Friday, February 11, 2000



Intriguing tournament

By Quah Seng Sun

THE Wah Seong Penang international master chess tournament is set to become one of the most intriguing tournaments ever organised in this country. Slated to begin in 15 days' time, the tournament will feature a group of experienced, highly-regarded foreign chess players facing off against what is considered to be the cream of Malaysian chess players.

Led by two veterans--Indonesian grandmaster Ardiansyah and Chinese international master Liu Wenzhe--the foreign chess masters are obviously not interested in having a holiday here.

They are well-known for their fierce competitive spirit, so the other participants had better be well-prepared when they sit down to face the Indonesian and the Chinese across the chessboard.

Ardiansyah was one of the very first Asians to become a grandmaster. When he was at the height of his playing powers in the 70s and 80s, he could claim to be among Indonesia's top three players.

Datin Rebecca Tan, wife of the late Datuk Tan Kim Yeow, former chairman of Wah Seong group of companies, presenting a mock cheque to Datuk Toh Kin Woon, Penang State executive councillor and president of the Penang Chess Association. Looking on is Pauline Tan, Wah Seong director.

However, the emergence of new players in the last decade has gradually sidelined him. With a World Chess Federation rating of 2396, Ardiansyah is presently ranked 10th in Indonesia. He remains active in chess circles there and is still capable of delivering a few stings.

Interestingly, China's Liu Wenzhe is in a similar situation as his Indonesian counterpart. In the late 70s, he was considered the strongest player in China but now, with an international rating of 2451, he is ranked only 25th in his country. But his exploits are almost legendary. Till today, Liu is held in awe, especially for his celebrated victory over the late Dutch grandmaster Jan Donner during the Buenos Aires Chess Olympiad in 1978.

At that time, China was just making its presence felt in international chess circles, so it was inconceivable to many that Donner could lose to an unknown player. Yet, in the China-Netherlands game, Liu completely smashed Donner's defence and capped the game with a queen sacrifice that rippled through the Olympiad.

The two other foreign players invited to the tournament are from Myanmar. Myo Naing is an international master with a rating of 2545 while Wynn Zaw Htun, although untitled, still has a high rating of 2524.

On the Malaysian side, we have our two international masters who are expected to lead the challenge: Mas Hafizulhelmi, who is rated 2413, and Jimmy Liew, whose rating is 2325. Others who have confirmed their participation are Fide master Wong Zijing (rated 2324), Jonathan Chuah (rated 2271), Mok Tze Meng (rated 2270), Ng Tze Han (rated 2216) and Lim Chuin Hoong (rated 2214).

It will be interesting to follow the fortunes of our local, untitled players in this event as all of them will certainly aspire to play well enough to gain their first international master title norms. If any of them achieves the norm, it is by no means a guarantee that they will have the title but, nevertheless, it will be the first of several stepping stones towards becoming a master.

At Wednesday's cheque presentation ceremony in Penang, Datin Rebecca Tan of the Wah Seong Group of Companies presented a cheque of RM40,000 to Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, State Executive Councillor and president of the Penang Chess Association (PCA). The Wah Seong Group are the sponsors of the tournament while CitiTel Penang is the official hotel.


Busy year ahead for local chess

If this year's chess calendar--released recently by the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF)--is anything to go by, it promises to be a year jam-packed with activities for chess enthusiasts of all playing levels.

It's only the second month of the new year but both the Chess Association of Selangor and the Perak International Chess Association have already held a few programmes for their members.

From this month onwards, the Bank Pertanian Malaysia-sponsored national allegro chess circuit starts anew. The circuit is now in its second year and, according to the MCF calendar, the first leg was organised by the Persatuan Catur Melayu Malaysia at the start of this month in conjunction with Federal Territory Day.

Altogether, there will be 14 regional legs which the various state chess associations are scheduled to hold. The second leg will be played in Kuala Terengganu on Feb 25, the Selangor leg in Petaling Jaya follows two days later.

