Monday, 31 December 2012

The first MSSPP chess competition in 1972

The year 1972 was a watershed year for chess in Penang. Not only was the Penang Chess Association founded in that year, the state's first Penang Schools' Sports Council's (Majlis Sukan Sekolah-sekolah Pulau Pinang, MSSPP) chess competition was initiated in July 1972. This resulted from a flurry of chess activities that had swirled around the state since the beginning of the year.

Of course, the momentum has continued unabated ever since. For instance, that year ended with the Malaysian Schools' Sport Council's (Majlis Sukan Sekolah-sekolah Malaysia, MSSM) chess competition at the grand Dewan Sri Pinang auditorium in December 1972. I have touched before on the first MSSM chess competition, which started off as only a team event, here and here.

Today, I would like to mention something about the first MSSPP chess competition instead. In 1972, I had already started to document some of the early chess events in the state. While reading through my old notes, I realised that there are a lot of memories which should be shared with other chess players for posterity.

The first MSSPP chess competition was organised over five days by the Han Chiang Primary School starting at 3p.m. on a Friday, 7 July 1972. See? I had even taken note of the time that the first round was supposed to begin! At that time, the Penang Chess Association president, Fang Ewe Churh, was also the headmaster of the primary school. It did not come as a surprise then that he would offer his school to run the first MSSPP tournament.

As there were 14 teams, it was decided that for the Preliminaries, they be divided into two groups of seven teams each. In each group, they would play a round-robin and the first two teams would then advance to the Final of the competition. As this was the very first time that a chess competition was being held in the state, there were no chess clocks. I would believe that nobody owned a chess clock in Penang except for perhaps the PCA president and even then, maybe he would have one or two only. So it was announced that everybody would have to observe fair play and not delay making their moves on purpose. I think there was some threat of action if the participants ignored the rule.

Unfortunately, I did not keep any record of all the teams that played in this first ever MSSPP competition but in the group which included the Penang Free School - and naturally enough, I was a member of the team - we had Georgetown Secondary School, Methodist Girls' School, Saint George's Girls' School, Saint Xavier's Institution, Technical Institute and Tunku Puan Habsah Girls' School as rivals. The teams in the other group included Bukit Mertajam High School, Chung Ling High School, Han Chiang High School and Padang Polo Secondary School. No idea about their other three teams. Our PFS team comprised Tan Seang Beng, Wong Peng Hung, Khaw Teik Kooi, Khoo Chuan Keat, Toh Kok Chuan and I.

According to my notes, we beat GSS 4-0, beat SXI 3½-½, drew with TI 2-2 and then mopped up MGS, SGGS and TPHGS with identical 4-0 scorelines to top the group. The Saints finished second behind us.

As can be deduced from the scores, our toughest match in the preliminary rounds was against the Technical Institute. I had observed then that our team underestimated our opponents. Halfway through my own game, I felt that something was going wrong with our common strategy. One of my youthful team mates, Peng Hung, was careless and had lost to the TI's Cheah Khye Peng. Luckily, I was able to restore the balance by beating Saw Boo Pheng. This match proved to be a titanic struggle. After about 3½ hours of play, the officials called for a 10-minute break (a quirky rule, this) during which time, my team mates huddled and decided that in the interests of fair play, they would agree to split the points in the two remaining games. So at seven o'clock, the PFS-TI match was declared as a 2-2 draw.

Below are some old pictures taken by one of the Han Chiang teachers at the start of the preliminary rounds. There are a few commentaries below some of them. The story of the Finals continues after the pictures.

Lim Swee Aun of the Saint Xavier's Institution in the short-sleeved shirt on the right.

 Tan Heng Boo (left) of the Bukit Mertajam High School.

The SXI player beside Lim Swee Aun (same shirt) was Ooi Gim Eng. At the top of the picture were Toh Kok Chuan (Penang Free School) laying against Khor Bean Hwa (Technical Institute).

The two teams at the back of the playing hall were Penang Free School (facing the camera) and Technical Institute (back to the camera). The three PFS players seen here were Toh Kok Chuan, Tan Seang Beng and myself. 

There was about a month's break before the Final of the first MSSPP chess competition was contested. It started on 8 August 1972 and last five days. This time, the PFS team came better prepared after the experience of the preliminary rounds. Moreover, we knew that the opposition was going to be much tougher among the top four teams that qualified from the two groups.

I had written in my notes: "In the first of the round-robin system of play, the Penang Free School team set the ball rolling by overcoming the team from High School Bukit Mertajam 4-0. The Chung Ling High School team scored a 3-1 win over Saint Xavier's Institution. In the second round, Chung Ling High School beat High School Bukit Mertajam by 3-1, while Penang Free School beat Saint Xavier's Institution by 3-1. In the last round of play, Penang Free School and Chung Ling High School drew 2-2, and Saint Xavier's Institution beat High School Bukit Mertajam 3-1."

And I concluded: "With the completion of the rounds, Penang Free School became the champions with a score of nine points, Chung Ling High School became the runners-up with eight points, third were Saint Xavier's Institution with five points and fourth were High School Bukit Mertajam with two points."

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