Friday, February 25, 2000
10 to slug it out
By Quah Seng Sun
TODAY is the eve of the nine-day Wah Seong Penang international master chess tournament. All hostilities over the chess board will begin tomorrow at the CitiTel Penang and continue daily until March 5.
The past two months had been very trying for me as I had to cope with the organising of this event. Luckily, I had the full support of Datuk Tan Chin Nam, honorary life president of the Malaysian Chess Federation, and the assistance of friends in the chess circle, without whom my task would have been very difficult.
For instance, there was the selection of foreign players. World Chess Federation (Fide) regulations require that at least one-third of players at an international master event must be foreigners. For a 10-player event, I needed four.
Initially, I had shortlisted grandmaster Ardiansyah from Indonesia, Chinese international master Liu Wenzhe, Indonesian international master Nasib Ginting, and Myanmar Fide master Maung Maung Lwin.
However, Ginting, who for the past year had been in Malaysia, could no longer be contacted while Maung had commitments elsewhere. But Maung offered to arrange for two highly-rated players from Myanmar to play, thus I now have their international master Myo Naing and untitled Wynn Zaw Htun.
The only thing left to do was wait and see whether the four foreigners would accept this invitation to play. As a standby, I have Singapore's international master Giam Choo Kwee who could come at very short notice.
It was a long wait, especially with the Chinese player. I received a message from Beijing that Liu's passport needed renewal and he would have to apply for a visa from the Malaysian Embassy in China. Compounding this problem was the long lunar festival in China when it was almost impossible to get in touch with many people. Luckily, the problem quickly sorted itself out after a few frantic phone calls to friends in Kuala Lumpur.
Another major task was to select local players for this event. From the onset, our international masters Mas Hafizulhelmi and Jimmy Liew are automatic choices for two of the six places.
The criterion for selecting the other four was simple. The Penang Chess Association would nominate two of their players while the remaining two would be selected by going down the latest Fide rating list. Local players who were overseas or had retired from playing were automatically scratched.
Aaron Yee was the first consideration but he declined from playing due to his school work. This left the field open to Fide master Wong Zijing and national master Jonathan Chuah, and they duly accepted the offer to play.
As for the Penang Chess Association nominations, Ng Tze Han and Lim Chuin Hoong were clearly the best choices.
Soon after invitations had been sent out, it occurred to me that Mok Tze Meng would be a good addition to this event if there were more places available. After all, Mok is a very experienced player, next in line in the Fide rating list after Jonathan Chuah. If there is anyone who could earn an international master norm, Mok would be a prime candidate.
Malaysian Chess Federation's Tan gave the okay for me to expand the field to its maximum 12 players. It should have been a 12-man event in the first place, but I was working within a budget. After referring to Fide regulations, I concluded that it is legitimate to have an 11-man event or the first four games played over two days.
(Fide regulations allow for a maximum two rounds per day for an international master result. For a grandmaster result, there can be no more than two days of two rounds each but definitely not in the final three rounds.)
A peculiar number, I must admit, but there were also two other reasons for staying with 11 players. For one thing, this event would be played without a rest day and I believe the players would welcome having a round during which they can relax.
The other reason was, despite confirmation from all the local players that they would play, there was a possibility someone would withdraw later. Call it intuition if you like, but Jimmy Liew later informed me that he was withdrawing due to his unavoidable work commitments.
So there I was, down to 10 players, the original number that I started out with. All the players are arriving today but I will not be able to rest completely until I see them all!
With these 10 players, the tournament is now a Category Five. To qualify for an international master result, our Fide master and untitled players must score at least six points from nine games.
I do not think it is an insurmountable target. Gone are the days when the foreigners can whip our players at will; our players can at least be their equals now.
It is not very often that an international chess event of this sort is held in Malaysia. I sincerely hope that chess enthusiasts, even those from outside Penang, can make it a point to visit the CitiTel Penang from tomorrow until March 5 to see these players in action. The playing times are from noon to 7pm daily at the hotel's Bayan Room.
Wah Seong (M) Trading Co Sdn Bhd is the sponsor of this event, while the CitiTel Penang is the official hotel for the tournament.
For readers with Internet access, you can follow the progress of the tournament at www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Stadium/2379/WahSeong2000/index.html
In conjunction with the Wah Seong Penang international master chess tournament, the Penang Chess Association is arranging for Chinese international master Liu Wenzhe to give some simultaneous chess displays to schools in Penang and selected members of the association.
Tentatively lined up is a simultaneous chess display to 30 students on March 7, a clock simultaneous chess match with six senior members of the PCA on March 8, and a second clock simultaneous chess match with six top junior players on March 9.
All these programmes are scheduled for the evenings starting at 7pm. Students who wish to play against the Chinese international master on March 7 should contact Chuah Soon Pheng ( 04-657 4316 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Khor Bean Hwa ( 04-658 1662 / e-mail: email@example.com). The fee is RM2 per student.
March 12: The Penang Chess Association will hold the Penang leg of the second Bank Pertanian Malaysia allegro grand prix at the Kolej Damansara Utama premises in Jalan Anson.
The event will consist of six rounds and there is 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 the minor winners such as the best women, under-16 or under-12 players.
Entry fees are RM10 for adults and RM5 for junior players. Closing date is March 10. Late entries will not be accepted. There is also a cap at a maximum of 100 players.
For registration, contact Eoh Hook Kim ( 04-826 0196 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), Chuah Soon Pheng ( 04-657 4316 / e-mail: email@example.com) or Ooi Kiem Boo ( 04-657 4596). Registered players are required to turn up at KDU by 8am on March 12.
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