Chess grand prix a grand success

Grand prix circuit is a grand success.

AT THE last minute on Sunday, I decided to take a short drive down from Penang to look in at the fifth and final leg of the Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng chess grand prix tournament at the Syuen Hotel in Ipoh.

I was very encouraged by what I saw. When I entered the tournament hall, I could see that the Perak International Chess Association (PICA) had a good thing going for them. The hall was full, with 213 people playing chess.

Players of all ages had come to Ipoh from all over Perak and even the nearby states. As far as I could tell, there were players from Selangor and Penang but the organisers were quick to stress that there were busloads of players from areas like Bagan Serai, Slim River, Grik, Kampar, Ayer Tawar, Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Siput.

In fact, despite the closing date for entries being announced much earlier, Pica officials suddenly found an unprecedented number of unregistered players knocking at the door on Sunday morning.

They had to adjust their entries quickly and would have gladly accepted all who turned up at the last minute if not for the fact that they had filled up the tournament hall and had run out of chess equipment. I was told that possibly some 30 to 40 players were turned away.

Because of the large number of players, the organisers also made a quick decision to increase the number of rounds to eight and, at the same time, reduce the time control for each round.

Of course, some of the more serious participants may say that these factors made it uncondu-cive to compete seriously (there was a lot of prize monies involved) but, I was thinking to myself, who cares?

It was a great carnival atmosphere and I could see that the majority of the players were enjoying themselves tremendously. The noise level was high and impossible to shut out, but, again, who cares?

Naturally, the top boards got the most attention. They were the games that were usually among the last to finish, so it gave the other players a great opportunity to mill around and watch the better players.

This is the second year of the grand prix, which started last year. According to Pica president Chan Swee Loon, the association received RM25,000 from Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) this year to run the five legs in various towns in Perak.

The series began with the Taiping leg in April and then proceeded to Bagan Serai, Slim River, Kampar and finally, Ipoh. Chan said that the grand prix circuit had drummed up a lot of interest in the towns where chess is not normally played. Next year’s grand prix circuit, he added, would probably be increased to six legs and start earlier in January.

At the closing ceremony on Sunday, the mayor of Ipoh, Datuk Roshidi Hashim, enthused about the game and paid a glowing tribute to the late Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng, founder of KLK. Then he sprang a surprise by pledging that the Ipoh City Council would contribute RM10,000 to next year’s grand prix circuit in the state.

For the record, the eight winners of the grand prix were Fong Yit San, Muhammad Nabil Azman Hisham, Fong Yit Ho, Ahmad Jamal Husni Jamaluddin, Jason Teh Chee Ying, Azman Hisham Che Doi, Amirul Rahimi Shamsuddin and Noor Ahmad Fazilah

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