Malaysia – Truly Asia

8/18/2004 – The 1st Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysian Open Chess Championship 2004 will be held from the 21st to the 26th of August Kuala Lumpur ("Kay-eL"), Malaysia. This FIDE-rated, 11-round tournament will be played at a time control of 90 min + 30 sec. The prize fund is US $12,000. Edwin Lam Choong Wai tells us all about the host country.

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1st Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysian Open 2004

By Edwin Lam Choong Wai

Sponsored by chess enthusiasts and lifetime President of the Malaysian Chess Federation, Dato’ Tan Chin Nam, this event will be hosted by Mid Valley City in the capital city of Malaysia. With prize money totaling around the region of US $12,000, this is definitely the richest chess event to be held in South East Asia this year. And, if what I have heard over the grapevine is true, this is just the beginning: the next edition of Malaysian Open will feature an even greater amount of prize money! So, people, now’s the time to get out there and make your flight reservations to Kuala Lumpur – to play in the next edition of Malaysian Open!

Malaysia – Truly Asia

Malaysia is a country in the Asian continent that is located very near to the Equator. Geographically speaking, Malaysia is surrounded by the Malaccan Straits and the South China Sea. Life is very much a breeze in this country! Bordered by our neighbors Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, Malaysia is easily accessible by rail, road, sea as well as air. With a population of approximately 23.5 million people (July 2004 estimate), Malaysia is a multi-racial community that is made up of the main Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups.


Alfresco dining on a sunny, sunny… Sunday

Tropical in terms of weather, the temperature in Malaysia generally ranges between a low of 24 degree Celsius to a high of 35 degree Celsius. In a way, we have ‘summer’ here all year round! If you are from the temperate climes, you will be glad to know that the weather is a lot cooler in the highlands and mountain ranges.

In centuries gone by, Malaysia (or, Malaya as it was known at that time) was very much a trading port that brought together spice, gold and clothing merchants from the West and the East. Beneath all the wheeling and dealing of trade and commerce, this wonderful place had unexpectedly began playing its role of serving as a meeting point for all the diverse cultures that came and left.

Indeed, there is no better place anywhere around the world, except Malaysia, that can hold the distinction of being the melting pot of Asian cultures. With our forefathers, originating from places as far away as China and India, assimilating with the natural inhabitants of the Malay Archipelago, it gave birth to Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur: The ‘old’ and the ‘new’, the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’

Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, had a humble beginning. What was once a tin mining town two hundred years ago, it is now a bustling retail and commercial center. Kuala Lumpur, or “Kay-eL”, as it is more fondly known among locals, is indeed a city in contrasts.


The grandeur of the old train station in Kay-eL

It is not often that you see architecturally beautiful Colonial buildings co-exist side-by-side the many sprouting modern, environmental-friendly skyscrapers. But, it is here in Kay-eL. Ironically, while it is not often to see Western-styled bistros and cafés housed in some ‘old school’, pre-war (‘pre-war’ is a term used locally to describe buildings constructed before WWII) shop houses, again, it is precisely here in Kay-eL, that you will find them.

From the Moorish-inspired architecture of the Stesen Keretapi Besar Kuala Lumpur (which, is the old train station in KL, pictured on the right) to the sleek, geometrical-inspired Menara Public Bank along Jalan Ampang, KL is a city of contrasts!

It is a city, whereby the two extremes, the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, exist in harmony. A perfect harmony that is best symbolized by the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ principle. It is a city whereby the tall skyscrapers within Kuala Lumpur’s Central Business District merges effortlessly with the old, classic Oriental buildings along places like Changkat Bukit Bintang and the Asian Heritage Row.

But, KL is not merely about its architecture alone. There are also lots of greeneries and trees around town. A Japanese girl from Tokyo, whom I met recently during her first visit here to Malaysia, spoke fondly about the lush streetscapes around KL.


Turkish food, anyone?

Eat to live, or live to eat: From ‘spicy satay’ to ‘dim sums’ and ‘roti canai’

If you are a tourist here in KL, there are plenty of attractions for you to enjoy. A must-visit for tourist would definitely include the Petronas Twin Towers, Little India, Chinatown, National Museum, National Art Gallery, Central Market, the Istana Negara, Bangsar and of course, Mid Valley City. Depending on the sort of holiday that you are after (culturally-inclined, party all-night long, shopping holiday etc), there is something for everyone here.


Magnificence… Petronas Twin Towers at dusk

Moving around KL is quite convenient. If you loved the sun, then I would suggest that you to simply grab hold of a map from the tourist information counters, and walk around the city. After all, walking is still the best way to get to know a particular place. For those of you who are a little bit less adventurous, the electric trains provide an efficient and quick way to get around town. Whether it is the Putra LRT, STAR LRT or the KL Monorail, the routes are inter-linked to cover most of the major attractions in KL. Besides those, buses and taxis are also widely available to ferry passengers around.

All that said, wherever you go, whatever you do, one common element that binds everything together in Kuala Lumpur, is ‘food’. Speaking about ‘food’, one is reminded of the age-old debate of whether humans ‘eat to live’, or ‘live to eat’. Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity, age or gender, definitely ‘live to eat’ and KL is indeed the land of the ‘food’-lovers. Many culinary crusaders from America and Europe have stopped over in KL to sample the rich array of culinary delights. Even notable chefs like Keith Floyd and Anthony Bourdain have failed to resist the temptations!

