Friday, 5 September 2014

Dr Alekhine at Penang

For the chess addicts out there, here's a piece of history from 1933, which is 81 years ago...

But Dr Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine, world chess champion from 1927 to 1935 and again from 1937 until his death in 1946, did play two simultaneous matches in Singapore that same year.

I would surmise at that time, there just weren't enough chess players or chess organisers in the northern Straits Settlements to pull together an historic simultaneous match with a reigning world champion. What a waste of an opportunity but the chess community in Penang, if there ever was a chess community to speak of in those days, could hardly be blamed for any perceived lack of effort.

Which brings to my mind an interesting question. Did the world chess champion stay a night in George Town, Penang, and if so, where did he stay? For sure, he was at the height of his influence then. For a man befitting his stature who was on a widely publicised tour of the Far East - he visited Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and some other lands - it would be unheard of if he had stayed in a low-class hotel.

However, there weren't many high-end hotels in Penang at that time too. The only hotel that comes to mind is the premier Eastern & Oriental Hotel (E&O Hotel), established in 1885 by the Sarkies brothers. I think Alekhine would have insisted on nothing less. But because of the lack of evidence at this time, this is only my conjecture. Possibly worth exploring further with the hotel to see whether they have the records.

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