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Najdorf syndrome and the secret of the Filipinos

8/27/2004 – The 1st Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysian Open Chess Championship 2004 was held from the 21st to the 26th of August Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. First prize was taken by China's whiz kid GM Ni Hua (the total prize fund was US $12,000), ahead of Australia's GM Ian Rogers. Edwin Lam reports.
 

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 was hosted by Mid Valley City in the capital city of Malaysia. With prize money totaling around the region of US $12,000, it was the richest chess event to be held in South East Asia this year.

"Najdorf syndrome", hungry players and the "secret" of the Filipinos’ success…

August… National Day, Malaysian Mega Sale… and Chess, of course!

The month of August is indeed a unique time for the people here in Malaysia. It is the month of our National Day celebration. Come 31st August 2004, all Malaysians will stand united in one voice to commemorate the 47th anniversary of our independence day with a colorful and fun-filled parade in the heart of the city of Kuala Lumpur. Whether young or old, all Malaysians come together on the special day to fly the Malaysian national flag (in a mini flagpole size being stuck on the roof of their car, like an antenna sticking out) on their cars, in front of the patios of their homes, or (the more daring ones, I would say) even go to the extent of draping themselves with the Malaysian flag, during the day-long carnival on the 31st of August 2004.

Aside from the National Day celebrations, the month of August is also synonymous with the Malaysian Mega Sale carnival. Running on a month-long basis, the Malaysian Mega Sale is in every way similar to its long-established relative, ‘The Great Singapore Sale’ in Singapore, of course. This is the time, when locals will go bargain hunting for designer items. Besides locals, tourists also arrive from Europe, Oceania, Japan and the Middle East for their shopping holidays. Bargain-hunters or not, these tourists still ultimately find the prices of designer goods here in Kuala Lumpur much cheaper than back in their home country. This is especially true in Japan.

For the more culturally inclined Chinese here in Malaysia, this month of August is also synonymous with the ‘Hungry Ghost’ festival. Celebrated by the Chinese community throughout the world, this festival is held on the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar to honor the dead. Various means of prayer and offerings as well as live singing and performances are organized during the festival.

For the chess players around South East Asia, August has been known for years as the month of chess festival here in Malaysia. With a long known tradition of having the Merdeka Team Chess Tournament towards the end of August every year, Kuala Lumpur is definitely the meeting point for chess players from throughout Malaysia during this time. And, that’s not all. Chess friends from Indonesia and Singapore are also always present during this August chess festival.

Malaysia Open 2004…

The players’ meeting got under way on the eve of the start of the tournament. It was held at 9.30 pm. When I arrived at the hotel’s function room, I first bumped into IM Gokhale of India. IM Gokhale came with a couple, which he is staying with in Kuala Lumpur. A little later, the diminutive IM Atanu Lahiri also arrived. He came alone. And, thereafter came the Malaysians, the Chinese and everyone else. A number of issues were discussed and slight changes were also made to the schedule of the tournament, thus giving the players a little bit more rest in between rounds. Besides the usual protocol and procedures related to the Players’ Meeting, everyone was also shown the way to the tournament hall, which is especially important to the foreigners, who are first-timers here in Malaysia.

The battle began the next morning. A total of 111 players competed at the beginning of Round 1. As expected, not much surprises occurred in Round 1 as the top seeds began their quest by sailing past their opponents. However, minor hiccups befell GM to-be Yu Shaoteng, who was held to a draw by Vietnamese Nguyen Viet Chung, as well as IM Nelson Mariano, who drew against FM Johan Iskandar of Malaysia.

Round 2 provided much cheer for the Malaysian camp as our player, the very promising FM Lim Yee Weng, drew his game against the Vietnamese GM Nguyen Anh Dung. Other highlights are:

GM Ian Rogers – Le Quang Liem 1-0
IM Jimmy Liew – GM Dao Thien Hai 0-1
GM Ni Hua – FM Nicholas Chan 1-0

If rounds 1 and 2 only provided minor hiccups to the GM entourage in the competition, Round 3 certainly is about a sensational upset by a WGM from China over her most established GM counterpart from Vietnam. GM Dao Thien Hai fell for a nice combination cooked up by the very talented WGM Xu Yuanyuan of China. This game is featured below. On board six, WGM Wang Yu held the gigantic GM Alexei Barsov to a draw with Black.


