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

by Sagar Shah
12/7/2014 – In the second part of the report on the Zaw Win Lay Myanmar International Open, won jointly by GM Nigel Short and GM Vladimir Belous, we bring you an exclusive interview with the one of the joint winners, Nigel Short, who discusses the tournament, Burma, and eating grasshoppers and worms. There are also player portraits as well as some beautiful pictures of Yangon.

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Interview with GM Nigel Short

Nigel is a popular chess figure wherever he goes!

Sagar Shah - How was your experience in Yangon, Myanmar?

Nigel Short - Rather positive, I would say. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – something between Bangladesh and Thailand, I suppose – but the country had a very unique feel. The Golden Pagoda complex in particular was a) enormous b) fantastic. It would have been nice to see a bit more of Myanmar but, with such a hideous schedule, it was not really possible. However I am very grateful to the organizer Maung Maung Lwin for his extraordinary hospitality. He is a fantastic host.

Mesmerized by the beauty of the golden Pagoda

You have a huge dislike for double rounds in a tournament. The Zaw Win Lay Myanmar Open had three days of double rounds. Why did you play such a hectic tournament?

Basically, because I didn’t have anything else in my diary, and I wanted to see a new country. I have always been curious to visit Burma as my paternal grandfather fought there against the Japanese during the war. I am very glad that I went, but I doubt whether I will go again unless the schedule is changed for the better. Fortunately that seems likely.

How was the strength of the tournament according to you?

Not particularly strong. It had a very weak tail and Maung could easily have put the bottom 50 or 60 mostly local players in a separate tournament – which I suspect he will do next time. As top seed, I expected Sergey Tiviakov would be challenging for first, and indeed he was leading until the penultimate day, when the wheels came off. I didn’t know Vladimir Belous at all, but he had the third highest rating and is young, so I expected he would be a contender. Obviously I considered all the other GMs, and a few of the IMs to be potentially dangerous.

The young Russian was indeed a serious challenge and in the end
tied with Short for the first place

You lost in the sixth round to GM M R Venkatesh. What went wrong?

My preparation was non-existent/atrocious and my calculation was equally bad. Of course these things happen when you have no time to prepare because of the atrocious schedule, and you are very tired. These days preparation at events is very important for me, because I rarely work between them. I found myself playing a sharp line of the Richter-Rauzer that I knew little about (neither did my opponent, by the way) and for reasons which I cannot explain, I varied from the only game I was familiar with (Shirov-Greenfeld) which was won by the Israeli. There is not a lot of room for improvisation in such positions and I was hampered by being unable to calculate anything at all. At some moment I noticed I was dead lost and all I could do was wait for the hammer to fall. (The game was analyzed in the first part of the report)

After six rounds you were on 4.5/6 and Tiviakov was on 5.5/6. Had you lost hopes of finishing first? What exactly was your mental setup for the remaining three rounds?

I just play one game at a time. And I don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. I can only control the position in front of me, so everything else is wasted energy.

Which was your favourite game from the tournament?

Unlike the recent Pokerstars tournament in the Isle of Man, where I played several reasonably good and/or interesting games, I don’t think I would be awarded high marks for either skill or creativity in Yangon. I suppose my last round win against Vakhidov, from Uzbekistan, was my best achievement. My opening play was rubbish, and I momentarily screwed up a winning position (he was short of time and couldn’t find the only move to keep him alive) but at least I showed yet again that I am generally quite good in pressure situations.

The all-important last round where Nigel was able to outwit the young Jahongir Vakhidov

How does it feel to win this tournament?

I was jubilant. I jumped up and down in my room, because I didn’t think this was appropriate behaviour in public!

How was the worm eating experience?

Tiviakov comes a box full of bamboo worms...

...and asks Nigel to try it.

Something’s not right there!

Fairly disgusting. The grasshoppers/locusts were far worse because they are chewy and so repulsive to look at. I notice that Sergey collapsed after eating a large number of these before the 7th and 8th round. Perhaps it is not coincidental? I had only two – which was two too many. The worms didn’t taste of much, by the way.

