Checkmate time as Penang Chess Festival kicks off

THE Penang Chess Festival got off to a grand start at the Red Rock Hotel in George Town with about 600 participants from 20 countries vying for honours.

The festival, from Dec 3 to Dec 9, comprises four chess events, namely the 10th Penang Heritage International Chess Open, the Penang Challenger, the Penang Blitz and the Wah Seong Penang Chess League.

The total prize money for the four events is about RM50,000. Hong Kong chess player Gerard Hein, 81, has the distinction of being the oldest. There are participants from other countries such as China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Australia and France.

Chess players are normally very focused and this is evidently seen when businessman S. Eswaran from Bukit Mertajam on the Penang mainland decided to put up his two sons from SK Stowell – Tarendra Vinayagar, 11, and Jayvantt Muruga, nine – in a hotel nearby the competition venue on Penang island for the one-week tournament.

Jagdeep launching the Penang Chess Festival by symbolically making the first move.

“I don’t want to take the risk of them getting caught in the traffic jam, especially on the bridge. It’s holiday season. If we come from Bukit Mertajam, we would have to get up as early as 5am. I want my sons to relax so that they can concentrate on the competition,” said Eswaran, who is also an arbiter.

State Housing, Town, Country Planning and Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo applauded the vision and commitment of the Penang Chess Association (PCA), the Penang chess community and the participants’ parents for bringing Penang chess to a high level.

“This tournament, as envisaged by the Penang Chess Association, is a good training ground for young players from Penang and Malaysia, and a good opportunity for them to compete against experienced and skilled players,” Jagdeep said in his speech when officiating the tournament.

“Over the years, this tournament has served to hone the skills of local players. Penang has in the last 10 years produced five Women Candidate Masters, two Women Fide Masters (one with conditions), one Candidate Master, two Fide Masters and one International Master.

Jia Ru in full concentration as she faces her rival at the Penang Chess Festival.

“This is possibly one of the highest, if not the highest produced in any state in Malaysia, over the span of the last 10 years.”

Jagdeep also congratulated the newest Woman Candidate Master Sim Jia Ru, 13, and Woman Fide Master with conditions Agnes Chong, 11, and also newly crowned World Under-10 Girls Chess Champion Samantha Edithso from Indonesia. The trio are currently among the participants in the tournament.

He also expressed hope that as chess is likely to be an event for the 2019 SEA Games, all Penang and Malaysian players would work hard to qualify for the chance to represent the country and make the country proud.

Also present at the opening ceremony were PCA president See Swee Sie, PCA vice-president Tan Eng Seong, Penang STEM general manager Richard Chung Chok Yin, Wah Seong director Pauline Tan, Penang Sports Council board member Datuk Dr GP Doraisamy and PCA immediate past president Lee Ewe Ghee.

Chess players in action at the Penang Chess Festival.

See, in welcoming all the participants in her speech, also paid tribute to the late Datuk Tan Chin Nam for his immense contribution, and Lee and his committee for running the Penang Open for eight years since its inception.

“Datuk Tan was a great contributor and patron of Malaysian and Penang chess. The passing of this man who had given so selflessly to the pursuit and betterment of chess is a huge loss to Penang chess,” See said.

She also thanked Wah Seong for continuously supporting PCA over the years and being the main sponsor from the fourth edition of the Penang Open and also the state government and the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for some financial aid.

“PCA also works with state exco, Penang Math Platform and Kiwanis Club of Penang Central on the promotion of chess as a means of enhancing children’s educational skills and abilities,” See said.

Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Adleena Rahaya Ahmad Radzi