First Asian Junior Chess Championship
Baguio City, Philippines 8-21 August 1977

The reward awaiting Goh Yoon Wah for winning the national closed championship in 1976 was a trip to the Philippines where he was to take part in the first Asian junior chess championship. Here is his account of the event and his experience, taken from Catur Magazine.

The Malaysian delegation, comprising MCF president Dato Tan Chin Nam, MCF honorary secretary Victor Vijiarungum and myself as player, arrived at Manila International Airport on the afternoon of August 5. After a warm welcome by the president of the Philippines Chess Federation, Justice Federico Moreno, veteran player Rudolfo Cardoso and several other officials, we were taken for a ride through Greater Manila to Quezon City where we put up at a cosy hotel. One unique and eye-catching mode of public transport in Manila is by gaily coloured and decorated jeeps.

Later in the day several other players arrived, among them the talented international master, Bachar Kouatly of Lebanon, a heavy favourite to win the tournament. By August 6, every player except Murray Chandler of New Zealand had arrived and we were all set to leave for Baguio City the morning after. Chandler apparently had some problems with his flight

We travelled to Baguio City by bus, seeing a lot of countryside along the way. The four-hour trip ended with a long and winding climb up the summer mountain resort (in the bus, of course!). Cool, serene and even misty, Baguio is indeed an ideal spot for chess playing. Karpov and Korchnoi seemed to agree too - they played their 1978 world championship match there. Our arrival at the plush Pines Hotel was welcomed by a group of gaily dressed native dancers - another expression of the reputable Filipino hospitality. The players and delegates settled down to rest and prepare for what were to come the next day.

The opening ceremonies were held in the Banquet Hall of the hotel, also the tournament hall. The guest of honour was no other than the daughter of President Marcos, Imee Marcos. Also present were Baguio City Mayor Luis Lardizabal, Justice Moreno, Dr Abdul Hussein Navabi and Prof Lim Kok Aun, presidents of FIDE Zones IX and X respectively, and FIDE Deputy President Florencio Campomanes. The occasion concluded with a ceremonial game between Kouatly and Ms Marcos which, of course, ended in a 'draw' after a few moves.

By noon, the participants had been confirmed. They were IM Bachar Kouatly (Lebanon), Pravin M. Thipsay (India), Dan Fardell (Australia), Sassan Rabii (Iran), Lim Chye Seng (Singapore), Anton FL Tobing (Indonesia), Phillip Goodings (Hong Kong), Adrian Pacis and Andronica Yap (of the host country, Philippines), Murray Chandler (of New Zealand, who has yet to arrive) and myself. Stephen Knoll of Papua New Guinea withdrew at the last moment.

The first round started off aspiringly for me with a win against Goodings (Who was to know he would come out last?). This was followed by two free days as a result of a bye and my game with Chandler being postponed to a later free day. It was no great help since it meant I would have to play on the next eight consecutive days.

The sensation of the second round came when Thipsay defeated Kourtly in a well-earned win, reducing the latter's chances for first place. Kouatly paid dearly for his speculative style of play. He sacrificed a pawn early in the game, hoping to catch Thipsay in an attack. Thipsay defended calmly and when all was under control, went out for a crushing attack against Kouatly's king. The Lebanese resigned on the 36th move.

The First Asian Chess Federations Presidents' Conference was held side by side with the tournament on August 10. Justice Moreno who chaired the conference read the message from President Marcos, "... the various chess federations of Asia now have the unique opportunity to link up their efforts and to exchange ideas in tackling the problems facing the sport." An important result of this conference was the initiation of the Asian Grandmasters' Circuit which would, without doubt, prove to be a great step in the advance of chess standards in the region.

August 11 saw the arrival of Chandler who would play his first game in the fourth round - with Kouatly, of all people! Kouatly had met and defeated Chandler before and he expressed great confidence in beating the New Zealander again. Here is the game between the two top contenders, the comments being based on Kouatly's during the post-mortem.

Chandler (New Zealand) - Kouatly (Iran), Baguio 1977

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 (Kouatly's pet variation in the Sicilian Defence. He had employed it very frequently in tournament games and obtained excellent results with it. Black gets dynamic play in compensation for his backward but not necessarily weak d-pawn) 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 (Up to now it's all book...) 11. h4 (...but Kouatly did not expect this move. Chandler must be trying to steer clear of charted waters as Kouafly is familiar with the usual lines. However the innovation may be doubtful). 11...Bxh4 12. Rxh4 Qxh4 13. Nc7+ Ke7 14. Nxa8 Qxe4+ 15. Qe2 Qb4+ 16. c3 QaS (If White thought that the N on a8 could escape, he had been mistaken) 17. Qe3 Be6 18. Nb6 Rb8 19. Qg5+ Kf8 20. Rd1 Qxb6 21. Rxd6. b4 22. Nbl Bxa2 23. Nd2 bxc3 (Black is now two pawns up but he has no quick win yet) 24. bxc3 Be6 25. Bd3 h6 26. Qh4 Qc7 27. Ne4 a5 28. g4 (White must do something before it is too late). 28.Ne7 29. Qg3 Ng6 30. Bc2 Nf4 31. g5 h5 32. Rd2 Rb2 33. g6 f6 34. f3 Qb6 (Now it seems that Black is ready to bring down the axe. Chandler's reaction?) 35. Nxf6 (A desperate try, but...) 35...gxf6) (.... it did pay off! Surely there are other clear ways of winning, eg 35...Qe3+ 36. Kdl Rxc2, etc) 36. g7+ Kg8?? (This is suicide. Kouatly had more than an hour on his clock while Chandler had less than ten minutes.) 37. Bh7+ Kxh7 38. g8=Q+ Kouatly resigned. The mate was not hard to see. Why then? Kouatly's explanation: "I lost my game and I lost my date"!!)

