Penang Chess Festival turns ten

by Edwin Lam
11/3/2018 – One month from today, and a decade after the inaugural Penang International Chess Open in June 2009, the 10th edition of the Open returns in the Malaysian state of Penang! It is bigger and richer. How much richer? How about USD $12,000 in total prize money! | Pictured (left) Penang has been recognised as a World Heritage site since the year 2008 / (right) Filipino GM Darwin Laylo is one of the registered grandmasters. | Photos: Penang Chess Association

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A week-long Chess Festival

It is bigger: It is now part of the Penang Chess Festival (December 3rd to 9th, 2018), which combined the Open event together with the Challengers, the Penang Chess Festival Blitz 2018 and the 2018 Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team Tournament.

It is also richer: Open section prize money of RM 29,100 (about USD $7,000) is up for grabs in the Open. Together with the Challenger event, the Festival Blitz and Penang Chess League Team Tournament, the total combined prize money for the entire Penang Chess Festival is RM 49,350 (which over US$ 11,800, at current exchange rates)!

Penang is on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, adjacent to the Malacca Strait

USD $1,900 first prize!

In announcing this week-long Chess Festival, the President of the PCA, Madam See Swee Sie, said, “My committee and I are continuing the great work started by my predecessor, Mr. Lee, and the late Dato’ Tan Chin Nam. Chess is for all — it should be as inclusive as possible to anyone who loves the game.”

The 10th Penang International Chess Open is scheduled to start on December 3rd, 2018. “The Winner will take home RM 8,000, making this one of the richest Open tournaments in December. Last year, Armenian GM Grigoryan was the top seed. He finished with 8 points out of nine rounds, which was equalled by IM Rathnakaran of India. The Indian IM was announced as the Champion due to his better tie-break,” recalled Madam See. 

Rathnakaran, Chong Eng, Grigoryan

Rathnakaran (left) edged out Grigoryan (right) in 2017

Pit your wits against...

... the Filipinos, Indonesians, Indians and more…This nine-round FIDE classical tournament (Time control: 90 minutes + 30 seconds increment per move) expected to be closely fought. “We are expecting close to 400 chess players to sign up for all four events of the Penang Chess Festival. The deadline to sign-up is just three weeks’ away,” added Madam See.

As of now, the Philippines has the largest list of players registered in the Open section. Filipinos, GM Darwin Laylo (pictured top), IM Ronald Dableo and IM Nouri Hamed, are expected to be Championship contenders. But, we shouldn’t discount the Indonesians (with IM Dede Lioe, IM Ronny Gunawan and FM Pitra Andyka leading the way) and Indian contingents to give the Filipinos a tough fight.

Nouri Hamed and Ronald Dableo

IM Ronald Dableo and IM Hamed Nouri will be there

Dede Lioe

Indonesian, IM Dede Lioe (Centre), seen here in a file photo next to countrymen IM Irwanto Sadikin and IM Denny Juswanto. Will IM Irwanto come along with IM Dede to play in Penang? And, what are the chance for IM Denny to make a return to competitive chess this Dec in Penang?

Calling IM Rathnakaran

With the closing date to register for the tournament less than three weeks away (November 20th), there can still be many twists to the plot: Will GM Grigoryan return in the last minute to try and win the 10th Penang International Chess Open? What about IM Rathnakaran’s appearance to defend his crown? Or, what if IM Nguyen Van Huy, a regular visitor to Penang, decides to turn up with the Vietnamese contingent to try and win it?

“We hope to see representatives from around the world coming to Penang this December. They can not only just play in the Open or Challengers’ event, but also participate in the Festival Blitz and Wah Seong League Team Tournament and stand strong chances of winning prizes there! It’s going to be a week-long of chess fun,” opined Madam See.

Details of the three adjacent events are as follow:

  • The Challenger’s Section will take place concurrently to the Open section. It has a total prize money of RM 6,900;
  • The Penang Chess Festival Blitz 2018 will take place on December 6th and it has a total prize fund of RM 4,150; and
  • The 2018 Wah Seong Penang Chess League Team Tournament will happen on December 8th and 9th with a total prize money of RM 9,200

Playing hall

The spacious playing hall in Penang

“The Penang Chess Festival 2018, incorporating the 10th Penang International Chess Open, is made possible thanks to Wah Seong as well as the Penang State Government, particularly, the State Department of Sports. We are grateful for their sponsorship and support,” concluded Madam See.

If you have not been to Penang before, this might be the best time for you to finally take the ideal “chess vacation”. Come and explore a new city, while at the same time play some chess throughout all three events of the chess festival.

Read up on all the tournament details (PDF), including the prize list for the Top 20 players in the Open and Top 12 players in the Challenger sections. Special prizes will also go to the best female and veteran players. Kids in the Challengers’ section will receive medals.

To sign-up, visit this Google form. Alternatively, you can also sign-up via WeChat (User Name: estan5566) and payment details will be sent to you via email after the initial contact on WeChat.


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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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