First Friday IM Tournament, the first of its kind in Asia
So I've just returned from this year's summer attempt to make my final Grandmaster norm and many of my friends might already have known that I've come mighty close to achieving exactly that in my final event of the tour. The Legend has already summarised the trip quite nicely and I've no doubt that I will shortly put up some of my games, especially the ones that I've lost to the Grandmasters.
In general, I will rate my own performance a solid B overall since it took me a bit of time before I finally got to shape. The reason why I needed so much time before I started playing to form is really because there is a distinct lack of opportunity for consistent and regular tournament practice against strong players. My main pre-European trip preparation mainly consisted of training games with the soon-to-be Grandmaster Andrey Kvon and while those games proved to be useful, training games over a casual setting are still not quite the same as the slightly more intense format of a tournament.
GM-elect Andrey Kvon, looking very pleased with the sumptous celebratory lunch after he achieved his final Grandmaster norm at the Xtracon Open this year. His previous norm was achieved at one of the previous editions of the Olympiad which counts as double, and he has already crossed the 2500 elo mark some time ago.
This is not so much of a problem in Europe given that there is a large number of tournaments available for selection and indeed, it is quite possible to plan a trip using, say, www.chessmix.com and arrange 3-4 tournaments in a row. In Asia however, we normally have 1 signature annual event from each country such as the Bangkok Open in Thailand, the HD Bank Cup in Vietnam and the on-going Malaysia Open. These events are all held at different timings for various reasons. At the same time, there are 2-3 open tournaments organised in the Philippines but the dates are normally announced quite late and there is little to no publicity making it difficult for chess players to plan their schedule properly.
Any active but non-professional player like me will tell you that it is much better to play a few tournaments in a row, rather than 1 or 2 tournaments every few months. As amateurs, we have a full-time job or school to attend to and that leaves very little time for anyone to seriously train and prepare for an intense 9-10 game tournament. However, as Li Yang has already pointed out, I can attest to the fact that it is financially costly to travel to Europe (although there are great fares during the summer!) every year and I have long hoped for more regular events in the region.
That dream is not far away now, after Malaysia's Peter Long announced the launch of the First Friday IM Tournament, which is to be held from 6-11 October 2017, at Institute for Chess Excellence in Puchong, Selangor, Malaysia. The details of the event are well documented on Chessbase India here.
If anyone found the name of the event familiar, you are probably thinking about the famous First Saturday tournaments organised by IO Nagy Laszlo. I have played there a number of times and I've even made 1 GM norm and 2 IM norms there myself. While Laszlo is running these events as a business, I personally think that these events have contributed a lot to the growth of Hungarian Chess. Many of Hungary's top players, (Rapport and Erdos for example) competed in these events before they became world-class. Peter's events have the opportunity of doing the same for budding chess players in the region.
The double rounds are extremely daunting, but this does fit the needs of the busy amateur player like myself. For instance, I will just need to take 3 days leave to play a full 9-round tournament, travelling is easy to and fro Singapore and the cost will be nowhere close as compared to a tournament in Europe.
Peter will need to find a way to organise these events in a financially sustainable way and I sincerely hope that they turn out to be popular and successful.