Dato and Datin Tan and Mr Vijiarungum left Baguio on August 12 morning. That saved me some awkward moments when I lost dramatically to Kouatly that afternoon. Chandler's swindle must have brought the tiger out of the Lebanese. This was followed by another dramatic loss to Chandler on 13th August, a free day. This time I was not myself. Never known to sacrifice speculatively, I was amazed when I found myself sacrificing a pawn on the 11th move and then the exchange three moves later!

Chandler (New Zealand) - Goh (Malaysia), Baguio 1977

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bd7 (More usual is 5 ...Qb6. However, I was inspired by the game Kupreichik-Gulko in which Black won brilliantly). 6. dxc5 Qc7 7. Bf4 Bxc5 8. b4 Bb6 9. Bd3 Nge7 10. Bg3 h5 11. 0-0 g5 12.Nxg5 h4 13. Bf4 f6 14. Nh7 Rxh7 15. Bxh7 0-0-0 16. a4 a5 (Much stronger was 16...fxe5 followed by 17...Qd6 as pointed out by Kouatly just after the game) 17. Na3 fxe5 18. Nb5 Qb8 (I got my Queen onto the same square in a later game against Lim of Singapore. b8 is not a bad square for a Queen after all!) 19; Bg5 Rh8 20. Bd3 e4 21. Bxe4 Qe5 (21...dxe4 22. Nd6+ Kc7 23. b5 is not too appetizing) 22. Bxe7 Nxe7 23 Bd3 Bxb5 (A weak move. This bishop could obtain some prospects on the h1-a8 diagonal; its exchange makes things easy for White) 24. axb5 h3 25. g3 Nf5 26. Qe2 Qd6 27. Bxf5 exf5 28. bxa5 Bc5 29. Rael I stopped my clock.

After these setbacks, I pulled myself together and managed to extract 1 1/2 points from the next two rounds (1 from Pads and 1/2 from Tobing) and seemed set to place high since my losses so far were to the top contenders. Let's stop for a while to look at the situation after Round Seven. Although Thipsay was leading with 5 1/2 points (+5=1-1) he had only three games left to play. Chandler with a clean score of five points out of five games looked more like the prospective champion. Kouatly and Rabii came next with four points each and four games to go. I had 2 1/2 points with four games to go and was placed seventh at the moment. By this time most of the players had loosened up and started to enjoy themselves at the Sadiwan discotheque in the hotel.

Round Eight saw Chandler finally being stopped - by Lim Chye Seng of Singapore. Lim defended well against Chandler's Vienna Opening to hold him to a draw in 52 moves. Kouatly and Thipsay couldn't have been more delighted. Round Nine passed without much incident, the top three leaders all winning their games. Round 10 brought Chandler and Thipsay to the opposite sides of the board. It was a dry game with Chandler employing a Ponziani opening, exchanging pieces early. They agreed to halve the point on the 24th move. Now Chandler only needed 1 1/2 points from his next two games with Fardell (a postponed game from the second round) and Goodings to clinch first place.

Just before the last round we had a free day on the 19th. The day was spent at a beautiful Bauang beach where the players let themselves go by swimming and motorboat rides. We returned in the late afternoon to allow Chandler and Fardell play their postponed game. It turned out to be the shortest game of the tournament. Both were happy to shake hands after the 12th move in a position where only a pair of minor pieces were exchanged. Chandler knew he was going to win his last game against the luckless Goodings, and the crown along with it.

It was over in 27 moves. Goodings couldn't cope with the complications arising from the ...e5 variation of the Sicilian and fell into a mating net. Lim-Kouatly was another...e5 Sicilian in which the Lebanese won in 44 moves to come out second, ahead of Thipsay on tie-break. This final round was a truly exciting round, not only because of the climax of tension but also because of two black-outs during play. Kerosene lamps had to be brought into the hall and the players were asked to leave their tables until the power failure was corrected. It was a great coincidence that years back a similar incident happened during a tournament there.

Chandler is now International Master Murray Chandler. Besides the IM title, he won a US$200 cash prize, a trophy donated by Ms Imee Marcos, the Presidents' Award which guaranteed his transportation to the World Junior Championship 1977 at Ipswich, Austria (a resolution of the Federation Presidents' Conference) and a free tour of the Philippines. What else could one ask for?

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Goodwill Tour of China, April 1978