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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Of Running MCC 2019 (Day 2) - To Cough or Not To Cough....

There were a few upsets during the 3rdand 4thround but, the attention was more towards what happened out of the game routine rather than issues within the games itself.

For the very first time in my 30 years or so career as a chess player, arbiter and organizer, a player officially approached the Arbiter's table to lodge a complaint about a player coughing during rounds. But his comments make sense and of course, to substantiate his complaint, he cited a few rules within the FIDE handbook which – although it does not specifically mention “coughing”, it was enough to deem that the claim is reasonable and worth considering. While the player wanted those who coughed to be “removed and considered lost in the round”, I was not entire agreeable to the request as I need to have some kind of discretion to decide if the cough is genuine or it is used as a tactic to distract an opponent. Of course, I am not a doctor but, to provide a blanket rule that deems someone to have lost just because they cough, is a bit too extreme.

So, as the complainant return to his table to continue with his game, we decided to call the boy who was sick and ask if he is able to continue as it is quite apparent that he is coughing quite badly. After a chat with the parents – who confirmed that the boy was sick a couple of weeks back but had recovered, they agreed to provide a face mask for their son and gave him some cough drops to suppress his cough. While that part of the issue was managed, we did make rounds and offer face masks to those coughing whil playing their games. As a follow up to the request, I announced at the start of Round 4 that players who feel sick or unwell, should start thinking as to which is more important to them – their health or chess, and if need be, should withdraw from the tournament to avoid spreading virus and germs to everyone else. The organizer also agreed to provide face masks to those requiring it and some cough drops to control their cough. I even went on to mention that those who cough persistently and is clearly unwell, maybe expel from the tournament to ensure that it does not distract others playing in the event, not to mention the “pollution” that he or she is contributing to the hall environment. 

In a very enclosed area like hotel rooms and hall, such a situation – where germs can spread like wildfire, is not something new or strange or even illogical. It can happen and it will happen. Already in the 3rdday of the event and if my memory serves me right, there are more players sniffling and “clearing their throats” now compared to during the 1stday or even the 2ndday of the tournament. I believe the request made by the player is an excellent request but, it needs to be implemented in a justifiable and reasonable manner. Perhaps, we will also require a player – who seems to be sick, to get a doctor’s clearance to play in an event to make sure that whatever sickness he or she introduces in the playing hall is not contagious or harmful to the others. 

Now back to the scores starting with Round 3.

In the Open section, Mohd Kamal Abdulla drew with up and rising player Lee Care Greene from Penang on Board 2 but another rising youngster, Amir Ghaazi Mohd Saprin lost his game to the lower rated Brien Foo on board 4. Veteran Jax Tham – playing white, also took a tumble losing to youngster Muhammad Emir Rasyid on Board 6. The sole woman player in the Open Section, Nithyalakshmi Sivanesan played well to beat her local Pahang opponent and veteran Kamal Azmi Wahiduddin. 

In the Women section, it was a stroll in the park for WFM Nur Najiha winning against Puteri Rifqah Fahada but sister WFM Nur Nabila conceded her point losing to WFM Chua Jia Tien on Board 2. Puteri Munajjah also played well to overcome her opponent Ding Dao En, and in the lower boards, Fatih Nor Sahariah drew with Tan Wei Ting on Board 5.

In the afternoon Round 4, Looi Xin Hao was lucky to escape with a full point after having trouble holding his game handling Rook and Knight against his opponent sole Queen. NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah played well in a 7-pawn endgame to secure his point against The Wee Zhun on Board 3 and Abdullah Che Hassan winning easily against his younger opponent Muhd Nur Daie on Board 4. Mohd Saprin Sabri suffered a shocking defeat against youngster Lee Care Greene on Board 5 but son Amir Ghaazi did well to overcome opponent Wan Mohd Azmie after the latter blundered by giving away his queen towards the end of a marathon game – the last game to finish for the day. 

While Looi Xin Hao has managed to continue his billing as the top seed in the Open section, the same cannot be said for the Women section. Round 4 Board 1 saw a nail-biting encounter between WFM Nur Najiha and WFM Chua Jia Tien which ended in a draw after Najiha was unable to ward off continuous Queen checks from Jia Tien in a Queens and Pawns ending. On Board 2, Puteri Munajjah created a mini upset when she outplayed WFM Nur Nabila confidently to secure a full point. WFM Puteri Rifqah Fahada had little resistance to overcome Nurina Nayli on Board 3 and Claire Foo secured her point on board 4 after her opponent Athiera Fatneen misplayed the endgame which could have ended in a split decision.

For the Open section, at the end of day 2, two Penang players Yeap Eng Chiam and Looi Xin Hao – both with perfect score of 3 points each, will square off on Board 1 in Round 5 whilst Abdullah Che Hassan and Lee Care Greene – both half points behind, will face each other on Board 2. NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah, who is the remaining 2½ pointer, will meet Francis Tan with 2 points on board 3. Nithyalakshmi continues her good performance and will meet Yeoh Huan Hui on Board 5 – both with 2 points, and the winner of the match will definitely have a clear opportunity to eye the top spot. It will be interesting to see if Nithya can challenge the boys for the top spot and on the same note, the last female to play in the Open Section was WFM Camilia Johari who tried the feat in 2015 – ending in 32ndplace out of 76 entries.

For the women section, with only 18 players playing over 9 rounds, it will be a race to the finish for many of the players especially the top seeds – sisters Nabila and Najiha, sister Rifqah and Munajjah, and Penangite Jia Tien. With Jia Tien and Munajjah fighting it off on Board 1 in Round 5, the winner of the match will definitely have a slight advantage in their race to the finish line.

NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah
Abdullah Che Hassan
WCM Nithyalakshmi Sivanesan
Francis Tan - Back in Action
FM Ismail Ahmad (
Wan Mohd Azmi (Kelantan)
Future Generation of Chess Players on Top Boards - Nik Emer Hisham (left) and Muhammad Emir (right) 
New rising star - Amir Ghaazi, and former Junior Champion - Yeap Eng Chiam
Players on Lower Board.

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