ChessBy Quah Seng Sun
All is quiet on the Asian front.
THE first time is always very eventful – the first time you take part in a local tournament, the first time you return home with a prize, the first time you represent the country in a sports event. For organisations, it may be the first time your game is featured in a multi-sport event like the SEA Games, or the Asian Games.
I remember when chess was first included in the SEA Games in Vietnam in 2003, the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) made a lot of fuss over the fact.
Rightly so, because it also marked the first time the MCF ever went anywhere under the banner of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).
Chess was also in the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines and the Malaysian chess players were also right there mixing with the athletes of the other sports. But thereafter, for the 2007 Games in Thailand and the 2009 Games in Laos, chess was dropped.
Nevertheless, there is also the Asian Games which is a much bigger and more significant multi-sport event than the SEA Games. When chess was introduced to the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, there was much hope that the MCF would participate, but it did not.
But being absent once does not mean being absent a second time. This year at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, the Malaysian chess players are finally there.
It was a rather small contingent of three chess players that were picked for duty in Guangzhou: Mok Tze Meng, Alia Anin Bakri and Nur Nabila Azman. They would play in only the men’s and women’s individual rapid chess tournaments and come home immediately. There would be no Malaysian team in the men’s and women’s classical chess tournaments.
When I asked the MCF secretary about this, he said that everything boiled down to mainly two issues: funding and player availability.
As far as the OCM was concerned, chess was in their B category of games, which means that if the MCF wanted to play in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the federation or the players would have to raise their own funds.
As for player availability, many of them were indisposed due to work. Some had already taken time off for other tournaments so it was near impossible for them to play again this year. So a decision was taken not to play in the team events.
All that was left was for Mok, Alia and Nur Nabila to play in the individual rapid chess events. Perhaps because of this, the MCF decided against informing the Malaysian chess public about our participation in this Asian Games. Personally, I feel that instead of keeping it very low key, the MCF should still have announced it just for the record.
Mok played in the men’s rapid chess individual tournament and finished 38th, while both Alia and Nur Nabila participated in the women’s rapid chess individual tournament and finished in the 22nd and 28th spots, respectively. Both events consisted of nine rounds of rapid chess games and these were completed in four days.
As a measure of the strength of the men’s rapid chess tournament, 12 of the participating countries sent their top grandmasters. Indeed, Mok found out the hard way that negotiating his way through this minefield of grandmasters was no easy task. His quest for a first grandmaster title norm will have to wait.
The rapid chess gold medal went to Uzebekistan’s Ruslan Kasimdzhanov who scored 7½ points. Kasimdzhanov was the FIDE world chess champion in 2004 and he had been working with Viswanathan Anand in preparation for the latter’s world chess championship matches in 2008 and 2010.
Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem also scored 7½ points but he had to settle for the silver. The bronze medal went to China’s Bu Xiangzhi.
The women’s rapid chess tournament also featured several top-class players that included three with full-fledged grandmaster titles.
The Chinese grandmasters made a clean sweep of the top medals with Hou Yifan, as the outright winner of the event, taking the gold and Zhao Xue the silver. India’s Dronavalli Harika took the bronze.
Meanwhile, there are 17 teams taking part in the men’s team tournament and 12 teams in the women’s team tournament. In both events, China are the top seeds for the gold medal. The ninth and final round of both events is scheduled for today.
source: The Star Online