TODAY is the eve of the Malaysia Chess Festival and tomorrow, the first of six main events – the Merdeka individual rapid open tournament – will kick off the 11-day chess festival at the ballroom of Cititel Hotel at Mid Valley in Kuala Lumpur.
Elsewhere on this page is a summary of the various events that everybody can look forward to. There is something for everyone, be it a simultaneous chess game, a five-minute blitz tournament, a 30-minute rapid chess tournament or a full 90-minute normal time regulation tournament.
Concerns that I voiced last week about the Malaysia Chess Festival taking a possible beating from a major rival tournament being planned at the same time in nearby Manila seems to have eased.
I have been checking with the organisers the whole of this week, and their confidence seems to have been restored. In fact, the organisers are delighted that the response to the festival has exceeded last year’s.
Pitting wits: Current national champions Tan Khai Boon (left) and Fong Mi Yen will be participating in the Malaysia open tournament.
Tomorrow’s one-day event has attracted at least 74 players. This was the number told to me three days ago and as more chess players arrive in Kuala Lumpur, the number of participants is set to increase.
Similarly, too, there are at least 67 teams in the Merdeka team rapid open with foreign grandmasters from Australia, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Germany and India joining in the fray.
But the real icing on the cake is the increased entries for the main event, the Datuk Arthur Tan Malaysia open, that will start on Sept 1. Last year, the field consisted of exactly 100 players. Until Tuesday, 135 players have already registered for this year’s edition.
For a long time, the organisers have been overly cautious about disclosing publicly the list of participants for fear that the foreign entries could be persuaded to withdraw and play elsewhere. Maybe the fear was unfounded but then, anything can happen in the world of chess today.
Fong Mi Yen.
Nevertheless, today being the eve of the Malaysia Chess Festival where everything comes together, I can now safely say that the grandmasters registered for the Malaysia open include:
Abhijeet Gupta (India, rated 2587), Zhou Weiqi (China, 2570), Ziaur Rahman (Bangladesh, 2543), Cao Sang (Vietnam, 2540), Prasad Arun (India, 2535), David Smerdon (Australia, 2526), Dao Thien Hai (Vietnam, 2516), Wen Yang (China, 2507), R.R. Laxman (India, 2503), Xu Jun (China, 2503), Nguyen Anh Dung (Vietnam, 2500), Saidali Yuldachev (Uzbekistan, 2496), Jha Sriram (India, 2490), Xu Yuhua (China, 2488), Marat Dzhumaev (Uzbekistan, 2484), Gerhard Schebler (Germany, 2474) and Niaz Murshed (Bangladesh, 2406).
They may not be the top echelon of grandmasters in the world but hey, the Malaysia open was never about attracting the crème de la crème of grandmasters in the first place. Much like water finding its own level, grandmasters and international masters will find the right level of tournaments to suit their playing levels.
Anyway, the Malaysia open will also feature two woman grandmasters from China and Vietnam, at least 18 international masters, several Fide masters and woman Fide masters.
The Malaysian challenge will be spearheaded by international masters Mok Tze Meng and Jimmy Liew.
There is a sizeable number of Malaysian entries and apart from Mok and Liew, we have four national masters in the field, too, namely, Lim Chuin Hoong, current national champion Tan Khai Boon, Edward Lee and Evan Timothy Capel. There will also be a spotlight on Yeoh Li Tian. I should also mention the presence of two of our woman national masters, current women’s national champion Fong Mi Yen and Alia Anin Azwa Bakri, as among the competitors.