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Monday, July 16, 2012

Of Kasugi Team Chess Championship

For photos of the event, please visit Chess-Malaysia FACEBOOK page HERE

Dubbed as the biggest Team Event in Malaysia, the KASUGI Team Event was conducted rather successfully. The immediate setbacks that came to my mind was that the playing hall was too small (to accommodate more than 500 enthusiasts) and the lounge area was literally packed with people (more like sardines in a can) - players, moms, dads, wives, husbands, kids, babies and book sellers. Sitting, standing, lying, squatting rooms were all taken. I had a hunch that the place will be packed (I have been involved with some events at CitiTel Express before and understood the "size" of the place) and the nightmare became a reality when I arrived for Round 1. Come lunch time, it became worst where kids literally sitting on the floor eating their food and people swerving their footsteps to make sure that they do not step on someone's rice. A bigger hall would have given way for more team to register (I was told the organizer had to reject 10 teams) but at the same time, a bigger hall would also allow the organizer to aggressively market the event and the number of teams playing would have easily hit 150 teams. Nonetheless, it was a great and grand turnout from many chess players around the country - and from Philippines and Brunei. Surprisingly, teams for Singapore and Indonesia did not take part in this event when they usually do.

The second setback was the food poisoning issue that many players faced in the very late hours of the first day. Apparently, the chicken rice that was served during lunch earlier in the day was not too fresh and many players suffered stomach discomfort during early morning hours of the second day. One player had to forfeit his early Sunday round and my opponent that morning also had experience excruciating pain at 4:00am and was not in the "right mind" to play. But he was still good enough for him to beat me in my game *grin*. It was one of those generous events where organizers prepare food for the participants but, the experience left many players shying away from the free food on the second day. It was definitely unintentional (and stomach discomfort varies from one person to the other - the young ones usually tolerate it better!) but, nonetheless, it left a bit of dent in an otherwise memorable event.

All in all, only Merdeka Team event (during the Malaysia Chess Festival) would probably have the capability to amass such a number of team playing but, the feat achieved by Kasugi Team Event shows that good prize money, good support, and excellent organization can always attract many players from all corners of the country to take part in such an event. With the lack of team events in Malaysia, this was definitely THE EVENT being waited by many and for that, kudos to all for a job well done!

Most importantly, not only that KASUGI Team Event is the biggest Team event ever (even the Merdeka/Chess Festival can only attract at most 60 teams and event then, the venue is bigger!), it also attracted the most state team playing in a single team event - only state teams from Melaka and Perlis were absent. Further, with team average rating not to exceed 2100 points (Merdeka uses 2250 as its ceiling average), the event became interesting with no "running" away teams". Team strategy take importance with many team downplaying their top board and beefing up their lower boards. As most teams (the stronger ones with titled players in the team) uses the common rule of thumb by placing the players line up according to strength, the last board usually ends up as their weakest link. For teams where there are only one or two strong players, they balance the line up of the team by placing a weaker player on Table 1 (sending the poor fellow to the "slaughterhouse") and beef up the 3rd and last board for possible points.  I was one of the player who got caught in the arrangement (we line up our team according to strength with IM Ronaldo Nolte on Board 1, Eng Chiam on Board 2, yours truly on Board 3 and Dilwen Ding on the last board) as I had to face many strong players in Loo Swee Leong of Penang, former NM Kamalariffin Wahiduddin and sister NWM Khairunnisa, and Abdullah Che Hassan of Johor. But looking at the team line up before the start of Round 1, there were many teams putting "strong players" on Board 3 (some due to strategy and some by strength) such as the newly crowned NM Roshan Singh, last year's NM Lim Zhuo Ren, another former NM Evan Timothy Capel. I gasped!!!!

Nonetheless, it was a good "training" and "entertainment" ground as I had not had so much fun in playing a team event. All in all, as a player, it was a pleasant experience for me (even better since my team was seeded 7th and we ended 7th as well in the final standings) albeit the little "discomfort" and "packed" crowd that I had to deal with. But once the round starts, everything became oblivious and the focus shifted to the game on the board. And once the event is over and with all the laughter that was shared with so many people, the poison food issue and the jam packed hall (and the mistake in the prizing category), all the so called "setbacks" were quickly forgotten the moment I took my train ride back home.

The top seeded team for the event was TESLA Chess comprising of FM Nicholas Chan, brother NM Marcus Chan, NM Evan Timothy Capel and Penang youngster Wong Yinn Loong. The second seeded team was Selangor Senior and the 3rd seeded team was Johor A. IM Jimmy's Chess is Chess is seeded 4th followed by Penang A at 5th and host KASUGI Team A was seeded 6th.

