Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Aussies Being Neighbourly

Being just a few short hours away, Asia ought to be a boon for Aussies on a norm hunt. With the rise of moneyed tournaments within our region, Australian chessers should look closer to home - not only saving themselves the time, money and effort but, more importantly, building relationships.

Across Asia, from the UAE (yes, I'm casting a wide net) to Indonesia, there is no shortage of chess events within the region. Over in the United Arab Emirates, the Abu Dhabi Chess and Culture Club hosts two big events. The first of these, the Dubai Open, took place in April and was won by GM Levan Pantsulaia (2616) of Georgia ahead of 24 other GMs competing. In 2 weeks, the second big tournament, the 17th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival, will take place from 12 - 20 August. The current list of players in the Master section is impressive. Eight grandmasters are over the magic 2600 rating mark! No Aussie hopefuls there, but at least one Pinoy - Hamed Nouri.

As the Abu Dhabi tournament closes, the Malaysian Chess Festival will begin in KL. As usual the top section Malaysian Open should attract some of the region's best talents. Last year's edition, for instance, featured the then 2600+ rated Mark Paragua, while no one will soon quickly forget Wang Hao's near unbelievable 10/11 performance in 2005. (Wang's title win, by the way, was capped off by that crushing last round victory over the now retired GM Ian Rogers). Any ambitious Aussie chesser gunning for norms should pack their bags and head north.

And the chess action is set to rise even more. Some weeks ago we reported that the ASEAN Chess Confederation recently announced the establishment of the ASEAN GP with the first leg expected to take place in the Philippines sometime in November this year. Another 5 more legs are scheduled before June 2008. At this time, I don't know if the ASEAN event will also be open non ASEAN members. Our calls to the listed contact number have been unanswered. Peter Long, executive director, has since replied to my email. He advises that everyone, including non- ASEAN members, can play and win prize money. But it seems that only ASEAN members can qualify for the overall prize fund and that's fair enough, I think.

But one event that will certainly exclude non-Asians is the 2nd Asian Indoor Games lo be held in Macau from 26 October to 3 November this year. Chess will be played across the 3 familiar disciplines of classical, rapid and blitz in both teams and individual formats. A pity, though, that Australia won't be a participant.

While Europe will remain the centre of the best chess tournaments - Asia is fast becoming a viable option for those looking for norms. There are plenty of opportunities here. Moreover, maintaining closer ties with our neighbours will surely have positive outcomes beyond the chess board.

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