Just like in three of the previous four years, the 5th IGB Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysia Open Chess Championship 2008 (www.datmo.net), which was held at Cititel Hotel, Mid Valley City in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from the 18th to the 24th of August 2008, was again won by a Chinese. Sponsored by chess philanthropist and ex-FIDE Deputy President for Asia, Dato’ Tan Chin Nam, this tournament witnessed the single largest participation in the event’s short history of 112 chess gladiators.
Dato’ Tan Chin Nam with the new President of the MCF, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Diraja Ramli bin Ngah Talib
Chinese grandmaster Li Chao did what his predecessors failed to do. In the previous editions of the IGB Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysia Open, there had never been a defending champion who was triumphant for a second time. Li Chao’s compatriots, GMs Ni Hua and Wang Hao, did not return to Mid Valley City to defend their titles after winning it. GM Dao Thien Hai of Vietnam, who won the title in 2006, returned in 2007 but could only finish in seventh place.
In 2007, Li Chao scored a total of nine points, with seven victories and four draws to claim the title. Unlike last year, however, Li Chao’s path to victory this time around was far from smooth. As the saying goes, regaining a title tend to be much more difficult than winning it the very first time. Just ask Man United’s supreme, Sir Alex Ferguson, and he will tell you all about it!
Li Chao’s sail was smooth in the first three rounds. In round four he met fellow countryman, GM Li Shilong. This encounter ended drawn. In round six Li Chao unexpectedly lost to GM Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia. Li Chao came back strongly and defeated GM Iluldachev Saidali in round seven and then broke through the Berlin Defence of Zhang Zhong in round eight.
Meanwhile, GM Dzhumaev Marat of Uzbekistan, who himself had a stuttering start to his campaign when he conceded a draw against Yap Kim Steven in round two, had climbed his way to the top. In round eight he defeated Li Chao’s nemesis, Megaranto, in an exciting and tactical battle. By then, the battle for the top spot is only between Marat and Li Chao.
GM Dzhumaev Marat of Uzbekistan
Li Chao’s round nine battle on the 23rd of August 2008 with Marat proved to be the key encounter in the tournament. When met over at breakfast, GM Li Shilong’s coach, Huang Minju, opined that should Li Chao fail to beat Marat in this round, then the title’s definitely headed for Uzbekistan already.
The champion – GM Li Chao
With him in the driver’s seat in the tournament and also having the white pieces in round nine, the title was surely Marat’s to lose. Even Huang conceded during breakfast that Marat is technically sound and can be difficult to beat. But Li Chao certainly came prepared for the battle royale. With the black pieces he sped his way through the opening phase of the game. Marat, despite having white, spent a lot of time thinking through the opening and early middle game phases.
It was already clear here that Marat had fallen into Li Chao’s home preparation. When I asked IM Oliver Dimakiling about the position after move 34, he told me that it is clear Li Chao is winning already. Marat lasted another eight moves before he resigned.
GM Dzhumaev,Marat (2549) - GM Li Chao (2590)
Round 9 Table 1, 23.08.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.f3 Be6 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 a5 11.Kb1 a4 12.Nc1 a3 13.b3 Ra5 14.f4 exf4 15.Bxf4 d5 16.e5 Nfd7 17.Nb5 Nc6 18.Qe3 Nc5 19.c3 Ne4 20.b4 Bf5 21.Ka1 Nxb4 22.Nd4 Bg6 23.cxb4 Bxb4 24.Bd3 Bc3+ 25.Kb1 Bxd4 26.Qxd4 Ra4 27.Qe3 Nc3+ 28.Ka1 Nxd1 29.Rxd1 Qc8 30.Bxg6 Rxf4 31.Bh5 Qc2 32.Qd2 Qf5 33.Nd3 Rd4 34.Bf3
34...Rc8 35.Kb1 h6 36.Qe3 Rcc4 37.h3 Qg6 38.Ka1 Qb6 39.Rb1 Qc7 40.e6 Rxd3 41.Qe1 Re4 42.exf7+ Qxf7 0-1.
With his round nine victory Li Chao returned to the driver’s seat. His round ten opponent was Malaysian FM Lim Yee Weng, who in round nine had defeated Chinese GM Li Shilong. In 2007 had had in fact scalped GM Utut Adianto. So could he stop Li Chao in round ten?