Host KASUGI Team A was the highest seeded team with a foreign player in Ian Idani. At 7th seed, my Mastermind Team with IM Rolando Nolte at the helm was the second highest seeded team with a foreign player in the line up. Other teams with foreign players in their team composition were STMIK-STIE Mikroskil comprising of players from Sabah, Indonesia and Brunei led by Indonesian Pitra Andika - seeded 14th. Bicol Express comprising of three Philippines players and a single Malaysian player in Cheah Cheok Fong were seeded 16th and Apocalypse Manila Team led by IM Roland Bancod was seeded 17th. Of course with the Philippines players, although unrated, they are great tactician and very positional and strong over the board players. So, they were definitely the team to watch for. There were perhaps many other teams with foreign players in their line up in the lower seeded teams but these were the ones that were more noticeable and formidable.

Only during the first 2 rounds that most of the top teams were able to score convincing shut outs with perfect scores against their respective opponents but as the round progresses, it was not a easy to see team winning 4-0 especially on the higher tables. And it became apparent that this was not going to be an easy tournament for the top teams what more with the underrated STMIK, Bicol and Apocalypse were seeded lower than what their "actual" seeding supposed to be ergo, there were bound to be "upsets" all over the place for teams that were paired with these 3 teams.

In Merdeka Team event, runaway winners are usually identified by the time the event hit its penultimate round but for this event, there were still chances for the lower teams to leap frog to the top even at the very last round. For this event, it was so tight as only 4 points separates the top 16 teams with the eventual winner amassing 23 points and the 16th placed team collecting 19 points. And at 7th spot, we were the sole team with 20 points - half point behind KASUGI A and Penang A, and half point in front of Chess Is Chess, Penang B, Kelantan A, Nameless and Johor A. Our position is helped further by the fact that we were able to avoid many of the top teams. After the final standing, the only team that we had met in the event who were ranked higher was the Penang A Team and we lost to them 3-1. 

After all the smoked cleared, at the end of Round 8, it was no surprise that the Apocalypse Manila Team came out on top as the inaugural winner, followed in second place by the second mixed foreign team STMIK-STIE Mikroskil Team. Another foreign team Bicol Express (the team had Cheah Cheok Fong) came in 3rd overall and 4th placed TESLA Chess Team - the highest scoring for an all Malaysian Team bagged the Best Malaysian Team. 5th overall was Penang A and they took the Best State Team prize - the second all Malaysian Team. Sixth overall team was host KASUGI A (which also had a foreign player in Ian Udani) and with TESLA grabbing the local prize and Penang A securing the State prize, KASUGI A was declared fourth. Our Mastermind Team - also with foreigner IM Rolando Nolte, came in 5th and 7th overall.

There were some mixed up in the prize giving ceremony when KASUGI Team A was omitted from the prize list but it was later rectified by the organizer and Arbtier En Hamid Majid. 

All in all it was a nice and successful event and I look forward to joining the event again next year - as player or perhaps, as part of the organizing team, or even the Arbiter.

Of course the event would not have been a reality without the generous contribution from Mr Zuhri and his KASUGI Prima Group for their sponsorship, and Puan Adzlin for giving away the prizes. On behalf of the chess community, thanks a million for the contribution. And in the words of IM Jimmy Liew, perhaps the prize fund can be increased for future events. Others that needs mentioning is Arbiter IA Hamid Majid (I know how tough it is to run a jam packed event) for an almost flawless event (except towards the end when the prize winners were mixed up - it happens even to the best of us!), and YBhg Tan Sri Ramli who dropped by to witness the event. To all the players, see you all again next year or perhaps earlier during the Malaysian Chess Festival ASTRO Team Championship - revenge beckons....... That will be a month and a half away so, plenty of time to prepare, study and practice!

Finally, the final standings for the KASUGI Team event looked something like this. Take note that these are not official results as it may differ from the one released by the organizer. For the Junior results, please visit Chess-Results website

Jam packed hall!
Pairing Round 2
The underrated Apocalypse Manila Team led by IM Ronald Bancod
NM Kamalariffin of Pahang A Team
Interesting match up between Chess Is Chess against Apocalypse Manila Team in Round 6
Penang against Johor - Who is the better state?
Deadly ladies of chess!
Hey!!! I came in 5th!!! Good job team!
Champion - Apocalypse Manila Team
Host KASUGI A Team
One for the album - Philippines IM Nolte (left) and IM "James Bond" Bancod (right with the "gun" in hand)



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