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2nd Singapore International Chess Convention

1/7/2006 – When world champion Alexander Alekhine saw the this small chess community in 1933 he was bewildered by its cosmopolitan nature. Today, more than 70 years later, the game has evolved from the Colonial Club of the 1890s and become a mass movement. Olimpiu Urcan proves this in his big pictorial report.
 

2nd Singapore International Chess Convention

By Olimpiu Urcan

2nd Singapore International Chess Convention was held between 18 and 30 December 2005 at Hotel Royal (Singapore) represents a chess celebration for the whole S-E Asia: Singapore Masters International Open, Challengers’ Open, FIDE Trainers and Arbiters Seminar, Asian Schools Festival, take your pick!

An Interesting Chess Past

Chess societies in S-E Asia are generally viewed in the West as lacking traditions, lacking histories. That such things are empty statements it will be proved by the works in progress on the past and evolutions of the Royal Game in these areas of the world.

Singapore’s chess evolved from the status of a game at the Colonial Club of the 1890s to a mass movement in the 1960s and 1970s. A boom in chess took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s. If by 1900s the chess community numbered around 100 active members, today the chess community of Singapore easily gathers thousands of members on an island with a population of approximately 4.5 millions. Beyond such basic statistics, that do not always tell the human side of a story, the present life of Singapore treasures chess as an activity that worth being studied in schools, community centres, Clubs, condominiums, Universities, and so on.

Throughout its history, Singapore represented an attraction for various reasons and for various visitors. Sir Raffles spotted the place during one his voyages in the area and in spite of the mangroves infested with crocodiles, tigers or Malay pirates he was spell-bounded and decided to build a luxuriant Oriental capital: “where stands yonder impenetrable jungle with its reptiles and its beasts, it shall come about that broad streets lined with hotels and shops and commercial structures shall be found tomorrow docks and warehouses, and great ships coming from all the ports of the Seven Seas”.


Old wharf of Singapore

Emerging as a key point in the area, Singapore flourished in a fast rhythm and by the 1920s it was a small but essential pearl in South-East Asia. The city resembled at perfection with the capitals of the world which surrounded themselves to the “Roaring 1920s”. Its exoticism attracted many a famous visitors, Hollywood stars, singers or Kings and Queens. But it also prompted the visits of kings of the chess board. Boris Kostic did not miss Singapore in his world tour in 1925. On contrary, his simultaneous and blindfold exhibitions gave a new impetus to the evolving chess life of the island. In 1933 it was Alekhine’s turn to be amazed by the luxury and exotic surroundings of the island. Camped at Adelphi Hotel, where the nights of Cabaret must have reminded him of Paris, Alekhine did not resist the temptation to return to Singapore for a second exhibition in March 1933, after he has visited the Dutch Indies.

 
Alekhine with the Singapore Chess Club, 1933

The Second World War brought a temporary demise of the local chess life. During the Japanese occupation, many a chess player were either interned at Changi Camp as POWs or Civil Internees, either were forced to burn their chess records for the fear of not being executed by the Japanese Secret Police who might have interpreted such documents as secret code-bearers.

With the 1950s however, the chess life rediscovered the foundation of the earlier decades and went forward for a popularization of the Royal Game in schools. Simultaneous exhibitions (some of them given by Western players such as Sir George Thomas, for instance) and matches between high-schools or Universities. Slowly a game of chess in official conditions imposed itself as a genuine show. “Sometimes a King Kong or a new orchid would temporary steal the show but for sustained interest of some fifty ardent young men playing chess in sweltering heat and awful silence was something even hardened Singaporeans could not get past”, the Singapore Chess Club Bulletin of 1954 wrote. By 1970s, first International Masters of the island emerged and they had their bits of fame in the headlines of the columns dealing with chess Olympiads.

