Sunday, 14 December 2008

Renewing old chess ties

A confession. I've almost forgotten how much fun a chess tournament can be especially when your objective is not to win the top prizes but just to play for fun and the participation. That's how I had approached this year's Penang Chess League with nothing more in mind than to take part and renewing acquaintanceship with chess players that I've known since long ago.

I'm sorely out of touch with many of the impressionable young men who have grown into their careers and have become family men. Hearing them telling me what they've been up to in the last five to seven years filled me with an almost indescribable satisfaction. James, for example, is now a medical officer. I remember him as a small boy from the St Xavier's Institution. His father and I were colleagues in the now defunct Ban Hin Lee Bank. Others told me that they were working at Intel, Altera, Dell, Prudential or any of the big named companies in Penang. They hadn't forgotten their chess roots and they had all come back to play chess.

Another confession. I'm rusty. I played three games on the first day of the competition. The first was an easy win. My opponent did not see the checkmate coming. Then I lost the second game to a cheapo trick. Okay, I admit that I shouldn't have played the way I did but having more or less extricated myself from the mess I put myself into, I walked right into a fork. And in the third game, I wasn't in the proper frame of mind when I agreed to a draw with my opponent desperately short of time. That's chess. But at least today, I managed to win both the games I was involved in: a positional constriction in the fourth game and a patiently dull dull dull endgame in the fifth one. So overall, three wins, one draw and one loss. Not too bad for a rusty old chess rascal. Could have been worse, like my other team-mates commented.

When I arrived at the tournament venue today, I noticed this group of people all milling at one corner of the playing room. One was even perched on a chair as he attempted to peer over the shoulders of others who were taller or beefier than him. What was going on? The answer: a critical game between Filipino grandmaster Bong Villamayor (WHH Seniors) and Ronnie Lim (OFA A). Tense affair but Ronnie soon ran out of options. But it's excitement was infectious, judging from the crowd around the game.

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