or 250 teams were to take part. That's how spacious the place was!
The spectators were cordoned off from the playing area but close-circuit TV provided them with a clear view of the proceedings from the main games. One floor below, anyone could relax by playing skittles. And if the players or spectators were hungry, well, there were enough choices of nearby eating places to spoil even the most discerning tastes.
One of the most pleasant surprises was the accommodation accorded to the state and youth teams. The nearby Dynasty Hotel was the official hotel for the championship and although it was about a 10-minute walk from PWTC, I could see that none of the players were complaining.
So, about the facilities, there is only one feedback that I can give the organisers. The PWTC is simply one of the best venues for playing chess in the federal capital. Enough of Wisma Belia; the Malaysian Chess Federation should not even think about going back to that place.
Now to the competition itself. Possibly too, this year's event attracted the most number of entries. The state section had 14 teams, meaning that for the first time in many years, all the state affiliates were present at the Merdeka championship.
The competition for the Deputy Prime Minister's trophy was very keen and it was thrown wide open in the very first round when the unheralded Johor team sprang a 3-1 win over last year's winner, Penang.
Thereafter, a very determined Terengganu team took over the lead in the short, seven-round event but breathing heavily down its neck were the Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and, not least, the Penang teams.
Terengganu faltered at the last hurdle, going down to the Sarawak team. Penang managed to edge Kuala Lumpur 3-1 in the final round but Selangor, playing Kelantan, pulled off a 4-0 win to take the champion's trophy.
The Open section pulled in 34 entries. The Tan&Tan team came back into the tournament with a vengeance after seeing their chances blown away last year by the visiting Bali Jeff team from Indonesia.
The Indonesians, like the Singaporeans, were absent from the Open section this year and the Tan&Tan team, propped up by no less than international masters Mas Hafizulhelmi and Jimmy Liew on the first two boards, simply walked through the competition.
Mas Hafizul's chess prowess is certainly in the ascendency. He was never really tested throughout the event and the award of the first board prize to him was definitely warranted.
By now, Jimmy Liew has also realised that Mas Hafizul can no longer play second fiddle to him, and he has accepted that Mas Hafizul is now the automatic choice as the first board player in any team competition, whether locally or internationally.
Still, Liew does a remarkably good job on the second board. He brings in the points and that is what matters the most in team competitions.
So, as expected, Tan&Tan ran away with the competition.
The Royal Selangor Club team -- with Lim Yee Weng, Wong Zi Jing and Jimmy Ng among their players -- came second, and in third place was Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Mak Weng Yee, Teng Wei Hong, Wong Kim Kuan and Lau Kar Hoe were the anchors for the UTM team.
Fourth in the Open section was Nusa Mahkota, fifth was the Penang Veterans team, sixth was Universiti Pertanian Malaysia and seventh was Persatuan Catur Melayu Malaysia.
Colour in this section was provided by the Society for the Blind Malaysia but by now, everyone has accepted our visually challenged brothers as equals in this championship.
The prize for the best government department team went to Bank Pertanian Malaysia while Puteri Melayu PCMM won the prize for the best women's team. UTM also picked up a prize for the best university team.
In the Youth section, everybody was left breathless by the results of the Sekolah Catur Enerpac team. This group of under-12 players from Indonesia practically ran away with the title, leaving the rest of the local teams panting in its wake.
The revelation this year belonged to the Perak youth team, powered by Deon Moh and Aaron Yee, which pipped the pre-championship favourite, Penang, to the second prize. Fourth in this section was Johor and fifth was the Tian Ha team. Altogether, 26 teams from around the country took part.
The Penang Free School 'A' team picked up the award for the best school team, and the best girls' youth team went to Wanita Penang.
Perak Grand Prix
The Perak International Chess Association will hold the eighth stage of their chess grand prix at the Taman DR Seenivasagam in Ipoh this Sunday.
Six rounds are scheduled for the one-day event which is open to all chess enthusiasts in the state.
The overall grand prix standings will be based on the best five tournament performances of each player and the top 24 players at the end of the series will qualify for the state championship later this year.
For more details, contact W.K. Wong (05-366 1692).
Here is a reminder to players that the four simultaneous chess events at Sympo98, given by three of the country's top players, will be held on Sept 12, 13, 19 and 20. The Sympo98 site is in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.
Mas Hafizulhelmi is scheduled to be at Sympo98's The Challenge pavilion on Sept 12 and 13, while Mok Tze Meng will be on duty on Sept 19. The final simultaneous chess display on Sept 20 will feature international master Jimmy Liew.
These three players have each agreed to play against 50 opponents at the same time. On these four days, the simultaneous chess displays will begin at 2pm and the whole playing session is 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.
Bandaraya Chessmaster 98
Monday is the closing date for the Bandaraya Chessmaster 98 tournament at the Dewan Jubli Intan in Johor Baru on Sept 13.
This event is jointly organised by the Johor Baru District Chess Club and the Persatuan Perkhidmatan Perbandaran Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru.
The open and age-group sections of this tournament will offer 10 prizes each (cash for the open section and vouchers for the under-16 and under-12 sections) while the government body section will have five cash prizes.
The prizes are very attractive for the open section. First prize, for example, is RM1,300 while the second prize is RM800, third prize RM500, fourth prize RM400 and fifth prize RM300.
For more information, contact Sarwan Sirkam (07-228 2607), Shaan Shah Mohd Nasir (019-751 2010) or Narayanan Krishnan (07-333 8215).