What is next on your agenda after this win in Myanmar?

I will be doing a few things at the London Classic, but my next proper playing experience will be the Tradewise Gibraltar Tournament. I am looking forward to that. I am actually going to be pretty busy in the first half of next year. Life is good.

Organizers and Players

The chief organizer for the event was Mr. Maung Maung Lwin. He holds three FIDE titles:
International Arbiter, FIDE trainer and International Organizer. Apart from these titles he
is also a proficient chess player with an Elo of 2133. He was able to invite players from
seventeen different countries.

Peter Long, who is also a FIDE Trainer and a strong chess player (2282) from Malaysia was
the chief arbiter of the event

The tournament took place in the Central Hotel which is located in the busy Nagyoke Aung Sang Road

The highest rated player of Myanmar: IM Wynn Zaw Htun (2396)

The very talented fourteen-year-old from Singapore: FM Tin Jingyao (2355)

Local girls played with something applied on the face….

It is a form of traditional make-up called Thanaka: a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made
from ground bark. It has a nice smell, similar to that of sandalwood, provides a cooling
sensation and protects from sunburn.

No make-up required! : Our good friend, Alexandra Samaganova, from Kyrgyzstan

A small tour of Yangon

Yangon is the biggest city in Myanmar with a population of over five million people. It was the capital of Myanmar till 2006, after which the military government relocated capital to Naypyidaw. Yangon still remains one of the most important commercial centers in the country.

At the entrance of the Shwedagon Pagoda. The Shwedagon Pagoda,
also known as Golden Pagoda, dominates the skyline of the city of Yangon.
It is 99 metres (325 feet) high, and is the most sacred of Pagodas for the
Burmese with relics of past four Buddhas enshrined within.

With escalators built in it, the Pagoda is quite modern...

...but so are the monks!

The exquisite interiors of the Shwedagon Pagoda

Huge statues

The Bodhi tree at the Shwedagon Pagoda is said to have been planted
from the cutting of a tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment

A nice arrangement of food for the birds!

Yangon Zoological gardens

It is the oldest and the second largest zoo in Myanmar. The 69.25 acre recreational park includes a museum of natural history, an aquarium and an amusement park. The zoo has nearly 145 species of land animals which include eight endangered species (Tiger, Takin, Asian Elephant, clouded leopard, Burmese large tortoise, the great hornbill, the marsh crocodile and the elk).

The Hippos are hungry…

...Tiviakov to the rescue!

Meeting the elephants!

This is probably a hornbill. Some ornithologists might want to help us out here!

Island Pagoda

The Island Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda located on a small island in Hmaw Wun Creek
which is a tributary of the Yangon River. The pagoda has to be reached by a ferry.

The nice layout of the Pagoda. It is said that even though the Pagoda has a small room for
people who come to visit, there is always space for everyone because of the balance between
visitors who are coming and leaving.

Beautiful statues can be found throughout

The Myanmar International Open witnessed the participation of two extremely strong players
in Tiviakov and Short this year. With such beautiful landscape in the country and also good prize
money and better schedule next year (hopefully), there is no reason why the Myanmar Open will
not become one of the top events in the chess calendar of 2015.

Pictures provided by Sergey Tiviakov, Peter Long and Nigel Short




Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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Queenslander Queenslander 12/8/2014 11:57
Yes, the 'hornbill' is definitely a Southern Cassowary from Northern Queensland! Two other species are found on the island of New Guinea (shared by Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). As Johanath indicates, it can be aggressive with a potentially lethal kick if cornered.
samvils samvils 12/8/2014 11:11
i thought that bird was a peacock,, :D
Youssef Maftah Youssef Maftah 12/8/2014 08:24
Th bird is a cassowary!
Johanath Johanath 12/7/2014 09:52
The bird pictured above is a cassowary. One of the largest flightless birds, these are often very shy unless provoked; in which case they can become quite aggressive.
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