Sunday, 11 September 2016

The OFA chess adventure

It took three months of planning before I managed to bring a team of four players from The Old Frees' Association down to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysia Chess Festival. The tournament in question would be the ASTRO Merdeka rapid chess team open tournament. This annual event has been organised for ages and it pulls possibly the most sizable and diverse crowds in the country.

At first, I thought that each team could consist of five players but changing regulations meant that the organisers did not want any reserve player on the teams. As such, the players were required to play every round without rest. Could I stand the strain, I thought to myself. But never mind, here's a chance to see whether I would still have the determination to play nine rounds without faltering.

So we arrived in Kuala Lumpur by train on 9 Sep 2016, Chuah Heng Meng, Terry Ong, my wife and I arriving at KL Central and we found our way to the Cititel MidValley, the chess festival's venue. Colin Chong, being KL-based, joined us sson later.

For much of the two-day event, we experienced a roller coaster ride. The first round saw us pummel an inexperienced team by 4-0. Then we happened to be paired with a team of experienced players and that saw us receive a 0-4 drubbing. In the third round, we won by 3-1 but the fourth round saw us losing 0-4 to a team of female chessplayers from Indonedia. That, fortunately, was the last time that we lost by such a wide margin in the tournament.

We recovered in the fifth round with a narrow 2½-1½ win and followed up with a 3-1 win in the sixth round. A 1-3 loss occurred in the seventh round, a 2-2 draw in the eighth round and finally, a 1½-2½ loss in the ninth round saw us settle at 47th position in a field of 96 teams.

I guess we couldn't complain much about our results because when I brought the team down, I told them that our main aim was to enjoy ourselves playing in this event. We had no ambitions about winning a prize as we knew that the strong teams were all going to be more formidable than us.

Chuah used to be the bedrock of chess in his younger days but he is no longer the stubborn player we used to know. Colin continues to be plagued by time trouble and Terry's game was not solid enough. As for me, my competitive days are behind me too. Playing for fun is all we have left. But we are glad to have come to KL. The Merdeka event has enabled us chess players to meet and renew our acquaintances all over again. We are, after all, one big chess family. Gens una sumus.

The Penang Chess Association vice-president, Tan Eng Seong, caught three-quarters of our team in a jovial mood in the hotel's lobby at the end of the first day.

This was before the fourth round got underway. Note our opponents: all lady players from Indonesia. We couldn't stop them from annihilating us.

However, the drubbing did not affect our mood at all. Here we are, still looking rather cheerful (or at least, Terry and I are.)

I can't quite remember who we were playing against, but we were playing on Board 13, which was as high as we could climb.

The report would not be complete without a picture taken with the grand old man of Malaysian chess, Tan Chin Nam, who is now 90 years old. He has been in a wheelchair for some years already and had a health scare in December 2013 when we were all so concerned about him.

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