China's whiz kid, GM Ni Hua


Title hopeful and top seed, GM Ian Rogers

In Round 4, the battle of the heavyweights began with GM Ian Rogers taking on GM Rogelio Antonio, while GM Ni Hua took on WGM Xu Yuhua. Ian drew his game against Rogelio, while Ni Hua won against Xu to take the lead in the tournament.


GM Rogelio Antonio of the Philippines is certainly the best dressed player in the whole tournament

Three games have been selected below after the first 4 rounds of play that includes WGM Xu Yuanyuan’s sensational win over GM Dao Thien Hai. Observers who saw the game said that GM Dao was certainly caught in shock and surprise at the end of the game. Besides that, the other two games include one by tournament hopeful GM Antonio Rogelio as well as Malaysia’s best bet IM Mas Hafizulhelmi.

Dao Thien Hai - Xu,Y [D18]
Table 02 (3), 22.08.2004
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.Rd1 0-0 11.Ne5 Nxe5 12.dxe5 Nd7 13.e4 Qc7 14.f4 Nc5 15.g4 Bxc3 16.bxc3 Nxe4 17.Qf3 Rfd8 18.Rxd8+ Rxd8 19.f5 exf5 20.gxf5 Qxe5 21.fxg6 Qc5+ 22.Be3 Qxc4 23.gxf7+ Kf8 24.Rb1 Rd6 25.Rb4 Rg6+ 26.Kh1 Nf2+ 0-1.


Sharp and charming: Chinese beauty WGM Xu Yuhua

Antonio Rogelio - Dede Lioe [B22]
Table 04 (3), 22.08.2004
1.e4 c5 2.c3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Bd3 g6 5.e5 dxe5 6.dxe5 Ng4 7.Bb5+ Nc6 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.f4 f6 11.h3 Nh6 12.Be3 fxe5 13.fxe5 Nf7 14.Nf3 Bg7 15.Nbd2 Nxe5 16.Nxe5 Bxe5 17.0-0-0 Kc7 18.Nc4 Bd6 19.Nxd6 exd6 20.Bf4 Kb6 21.Rhe1 a5 22.Bxd6 c4 23.Re7 Bf5 24.Bc7+ Ka6 25.Rde1 Kb5 26.g4 Bd3 27.R1e5+ c5 28.R7e6 Ra6 29.a4+ 1-0.

Mas Hafizulhelmi - Siti,Z [C26]
Table 15 (3), 22.08.2004
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Bc5 5.d3 h6 6.h3 a6 7.Nge2 d6 8.0-0 Be6 9.Nd5 0-0 10.c3 Bxd5 11.exd5 Ne7 12.Qb3 Bb6 13.a4 a5 14.Rd1 Nf5 15.d4 exd4 16.Nxd4 Nxd4 17.cxd4 Re8 18.Qd3 Qd7 19.Bd2 Re7 20.Kh2 Rae8 21.Be1 Ne4 22.b4 axb4 23.a5 Ba7 24.Rab1 c5 25.dxc6 Qxc6 26.Bxb4 Qd7 27.Rb2 f5 28.Qb3+ Kh8 29.Ba3 f4 30.g4 Rf7 31.Bf1 Rc8 32.Bc4 Re7 33.Rd3 Qc7 34.Bd5 Qxa5 35.Bb4 Qc7 36.Qa3 Bb8 37.Rf3 Rce8 38.Ba5 Qc8 39.Kg2 g5 40.Rfb3 Nf6 41.Bxb7 Qe6 42.Bc6 Ba7 43.Bxe8 Qe4+ 44.Rf3 Nxe8 45.Qd3 Qxd4 46.Bc3 1-0.

Take a deep breath… and relax, your mind…

As one walked through the tournament hall, one can’t help but marvel at the intensity and focus put in by each and every player into the game. Some of them are simply so intense in their concentration that they are able to sit down for four hours like a Sphinx, and only occasionally take toilet breaks in between. This, I am sure would make Botvinnik proud. Not many people can be like this, and I simply respect that.