GM Li Chao b (2590) - FM Lim Yee Weng (2367)
Round 10 Table 1, 23.08.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Bc4 Bg7 6.Nxd4 cxd4 7.Qf3 Nh6 8.Ne2 e6 9.d3 Ng8 10.h4 Ne7 11.Bg5 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qc5 13.h5 d5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.hxg6 hxg6 16.Rxh8+ Bxh8 17.0-0-0 b5 18.Rh1 Bg7 19.Bxd5 Qxd5 20.Qxd5 exd5 21.Bg5 Be6 22.Rh7 Kf8 23.Bh6 Bxh6+ 24.Rxh6 Kg7 25.Rh1 Bd7 26.Nxd4 Kf6 27.Kd2 Re8 28.f4 a6 29.Rh7 Bg4 30.Rh4 Bd7 31.g4 Ke7 32.g5 Kd6 33.Nf3 Be6 34.Rh7 Rf8 35.Ke3 Re8 36.Kd4 Rc8 37.c3 b4 38.Ne5 bxc3 39.bxc3 Rc7 40.Rh8 Rb7 41.Ra8 Rb2 42.Rxa6+ Ke7 43.Ra7+ Kf8 44.Nc6 Bf5 1-0.
GM Dzhumaev,Marat (2549) - GM Zhang Zhong (2632)
Round 10 Table 2, 23.08.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 a6 7.g5 Nfd7 8.Be3 b5 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.f3 Ne5 11.0-0-0 Nbd7 12.h4 Rc8 13.Nb1 Nc4 14.Nd2 Nxe3 15.Qxe3 Qb6 16.h5 Be7 17.Rh3 Qc5 18.g6 fxg6 19.N2b3 Qe5 20.f4 Qxe4 21.Qxe4 Bxe4 22.Re1 Nf6 23.Nd2 Bf5 24.Nxf5 gxf5 25.Rxe6 Kf7 26.Re2 g6 27.h6 Rhe8 28.Ra3 Nd5 29.Rxa6 Nxf4 30.Rh2 Bf6 31.c3 Nd5
32.a3 Re1+ 33.Kc2 Ne3+ 0-1.
With this victory as well as Marat’s loss to Zhang Zhong, Li Chao confirmed his place at the top of the 5th IGB Dato’ Arthur Tan Malaysia Open. He finished with a short, final round draw against GM Darwin Laylo to win the tournament. GM Zhang Zhong defeated compatriot Zhou Weiqi in the final round to become the sole second prize winner.
Li Chao’s triumph further galvanized China’s position as the leading chess superpower in Asia and represented the success of the Big Dragon Project that was hatched back in 1974, although this time around, the Uzbekistan and Pinoy GMs did provide a formidable challenge right till the end.
Perhaps, the success of the Chinese lie in their approach of being “materially practical”, a fact shared by GM Wang Yue on Chessbase a few month’s back. When I asked “Big Sister”, WGM Gu Xiaobing, what the approach of being “materially practical” meant, she coyly replied, “Sorry, that’s a Chinese secret.” Am I satisfied with the answer? I don’t think so. But, as the saying goes, “curiosity killed the cat”, so it is probably best for me to leave it as that for now.
Total 112 players. You can dowload a selection of games in PGN.
Tense moments in round four of the tournament
Xu Tong during a lengthy battle against IM Ronald Bancod in round four
FM Igor Goldenberg of Australia collected 6.5 points in his first chess tournament outside his home country
WIM Irene Sukandar, who scored a WGM norm, was the top women finisher in the tournament
Chinese players Wang Li and Xu Tong ponder their next moves
Filipino Steven Kim Yap
WIM Nadig Kruttika of India
India’s eighth WGM, Eesha Karavade, in round nine
Returning alumni, WGM Li Ruofan, posted a total of 6.5 points
Aussie Eugene Schon
Working full-time as a Public Affairs Manager (Gillette - ASEAN, SK-II, Whisper and P&G Beauty) at Procter & Gamble, Edwin Lam is highly passionate about the game of chess. Having grown up with an artistic feel of life, he somehow went about doing a degree in Commerce at Monash University’s Clayton campus, Melbourne. As the only child in the family, he had to follow his heart, not his head, and returned home to Malaysia in 2003. Realizing something was missing in life, he started to look for employment opportunities in the advertising industry.
As a lifestyle author, his articles have been published in Plan B, KLUE and J-Trend. On chess, he has written for a list of international publications including Chess Asia, Chess Kids, Australasian Chess, Chess Mate magazine (India) as well as Black & White (India). One of his most well known articles is the nice profile he wrote about GM Yasser Seirawan that appeared in the US-based ChessCafe.com. He also contributes regularly to the world’s top chess news site, Chessbase.com. Besides being a chess columnist, he is also currently coaching the school team of his alma mater, Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Secondary School, Klang. Aside from chess, he enjoys motor racing, photography and traveling.