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Friday April 25, 2008

Out of limbo

Audrey Wong

IT IS settled: Audrey Wong Su Yi’s position vis-à-vis the World Chess Federation (Fide) regarding her title of woman international master.

Wong was our first woman international master (WIM), long before Siti Zulaikha Foudzi became only our second WIM. But inexplicably, Wong’s name went missing from Fide’s own list of titled holders. Consequently, Wong’s name was also missing from the Fide rating list. Definitely, it wasn’t in the list of active players because she had not played competitively for more than 20 years but neither was she in the inactive list. She just went missing, as if Fide did not know that she existed.

So, for the past 23 years, Wong’s very existence as a Malaysian WIM was in limbo.

To re-stake her claim with Fide, she had a certificate from the World Chess Federation acknowledging that she was indeed a woman international master. It was this certificate, as well as a few old newspaper clippings, that she took with her to the reunion dinner last month.

That started the ball rolling. The MCF president requested the MCF secretary to take up the matter personally with Fide. E-mails and faxes were exchanged between the MCF and Fide until finally, about three weeks later, an e-mail arrived from the Fide office that said:

“Please kindly note that we confirm that Wong, Su Yi Audrey, MAS was the winner of the Asian Girls U-20 1985 Championship. The WIM title has been published in her personal card on the FIDE website. Thank you. Best regards, Baira Tsedenova, Elista FIDE Office.”

I’m happy for her.

By the way, I would like to thank Christopher Inbaraj for his e-mail. In essence, he expressed his disappointment with the personal reminiscences in my column. “I wouldn’t mind if you spent a few sentences on it but not the whole article,” he said.

“Imagine a kid in primary school reading them. At his level, he wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to what is going on. Neither would it be relevant to him. What we need is something for everyone,” he continued.

Heavens, I hope that I haven’t bored any other chess enthusiast who reads this column. It’s not about my personal experiences. They count for nothing. But we have to accept that Malaysian chess, like everything else, has a rich past; all I’m doing is to tie this past to the present. Without a past, there can be no present or future. Acknowledging the past will allow us to chart a course for the future.

Back to Audrey Wong – she set the standard for Siti Zulaikha to follow who in turn, I’m certain, will set even higher standards for more Malaysian women chess players.

Back in June 1985, Wong was in uncharted waters when she set out for Adelaide, Australia. As the national women’s champion then, she represented the country at the Asian under-20 girls’ chess championship. It was a 13-round event with chess players from around Asia taking part.

Wong astounded the field with a flying start that saw her score a perfect 10. Ten points from the first 10 games. She was on course to win the championship. However, she then faltered and, eventually, finished the tournament with 11.5 points.

Another player – Abhyankar Anupama from India – also scored 11.5 points.

Both players tied for first place in the tournament.

Florencio Campomanes – who was then the Fide president – decided that both players would be the co-champions and be given the titles. That’s how Wong returned to Malaysia triumphantly with her WIM title.

This triumph proved to be the pinnacle of her chess career because it was never to be repeated. True, Wong won the national women’s championship title several times but she never repeated her international success again.

In those days, in order for a person to be in the Fide rating list, the player would have to be actively playing and possess a rating of at least 2,200 points. The Asian Girls Under-20 was not enough to give Wong her rating points. That was why, even though she was given the WIM title, she was an unrated titled player.

I suppose in the years that followed, Fide did not know what to do with people like Wong who possessed a title but did not have rating points; what’s more, Wong had also become inactive. When Fide computerised eventually, the easiest solution was to remove such players from the rating list.

So what’s to become of Wong now that she is again recognised by Fide? After all the effort put in by the MCF, I hope she will not pull back from playing again.

I hope she will ease herself back into the local chess fraternity by coming back to play. There are always the local weekend chess tournaments and, of course, if she feels up to it, this year’s national closed championship.

She will be an excellent role model for a new generation of women chess players.

Now, onto something new: This year’s Royal Selangor Open starts in five days. If you are keen to take part, send an e-mail to:, stating your name, identity card number and the category of the event you are playing in.

The nine-round tournament will be played over five days from April 30 to May 4. The venue is the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre in Setapak Jaya, Kuala Lumpur.

International time control will apply, making this yet another international rated event in this country.

Entry fees are RM70 for CAS members, while other players will be charged at RM110.

  • Quah Seng Sun can be contacted at Read his blog for occasional chess articles at or join Malaysia’s biggest chess mailing list by registering yourself at group/chess-malaysia

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