Close finish in Penang goes to Rathnakaran

by Edwin Lam
12/19/2017 – Indian IM Rathnakaran (pictured) won the Penang Chess Festival 2017 which tool place from December 4th to the 10th, in Malaysia, ahead of GM Karen Grigoryan and 132 other players in the 9th Penang International Open, the biggest chess event at a World Heritage site. The festival also featured a Challenger's category as well as blitz and team events. Edwin Lam reports from the scene. | Photo: Penang Chess Association

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Rathnakaran pipped Grigoryan in Penang

The week-long festival in was made up of three back-to-back tournaments, namely the FIDE classically rated 9th Penang International Chess Open (Open & Challenger Categories), the Penang Chess Festival Blitz 2017 and 2017 Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team Tournament.

Dubbed the biggest chess event at a World Heritage site, the Open Category attracted a total of 134 players young-and-old from 16 different countries across the globe while the Challenger Category saw competition from 175 players from 11 nations. Interestingly, the youngest player in the Open Category was eight-year old, Poh Yu Tian of Malaysia. In the Challenger Category, the youngest and oldest players were six-year old Kapoor Tanush of India and eighty-year old Pricha Srivatanakul of Thailand. 

Chess is for all ages!

Chess is for all ages! | Photo: Penang Chess Association

The Armenian, GM Grigoryan, powered ahead with six wins out of the first six rounds, while many top ten seeds struggled in the early rounds. Round one saw GMs Nguyen Duc Hoa and Barsov draw with the white pieces against much lower-rated opponents. 

 

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In Round 2, Raghav Srivathsav of India was paired against GM Barsov. And, again Barsov could do not better than a draw. IM Oliver Dimakilling was also held to a draw by the lower-rated IM Lu Chan Hung, while John Marvin Miciano defeated the higher-ranked IM Pascua Haridas. Grigoryan defeated local favourite FM Wong Yinn Long after a positional error by Black on the 21st move, while Rathnakaran punished FM Ismail Ahmad’s serious opening mistake on the 9th move to slowly increased his advantage to gain a convincing victory. 

 

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Round 3 saw Malaysia’s top player, IM Yeoh Li Tian drop half-a-point against IM Dede Lioe of Indonesia. Former Penang Open Champion, GM Buenaventura (Bong) Villamayor also dropped half-a-point against Malaysian IM Mas Hafizulhilmi. While Grigoryan continued his winning ways on the top board, Rathnakaran slowly made his move upwards by defeating GM Gerhard Schebler. 

IM Yeoh Li Tian Mr. Lee Ewe Gee FM Wong Yinn Long Y.B. Chong Eng Madam See Swee Sie

IM Yeoh Li Tian (centre), flanked by Mr. Lee Ewe Gee (left), FM Wong Yinn Long (second left), Y.B. Chong Eng (second right) and Madam See Swee Sie (right) | Photo: Quah Seng Sun

In the next round, IM Rathnakaran held the higher-rated FM Priasmoro Novendra to maintain his solid rise to the top. GM Bong Villamayor lost his game against IM Dede Lioe, while IM Oliver Dimakilling dropped the entire point against East Java coach, IM Ronny Gunawan. Returning favourites GM Schebler and GM Barsov again dropped half points against IM Ooi Zhi Yang and Bhambure Shantanu.

GM Karen Grigoryan seen here shaking hands with Y.B. Chong Eng

GM Karen Grigoryan (right) shaking hands with Y.B. Chong Eng | Photo: Penang Chess Association

In the following round, Grigoryan met Rathnakaran on the top board. Grigoryan, fresh off his triumph in the Penang Chess Festival Blitz that was held in between Rounds 6 and 7, surprisingly lost this top board encounter with the Black pieces. Who would have thought that this defeat would ultimately prove to be the decisive factor to determine the winner of this tournament? 

 

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The fight for the top spot intensified in Round 8. Rathnakaran went up against Nguyen Duc Hoa while Grigoryan took on Novendra. Rathnakaran drew his game while Grigoryan won his encounter. Barsov, who had fought his way back into the top ten drew his game against Yeoh Li Tian.

The race went all the way into the final round with Grigoryan and Rathnakaran tied on 7 points each, while Priasmoro was half-a-point behind. Grigoryan defeated IM Nouri Hamed, while Rathnakaran beat FM Andyka Pitra to finish tied on top, each with 8 / 9. Rathnakaran was declared the winner of the 9th Penang International Chess Open on the basis of their direct encounter tiebreak.

Rathnakaran Madam See Swee Sie Grigoryan

(Left) IM Rathnakaran, Winner of the 9th Penang International Chess Open with the President of Penang Chess Association, Madam See Swee Sie (Right) GM Grigoryan, Runner-up | Photos: Penang Chess Association

Challengers: Anang Satriayadi powered through the field

In the first four days of competition, the unrated Indonesian player, Anang Satriayadi picked up win-after-win against all-comers except for CM Tan Jun Hao of Singapore. CM Tan managed a draw. By the end of the fourth day after eight games, Anang had basically won the tournament with a round to spare. In the final round, Anang drew against Fariha Mariroh to win with a score of 8 / 9.

The second seeded Vietnamese player Pham Minh Hieu finished tied with Chinese player Chen Kailin on 7½ / 9. Pham was declared the runner-up on better tiebreak. Malaysian player, Yip Thung finished fourth while Indonesian, Liuviann Cecilia Natalie rounded out the top five placings.

Blitz and Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team

GM Grigoryan took the Festival Blitz, while the IM Senador-led Filipino quarter won the Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team!