The other legs in this series are Penang (March 12), Kota Kinabalu (March 26), Kota Baru (April 14), Kuantan (April 16), Kuala Lumpur (April 23), Kuching (May 1), Ipoh (May 21), Johor Baru (June 10), Malacca (June 11), Seremban (June 26), Alor Star (Aug 12) and Kangar (Aug 13).

At the end of these legs, the final will be played in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 6 and 7. For the grand final, the winners of the various regional legs will be invited to join the paying participants to compete for the grand prizes on offer.

Next month, the programmes will include a three-day inter-university chess competition organised by Universiti Telekom in Malacca beginning March 10, the 14th Royal Selangor junior open tournament for the under-12 and under-18 organised by the Chess Association of Selangor on March 11 and 12, and the second Perak International Chess Association tournament in Ipoh on March 18 and 19.

The Selangor asssociation will also hold its closed allegro tournament on March 19, followed by the 14th Royal Selangor junior open tournament for the under-14 and under-16 on March 25 and 26.

One of the main local events that many chess players look forward to is the national men's and women's closed chess championships. These two MCF events are traditionally held in December but the federation has now decided to bring them forward to the first half of the year.

Thus, the Year 2000 edition of the two championships will be played beginning on March 31 and they will continue until April 4. On April 1, the federation will also be having its annual general meeting with the main item on the agenda most likely being the biennial election of new office bearers.

Some of the other events that will take place in April are the second Chess Association of Selangor allegro open tournament on April 9, the association's third blitz open tournament on April 23 and the Persatuan Catur Melayu Malaysia-organised Labour Day team tournament which will be played from April 29 till May 1.

May and June are similarly quite busy months for chess organisers with Chess Association of Selangor planning the most number of activities. For instance, there will be the closed under-20 team tournament on May 20 and 21, the 27th Royal Selangor open chess tournament from May 31 to June 4, the third girls open tournament on June 3 and 4, the Royal Selangor under-18 grand prix on June 11 and 18, and the inter-institution team tournament on June 24 and 25.

The MCF will not be sitting still as it has its own chess events lined up. After the national closed championship in March/April, there will be a Government versus Private Sector match scheduled for May 18, and the national youth age-group chess championship which the federation will co-organise with the Persatuan Catur Melayu Malaysia from May 28 to 30.

Almost immediately after the end of this event, two groups of Malaysians and Singaporeans will have the opportunity to renew their rivalry over the chessboard when the federation plays host to this year's annual Malaysia-Singapore match on June 2 and 3 in Kuala Lumpur.

The other significant federation event this year will be the annual Merdeka team chess championship in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 31 to Sept 3.

Apart from these tournaments, there is the third Perak International Chess Association tournament in Ipoh on May 13 and 14, the Selangor Merdeka tournament which will be organised on July 1 and 2 by the Majlis Perbandaran Shah Alam, the fourth PICA chess tournament in Ipoh on July 13 and 14, the Terengganu open tournament in Kuala Terengganu on Aug 5 and 6, the Kuala Kubu Baru Merdeka tournament organised by the Persatuan Catur Kuala Kubu Baru on Aug 23, the Malay Masters tournament organised by the Persatuan Catur Melayu Malaysia in Bangi (Selangor) from Oct 26 to 28, and the Universiti Malaya Second College's seventh Grand Asian Chess Challenge sometime in October.

Although the MCF has done a commendable job in collating the activities of the various state chess associations into the Malaysian chess calendar, it is quite obvious that the list is not complete as some of these chess bodies have not been able to release their own calendars to the MCF.

The activities of the Penang Chess Association (PCA), for example, are not included in the federation's calendar but it is well-known that yearly, the PCA will hold its Penang Chess League over a number of consecutive Sundays from June to mid-August. There is also the Penang grand prix chess circuit, played over four legs over the course of the year and which culminates in the Penang closed championship.


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