Collective sigh of relief
By Quah Seng Sun
THIS week, I am more than happy to inform chess players in the country that the Merdeka team chess championship is back on track. The Youth and Sports Ministry has agreed to provide the necessary funds so that the championship in Kuala Lumpur can continue its fine tradition.
The lifeline means that the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) will be organising this year's championship at the Putra World Trade Centre from Sept 1 to 3.
State chess associations which have been waiting anxiously for news about the championship's fate can now finalise their teams. The public interested in taking part in the open section can also form their teams.
Everything fell into place last week when the MCF received confirmation that the Sports Ministry would contribute RM30,000 to the Merdeka team chess championship after the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry had quietly removed it from its programmes for the National Day celebrations.
That decision caused much indignation in chess circles; many quarters felt that, in the enthusiasm to revamp the celebrations, the ministry had overlooked the fact that it would be alienating a few thousand people who have been celebrating National Day in their own special way for the past 19 years by congregating in Kuala Lumpur for the annual championship.
It is not that people are losing interest in the Merdeka team chess championship. On the contrary, the fact that the MCF had to seek even bigger premises for the event at the Putra World Trade Centre two years ago speaks volumes for the increasingly popular tournament.
Even foreign teams from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei are now looking forward to the championship as a regular event that is not to be missed.
Also, we have had the occasional visitor from Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, the Philippines and India playing too.
It would thus be ironic if the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry fail to realise that this particular event contributes to its plans to promote the country and encourage more foreigners to visit us!
The main attraction of the championship is the state category where the fight is for the Deputy Prime Minister's trophy. Most of the state chess associations are expected to send their strongest line-ups.
The other main feature of the tournament is the popular open category where competition is always very keen.
According to the MCF, outstation state and youth teams will be put up at the Dynasty Hotel, which is again the official hotel for the event.
Registration for the teams starts at 8.30am on Sept 1. The first round will commence at 3pm and the second round at 6.30pm.
On the second day, the rounds are played at 9am, 1pm and 4.30pm, while on the last day of the competition, the final two rounds are at 9am and 1.30pm.
Prizes for the state category are RM2,000, RM1,500 and RM1,000.
For the youth section, the prizes are RM1,000, RM750, RM500, RM300 and RM150. The Merdeka youth challenge trophy will also go to the winner in that category.
There will be seven prizes for the open category. The winning team will receive RM2,000 and the runner-up RM1,500. The other prizes are RM1,000, RM800, RM600, RM400 and RM200.
In addition, there are special prizes for the best government department, women's, school, and family teams.
Entry fees are RM150 for teams playing in the state and open categories, and RM80 for the youth category. The closing date for entries is Aug 25.
MALAYSIA'S top-ranked player, Mas Hafizulhilmi, suffered a rare defeat in this year's PCMM open chess tournament organised by the Persatuan Catur Melayu Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur last month.
Mas Hafizul lost to Rosli Mohd Noor in the second round; but after this little hiccup, he wasted no time in winning all his remaining games, including the last-round game with Agus Salim.
This crucial win lifted Mas Hafizul on par with Agus as both players had finished the event with equal six points.
However, the first prize was awarded to Agus as he had by far the better tie-break, after having won his first six games.
Interestingly, Rosli could not capitalise on his giant-killing feat as he faded from contention, managing to score only a further two points from his last five games.
Behind Agus and Mas Hafizul in the tournament standings were a group of six players who had each obtained 5.5 points: Mohd Azizul Mat Daud, Muhammad Arshad, Mustafa Kamal Zamhuri, Azahari Mohd Nor, Hafiz Shafruddin and Norazmi Mohd Nor.
Both Abdul Haq Mohamad and Jamalul Husaini, who scored five points each, were among the remaining main prize winners. Kamal Arifin and Hussein Mohd Jamil were unlucky to miss out on the prizes, while Ramli Bahari won a prize as the best veteran player.
Altogether, 71 players took part in the competition which was sponsored by Bank Pertanian Malaysia.
There were also separate events for the under-16 and under-12 players.
The under-16 event saw 42 competitors and the top prize went to Mohd Faizal Shamsudin who scored 6.5 points.
The under-12 section had 25 players, and the winner was Anas Nazreen Bakri who also obtained 6.5 points.
Two other chess tournaments that were played last month were the Kedah and Perlis legs of the Bank Pertanian Malaysia-sponsored national allegro chess circuit.
Both these events were run directly by the Malaysian Chess Federation because the two state chess associations had become dormant and fallen on difficult times.
This is a real pity because there is a lot of chess interest still in the two states. In Alor Star, for example, there were 155 participants.
Because of this large field, the MCF had recognised at the onset that it would be impossible to adopt the cumulative point system as the tie-breaker as the chances were great that some players could finish with equal points and equal tie-breaks.
True enough, Mok Tze Meng and Mas Hafizulhilmi emerged as the joint winners by winning all their games and without meeting one another. Luckily, the adopted Solkoff tie-breaking system awarded the first prize to Mok with Mas Hafizul collecting the second prize.
Out of the 13 players who finished with five points, those that won prizes were Tan Hong Ghee, Jonathan Chuah, Ismail Ahmad, Hisyam Ismail, Chuah Heng Meng, Chan Chung Ming, Foong Chee Leng and Lee Seow Tze.
Eighty players took part in Perlis and the joint winners were Mas Hafizulhilmi and Ismail Ahmad.
Both players scored 5.5 points each. Also among the prize winners were Siti Zulaikha, Mohd Rosdi Jamil, Mok Tze Meng, Abdul Haq Mohamed and Nor Azmi Mohd Nor who obtained five points each, Hisyam Ismail with 4.5 points, and Shamsudin Mat Isa and Sobri Ibrahim on four points each.
Seventeen other players who also had four points missed out on the main prizes.
THE Johor Baru District Chess Club and Johor Land Berhad will jointly organise the 10th Johor Baru open Merdeka chess tournament at the Dewan Menara Komtar in Johor baru on Aug 27.
The event is divided into the open, under-16 and under-12 sections, and the entry fees are RM15, RM7 and RM5 respectively.
The winner of the open section will receive RM300, the runners-up will get RM200 and the third-placed winner will receive RM100.
The other winners within the top 10 will get cash prizes ranging from RM75 for the fourth placed to RM15 for the 10th.
The winners of the under-16 and under-12 sections will get RM100 and RM80 respectively.
Both these sections will also have nine smaller cash prizes each.
As only the first 300 entries will be accepted, those wishing to take part in the tournament are required to register with the organisers before Aug 25. For more details, contact Narayanan Krishnan ( 07-333 8215 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
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