Posts Tagged ‘thailand’

Chess and Thailand

Chess and Thailand are not words that you often see in the same sentence; having become part of the chess scene in Bangkok over the past year, I thought I’d re-address the balance somewhat.

The chess scene in Thailand is primarily found in Bangkok and Pattaya, with the northern city of Chiang Mai bringing up the rear. In Bangkok, a mix of ex-pats and locals meet downtown twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays). There’s always a blitz tournament to partake in, if blitz is your thing. Numbers are usually around 20 per night. In terms of strength, we range from beginners to casual players to those rated between 2200-2300. Thailand has more than one F.I.D.E International Arbiter, and more often than not one will be present, even for casual play. Pattaya, though considerably smaller than Bangkok, has a chess scene which is not only on a par but arguably stronger than Bangkok’s. A group of 40 dedicated players meet at the Brauhaus Restaurant in central Pattaya on Mondays. It boasts a strong German contingent including more than one titled player, and a keen following.

Tournaments occur frequently in Bangkok, a bi-monthly 9-round swiss for those interested is always on the horizon, there’s also a chess academy for juniors, hosting regular tournaments too. The Thai open, Thailand’s largest tournament, is held in April each year in either Pattaya or Bangkok, and has gained recognition internationally, with top GM’s such as Nigel Short committing themselves to it. Players of all strengths come in their hundreds and often enjoy the experience, pointing out that you can play some great chess in a great location. The national team has its own centre in Bangkok, complete with its own library and latest chess software for enthusiasts.

With all this in mind, and given the fact that F.I.D.E has recently acknowledged Thailand’s ‘Chess in schools’ project, what are we to make of the chess scene in Thailand? Chess-playing visitors to the nation are often quick to point out that a love of board games certainly exists in the streets, since Thai chess (a variant of our beloved game), can be seen being played everywhere in Bangkok by motorbike taxis. They may also wonder whether the casual nature of the play is reflexive of the general attitude that Thai’s have towards life itself, epitomised by the expression คิดมากเกินไปแล้วปวดหัว (think too much get headache) and wonder about the suitability of a serious and often stressful game, such as chess. Unfortunately, such predispositions are epiphenomonal to a broader issue: that Thailand isn’t taken seriously as a chess playing nation, and instead is considered to be something of a backwater in the chess world – its current ranking of 97th in the world, sandwiched between Monaco and Yemen, probably not helping. And though it maybe true that other nations in the region; notably Philippines, Vietnam and India have seen chess flourish in recent years, it is a little unfair to overlook Thailand in the face of their success. Comparatively, Thailand is still lacking in terms of development, but the conditions favourable for progress are evident and much is already in place to facilitate it. All that’s required is for one of the many promising young players from Chiang Mai, Pattaya, or Bangkok to grab the headlines with that first elusive GM title, and the rest will be consigned history.

In the meantime, should you wish to be part of a friendly, enthusiastic, cosmopolitan chess scene, which takes itself seriously though not too seriously, all you need to do is contact me and I might just tell you how to find us… .

Some useful links:

1) The chess in schools project, as recognized by F.I.D.E

2) Bangkok Chess website

3) List of top Thai players

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