Between 1970s and 1990s, renowned Grandmasters of the world, such as Sir George Thomas, Steiner, Keres, Najdorf or Karpov visited Singapore for exhibitions in which the local chess life engaged with great enthusiasm. I have met last year a governmental official who was one of the student players against Keres in the latter’s exhibition in Singapore. I was amazed when I have seen with how much care he has kept his scoresheet with the score of the game and with Keres’s autograph. Yet such cases, of people who dearly love this game are by all means not singular in Singapore. More than that, exceptional individuals dedicated their entire life to the game.

A Promising Chess Present

Among the latter, the name of Ignatius Leong (right), present General Secretary of FIDE, tops all the rest. The 49-year-old Singaporean stands out as the organizer who gave every drop of his energies for bringing the local chess life to a new level. International recognition and an in depth popularization of the game were sought through the Asean Chess Academy, managed by Intchess Asia Pte Ltd, currently the only FIDE Accredited Chess Academy in Asia. Founded in 2003, the Academy enjoys today a well-deserved success in the region, under its roof 28 FIDE-certified trainers (Grandmasters, International Masters, FIDE Masters, National Masters) forming a multi-national training community. Furthermore, such a community is strengthened by welcoming visits of chess personalities such as GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, GM Xie Jun, GM Azmaiparashvili, or GM Tukmakov to quote only from a short list.

The Asean Chess Academy, in a constructive partnership with Singapore Chess Federation, brought a series of unique chess tournaments for the lovers of the game in this island. Some reports of tournaments gathering more than 1,200 school students were published right here on Chessbase last year.


Singapore Inter-Schools Championship 2004: a record hard to shatter

Asean Chess Academy is currently teaching in more than 60 schools island wide using a variety of methods and meeting an even greater variety of needs expressed by the local teaching institutions. An incredibly comforting chess future one can foresee during such national tournaments in which thousand of young players and parents come to a meeting with the joy (and sadness, at times) this mesmerizing game can produce. The phrase “our future is in our youth” was used for propagandistic reasons in many countries. Should one attend such a mammoth chess tournament in Singapore, he would be convinced that such a motto still has some real values. Channel News Asia, the regional TV network, spotted the growing chess interest in schools and broadcasted promising reports on how chess is favoured by the young pupils of Singapore schools.


Playing time at Asean Chess Academy


800 primary pupils learn the ABCs of Chess and ChessBase in a regular school chess session


Live Chess in Community Clubs


Living the emotions of this enthralling game


Waiting for the opponent


Trying out a King’s Side attack fully concentrated


Determination to win

However, not only chess alphabetization is on the agenda here. Master level tournaments with attractive cash prizes have convinced many to book e-tickets for Singapore in recent years, especially during the 1st International Chess Convention held in Singapore in December 2004.

Between 18th and 30th December 2005 Singapore organizers brought the event of the year for Singapore chess life as well as for S-E Asia: the 2nd Singapore International Chess Convention, hosting several events where chess is played and studied from different perspectives: Singapore Masters International Open, Challengers’ Open, Asian Schools Chess Festival (using Monroi Technology with e-scoresheets and live games broadcasted on the internet), FIDE Training Seminar, and Seminar for FIDE Arbiters. Asean Chess Academy was part of a potent team of organizers among which Singapore Chess Federation, FIDE, Singapore Sports Council, Asian Chess Confederation, Singapore Pools and Singapore Tourism Board. The spectrum of such a select company of organizers and sponsors could be easily explained by the words of Mr. Oon Jin-Teck, the Chief-Executive Officer of Singapore Sports Council, during an interview given to us with the occasion of last year’s Convention but which remain an axiom: “I think it is one of Singapore Sports Council’s hopes that when we organize an event we want the experience more than just the competition. Experience means that ability to compete, the ability to enjoy the friendship, the ability to have a carnival experience sometimes, the ability to utilize the strengths of different people, different groups [officials, coaches, parents, etc] to have this dialogue, and this communication”.

