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Friday, January 1, 1999


Tough matches in Myanmar

By Quah Seng Sun

ONE of the cruellest things that can happen to a chess player is for his winning streak to turn into a losing streak. Suddenly, instead of being able to hold his own against other players, the stricken chess player can find himself losing game after game.

It is a great morale-sapping moment and when this happens in an individual tournament especially, when there is no one who can offer a steadying hand to the player, it can seem as if his whole world has collapsed on him.

I don't know what exactly Lim Yee Weng thought when he found himself in such a situation last month. He was in Yangon, Myanmar, together with Mas Hafizulhelmi and Wong Zi Jing, to play in the Zone 3.2a zonal tournament and his performance here frankly ranked as the worst in his playing career.

He struggled through five losses in a row before landing a win in the sixth round against a Myanmar player. Another loss followed in the seventh round before Lim wrapped up the tournament with two draws against a Filipino and a Singaporean. However, the damage had been irreparable and Lim found himself propping up the field of 30 players with only two points to his credit.

Admittedly, this was a very strong tournament. There were no holds barred from the players. After all, with Zone 3.2a allotted only two qualifying places to the next stage of the current world championship series in Las Vegas, scheduled for the middle of this year, most of the participants were in no mood to compromise.

Take, for example, Indonesia's Utut Adianto. As the highest-rated player, he was expected to breeze through the tournament. Yet he stumbled with two losses, including one that came in the very critical eighth round against the Philippines' Rogelio Antonio. Utut had to haul himself back into reckoning with a last-round win against Myanmar's Zaw Oo.

Even then, Utut had to wait for three other games to finish before he could know whether he qualified or not. Antonio joined him with a win over Vietnam's top player, Dao Thien Hai. Later, Mongolia's Dashzeveg Sharavdorj was to stake a claim with a win over Barlo Nadera of the Philippines.

The player who had the most to lose was China's Liu Dede. Going into the final round, he led the field by a half-point. But he could make no headway against Bong Villamayor, another Filipino player, and the game was drawn.

If Liu had won this crucial game, he would have qualified for Las Vegas. Instead, he found himself in a four-way tie at the top, where regulations had demanded that a double-round play-off in 25-minute games be held to decide the two qualifiers.

Liu fell apart in the play-off, losing four games and drawing two. Antonio's nerves proved the steadiest of the quartet, coming through with two wins and four draws. In the meantime, Utut and Sharavdorj both ended tied again, thereby forcing the two players into yet a second play-off consisting of a four-game match. In five-minute games, however, Sharavdorj proved to be no match for Utut, thereby conceding the second qualifying spot to the Indonesian grandmaster.

Both Hafizulhelmi and Wong Zi Jing had a good run in the zonal tournament, finishing with five points each. Hafizulhelmi drew his first game, then lost his second game to Sharavdorj. He won his third game, drew the fourth and won again in the fifth round. He then completed the tournament by drawing his remaining four games, including a remarkable effort against Antonio.

Wong had two early draws, then settled into a rhythm by losing, winning, losing and winning his next four games. From his last three games, Wong scored two draws and a win. One of his draws was with grandmaster Edhi Handoko of Indonesia.

Final standings from the zonal tournament: Utut, Sharavdorj, Antonio and Liu, 6 1/2 points each; Villamayor, 6 points; Dao and Akira Watanabe, 5 1/2 points each; Edhi, Nadera, Zaw Oo, Hafizulhelmi, Wong and Myo Naing, 5 points each; Petronio Rcao, Zaw Win Lay, Htun Htun Than, Nyee Nyee Zaw, Myint Han and Kyaw Kyaw Soe, 4 1/2 points each; Dang Tat Thang, 4 points; Ricardo de Guzman, Aung Aung, Nay Oo Kyaw Tun, Mark Chan and Tomohiko Matsuo, 3 1/2 points; Myo Thant Khine, Naing Lin Aung and Nelson Mariano, 3 points; Navin Sawalani, 2 1/2 points; and Lim, 2 points.

Terengganu open

The Terengganu Chess Association held its 11th Terengganu open chess tournament last month at the ITM campus in Dungun. There were 42 players who took part in the two-day event.

Mohd Kamal Abdullah was declared the winner of the tournament after he finished with the best tie-breaking score among three players who had scored 5 1/2 points from seven games. In second place was Nor Azmi Md Nor, while third was Md Nizam Hamzah.

There were six players with five points, and the fourth prize went to Abdul Rahim Ramli. Fifth was Md Johan Jamil, sixth was Ghalam Sani, seventh Ali Akhbar, eighth Zahanudin Zainal and ninth Ruzenan Abu Bakar. The 10th prize was given to Wan Abdul Fatah Ali who scored 4 1/2 points.

Cairnhill tournament

Just before Christmas in Singapore last month, the Cairnhill Community Centre held a fairly successful open tournament which attracted several top players from the region. The biggest star of the tournament was the Australian grandmaster, Ian Rogers, who confirmed his standing as the tournament's favourite by winning the top prize of S$1,600 (about RM3,600).

There were five players who scored 5 1/2 points and leading this pack was the Vietnamese international master, Tu Hoang Thong. China's Wu Shaobin, Fikrul Saifuddin, Ben Flores Jr and Wong Meng Leong were the other players with 5 1/2 points.

Two players who took part in the Yangon zonal tournament managed to participate in the Singapore event. Mark Chan returned home in time to play, and he ended up with five points together with Kenneth Tan and Koh Kum Hong.

China's Liu followed up on his disappointment in Myanmar by scoring only 4 1/2 points in the Cairnhill event. He shared the 10th to 14th places with Malaysia's Lim Chuin Hoong, Chia Chee Seng, Goh Weiming and Chue Kah Loong.

The players with four points were Vietnamese Tu Hoang Thai, Uzbekistan's Angela Khegai, Malaysia's Wong Chee Chung, Aurel Molnar, Malcolm Tan, Chris Morrison, Ignatius Leong, Mark Tan, Junior Tay, Foo Hsiang Ming and Bagas Prama Ananta. Singapore's former Fide secretary-general Dr Lim Kok Ann finished with three points. Altogether there were 62 players.

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