Saturday, March 26, 2011

Attention on junior players at chess championships

By Quah Seng Sun

Young players provide excitement at championships.

ONE of the most encouraging signs in local chess is the continuing willingness of the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) to allow their state chess affiliates to play active roles in organising some of the national-level chess competitions.

Take the annual national age group chess championships as an example.

Last year, the Penang Chess Association was given the go-ahead to plan for this competition in George Town on behalf of the federation. This year, the challenge was offered to the Perak International Chess Association (PICA).

PICA did so in Tronoh, Perak, in a joint effort which involved Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. By all accounts, this year’s edition of the national age group championships was a great success for the organisers. A total of 380 players took part in the three-day competition which, I was told, proceeded without any hitches.

As was to be expected, the most closely watched contest was the boys’ under-18 event. There were a few junior heavyweight players in the field, the most notable among them being the top-seeded Evan Timothy Capel who was a former national closed champion and last year’s winner of the boys’ under-16 event.

This year, though, the 17-year-old would be playing in the under-18 section, no longer eligible for the younger age group event. In fact, many of his rivals who played with him in Penang last year had also been elevated to the under-18 section.

Past successes, however, do not guarantee future gains, and Evan found this out pretty quickly. By the third round, he had already dropped a point to the second-seeded Sumant Subramaniam. By the tournament’s end, he had dropped two more points to Patrick Lim Kong Hui and the new winner of the boys’ under-18 event, Muhd Nabil Azman Hisham.

This was also a sobering experience for Sumant. After his heady win against Evan, he was brought down to earth by two consecutive losses to Muhd Nabil and Low Jun Jian. A further loss to Chong Shao Hong also ended his hopes in this tournament.

For Muhd Nabil, though, everything fell into place for him perfectly. He had lost to Evan in the boys’ under-16 event last year but this year, he exacted revenge on the top seed. By also defeating the second seed, there could only be one description for Muhd Nabil: worthy winner. His draws were with Jun Jian and Mark Siew Kit Tze, but he won all the other six games.

Now with the national age group championships over, the focus this week is on the national closed and national women’s closed championships that are taking place at the Wilayah Complex in Kuala Lumpur.

Today is already the third day of play and there are only five more rounds to go before the two competitions end on Sunday. So if you are not competing but have time on your hands, why not go and speculate who will emerge as the 2011 national champions?

The organisers tell me that as of the beginning of this week, there hasn’t been any change to the number of entries: still 89 players for the national closed and 34 players for the national women’s closed. At press time it is impossible to say whether there were any dropouts from the players’ lists or additions to it.

Anyway, I have to set the record straight in a slip of the finger that appeared in last week’s story. In my excitement to see our international master Jimmy Liew enter the fray as one of the competitors, I have inadvertently described him as a grandmaster.

I’ve received a lot of ribbing privately from friends and chess players in the past week. Really, I’m a bit embarrassed. I hope that my personal embarrassment has not spilled over to Liew. I really don’t want this episode to distract him in this national event where he is clearly the top seeded player.

So I shall wish “best of luck” to Liew, as well as wishing the same to last year’s winners Tan Khai Boon (national closed defending champion) and Fong Mi Yen (national women’s closed defending champion) and all the hopefuls this year.

Both events are being played at the Datuk Arthur Tan Chess Centre, Wilayah Complex, Kuala Lumpur until Sunday. The games start at 9am and 3pm daily. For more information, contact Najib Wahab (016– 338 2542 or

source: The Star online