Saturday, 29 August 2009

One Week to the KL Open 2009 - So what does KLCA Hope to Achieve?

KLCA Logo

With one week to go, the KLCA has confirmed the majority of international participants for the 2nd Kuala Lumpur Open Chess Championship 2009 (see http://www.chess-results.com/tnr24792.aspx?lan=1) – and there are more than we expected given the switch of dates to dovetail the Malaysian Chess Festival and so join in our national day celebrations but also a bit stronger than I wanted - and so I must apologise to the many grandmasters and international masters who wished to take part but simply could not without help with hotel and meals.

Very simply, the KL Open is not meant to be a big event like what leading chess nations in the region (who have many grandmasters and numerous professional players) successfully host annually (and sometimes as in the case of the Philippines, even multiple times in a year!).

Yes, indeed some smaller (but aspiring) chess nations also try to do this too but KLCA is a small association in a country with just a handful of professional players and we have always to balance our member needs together with our long term vision of what chess can offer to national building.

There is after all, already a Malaysian Open, and our prize fund was deliberately made attractive only to the biggest winners – I really do not see any point in having an event that does not further KLCA's stated agendas and making a strategic contribution to the development of the game in KL (and Malaysia) and frankly do want to get it right as everything costs us both valuable time and money and that is a luxury today.

Personally I see the KL Open, now in its second year, aspiring more to be a long standing regional event like the Bangkok (now Thailand) Open, and which offers something to the enthusiast who tries to combine his hobby (passion?) for chess with demands of career and family as well as the young player looking to improve his game in serious competition and perhaps even to valid his talent by achieving an international title norm.

KL (and Malaysian) chess players are basically those who have largely missed the boat (or whose best time has gone) but still enjoy the game or young talent who need opportunities and a benchmark to understand where they are and perhaps even what else might be required to excel.

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After all, our guests (the chess players from overseas participating) do seem to think that Malaysia is a most attractive destination with a great deal to offer and so we will continue to capitalise on this when organising the Kuala Lumpur Open Chess Championship in 2010 and beyond!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Walikota Bima All Indonesia Open

The Taipei International Airport is a marvelous place to be at even when having to wait a couple of hours to catch an flight back home to KL. For a mere USD 150 or return so I was flying AirAsia X on an ultra modern Airbus (as you can see below, plenty of leg room too).

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I then got a call from Sebastian Simanjuntak inviting me to come to Bima for a new event that would start the next day! To be fair he had mentioned this possibility a month or so ago because some new organiser in a remote province was asking for PERCASI (All Indonesia Chess Federation) endorsement for a national open that boasted the largest local prize fund ever!

That was an amazing USD 23,000 and it was really on. I was of course suitably intrigued.  A quick search on one of the many  Internet stations in the airport and soon I had discovered that Bima was in West Nusa Tenggara and best known for horses and as the jumping off point for those on the way to Komodo Island (of the Komoda Dragon fame).

A few clicks later and confirmation via SMS, I would be on a plane to Bali the next day (again AirAsia) and then on to Bima on Merpati Air.

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The opening ceremony! Grandmaster Utut Adianto, Member of Parliment and Deputy President of PERCASI, is all smiles as you can see. Below you can see why and that was just a portion of the 7,000 who participated in a hour long parade!

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Yes, this is the Major of Bima who is gracefully accepting the accolades for making it all happen!

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Grandmaster Megaranto was top seed, the big favourite, and the only unbeaten player. He fought every game to the end (as all Indonesian players did) but this draw with stable mate and Dresden Olympiad teammate International Master Tirta Chandra Purnama cost him the championship on tie-break even though some USD 3,250 in prize money (after sharing first and second places) probably made it up a little.

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What’s all the excitement about? Of course young Dewi Citra like her friends and national team mates Chelsie Monica and Medina Warda Aulia were a special attraction for the locals but mainly because of the excellent chess they played throughout.

And to be honest, this was the crowd at practically every table where a top player played!

The people of Bima were very hospitable and gave all they could to each and every guest and I have never ever thought I would enjoy the carnival atmosphere where the player having the White pieces had to provide the chess set and clock, everyone (including spectators) talked loudly during the games, and the chess championship was the centre piece of a sports carnival where soccer games and activities like rock climbing were held concurrently.

None of this affected the great chess on display – all the chessplayers appreciated being treated so respectfully - and so accepted this unusual playing environment in the best spirit possible!

Well done Bima and next year I will for sure not be the only non local there, wild horse milk notwithstanding! Too bad I had to leave before the end…