The Festival Blitz attracted 155 contenders. Held between rounds six and seven of the Open and Challenger Categories on the 7th of December, GM Grigoryan reigned supreme as he took the top prize with 10½/13. Finishing FM Erigaisi Arjun of Indonesia tied the Armenian GM on points but lost out on tiebreak. Rounding out the top five spots in the blitz event were FM Novendra, IM Pascua Haridas and GM Nguyen.

On the 9th and 10th of December, 89 teams battled it out in the Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team Tournament. Most of the players who had competed in the Open and Challenger Categories stayed back to participate in this one-and-a-half-day team event. Amongst the teams of GMs, IMs and FMs were teams of colleagues from the government service or private sectors, official State teams, teams of friends as well as family teams.

Of notable mentions were the facts that the State of Sabah sent four teams for the competition, namely, the Kinabalu Kings, Kinabalu Queens, Kinabalu Knights and Kinabalu Pawns. Additionally, two of the teams were made up of players who are hard of hearing – this is a recent training initiative sponsored by Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia and supported by the Penang Chess Association that is aimed at extending the inclusive nature of chess to the deaf. Adding to that, the youngest player in the chess league team was 4-year and 6 months’ old Malaysian, Ain Safiya binti Rosli of team AAAA. Ain Safiya became the youngest ever contestant in the entire chess festival!

After 8 gruelling rounds, the Filipino quartet of IM Emmanuel Senador, IM Nouri Hamed, Ian Udani and FM Alekhine Nouri of PCA Team emerged victorious to become Champion. “PCA” in the team name does not stand for Penang Chess Association. Instead, “PCA” would have likely stood for “Philippine Chess Alliance”. IM Senador and IM Hamed also won board prizes. JUMP KING, led by Deni Sonjaya, finished runner-up, while The Big Lift finished Third.

Emmanuel Senador Nouri Hamed

(Left) IM Emmanuel Senador of the PCA Team, picked up the Winner’s medal of the Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team Tournament besides winning a board prize (Right) : PCA Team mate, IM Nouri Hamed, also picked up a board prize | Photos: Edwin Lam

Special category prizes were also given out including top state, government and family teams, amongst others. Notably, the Sabah state teams picked up two of the awards, while the youngest contestant, Ain Safiya, also won the best family team with her siblings.

It has indeed been an exciting and fun week for all the contestants. For many of them, they will continue battling one another at the Johor International Chess Open that begins today! As we bid adieu to the island state of Penang, let’s all say “terima kasih” to the organizer and arbiters of the Penang Chess Festival 2017 for their dedication and round-the-clock hard work.   

Of notable mentions were the facts that the State of Sabah sent four teams for the competition, namely, the Kinabalu Kings, Kinabalu Queens, Kinabalu Knights and Kinabalu Pawns. Additionally, two of the teams were made up of players who are hard of hearing – this is a recent training initiative sponsored by Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia and supported by the Penang Chess Association that is aimed at extending the inclusive nature of chess to the deaf. Adding to that, the youngest player in the chess league team was 4-year and 6 months’ old Malaysian, Ain Safiya binti Rosli of team AAAA. Ain Safiya became the youngest ever contestant in the entire chess festival!    After 8 gruelling rounds, the Filipino quartet of IM Emmanuel Senador, IM Nouri Hamed, Ian Udani and FM Alekhine Nouri of PCA Team emerged victorious to become Champion. “PCA” in the team name does not stand for Penang Chess Association. Instead, “PCA” would have likely stood for “Philippine Chess Alliance”. IM Senador and IM Hamed also won board prizes. JUMP KING, led by Deni Sonjaya, finished runner-up, while The Big Lift finished Third.

Members of the Sabah State Teams with the executive committee of the Sabah Chess Association together with the executive committee of Penang Chess Association. Two of the Sabah State Teams won special category prizes | Photo: Penang Chess Association

Four-year and six months old Ain Safiya with the rest of Team AAAA, accepting the prize of Best Family Team at the Chess League Team Tournament (Photo by Penang Chess Association)

Four-year old Ain Safiya with the rest of Team AAAA, accepting the prize of Best Family Team at the Chess League Team Tournament | Photo: Penang Chess Association

The entire chess festival was made possible thanks to the support from Wah Seong Corporation Berhad, US Pizza, Red Rock Hotel Penang and Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang.

Organized by the Penang Chess Association, this annual tournament had been backed by the Penang State Government. Representing the state government at the Opening Ceremony was Yang Berhormat (Y.B.) Chong Eng. Y.B. Chong Eng is the state’s Youth, Sports, Women, Family and Community Development Exco member.

Y.B. Chong Eng, speaking at the Opening Ceremony

Y.B. Chong Eng, speaking at the Opening Ceremony | Photo: Mr. Quah Seng Sun

President of Penang Chess Association, Madam See Swee Sie (left) presenting a token of appreciation to Y.B. Chong Eng (centre). Looking on is the immediate past President of Penang Chess Association, Mr. Lee Ewe Gee (Photo by Penang Chess Association)

President of Penang Chess Association, Madam See Swee Sie (left) presenting a token of appreciation to Y.B. Chong Eng (centre). Looking on is the immediate past President of Penang Chess Association, Mr. Lee Ewe Gee | Photo: Penang Chess Association

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Edwin Lam Choong Wai is a Malaysian chess player and author. He was previously attached to Procter & Gamble doing local, regional and global marketing roles, before joining Pfizer and Essilor. He was recently attached to The Purpose Group, a creative and digital marketing agency in Ho Chi Minh City. He is now based in Malaysia to jointly start an education venture with his parents.
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melante melante 12/19/2017 02:52
great report!
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