Friday, September 30, 2011

Tan Chin Nam the doyen of local chess


Datuk Tan Chin Nam, 85, is still up to playing chess.

LAST week, I wrote about the youngest faces that had come to play in the main event of this year’s Malaysian Chess Festival, the Arthur Tan Malaysian open chess championship.

It then struck me that if I want to do a similar story on the oldest player in the festival, I would have to look at the Lee Loy Seng seniors open chess championship.

Everybody in the chess circle knows that the oldest active chess player in the country is none other than Datuk Tan Chin Nam himself.

Tan, 85, is the doyen of Malaysian chess. He may have been frailer than when I last saw him a year ago, but his mind was as keen as ever. “Still up to playing chess,” he said when we sat across the chessboard in the second round.

Mega festival ahead: Datuk Tan Chin Nam promises that next year’s edition will be the grandest Malaysian Chess Festival of all.

Tan soon found out to his dismay that results still favoured the younger seniors as he finished the event with a modest 1½ points that he collected from nine games.

Despite the setback, he took pride in his final game of the tournament. He lost – but for much of that game, he showed he could still mix it up as well as his opponent. He absorbed the attack in a complicated game and then simplified the position to a point where he held a piece advantage. It was only a gross blunder in the critical last hour of play when tiredness had crept into both players’ game that spoilt everything for Tan.

A draw would have been an equitable result in that game, seeing that both he and his opponent had fought and defended well.

At last year’s Malaysian Chess Festival, Tan announced that he intended to take a two-year sabbatical from sponsoring the festival. He wanted to enjoy playing the game without thinking about pumping money into organising it. There could be other reasons and I would think that one of them was that he wanted to see how the organisers would rise to the challenge, and continue with this chess festival with only his moral support.

I believe he was encouraged by what he saw: the hard work put in by the organisers in the last two to three months to get their act together. At the closing ceremony of the festival, he promised to end his sojourn and make next year’s edition the grandest Malaysian Chess Festival of all.

By the way, Tan was at least 10 years older than the next most senior competitor at the festival – Thailand’s 74-year-old Pricha Srivatanakul.

source: The Star

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