Mid Valley City… where the battle begins!

Mid Valley City is where all the ‘chess gladiators’ will do battle in the Malaysian Open 2004 that begins on Saturday, the 21st of August 2004. Set to become one of the largest urban development projects in the world, Mid Valley City has completed its first phase of development comprising office and retail space in addition to a hotel.


Mid Valley City… the venue of the competition

Mid Valley City is home to Mid Valley Megamall, ranked among the largest in the world with a gross floor area of 4.5 million square feet. Comparatively speaking, Mid Valley Megamall should rank rather close to the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The West Edmonton Mall, dubbed the largest shopping mall in the world, has a floor space of 5.2 million square feet.

With over five levels of shopping, leisure and dining options, thousands of shoppers throng Mid Valley Megamall every day, be it on weekdays or weekends. Besides the four anchor tenants – Carrefour, Jusco, Metrojaya and Golden Screen Cinemas, a host of 24 junior anchors and over 430 specialty shops offer shoppers unlimited choices and items. From international labels like MNG (which is known as ‘Mango’ elsewhere, but it is called ‘MNG’ here in Malaysia), Zara and Topshop to local favorites like Salabianca, Seed and Vincci, you can find them all here.

For those who seek entertainment, Mid Valley Megamall is home to one of Asia’s largest Cineplex, showcasing a great selection of international as well as local movies. No wonder Mid Valley Megamall won the FIABCI Award of Distinction for Best Retail Development in the year 2001 and Malaysia Tourism Award for Best Shopping Complex in year 2000.

Food-wise, Mid Valley Megamall has something that caters to everyone’s taste buds. Visitors here have the option of dining in a food court or an open-air restaurant. Selection of food is wide and varied. From Vietnamese food to Japanese cuisine, visitors are certainly spoilt for choice. Even vegetarians have an option here to dine at Annalakshimi, a charitable Indian vegetarian restaurant with outlets in Perth, Singapore and India. Vishy, if you are reading this, I am sure you would love it!

Always in touch with the shopper’s needs, Mid Valley Megamall provides a wide range of customer service and facilities which includes free gift wrapping, complementary shuttle bus ride to and from Bangsar LRT Station, baby strollers, wheelchairs and power shoppers for the disabled.

…the Chess ‘Gladiators’

This year’s edition of Malaysian Open is definitely about ‘superlatives’: not only is it the richest in terms of prize money, but it is also the strongest chess tournament ever held in Malaysia! With an ensemble that includes GMs, IMs, FMs and a host of other FIDE-rated players, this is dubbed the strongest chess tournament in South East Asia for the year 2004. The top players who are competing in the tournament include:

1. GM Ian Rogers (Australia)   9. WGM Xu Yuanyuan (China)
2. GM Dao Thien Hai (Vietnam)   10. WGM Wang Yu (China)
3. GM Ni Hua (China)   11. IM Susanto Megaranto (Indonesia)
4. GM Rogelio Antonio (Philippines)   12. IM Denny Juswanto (Indonesia)
5. GM Nelson Mariano (Philippines)   13. IM Yu Shaoteng (China)
6. GM Nguyen Anh Dung (Vietnam)   14. WIM Meenakshi, S. (India)
7. GM Alexei Barsov (Uzbekistan)   15. FM Colm Daly (Ireland)
8. WGM Xu Yuhua (China)    

In more ways than one, the 2004 Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysian Open will also serve as a ‘cultural melting pot’ of some sort. With players coming from Europe, Oceania, the Middle East and Asia, new friends will be made and stories, laughter and joy will be shared among the participants and officials alike. Over the duration of the next one-week, I will be competing with the rest of the ‘Chess Gladiators’ in this super-event. Besides that, I will also be covering the events and results that unfolds at the 1st Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysian Open 2004. Just keep yourself logged on to Chessbase.com for the games, results and lots more!

Edwin Lam Choong Wai

Highly passionate about the game, but lacking the talent to progress towards a full-fledged chess profession, Edwin Lam is a seasoned player in his home country of Malaysia. Whenever he is not busy with his advertising agency work, he invests his time and effort towards chess, especially in chess analysis. From analysis and annotations (following in the great footsteps of Botvinnik, Timman and countless other chess greats), he accidentally stumbled upon writing chess articles as a hobby. Having written chess articles for close to six years already, he is now a correspondent for Chess Asia, a Philippine-based chess magazine. Besides that, his articles have also appeared at one time or another in Chess Kids, a Melbourne-based quarterly periodical ran by David Cordover. A chess artist at heart, he is most impressed by the games of Keres, Bronstein, Tal and Petrosian. This, however, does not stop him from marveling at the clarity and ease of the scientific approach outlined by Botvinnik. With a large library of chess books and magazines at home in multiple languages – from English to German to French and Russian – he primarily ranks Bronstein’s 1953 Zurich International Chess Tournament and Alekhine’s 1924 New York International Chess Tournament as the best books of all time. Most recently, he did an article on GM Seirawan’s visit to Kuala Lumpur that appeared in Chess Cafe (PDF).


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