Friday, 12 March 2010

Perak chess kicks off

Just experimenting with something new. I've talked about it previously so this is an attempt to put it into practice. Here is the original unedited, uncut, unplugged, unabridged, unexpurgated, unabbreviated, unadulterated version of my chess column in the Lifestyle section on 12 Mar 2010. This is it: the whole enchilada. How do you compare it with the final version in the newspaper?
Last Sunday, I visited Ipoh to drop in at the Kinta leg of the Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng Perak chess grand prix.

Not only was this the first leg to kick off the grand prix, it was also the first time that the Perak International Chess Association had undertaken such an ambitious project within its borders. I was curious to see the response.

Impressive. Close to 200 participants, according to the proud organizers. And this number wasn’t even counting the tournament officials and helpers, some of the players’ parents and other relatives.

As I walked along the aisles looking at the serious concentration around me, I realized that save for a handful of familiar faces that I could count with the fingers on both hands, the rest of the participants were total strangers to me.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, because after all, this was a Perak event: organized by Perak chess officials and played mainly by Perak residents. I learnt that many of the players had been bussed down from the smaller towns of the state. They had come from all over and although they did know how to play the game, this was probably the first time that many of them were taking part in a real chess tournament. I hope they had enjoyed the experience!

Without a doubt, Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman had probably enjoyed the experience too. You would have read two weeks ago that he is now Malaysia’s resident grandmaster. He will be staying here in Malaysia for one year and contributing his expertise to raise the level of Malaysian chess.

No sooner had he landed on our shores that he was whisked up to Ipoh for this tournament. Naturally, he took star billing in this event. He was the player that many of the participants would want to meet. This would be an opportunity to play against a chess grandmaster. Not many people would have this opportunity; only seven would get the chance.

For a long while, it looked as if the fight for the first prize would be close. Because of the large number of entries, there was a real possibility that there could be two joint winners and they might not have played with one another.

But in the end, order was restored and Ziaur Rahman laid claim to his first tournament success in Malaysia. Nevertheless, his success was not without some anxiety. In the last round, the grandmaster suddenly found himself defending a very tricky position with the white pieces.

With very enterprising play, Fong Yit San found himself with an advantageous position against the Bangladesh player. People watching the game thought that he could press home the advantage but somehow, the critical moment passed and Ziaur Rahman forced off the exchange of most of the pieces. In the end, the grandmaster’s experience counted. Still, it was a very creditable game by the Kampar youngster.

The Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng Perak chess grand prix came about because of an inspired meeting that Lee’s son, Datuk Seri Lee Oi Hian, had with Datuk Tan Chin Nam, the honorary life president of the Malaysian Chess Federation. The idea was mooted and Lee was receptive to it. A series of chess tournaments would make their way around Perak, the state where the Tan Sri was born and had made his fortune. Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, with its head office in Ipoh, is the legacy that he had left behind.

From this one idea, the chess grand prix became a reality. With the Kinta leg now successfully concluded, the grand prix will continue in the other districts of Perak and it will culminate with the final in December this year. The CRC Taiping will be the venue of the second leg next month.

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