Notice the "40th Anniversary" tucked away in the top left corner of the banner? Yes, that's the absolute fact that the members of the Penang Chess Association should be proud to mention to any other chess player friends from overseas or outstation. I can't speak for them, of course, but personally as one of the association's founding members, I'm immensely proud of the long journey which the PCA has covered so far. Long may the PCA still thrive.
The joy of experiencing the 40th anniversary is somewhat tinged by the revelation that the association's founding president, Fang Ewe Churh, had passed away only nine days earlier, on 2nd December. I wasn't around for the opening ceremony in the morning but I did hear that a one-minute's silence was called on the players and officials present to observe before the start of the first round. This is a fitting tribute to the man who galvanised the chess movement in the state.
The opening ceremony was officiated by one of Penang's most active State Assemblymen, Ng Wei Aik, who made the ceremonial first move on the top board game which was played on the stage, while the other games took place in the ballroom.
When I moved through the hotel and walked its narrow corridor before mounting the stairs to the first floor, I had not exactly prepared myself for the size of the tournament venue. I had to take a deep breath when I walked in. The ballroom was immense and suddenly I remembered that this was actually the old Gala Cinema. Years ago, this was one of newest cinemas that had sprung up on the island in the 1970s. Then it closed down and was used as a church premises for several years. The cinema hall had reverted back to the hotel when the new owners bought up the complex in 2007.
As I said, the size of the tournament hall was immense. Yet with the 200-plus participants here, the playing tables stretched from one end of the hall to the other and from one side to the other side. The players could not have asked for a better playing venue. It is a shame, though, that the PCA had to pay close to RM20,000 to use this impressive hall for five days. It is a greater shame that the hotel management had not deemed it fit to give the PCA a better discount especially since I heard that the association had also arranged to reserve 50 rooms for outstation players.
Definitely, I must comment on the hard work by these boys who were tasked with data entry from the players' scoresheets. They were so efficient that I was surprised to see all the games from the Open section already updated to chess-results.com within an hour or two after the end of the rounds. Great achievement, this. Do keep it up.