Time to head to Bangkok

APRIL 7 — South-east Asia’s longest-running International Open Championship — the 16th Bangkok Chess Club Open — will once again be held at the Dusit Thani in Bangkok from April 10-18.

It is more popularly known as the Bangkok International Open Chess Championship and in recent years has also been named the Thailand International Open Chess Championship. It is among a handful of such events that year after year see repeat participants from all over the world.

This event, always held during the Songkran Water Festival which welcomes the Thai New Year, has long been my guaranteed annual visit to Thailand and I am certainly not alone as a regular on the arbiter team!

Main organiser Kai Tuorila of course must be named as the man responsible for the Bangkok Chess Club Open from its very start with Panupand Vijjaprabha and Peter Darby acknowledged to be his particularly important sidekicks.

Ian and Cathy Rogers are returning to handle international press reporting and the number of DGT boards for “live” broadcast on the official website will also increase to 20.

Participation records continue to be broken for an event that annually rotates between Bangkok and Pattaya, and as at time of writing some 222 are playing in the Open while 117 are playing in the Challengers which makes a grand total of 339 which is a record number.

But much more amazing is that as many as 46 countries are being represented!  

For many years now the Bangkok Open has managed to have a number of strong celebrity Grandmasters playing with at least one new standout and this year is no different.

Spain’s No. 1 Francisco Vallejo Pons is back again as top seed as is English defending champion Nigel Short, India’s Surya Shekhar Ganguly and German Jan Gustafsson and they are joined by Nederland’s Leok Van Wely, Russia’s Ildar Khairullin and another Dutch in Benjamin Bok.

If I count right, there are 17 Grandmasters, 20 International Masters and 23 FIDE Masters among the numerous titled players.

There are going to be tough battles among the players in the top group but the middle group has many very good players too.

In addition to the many battle-hardened professionals, young players like Australia’s Anton Smirnov, Iran’s Shahin Lorparizangeneh and USA’s Awonder Laing have all been touted to become future stars.  

Certain international title norms will be aplenty and there for the taking!

From Malaysia I am happy to see as many as eight in the Open led by our undisputed No. 1 and current Malaysian Champion Yeoh Li Tian who will be looking to make another International Master norm, and promising and ambitious juniors Ng Jen Shen, Chan Kim Yew and Goh Jie Yi, veterans Cheah Cheok Fung and Lim Kian Hwa, and two others, Ong Thian Loon and Ooi Li Tao. 

Looking at the top 10 Malaysians in the latest April 2016 FIDE Rating list, Dilwen Ding has in a very short time burst to the No. 1 spot but sadly only seems to play overseas and so he did not play in the recent Malaysian Championship or will be part of the coming Malaysian Masters or even the Selangor Open. 
This is in contrast to Aron Teh who lives overseas but remains active and keen to be a part of the Malaysian team at the Baku Olympiad in September 2016. 

In third position is Dr Nicholas Chan who as much as he loves to play will find the challenges of career and impending marriage beyond him but fifth placed and former No. 1 Mas Hafizulhelmi might still have something to offer.

The biggest hopes for the future might be Wong Yin Loong who has been making steady progress every year, Bangkok bound Jen Sheng, and perhaps the even younger Lye Lik Zang who already boasts many chessplayer attributes.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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