Tournaments in Asia... including one that had its start in Penang

MARCH 31 ― While the chess world is still talking about the fantastic finish at the just-concluded Candidates Tournament in Moscow, it must be noted that FIDE (World Chess Federation) and Agon (the event organiser) blew a golden opportunity to promote the game to the general public and in doing so, help to make chess a global game.

In the end it was Russia's Sergei Karjakin ― once a proud representative from Ukraine until he was identified as Russia's best chance to regain the World Championship ― who emerged as the worthy winner and challenger to World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

The real excitement really began four rounds before the end when the genuine contenders began to emerge with the lead changing hands till the final round where as luck would have it, the last two with a chance were paired together!

Karjakin had the better tie-break and so draw odds as well as the advantage of the White pieces against the USA No 1 Fabiano Caruana. But if they drew and former World Champion Viswanthan Anand, who was half a point behind and out of the running, had won his game then Caruana would suddenly have the better tie-break in the three-way tie.

The talk is now about the World Championship match being held in New York from November 1-30 despite their still having no sponsor as yet on top of the many problems being faced by the Russian leadership of FIDE (the Federation's president Kirsan Ilyumuzinov is still under US Treasury sanctions).

I have never understood how the Asian Chess Federation operates as they have consistently managed to have their events clash. They are based in Al-Ain, UAE and for them, and perhaps not wrongly, their order of priorities are the UAE, fellow Arab states, those federations in Asia they dominate economically (including the Indian sub-continent and surrounds), ex-Soviet states, and then the Far East.

So we have the Asian Nations Cup in Abu Dhabi from March 27-April 8 (yes, it has started) and the Asian Youth Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from April 5-15.

Both are enormously important events; the Asian Nations Cup (renamed from the Asian Team Championships which was ironically enough started in Penang in 1974 with a trophy named after Tunku Abdul Rahman which has long been lost) which now has separate Men's and Women's championships, and the Asian Youth Championships which is the continental version of the World Youth Championships having categories for both Open (usually just boys) and Girls U-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16, and U-18.

Given the fact that so much talent now breaks into the senior ranks at a very young age, it simply means countries participating in the Asian Nations Cup are being forced to take some of their best young players out of the medal chase at the Asian Youth Championships.

Besides MCF (Malaysian Chess Federation) somehow managing to lose track of our one and only major chess trophy and proud history with the Asian Team Championships, we are again not represented at this year's event in Abu Dhabi.

Well, neither is our neighbour Singapore but this I have already explained in previous columns where I pointed out they no longer have chess players involved, only parents and that they have chosen to focus purely on their own kids but now my question has to be if MCF as a national sports association even has a direction, let alone a plan?

On April 20-26, the Malaysian Masters will be nothing more than a selection tournament for the Olympiad where there is a mix of qualifiers from the national championships and some pre-qualified from being in a previous national team.

Naturally everyone is excited and while nothing wrong with wanting to be at the Olympiad, I struggle to understand the argument for a national team participating if there are no targets that enhance the status of the game and more importantly, which are in line with what our Sports Ministry would like.

Yes, the fact that chess is not in the SEA Games that we will be hosting in 2017 must mean something to even the most dense in local chess?

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.