December 14th-21st, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That was the time and place when I was again lucky enough to represent NGTU (Novosibirsk State Technical University) – this time at an international competition. The event at the end of last year was the third away performance for our team. The previous two were student games, first on a Siberian, and then on a Russian scale, where we finished first and third respectively.
The chance to play for your university in such a warm and distant place while it’s freezing cold at home is something you treat, of course, as a reward.
GACC (Grand Asia Chess Challenge) is an intervarsity tournament that was being held for the 15th time. It’s strange that with such a history and a constantly growing number of participants the competition remains overshadowed in chess circles, and there are few, if any, who have heard of it. That’s a pity. GACC is an amazing event. Its main feature is that the emphasis is laid not on a sporting competition but rather on establishing links: bringing students together within universities, and then between universities, in a country, a region… and the whole world. Chess is the platform for all this.
Chess is always considered to comprise elements of art, science and sport, and that means it can easily unite people from very different spheres of activity. Everyone can find something appealing in chess, whether it’s self-enrichment, the development of certain abilities and skills, or the possibility of meeting like-minded people. All in all, no-one’s left out. The chess table is a wonderful basis for international dialogue. Well, that’s enough talking. Shall we play a game?
That’s what the organisers decided: they gathered the students together and seated them at tables with chess pieces. Those who weren’t participating directly in the tournament were provided with the opportunity to obtain the experience of organizer, presenter, guide… Students of the host university (the University of Malaya) took an active part in all the stages of the festival. It was a triumph of friendship, cooperation, and knowledge. Over what? I'm sure you can answer that question yourself…
The guidelines written in the tournament handbook under "our goals" and “our philosophy" were as follows: improving the level of chess culture, developing an interest in chess among students, being an example to other countries that we’ve got something in common and that cooperation is possible between representatives of different cultures and nationalities, not only in word but in deed. The whole atmosphere of the tournament was permeated by a lively interest in the game and friendliness, while at the same time there was an urge to work hard and a striving to achieve the goals set.
We all know that a picture paints a thousand words. I hope, therefore, that my photo report will enable you to feel the spirit that reigned at the 15th International Intervarsity Tournament.
We had a long flight: Novosibirsk – Tashkent – Kuala Lumpur, which with all the connections took 14 hours in total.
We were going through passport control. Under the burden of fatigue I felt the seconds not passing but dripping slowly like drops of water from a leaky tap in the kitchen. I had a strong desire to present myself in front of a law enforcement official. Yes, even that can happen. I wasn’t even worried that he might doubt my honesty in ticking the “I didn’t cross the Malaysian border under a false passport” box on my declaration.
- What’s the purpose of your visit?
- A sports contest.
- What kind of sport?
- Really?! Great. Good luck!
You probably needed to hear the intonation with which those words were pronounced to grasp the emotion…
And that’s how we became legal guests of the country.
We were greeted at the airport by representatives of the organizing committee. They were very hospitable and friendly, asking us about all our needs and desires, and immediately providing us with local SIM cards.
Our team: Nikolai Kuzmin, Yan Dzhumagaliev, Ekaterina Kharashuta, Pavel Maletin, and me.
Whenever they move to a new place they take a group photo. They smile – smile with their eyes. When thanking you or saying goodbye they make an almost horizontal bow. I seem to have started readopting that almost forgotten mark of politeness again…
This is where the participants were registered. As a reward for filling out the form each player received two sweets. The most pleasant surprise was that each team was provided with their own liaison officer, who was responsible for ensuring good communication between the participants and organizers and dealing with any problems that the team faced.
And here he is, Jubiliki Anilik, our liaison officer. He’s very nice and outgoing and we liked taking advantage of the situation i.e. bombarding him with questions, while he enjoyed explaining everything to us. Or in any case, that’s the impression his replies gave.
During the first trip to the city, or rather to the shopping center, in order to buy some food (we’d arrived early in the morning and the terms of the accommodation didn’t include dinner on the first day) we learned that it was no accident that there were signs everywhere in three or even more languages. English isn’t the main language in Malaysia, but practically all the local people can speak it. The language in which children start perceiving the world is Malaysian, and it’s Malaysian that lessons are conducted in at primary school. However, the teaching at high school and university is generally done in English. "...To cut a long story short, it works according to the following formula: we’re born in Malaysian, learn in English, and do business in Chinese”, explained our Guide (that’s what we called Jubiliki among ourselves).
Scenes from the shop
Durians. In a Malaysian supermarket you can buy absolutely anything and at affordable prices. Even chocolate, which "cost an arm and a leg" for me in China.
What a combination! Child health and chess.
The event’s chief arbiter. We all had to take our shoes off before entering the hall for the organisational meeting.
Disputing the regulations…
Pavel puts his signature in the “Head of Delegation" box
The first two rounds were played in a library
Alexander Krivoy. He graduated from Moscow State University and is now doing postgraduate studies in Singapore. Hence he plays for the Singapore University team.
He was the only person other than us with a European appearance at the tournament. A pity! Initially the tournament was established as the Grand ASEAN Chess Challenge. ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations, i.e. only students from universities in South East Asian countries were able to take part. In 1988 the University of Malaya set itself the goal of establishing and improving relations between universities throughout the continent. The contest therefore obtained a new status: it became open to students from any Asian country and was renamed the Grand Asia Chess Challenge. In 2002, the tournament became even more international and now has the full title of GACC World Open Chess Championship. However, as you can see, it still remains unknown internationally. I suppose that situation is due to the small number of titled chess players participating in the event. In my opinion, it would be worth improving matters. However, it’s very important to preserve the idea of the tournament and the interest there is among students for whom chess is just one hobby among others.
Sunrise, December 16th.
But you could say that for our team the day began the day before, or at least it definitely did for me …
Katya and the guys went into the city that evening and then presented me with this surprise at midnight. Thank you very much! I’d never had a cake with my own name on it before.
And then in the morning I received this birthday card on behalf of the organisers. What can you say… I was touched.
The main tournament hall. After the third morning round the event’s opening ceremony was held.
They set up the scenery in the hall and put the finishing touches to the preparations for the ceremony. Meanwhile…
The games were going on. Despite having two rounds a day, for which, I'm sure, most of the participants would prepare and then conduct post-mortems, the representatives of the Asian universities also used the short break to play a game or two.
A team from Sri Lanka
Me and players from Iran
As a rule, whenever we got together we’d immediately hear multiple voices in unison asking: “May I take a picture of you?
The grandmaster from Siberia, the tournament’s rating favourite, was enjoyed special attention.
Malaysia’s national anthem is being played.
During the university anthem students put a hand across their chests.
After the anthem the tournament participants pledged a solemn oath. The master of ceremonies read out the oath and we raised one hand with an open palm and repeated a promise to act according to moral and religious values, support the atmosphere of friendship and loyalty, acquire knowledge, hone our skills in all the events we take part in, and live in the spirit of Gens Una Sumus, i.e. as if we really were a single respectable family. We would be tolerant and attentive towards each other.
The master of ceremonies was Pasan Indeewara Athuruairiya. Pasan isn’t yet an official, but for now just a third-year student. The tournament director noted in his speech that the university policy was that students, by participating in such events, would develop leadership and managerial abilities as well as other useful qualities which can’t be derived from books.
The culminating moment. The 15th International Intervarsity Tournament is declared open.
Grand Asia Chess Challenge (part 1)