JUNE 16 — We are almost halfway through 2016 and there has already been so much chess with even more to come!
The biggie so far was the Women’s World Chess Championship Match from March 1-19 in Lviv, Ukraine between World No. 1 Hou Yifan and the winner of the previous year’s knock-out event Mariya Mulychuk where Hou, the defending champion, was unable to play.
Despite the advantage of home ground and more in her favour, the result was a forgone conclusion as Hou was simply too much for Mulychuk.
Every two years, the World Chess Olympiad comes around and this September 1-14 practically every chess-playing nation will be in Baku, Azerbaijan for it. The World Chess Federation (FIDE) Congress will be held concurrently so we might just see a new FIDE president being elected!
This is probably FIDE’s worst-kept secret and is well telegraphed with a call by the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) to a first-ever Asian Summit from August 28-September 1 in Al Ain, UAE.
Yes, National Chess Federation presidents and their FIDE delegates will be wined and dined just before the Olympiad and Congress starts. It is also particularly convenient that there are many flights daily between Dubai and Baku.
Of course the chess world is also waiting to get details — any details actually — of the World Chess Championship Match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin from November 11-30 in New York.
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and event organiser Agon still insist there are sponsors and a venue for a match in the USA between a Norwegian superstar and Crimea born Russian who defected from Ukraine in return for the training that has, in his own words, made him a top 10 player.
With ACF it is hard to understand the reasons for the things they do but with sheikhs, Gulf and oil-rich Middle East nations in play, it is a very different type of politics.
The Asian Nations Cup which was held from March 27-April 8 in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and the Asian Individual Championship which was held from May 25-June 5 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan should be the flagship events together with the Asian Youth and Asian Junior Championships. Yet the Asian Youth Championships which was held from April 5-15 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia clashed with the Asian Nations Cup.
Now there is a new event in the form of the East Asian Youth Chess Championship to be held from August 4-11 in Seoul, Korea and let’s not forget the Asian Schools Championships to be held from July 9-18 in Tehran, Iran.
All three Asian events for juniors — the Asian Junior Championships for those under 20 years of age, the Asian Youth Championships with under eight to under 18 categories and the Asian Schools with under five to under 17 categories are all events that always had poor participation and so are considered to be poor Continental versions of their world counterparts.
In junior Asian chess, the one bright spark has ironically been the Asean+ Age Group Chess Championships but it seems the East Asian Youth Chess Championship has actually been introduced to replace it!
Then we see the ACF tapping into the vast China market with an Asian Nations U-14 Chess Team Championship to be held from November 5-14 in Jiaxing, China. It seems that it does not matter where in China this is held as all that is needed is for hundreds of Chinese teams to show up.
Very much like what we see in the Asian junior events held in India or Sri Lanka where something like 90 per cent of the players are from the host country!
A dying event is the Commonwealth Chess Championship which is kept alive by those in the Indian sub-continent who believe it attracts sponsorship due to its name connection with their past English masters (even though it has not seen any British participation for many years now) and this time around, Sri Lanka will host an event from July 29 — August 6.
No wonder it is now a organised as one big Open event with separate prizes for winners from Commonwealth countries.
Locally our biggie is the Malaysian Chess Festival which will be from September 8-16 at Cititel in Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur and once again participants will be able to enjoy both the Merdeka Day Rapid Team Championship and an Individual Rapid tournament, and choose from the IGB Malaysian Open, Seniors and Challengers, while kids now have their own team event joining the one-day Age Group tournament.
Come December and there will be the Penang Open from 3-8 and hopefully the Johor Open again from 12-17.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.