OCTOBER 22 ― The last few weeks have been exciting ones for top-level chess.
First up was Sergey Karjakin finally trumping fellow Russian Peter Svidler to take the World Cup after both secured their places in the Candidates Tournament which will determine the next challenger to Norway's Magnus Carlsen.
Then there is World No. 2, American Hikaru Nakamura, who has done very little wrong in the last year. He relished the challenge to his long undisputed USA No. 1 ranking by the transfers of Filipino Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana, and in the much-hyped Millionaire Chess Open, he saw off all to emerge the winner and pocket a cool US$100,000 (about RM421,895).
Of course by opting to play in this big money event, all three prospects for the World Championship missed out on the World Rapid and Blitz Championships which were held on overlapping dates.
Carlsen entered both as the defending champion and was very convincing in retaining the World Rapid Championship but came completely unstuck in the World Blitz Championship that was won for the fourth time by Russia's Alexander Grischuk.
While all this was going on, the FIDE Women's World Cup was being held in Monte Carlo and China's World No. 1 Hou Yifan, despite an indifferent start, again demonstrated she was simply too good for all the other women players by winning the event with 9/11 and by an unprecedented two-point margin.
In a preview of her coming match for the World Championship with Ukraine's Mariya Muzychuk, Hou was very convincing and won easily with a direct attack after navigating some unorthodox opening play.
While the news in the international chess media may be all about Carlsen agreeing to play in the Qatar Open, a lot is also happening in our region.
As was the case last year, the Philippines are having two back to back International Open Championships in the last quarter of the year and I have been told by the organisers that both will be held in Subic and as many as 30 foreign titled players have already registered!.
Both boast total prize funds of US$30,000, and the Philippine International Chess Convention from November 8-14 and the Philippines Sports Commission Pure Gold International Chess Challenge will be from November 15-22.
Immediately after will be the Myanmar International Open Chess Championship in Yangon from November 22-28 where I understand that four grandmasters have already signed up and together with several strong local international masters also taking part, there are good chances to make title norms for anyone playing well.
Locally of course we have the Penang Open from December 7-12 and then the Johor Open from December 14-19.
The question is whether the Malaysian Chess Federation, after declining to register two new Asean championships, will also reject the Johor Chess Association's application to create a Causeway Chess Festival immediately following the Johor Open.
Our neighbours are also in on the action as Singapore will see the Asean Para Games from December 3-9 where chess is one of the sports included and the inaugural Asean Individual Chess Championships limited to players with a rating of 2300 and above will take place in Jakarta from December 21-30.
Yes, there is certainly going to be more chess for even the most fervent till the end of the year!
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.