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Friday, February 12, 1999


From the chess board to the courts

By Quah Seng Sun

ONE of the most significant developments in the country during the past two weeks must be the appointment of an independent four-member commission to look into the injuries of former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while in police custody.

Heading the commission is the former Chief Judge of Malaya, Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin.

Now, I know many readers will be wondering what this has got to do with chess. A fortnight ago I was writing about horses and now I am telling you a story about a retired judge.

But Anuar is no ordinary judge. He holds a special pride of place among many chess players who were active in the game during the 70s. The retired judge even had a television show and that is something which I believe no other local chess enthusiast can boast about.

The epic match of 1972 between American Bobby Fischer and the then Soviet Union's Boris Spassky had created an unprecedented interest in the game in almost all four corners of the world, including here in Malaysia, too. Riding on this interest, Radio Television Malaysia introduced a short series of weekly chess programmes to teach the game to beginners. Anuar was at the helm in every programme.

Soon afterwards, I learnt that he had become the president of the Chess Association of Perak. During his tenure in Ipoh, Anuar led a team of Perak chess players to play the Chess Association of Selangor in a friendly inter-state chess match in 1976.

Upon his transfer to Kuala Lumpur one year later, Anuar was made the president of the Chess Association of Selangor, a position which he held until 1980. During this time, he was also elected to the Malaysian Chess Federation as one of the vice-presidents. I hear that much later Anuar was also with the Johor Chess Association for a short while.

Of course, the pressures of being one of the High Court judges meant that in the 80s and onwards he had less time for the game. But during those 10 years or so Malaysian chess really benefited from a man who had one of the keenest legal minds in the country. Dare I say that he had honed his mind on the logical thinking process which chess accorded him?

National allegro circuit

A LONG time ago it was quite normal for chess organisers to decree that cash prizes must be shared among players with the same points. Nobody thought that this policy was wrong; in fact, this policy was wholeheartedly adopted by all and sundry as an equitable way of distributing the rewards to the winners of chess competitions.

Thus, at the very top of the winners' list, you may find two or three players with the same points and each receiving the same amount of cash prize. But as you go down the list of winners, this policy gives rise to very peculiar situations which are aggravated by the Swiss tournament rules.

You see, the Swiss tournament rules allow for many players to participate in a competition with a limited number of rounds. Usually, you can determine an outright winner but occasionally too, you can have more than one player tying at the top. If you already have a situation where there can be two or more players at the top, imagine how it is like lower down in the list when, say, 10 people have the same points ... and they are all sharing one of the minor prizes!

I have played in tournaments where eight people eventually shared the final advertised prize of RM20, and each of them were given RM2.50 as their prize money. Pretty meaningless, I should think, and in the long run, the organisers thought so too!

Very much later, the organisers began to get cleverer and they decided that prize monies should no longer be shared. The winners' positions would be decided by a series of tie-breaking systems and the prizes would be awarded accordingly. Therefore, the last person on the prize winners' list is now assured of a more respectable prize.

This brings me to another related topic. Should a player be given more than one prize? This situation can arise when a player qualifies for one of the main prizes and also one or more minor prizes. I think common sense dictates that a player should win only one prize and he should be given the prize with the highest intrinsic or monetary value. Moreover, as an encouragement to the field, organisers owe it to the competitors that the prizes be given to as many people as possible.

Thus, if a player is eligible for an under-16 prize, an under-14 prize and so on, he should be given the prize with the highest value and in this case, the under-16 prize. It does not mean that the other prizes are his too.

The reason why I am bringing this up is because I am not particularly agreeable with the way the organisers had dispensed with the prizes at the close of the first leg of the Bank Pertanian Malaysia-sponsored national allegro Grand Prix chess circuit in Kuala Lumpur 12 days ago.

I have no qualms with Ng Ee Vern being given the top prize. As the player with the most points--six points--at the end of the competition, he deserved the top prize of RM300.

The second prize of RM200 went to Ghazali Che Cob but because he was also the BPM employee with the best score in the 130-player field, he was given the allotted RM50 prize. Furthermore, Ghazali qualified as a veteran and he was given the RM40 prize accordingly. All in, Ghazali won almost as much as the tournament winner. With a little bit more patience, perhaps one day we shall see a second-prize winner walking away with more prizes than the winner!

The third prize of RM150 went to Fikrul Saifuddin who, together with Ghazali, scored 5 1/2 points each. Among the four players with five points, Agus Salim was fourth, Khairul Aziz Abdullah was fifth, Mohd Saprin Sabri was sixth and Ismail Ahmad, seventh.

Fourteen players obtained 4 1/2 points each, but the eighth, ninth and 10th prizes went to Loo Fah Kuan, Mohd Zambri Shariff and Gregory Lau respectively.

Eleven-year-old Siti Zulaikha Faudzi also had 4 1/2 points but as she was the best performing women's player, under-12 player, under-14 player and under-16 player in this tournament, the organisers decided to give her the four prizes totalling RM120. Oh, by the way, her earnings were more than what Agus Salim received as the fourth-placed winner.

Meanwhile, the second leg of the chess circuit will be played in Kuala Terengganu on March 6, and this will be followed by the third leg in Kuching on March 7. There will be 12 other legs in various cities and towns around the country before the Grand Final in October.

Each leg consists of six rounds and have a total cash prize of RM1,500. The bulk of this prize fund will go to the main winners while RM500 is set aside for minor winners. The winner of each leg will qualify for the Grand Final.

Entry fees are RM10 for members of the state chess associations organising their respective legs, Bank Pertanian employees, women, under-12 and veteran players, and RM15 for all other participants.

Grand Prix results

TENG Wei Ping put up a spirited display to win RM200 at the fourth leg of the Penang Grand Prix circuit held two weeks ago at the Berjaya Georgetown Hotel in Pulau Tikus, Penang. Lim Chuin Hoong was second, winning RM120. The third prize of RM80 went to Ng Tze Han.

Fourth was Lim Cheng Teik; fifth, Chuah Heng Meng; sixth, Teng Wei Khoon; seventh, Khor Shihong and eighth, Lim Jean Nie. The best junior in the competition that was sponsored by the hotel was Jonathan Chuah while Oh Hui Ling took the best lady's prize.

The hotel also presented special prizes of meal vouchers which were won by Ooi Chuen Chieh, Evelyn Chang and Oh Seong Hor.

Quah Seng Sun's chess articles are archived at ( or ( Readers can write to him at:

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