Dialogue, communication and a fruitful exchange of ideas took place in the FIDE Training Seminar held at Royal Hotel between 18th and 24th December. Lecturers were GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Georgia) and GM Yury Razuvaev (Russia) who delivered interesting sessions to 14 trainers coming from Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, India, Russia, Georgia or Armenia. The majority of the trainers obtained the FIDE Trainer title at the end of an examination consisting in defending a seminar thesis in front of the lecturers.


FIDE Training Seminar with GM Razuveav and GM Azmaiparashvili


The participants at the FIDE Arbiters Seminar on stage: in centre
Chairman of FIDE Arbiters’ Council, Mr. Nikolopoulos Panagiotis

Simultaneously, Royal Hotel hosted Asian Schools Chess Festival organized by Singapore Chess Federation and Mr. Ignatius Leong, General Secretary of FIDE. The event gathered different age groups: boys & girls U-9, U-11, U-13 and U-15. Over 150 pupils including 7 FMs and 2 WFMs representing Mongolia, South Korea, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, India, Sri-Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam and Hong Kong competed in this event. The partnership between Singapore Chess Federation and Monroi permitted the use of e-scoresheets and the system proved to be a real success as games were broadcasted live on the internet. Singapore scored a great success collecting no less than 22 medals during this year’s Asian Schools Chess Festival:

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total 

Singapore

15

5

2

22

Vietnam

2

1

1

4

India

1

7

1

9

Indonesia

1

-

1

2

Malaysia

1

-

-

1

Sri Lanka

-

2

1

3

Korea

-

-

3

3

Australia

-

-

-

-

China

-

-

-

-

Hong Kong

-

-

-

-

Philippines

-

-

-

-


Playing hall: President’s Room of Royal Hotel

“Congratulations for an excellent organization” – GM Yury Razuvaev, Chairman of FIDE Trainers Committee, during his speech. “Everything here is fantastic”, said Vice-President of FIDE, Zurab Azmaiparashvili at the prize giving ceremony for Asian Schools Festival.


Hundreds of spectators from all corners of S-E Asia in the Jade Room where prize giving ceremony took place

The start list for Singapore Masters International Open 2005 is topped by GM Azamaiparashvili with the second higher rated player in the person of GM Ni Hua of China. In the ring with 9 GMs, 2 WGMs, 8 IMs, and a dozen FMs, GM Azmaiparashvili leads with 4 points at the end of the 4th round. Yet, there is enough room left for the excitement yet to come: GM Paragua, GM Ni Hua, GM Zhang Zhong, and GM Nelson follow closely with 3,5 out of the first 4 games.

No.

Name

Fed

Rating

Title

1

Azmaiparashvili, Zurab

GEO

2658

GM

2

Ni, Hua

CHN

2603

GM

3

Zhang, Zhong

CHN

2598

GM

4

Paragua, Mark

PHI

2596

GM

5

Wynn, Zaw Htun

MYA

2578

IM

6

Mikhalevski, Victor

ISR

2554

GM

7

Koneru Humpy

IND

2540

GM

8

Megaranto, Susanto

INA

2530

GM

9

Irwanto, Sadikin

INA

2517

FM

10

Wu, Shaobin

SIN

2510

GM

11

Aung, Thant Zin

MYA

2496

FM

12

Zhao, Xue

CHN

2478

WGM

13

Wang, Rui

CHN

2474

IM

14

Mariano, Nelson

PHI

2466

GM

15

Loeffler, Stefan

GER

2440

IM

16

Goh, Koon-Jong Jason

SIN

2428

IM

17

Mittelman, Gur

ISR

2425

IM

18

Nadanian, Ashot

ARM

2425

IM

19

Sitanggang, Salor

INA

2415

IM

20

Goh, Wei Ming

SIN

2407

FM

21

Tunasly, Kifly

INA

2400

FM

22

Li, Ruofan

CHN

2398

WGM

23

Tu, Hoang Thai

VIE

2384

24

Chiong, Luis

PHI

2380

IM

25

Bao, Quang

VIE

2361

FM

26

Pham, Chuong

VIE

2352

FM

27

Lim, Yee Weng

MAS

2348

FM

28

Sadorra, Julio

PHI

2337

FM


GM Zurab Azmaiparasvili at work


GMs Zhang Zhong, Koneru Humpy, Viktor Mikhaelski, Ni Hua,
Jason Goh (IM) and Megaranto Susanto

