Chess activities ramp up after the holidays

FEBRUARY 11 ― In Malaysia, chess activity always picks up significantly after the Chinese New Year holidays with the MSSM (National Schools) Chess Championships beginning its qualifying cycle and then a month later, the National Age Group Championships held back to back with the National Closed Championships during the short school term break in March.

The National Age Groups will be held from March 12-14 at Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Seri Iskandar, Perak, while the National Closed Championships, now more grandly renamed the Malaysian Championships, will be from March 16-20 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Despite the Malaysian Championships being held in East Malaysia, I expect a good turnout as it is no longer as expensive as it used to be to travel distances within Malaysia and it is also a qualifying for the Malaysian Masters scheduled to be held from April 20-26. This will be where the national team is selected to participate in the World Chess Olympiad from September 17-30 at Baku, Azerbaijan.

We now have three young players seemingly able to compete with our best seniors. Yeoh Li Tian ― at 17 already our top player for almost two years ― made his breakthrough International Master tittle norm at the Asean Championships in December and overseas-based Aron Teh is continuing to be a solid 2300+.

But on the basis of year apart performances in Hungary which have propelled Dilwen Ding from 1814 to 2274 to 2420, he has become the No.1 Malaysian.

If the likes of Dr Nicholas Chan and Lim Zhou Ren can find the time and play anywhere they are capable and even young Wong Yinn Loong step up a little more, Malaysia would have indeed a very young and interesting team although IM Mas Hafizulhelmi would always be a sure bet if he wanted it.    

Online there has been a lot for the chess enthusiast to enjoy as all major events (and even some much less important) are now broadcast “live.”

Many have been following both the Tata Steel and Tata Challengers in Wijk aan Zee, Nederlands where many of the world's elite participated, as well as the Tradewise Gibraltar, an Open event which is considered by many to be the best of its kind in the world,

The region will also soon see two of its major Open Championships take place: HB Bank Cup from March 7-14 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the Bangkok Open from April 10-17 and as always there will be Malaysians interested to take part.

Every event is organised for its own special reasons and the HB Bank Cup, besides of course being a showcase for Vietnam chess and an opportunity for its players, is often seen to be held for their world-class No.1 Le Quang Liem to win!

The Bangkok Open takes quite a different track, being organised by expats and locals working together to bring a world-class open to their country and giving all an opportunity, if not to play some of the world's top players, at least a chance to be in the same room and socialise. 

In April too  there will be the Asian Youth Championships from April 5-15 in Ulaanbaator, Mongolia and I believe that Malaysia will be represented by at least some of our usual suspects and all the more so now there is some doubt if the ASEAN+ Age-Group Championships will be held from May 29 to June 7 in Pattaya, Thailand as planned.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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