Indonesia: always the same, yet always different

by Alina l'Ami
1/3/2017 – With about 260 million inhabitants Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country and it is a land full of natural beauty and diversity. Economically, Indonesia is on the rise and it also has a flourishing chess community. When revisiting Jakarta to play a tournament in the Indonesian capital Alina l'Ami was again struck by the many fascinating facets of Jakarta and Indonesia. Illustrated report...

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If there's something you really enjoy, you can be certain that it's either illegal, immoral or it makes you fat. But there's one thing absolutely free, which abides by none of the three.

Chess is very popular in Indonesia

If the New Zealand rugby team, All Blacks, have a Haka to intimidate their enemies or  to embolden themselves, the Indonesians rely on four words that can be loudly heard before any chess competition: Chess – Yes! Indonesia – Victorious!

I must admit this incantation works wonders. The recent JAPFA Chess Festival, consisting of two round robin events (IM + WIM tournaments) and an Open section, witnessed no less than three Indonesian winners.

Congratulations Novendra Priasmoro, Ummi Fisabilillah and Sagara Dwitama Gelar for winning (unshared) their section!

Special thanks to Rachmat Indrajaya (Independent Director PT JAPFA Comfeed Indonesia Tbk) and Artsanti Alif (Vice President Public Relations PT Japfa Comfeed Indonesia Tbk), who are generously and constantly sponsoring chess and its players. Many thanks to all those people that make things possible: Merry, Kris, Alip... and of course:

GM Utut Adianto, the best Indonesian player of all times, a top player worldwide in his prime and now a successful Senator in the Indonesian Parliament as well.

More than two hands are needed to count all the efforts & sacrifices the organizers had to make.


After seeing such a powerful game I am not surprised by the stamina and courage frequently displayed by the Indonesian chess players.

The International Masters group was dominated by Novendra Priasmoro


When youth prevails...

...over experience.

The JAPFA International Women section was won by Ummi Fisabilillah

Yours truly, however, had the privilege of receiving quite a few lessons... but no matter how many games, rating points or sleeping hours I would have to sacrifice, the siren called Indonesia and its JAPFA chess events make it impossible for me to decline any invitation coming from this side of the world. And there are good reasons for this.

Superb playing conditions

And amazing extras

For those with a never ending thirst for culture, Indonesia is the place to be

As much as I appreciate diversity, newness, surprises, coming back again and again to Jakarta makes for similar experiences. I see no changes in how the organizers are overwhelming their guests, no cut-offs when it comes to the players' conditions. But most importantly:

... the love and respect for the game... not seem to have changed.

You can feel it everywhere, inside the tournament hall or outdoors on the bustling streets when talking to people or late at night, when... risk to stumble over chess pieces on the streets of Jakarta.

However, taking part in a round robin event, with opponents that are far from 'easy' and having to play eleven games in less than a week is not a piece of cake. And the jet lag did not make the 9 am games more attractive. What happened to the morning person inside me?! I got promised that those double rounds will be compensated in the next edition with quadruple rest days but my request for the organizers remains: please don't take away from me such good excuses! Or else I would have to blame it all on my own play...


Power nap...

...for a clear mind

The Indonesian people remained unchanged, too. Millions of them endure terrifying traffic and pollution, struggling with their daily needs. But the same millions, even the poorest of them, are remarkably good-natured, displaying amazing cheerfulness. Why?

Because of the climate?

I actually don't know for sure. I can only guess that they must be very proud of their history, culture, wildlife, food (and more), and are passionate about sharing it with others.

I was very lucky to get a glimpse of all that in Bali,
thanks to my generous bodyguard:
tournament director Kristianus Liem.

Bali is more than a place. It is a mood that you wish to remain, a tropical state of mind, an island where dramatic sights are the norm.


The solemn
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple in Bedugul

The sublime

The stunning
Tanah Lot Temple

The artful
Balinese dancers with their precise moves
Watch the eyes, they are the key!

The intriguing

The humbling

The pastoral
Rice terraces

The 'shocking':
For more info, google Kopi Luwak!

The wild cat responsible for one of the best and
most expensive coffees in the world.

The delicious:
who would have thought that chicken can be prepared in so many different ways?!