The presence of GM Azmaiparashvili of Georgia, GM Ni Hua and GM Zhang Zhong, GM Mikhalevski of Israel, GM Paragua of Philippines, GM Koneru Humpy of India, GM Megaranto of Indonesia, GM Wu Shaobin of Singapore and GM Mariano Nelson of Philippines assures an exciting struggle for the top prizes. Equally exciting seems to be the potential upsets that could be created by strong players such as the IM Ashot Nadandian, one of the most original players in the competition, IM Jason Goh, a 16 years old Singaporean with a GM norm by now, IM Loeffer (We’re sure the German readers would follow his evolution closely), or others from the lower starting seats but who have scored extremely well against strong opposition over the year. The top 10 games of each round are broadcasted live over the internet using the MonRoi system.


The death of pencil boxes: the Monroi e-scoresheet

A Great Place to Visit

It is said that chess has the gift to bring people of different creeds or races together. It has the gift of making them forget they are different and engage them into a pure and friendly competition of ideas and skills. Singapore’s multiracial society, built on a foundational rock of racial and religious tolerance, embraces the game of chess as a tool for fostering even further the community ties at all levels. Chinese, Malays, Europeans, Euroasians, all engage in the same game exchanging ideas and simply communicating. Moreover, chess can be a great invitation card for visitors or tourists creating stronger ties between the latter and the locals. And, take my word for it, there are plenty of things to be visited in this otherwise small island.


Sir Stamford Raffles Statue, aTaoist Temple: Kwan Im Temple

While every place in the world has its beauties and its interesting experiences, Singapore is a unique place to spend your holiday. Such fact prompted the Singapore Tourism Board to adopt a most-inspiring logo Uniquely Singapore. “A single day's trails will take you from the past to the future, from a colourful ethnic enclave to an efficient business centre, from serene gardens to sleek skyscrapers”, it is said on the official website of the Singapore Tourism Board and there is nothing better to catch in such few words the essence of Singapore.


View from Faber Mountain

While in other parts of the world multiculturalism often creates tensions, here it makes Singapore a fascinating place. Being one of the fast-paced societies and enjoying a performing economy, Singapore emerged as one of the “Asian Tigers” in the late 1990s. Today, surrounded by places devastated by tsunami or marred by terrorist threats, Singapore enjoys the reputation of a safe, clean and prosper environment, without being boring or lacking attractions for its visitors.


The modern port of Singapore

Where technology, fast-paced trends of life and the continuous rise of postmodernism are seen, usually historical sites or religious monuments tend to have a smaller place being eclipsed by the growing skyscrapers. Not so with Singapore.


A post-modern city-state


Inside Chinatown


Ear-piercing ceremony in Little India


A unique kind of art near Singapore River


Post-mortem analysis of a complicated gambit?


Images of Singapore: an entertaining history museum on Sentosa Island


A Biblical theme in the middle of a shopping Eden

At the inaugural East Asian Summit in Kuala Lumpur that took place recently, one of the key debating topics was regarding the concept of a “borderless East Asia”: could it be real or it is a far-fetched concept that needs lots of imagination? While political leaders were engaged in discussing such matters and seeking solutions in the spirit of Jean Monnet for diluting animosities and historical differences between nations, the Royal Game does its bit and brings instantly together people from Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, but also from Israel, Armenia, Georgia, Germany, Australia. As a fact, in Singapore at the end of this December there already exists a borderless community where people of very different latitudes, creeds, gender, age or races come together after the roof of a grand chess festival.

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