As for players like Malaysian FM Mok Tze Meng, you will definitely see him taking his occasionally stroll around the tournament playing area when it is his opponent’s turn to move. This is what I would attribute as the ‘Najdorf-syndrome’, after the legendary Argentinean player, who is well known for his affable, chirpy and talkative self during games. In some ways, even I myself belong to this category of players. Or, simply put perhaps such players are restless. Restless players can’t help, but simply have to get out and stroll about more than once during the course of the game.

Hungry players…

Restless or not, as humans are inherently different, one can’t help but notice the different antics exhibited by different players to stay focused throughout the 4 hours of play in each round. Sweets and chewing gums are the most commonly used ‘method’ to combat weariness. At the same time, chewing gum is a rather good stress-buster, too.

Needless to say, there are some players who were even seen to be munching on some snacks and tearing open a chocolate bar during their games. Colm Daly, for instance! Has this got to do with the ‘Hungry Ghost’ festival currently being celebrated (which is a two week event that will end on the 30th of August) by the Chinese community here in Malaysia? Maybe yes, maybe not.

But, Colm is not alone. Even, Zhang Jilin of China was seen munching her way through a chocolate bar during her game against Rolando Yutuc of the Philippines (Round 4), and won her game in style. Perhaps, the chocolate bar gave her the ‘extra’ edge over her opponent! So, who says that having a full stomach is bad for the concentration in chess?

The ‘secret’ of Filipino’s success…

One peculiar thing that caught my attention throughout the first two days of the tournament is the ‘secret weapon’ employed by the Filipinos. It is certainly no coincidence that all the players from the Philippines in this tournament, including the likes of GM Rogelio, IM Nelson Mariano, Rolando Yutuc and even Florencio Campomanes have this strange habit of sitting on ‘double-decker’ chairs during their game. If you can’t seem to imagine what I mean, take a look at the photo below of GM Rogelio seated on ‘double-decker’ chair prior to his game against GM Ian Rogers in Round 4. And, I must say the Filipinos are doing well, with two players in the top ten standings.


Sitting on double-chair: A unique strategy adopted by all the Filipino players

What a ‘secret’, I thought. I even wondered if this ‘method’ has been prescribed by their ‘witch doctors’ back home to ensure their success in this tournament. Wow, in that case, I would also love to try it too in my next game. Perhaps, the Filipinos luck can also rub into me as well. Out of curiosity, I seek Rolando’s enlightened opinion about it. According to Rolando, there is nothing spiritual about the method. Instead, there is a rational explanation behind it: sitting on ‘double-decker’ chair gives the player a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the board, and thus, enabling the person to see with greater clarity. Hmmm… not bad, so it is quite ‘scientific’ after all. Maybe I will try it out in my next game against a Vietnamese player, starting in approximately two hours time. I had better get started with my preparation now. Ciaos!

1st Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysia Open 2004: Final Standings

All’s well, ends well. After 6 days of grueling battle, China’s GM Ni Hua stamped his mark over the rest of the participants to win the first-ever edition of the Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysia Open 2004. After 6 days of intense competition, it is indeed sad to come to an end of such a great tournament whereby old friends (or, foes, depending on how you see it!) such as FM Christie Hon and Jacobus Sampouw get together and new friends are made. I myself made a lot of new friends and after the end of Round 11 I even became International Master Atanu Lahiri’s tour guide around the city of Kuala Lumpur. It is a bitter, sweet end, indeed and I must admit that I can’t wait for the next edition of the Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysia Open next year.


Ian Rogers receives his prize from Dato’ Tan Chin Nam


The winner: GM Ni Hua (China)


In third place: GM Dao Thien Hai (Vietnam)

The list of prize winners in brief is:

1st place: GM Ni Hua (China)
2nd place: GM Ian Rogers (Australia)
3rd place: GM Dao Thien Hai (Vietnam)
4th place: GM Yu Shaoteng (China)
5th place: IM Susanto Megaranto (Indonesia)
6th place: IM Dede, Lioe (Indonesia)
7th place: GM Antonio, Rogelio (Philippines)
8th place: WGM Xu, Yuhua (China)
9th place: GM Alexei Barsov (Uzbekistan)
10th place: IM Nelson Mariano (Philippines)

A complete report with loads of pictures (that include interesting anecdotes and stories throughout the tournament) and selected games of the last 7 rounds of the tournament will follow next week.

Links

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 run 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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