Chess in Myanmar

11/13/2016 – For a long time the country of Myanmar has been internationally isolated. But after the military junta, which had been reigning the country for decades, was dissolved in 2011 Myanmar gradually opens up. And the chess scene is lively. From 26th October to 5th November the 7th Asian Seniors Chess Championships were played in the city of Mandalay. Peter Long reports.

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When my good friend Maung Maung Lwin, long time President of MCF (Myanmar Chess Federation), invited me to return to Myanmar to be the Chief Arbiter for the Asian Seniors Chess Championships, it took me all of two minutes to log in to the website of Air Asia and buy my ticket.

In 2014 I had already served in the same capacity at the Myanmar International Open Chess Championships (quickly renamed after their Grandmaster Zaw Win Lay when he suddenly passed away at 51 years of age) and knew that any chance visit to this fascinating and multi-faceted country is not an opportunity to miss.

Maung has always tried to take chess in Myanmar to greater levels and in 2014 I had come with my good friends Nigel Short and Sergei Tiviakov who, as expected, not only fought hard to win but also enjoyed their time in Myanmar!

Myanmar Open won by Short and Belous (1/2)...

Myanmar Open won by Short and Belus (2/2)...

The Asian Seniors Chess Championships first took place in 2010, in Beirut, Lebanon, where a local legend, International Master Khosro Harandi, emerged as the first ever winner. Following that, Bentola, Sri Lanka (2011), Parramatta, Australia (2012), Amman, Jordan (2013), Kalatura, Sri Lanka (2014), and Larestan, Iran (2015) all played host, but sadly with increasingly poor conditions for the participants.

Like a few other ACF (Asian Chess Federation) official events, the Asian Seniors Chess Championships is a continental duplicate of the well attended FIDE World Seniors Chess Championships but it still has failed to gain any traction. This has made it an event that few federations want to organise, and for years the ACF has been giving it away as a consolation prize to unsuccessful bidders of bigger events.  Even the decision by FIDE in 2014 to redefine seniors into two categories, 50 and above, and 65 and above, has not significantly changed the low number of attendants though the winners automatically receive the title of an International Master and make a grandmaster norm!

At any rate, the 7th Asian Seniors Chess Championships held in Mandalay, Myanmar, from 26 October to 5 November 2016, still attracted 56 players from 12 countries, a much larger number than usual even though a large number of players from Mongolia and the Philippines as well as some individual players decide to withdraw in the last minute.

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was accompanied by traditional dances

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Chief Minister, U Sai Kyaw Zaw, Minister, and U Zar Ni Aung, Minister,  Mandalay Region Government, graced the opening ceremony together with U Myo Hlaing, Director General, Sports & Physical Education Department, Ministry of Health & Sports,and Dr.Ye Lwin, Major, Mandalay City, with Bharat Singh, ACF Deputy President and FIDE Technical Commission Chairman in attendance.

Maung Maung Lwin, the President of the Myanmar Chess Federation, during his opening speech

The tournament

For the first time, three defending champions from previous championships returned, Wazeer Ahmad Khan from India (Open 65+), Mahmood Lodhi from Pakistan (Open 50+) and Helen Milligan from New Zealand (Women 50+).

Myanmar is a nation that has in recent years emerged from a long isolation resulting from decades of military dictatorship. However, despite this handicap and thanks to the efforts of Maung, a FIDE Master who is also an International Arbiter and an International Organiser, Myanmar has still managed to successfully host many international tournaments despite getting very little support from the government and the private sector.

Infrastructure has improved by leaps and bounds but is still limited so Myanmar is a little more expensive than it should be but somehow MCF was able to billet everyone at the very good Hazel Hotel, Mandalay, which also proved to be an excellent tournament venue.

The tournament hall

Participants who had played the year before in Larestan were amazed at the contrast in regard to the quality of the meals, and also enjoyed the superb facilities and the exceptional hospitality including wonderful sightseeing excursions.

Concurrently a FIDE Arbiter's Seminar with 13 attendees was held. Bob Gibbons from New Zealand, top seed in the Open 65+ and your author volunteered to lecture in the mornings and evenings.

The seminar in progress

The Myanmar Women's Chess Championship 2016 and the Mandalay Youth Chess Festival 2016 also took place parallel to the Seniors Championships.

