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