Maybe Indonesians are so generous and friendly because on their 13,000 (!) islands about 700(!) different languages are spoken and a myriad of different cultures and religions co-exist, which make them more tolerant of differences? Whatever the reasons, I know for a fact I can return for the 100th time and will still discover something totally new.

For instance:

My height of 1.56 is actually not small at all

Producing some of the best coffee in the world requires a LOT of work

Reacting with silly faces can work wonders against blunders and missed opportunities


It is rather weird that the kaleidoscope was not invented here. On a second look, it is natural that all those scientists failed to re-create the zillion flavors, colors and...

... beauties that Indonesia has to offer.

Bali took my breath away

I am still unable to grasp the wonder of all that green

The world's fourth most populous country – 262 million and counting – has all the grounds to keep being just as optimistic and perhaps more than that if we speak about chess: a huge chess nursery, talented and fearless players, governmental and parental support.

I would not be surprised if one of the next World Champions...

...will come from this land, a land of sun and opportunity.

Final standings

# Stnr. Title Name FED Elo Pts TB1 TB2 TB3
1 11 FM Priasmoro Novendra INA 2353 7,0 38,00 0,0 5
2 6 FM Setyaki Azarya Jodi INA 2303 6,5 36,50 0,0 3
3 9 IM Duong The Anh VIE 2321 6,5 33,00 0,0 3
4 12 FM Taher Yoseph Theolifus INA 2353 6,5 32,75 0,0 4
5 1 WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram VIE 2324 6,0 30,75 0,0 4
6 3 IM Wohl Aleksandar H. AUS 2357 6,0 30,00 0,0 3
7 7 IM Wynn Zaw Htun MYA 2390 5,5 29,50 0,0 3
8 2 IM Sadikin The Irwanto INA 2315 5,5 28,00 0,0 4
9 8 WGM Aulia Medina Warda INA 2373 4,5 25,00 0,0 1
10 4 IM L'ami Alina ROU 2332 4,5 24,25 0,0 3
11 5 IM Nay Oo Kyaw Tun MYA 2341 4,5 23,50 0,0 1
12 10 IM Purnama Tirta Chandra INA 2337 3,0 16,75 0,0 1


Topics: Indonesia

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.
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luisnux luisnux 1/7/2017 04:51
L'Ami Vs Prasmioro 1-0 was awesome!!! Well done!!! I love the pictures too. That's a beautiful place.
peterfrost peterfrost 1/5/2017 04:20
I admire you Alina for publishing a fascinating endgame in which you made several mistakes, but recognised that it would be very interesting to your readers. It was a great ending to play through, and your opponent's ...g5!! was an amazing move! Thank you for swallowing your pride and sharing it with us. I think your willingness to do that shows that you care more about the chess than about your own reputation. Uncommon these days, and most admirable.
fons fons 1/5/2017 03:47

I actually enjoy her articles -believe it or not- and think she is a fantastic photographer.

But I've been in a bad mood lately, watched too much news I guess.
I'm also sick and tired of people in the west sticking their heads in the sand to anything that is not pleasant or disturbs their Pokemon Go game.
I could have written that Qatar funds ISIS on the rapid & blitz world championship tournament reports from Doha, but didn't because those reports did not resemble some over the top propaganda piece.
I'm sure the vast majority of the people from Indonesia are very nice. But there has also been religious violence and somebody committed those acts.
But we probably should not be talking too much politics on a chess website. Unfortunately explaining myself only made that worse.
I'm sure Alina L'Ami only has the best intentions in mind. But then there's also a saying that goes: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".
Which I am aware also applies to me.
I hope she -or anybody else- is not too offended.
Jigz Jigz 1/4/2017 02:58
Alina is an awesome journalist and an exceptionally good photographer. I wonder if she ever planned to publish her travelogues and pics. Such a book will be a runaway success.
Eigenfunction Eigenfunction 1/4/2017 12:25
I think the bodyguard remark was not literal.

If Alina had made a broad comment on religion like that, many people would have criticised her for going off-topic on a chess news website. I feel like you would have posted almost exactly the same comment regardless of what she wrote in this article.
fons fons 1/3/2017 06:04
"... remarkably good-natured, displaying amazing cheerfulness."
Then why does she need a bodyguard?

Whenever and wherever religion plays a big role in society there are problems.

Happy new year. ;)