Friday, December 31, 1999
By Quah Seng Sun
THE national closed chess championship ended a fortnight ago with a three-way tie at the top, which was unprecedented in the history of the championship. Two-way ties had occurred before, but never a tie among three players.
Even more remarkable was that the combined age of the three players was just 45 years. Lim Chuin Hoong and Teng Wei Khoon are both 16 years old and Jonathan Chuah is even younger at 13.
The three ended the nine-round championship, held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur, with 7.5 points each. Abiding by the rules, the Malaysian Chess Federation decided to have a play-off event for the national champion's title and the Datuk Sabbaruddin challenge trophy.
The double round-robin playoff was eventually won by Chuah who scored 3.5 points compared to Lim's 1.5 points. Teng collected one point. Chuah is by far the youngest player to become the national champion.
Lim had only himself to blame for missing out on the champion's title. He was the most solid player among the 67 contestants who represented the 13 state chess associations in the country. In the nine games that he played, Lim was undefeated with six wins and three draws.
Going into the final round, Lim was leading the field with seven points. This was only a slim half-a-point more than his closest rivals and nothing less than a win in his final game was required if he wanted the undisputed first prize.
However, a draw with Julian Navaratnam turned out to be insufficient for Lim as both Chuah and Teng scored vital wins to catch up with him. Chuah beat Wong Zijing while Teng accounted for Rizal Ahmad Kamal. Chuah's game against Wong was very crucial. If the results had been reversed, Wong would instead be the one to tie with Lim and Teng at the top. Instead, Wong ended fourth in the standings.
If tradition is followed, not only has Chuah become the latest national champion, but he will also be awarded the national master title by the Malaysian Chess Federation.
But we have three very deserving winners this year and the contest had been very close and exciting. Under such circumstances, I think it would not be wrong if the MCF were to consider a change to its policy and decide on making the three winners all national masters.
In fact, I would like to propose to the MCF that the national master title be given to all previous co-winners of the national closed championship in recognition of their abilities. But, by all means, the title of national champion should still be reserved specifically for the undisputed winner in any year or the eventual winner of any playoff tournament.
The top finishers in this year's national closed championship: Lim Chuin Hoong, Jonathan Chuah, Teng Wei Khoon (7.5 points each); Wong Zi Jing, Ismail Ahmad, Ng Tze Han, Julian Navaratnam, Khor Shihong (6.5); Sit Seng Yaw, Rizal Ahmad Kamal, Taulani Tukiran (6); and Deon Moh, Lim Kian Hwa, Chan Meng Yang, Law Zhe Kang, Mohd Irman Ibrahim, Effawira Mohd Farid, Eddy Kwan, Wong Ziwei, Jeffery Chan, Nanda Kumar (5.5).
Together with this year's national closed championship, the MCF also held its annual general meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre.
This year's AGM was, however, marked by some grumblings from some parents who were unhappy with the federation. Their unhappiness stemmed from the MCF's failure to register players for this year's world junior chess championship in Spain in October.
The annual world junior meet is a tournament popular with Malaysian parents. However, the problem is that not everybody can play in it. Since it is an event organised under the auspices of the World Chess Federation, convention has it that the participants must be registered through their national chess bodies. In our case, this is the MCF.
For many years the MCF had been organising the national age-group chess championship , where the winners of the various age-group events are given the opportunity to play at the world junior level. For individual world events of this type, the parents of the players are required to pay for their children's travel and boarding expenses.
The MCF does not provide financial assistance to help the players. All it does is to finish the necessary paperwork which includes registering the players with the organisers and preparing letters to the players' schools and education authorities.
This year, alleged the parents, there has been a total breakdown in the MCF's efficiency. Letters which were to have been prepared a long time ago were not ready at all. Repeated attempts by the parents to get the letters failed. As a result, none of the Malaysian juniors were registered for the world age-group championship and consequently, nobody went to Spain.
There were some discussions at the AGM on the MCF's shortcomings in this area but with the damage already done, the best that the members could hope for was for the MCF to improve on its efficiency in the future.
Young and capable
TODAY may be the last day of the year, decade, century and millennium, but for some players, it is simply another day to play chess.
Since Monday, 10 players have been involved in a closed international rating tournament organised by the Malaysian Chess Federation at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur. This tournament will take a break tomorrow, but it will continue from Sunday until Jan 5. Playing sessions on these days are from 11am to 6pm.
According to the MCF, this is the definitive tournament to determine the best players in the country. Taking part in this round-robin event are international masters Mas Hafizulhelmi and Jimmy Liew, Fide master Wong Zijing, current national champion Jonathan Chuah, and former national champions Ng Ee Vern and Lim Yee Weng. The other players are Aaron Yee, Ng Tze Han, Lim Chuin Hoong and Deon Moh.
A very confident Mas Hafizul is expected to win the event but it will be intriguing to see where "elder statesman" Jimmy Liew stands among the others. Liew is still the yardstick that many young players measure themselves against. My expectation is that he can expect a torrid time against the youngsters but he has the experience to extricate himself from most predicaments.
Jonathan Chuah will be eager to prove himself against his peers now that he is the newly crowned national champion. However, in his eagerness and maybe confidence, there is a danger that he may over-reach himself in his games. None of his rivals are pushovers so it will be interesting to see how he reacts in his games.
Ng Ee Vern and Lim Yee Weng, like Mas Hafizul, were absent from this year's national closed championship. They had been taking the past weeks to prepare themselves for this event, so must be considered as quietly confident to get some good results.
As for the other players, suffice it to say that despite their busy playing schedules this month, they are young and quite capable of standing up to the stress of a few more games.
I shall have the results of this tournament ready for you next month but in the meantime, as we stand literally on the eve of a new year, I would like to thank all readers of this column, especially the faithful ones who have stuck with me since August 1980. See you next millennium!
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