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Friday September 2, 2011

Chinese players dominate at Malaysia open chess championship

Chinese players make an impression.

ONE clear sign of the eighth Arthur Tan Malaysia open chess championship that ended at the Cititel Midvalley Hotel last week was the sheer dominance of the Chinese players. The Chinese have always been fervent supporters of the Malaysian Chess Festival – of which the Malaysia open is just one of the three main events – and they sent a contingent of 20 players to participate in this showcase event.

Frankly, I did not notice any big names among the Chinese unless one counted their woman grandmaster, Ju Wenjun, who had come out tops in July at the first Hangzhou women grandmaster chess tournament, ahead of the reigning women’s world champion, Hou Yifan.

I was very interested to follow her form since that event and I wasn’t disappointed. She was always among the leaders and had ended the Malaysia open placed in sixth position. Her play grew from strength to strength as the tournament approached its finish and she scored two great wins in the eighth and ninth rounds against Filipino grandmaster Oliver Dimakiling and Vietnamese grandmaster Cao Sang.

A momentous occasion: (From left) Dmitry Kayumov (International seniors champion), Sarvinoz Kurbonboeva (Chess challenge champion) and Li Shilong (Malaysia open champion).

Some readers may remember Cao Sang as the Malaysia open winner last year. He didn’t have the same luck this year and was almost unbeaten in the tournament until he met Ju, in that ninth round.

Now, you may wonder why I said that the Chinese had dominated this year’s Malaysia open championship. Apart from the petite Ju, who finished sixth, the top five winners were also Chinese.

The new winner of the Malaysia open was their grandmaster Li Shilong. He last played in this event in 2008, finishing in eighth position. This year, he was in the limelight by winning the Arthur Tan challenge trophy and the first prize of US$4,000 (RM12,000).

Second was Chinese international master Lu Shanglei, followed by their grandmaster Wen Yang in third place, Wan Yunguo in fourth and their grandmaster Wang Rui in fifth.

In the sixth AmBank chess challenge, Sarvinoz Kurbonboeva of Uzbekistan lived up to her top billing by winning this tournament. Actually, it was a joint tie at the top of the standings with India’s Rohan Vijay Shandilya but a better tie-break ensured that Kurbonboeva received the challenge trophy and the top prize of RM1,000.

Another Uzbek player, grandmaster Dmitry Kayumov, shared the winners’ spotlight by successfully defending his title at the second Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng international seniors open chess championship, winning the top prize of RM5,000.

Kayumov’s victory was more or less expected as he was the only grandmaster in the field and his rating was 100 points above his nearest rival, Filipino international master Luis Chiong. Yet, during the tournament, he reached a crisis point when an unexpected loss in the sixth round to Chiong meant that there were three players tied at the top of the standings.

However, Kayumov never looked back after that loss. He won his remaining three games to clinch the first prize as his rivals’ play began spluttering.

Now that the dust has settled at the Malaysian Chess Festival, attention turns to the Raja Nazrin Shah invitational masters and international open chess championships at the Swiss Garden Hotel & Residences in Kuala Lumpur. The two events will run concurrently from this Sunday until Sept 10.

There are actually two events. The first is the Raja Nazrin Shah invitational masters championship where four veteran grandmasters from Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and Uzbekistan will be joined by six international masters in a nine-round round-robin tournament. Among the competitors will be Malaysia’s international master, Mas Hafizulhelmi.

The other players in the invitational event are grandmasters Joseph Sanchez (the Philippines), Nguyen Anh Dung (Vietnam), Tahir Vakhidov (Uzbekistan) and Dr Wong Meng Kong (Singapore), and international masters Oliver Barbosa and Richard Bitoon (both from the Philippines), Nguyen Van Huy (Vietnam), Goh Wei Ming (Singapore) and Jahongir Vakhidov (Uzbekistan).

There is also an international open championship at the same time, with half the entries being internationally titled players. Malaysia will again depend on its youth to lead the fight, with 18-year-old national champion Lim Zhou Ren heading the local challenge.

Also expected to play are our under-14 boys’ champion Roshan Ajeet Singh, under-14 girls’ champion Tan Li Ting, under-10 boys’ champion Teh De Juan and under-10 girls’ champion Teh De Zen. I have heard that 85-year-old Datuk Tan Chin Nam may be playing too.

The two events are organised by the Kuala Lumpur Chess Association with sponsorship from the Masterskill Education Group Bhd under its Educating Malaysia Corporate Social Responsibility programme.

Up next

The Chess World Cup: Is on in the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk. This is a gruelling knockout event that starts with 128 participants and half the field being eliminated at the end of every round. The stakes are high as the top three winners of the event will qualify to join the Candidates tournament of the next world chess championship cycle. The final of this Chess World Cup is not expected to start until Sept 16.

You can get the schedule and watch live games from the official website at chess.ugrasport.com.

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