The women's championship

The Youth Festival

In the end, the winners of the 7th Asian Seniors Chess Championship were Myanmar's Myint Han (Open 50+), India's Wazeer Ahmad Khan (Open 65+) and New Zealand's Helen Milligan (Women 50+).

Local herol Myint Han who in previous tournaments has made three International Master title norms but did not fulfill the rating requirements, upset the favorite and defending champion Mahmood Lodhi, and automatically became an International Master. Wazeer Ahmad Khan and Helen Milligan have the distinction of being repeat champions.

The champions with guests of honor: U Sai Kyaw Zaw, Minister of the Mandalay
Region Government. ACF Secretary Hisham Al-Taher attended.

7th Asian Seniors 50+ Championships 2016

Final standings

Rk. SNo   Name sex FED Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 3   Myint Han   MYA 2281 8,0 0,0 37,5 433,0
2 1 IM Lodhi Mahmood   PAK 2340 7,5 0,5 39,5 419,0
3 7 IM Mohandesi Shahin   IRI 2199 7,5 0,5 37,5 410,5
4 13   Kabyzhanov Bulat   KAZ 2039 6,0 0,0 34,5 396,0
5 2 FM Myo Zaw Min   MYA 2286 5,5 0,0 37,5 398,5
6 14 FM Ismail Ahmad   MAS 2019 5,5 0,0 37,0 414,0
7 5 IM Chan Peng Kong   SGP 2233 5,5 0,0 35,0 392,5
8 25   Ko Ko Gyi   MYA 0 5,5 0,0 30,5 371,5
9 20   Aye Ko   MYA 0 5,5 0,0 29,5 368,5
10 6   Nyi Nyi Lwin   MYA 2210 5,0 0,0 39,5 400,5
11 4 IM Myo Naing   MYA 2262 5,0 0,0 37,5 396,0
12 10 FM Kyi Thein   MYA 2087 5,0 0,0 35,0 380,5
13 38   Yan Aung   MYA 0 5,0 0,0 32,5 370,5
14 16   Santoso Timotius Wibowo   INA 1861 5,0 0,0 32,5 343,0
15 12 CM Milligan Helen w NZL 2053 5,0 0,0 32,0 372,5
16 18   Lim Kian Hwa   MAS 1783 5,0 0,0 31,5 362,5
17 8   Khin Ko   MYA 2197 4,5 0,0 37,0 392,5
18 29   Ohn Kyaw   MYA 0 4,5 0,0 32,0 381,5
19 15   Tin Mg Lwin   MYA 1965 4,5 0,0 31,5 376,5
20 27   Myo Hla   MYA 0 4,5 0,0 29,5 358,0

...

7th Asian Seniors 65+ Championships 2016

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Wazeer Ahmad Khan 9,0 0,0
2 Saw Kyaw Nyein 6,5 0,0
3 Gibbons Robert 6,0 1,0
4 Tin Mg Aye 6,0 0,0
5 Thaung Tun A 5,5 0,0
6 Tin Aung 5,0 2,0
7 Luu Duc Hai 5,0 1,0
8 Aung Say 5,0 0,0
9 Aminifard Mohammad Ebrahim 4,0 0,0
10 Alavi Mir Mahmood 4,0 0,0

Text: Peter Long

Photos: Peter Long and Maung Maung Lwin

About the author

Peter Long is a Project Manager at the Kasparov Chess Foundation Asia-Pacific which advocates the use of chess in education and facilitates regional chess development. He is a FIDE (World Chess Federation) Trainer and International Arbiter.


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sicilian_D sicilian_D 11/14/2016 07:30
Very happy to see Myanmar on the Chess map. Hope I can use that as an excuse to visit Myanmar. warm regards from thy neighbour.
Aighearach Aighearach 11/13/2016 06:56
Well, golly! We know the military junta wasn't "dissolved" in 2011, because they're still in existence today, graciously sharing the public face of governance with the small number of elected officials they're allowing.

The person who can win elections still isn't even being allowed to run for office! Not allowed by who? The military. So come on, find you somes wikipedia before you try to whitewash history.

If you're not going to tell the truth, maybe just don't talk about the politics?
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