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ျမန္မာစာမ်က္ႏွာ | Myanmar Peace Monitor
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ASEAN Chess: A New Way to Play an Old Game

A new hybrid chess playing style was unveiled recently when chess enthusiasts from across South East Asia gathered in Myanmar for the first time to play ASEAN style chess.

The first ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) chess competition was held at Aung San Stadium, in Yangon, from May 25 to June 2.

The tournament, considered the highest level of chess competition in Burma, was covered by state run and privately owned media inside Burma as it showcased the newly designed ASEAN chess style, which was invented by combining traditional chess playing styles from Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.

There were a total of 42 players in the tournament. The most famous chess players in Burma, including Win Zaw Tun, Ko Zaw Win, Ko Myo Naing and Zaw Oo, were among the 20 competitors from Yangon.

Twenty-one pairs played several games over nine days. The winners from each pair played off, as did the losers.

At the end of play, Win Zaw Tun, won the gold medal and the first prize of 150,000 kyat ($190 USD). Zaw Win, the second prize winner, took away 100,000 kyat and Myo Naing was the third prize winner of 50,000 kyat.

U Myo Zaw Min was a referee during the ASEAN chess competition. The 48 year-old, who played competitively and won medals himself, will train and coach 8 men and two women chess players from Myanmar who will compete in the upcoming South East Asian Games (SEA Game), also known as the ASEAN Games.

 The Kachin News Group recently interviewed U Myo Zaw Min about how the new ASEAN style was received by the players and the public and difference between ASEAN style and traditional Myanmar chess, called Sittuyin, and International chess, as well as the basic technique of Myanmar chess.

Question: Please explain ASEAN style chess to our readers.

Answer: It is the combination of Myanmar, Thai and Cambodian chess styles to create a new style. Myanmar, Thai and Cambodian players can play the new ASEAN chess.

Most of the chessmen used in Myanmar traditional style are also used in ASEAN chess.

Question: what is the difference between Myanmar Traditional Chess and ASEAN Chess?

Answer: Thai and Cambodian chess were combined in ASEAN chess first. This year, Myanmar chess was also included.

 This new ASEAN chess will be played in the upcoming 2011 ASEAN Games, to be held in Indonesia. It will also be part of the 2013 ASEAN GAMES, to be held in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

Question: Did chess players from Kachin State compete in this competition?
There was no chess player from Kachin State. Most Chess players from Kachin State play international chess. Very few  play Myanmar traditional chess.

Question: how is ASEAN chess played?

Answer: The ASEAN chess pieces and board are the same as those used in the international game.

However,in ASEAN chess, pawns start at the third row, left half, on the chessboard, and fourth row right half.

 The technique of moving the castle (rook), queen (general in ASEAN and Myanmar) and knight are the same as in international chess.

The elephant in the ASEAN chess is used the same as the bishop in the international chess. The elephant piece can move forward, straight or diagonally, three spaces but backward diagonally only two spaces.

The queen is also called the queen in ASEAN chess but its move is different. It can move forward and backward diagonally only one space.

The bishop and queen must start the game on the back line, as in international chess. As well, the white color pieces must move up first, like international chess.

Question: What is different between international chess and Myanmar traditional chess?

Answer: In Myanmar the pieces are red and black in color. The chess pieces such as Ne (pawn), Sin (elephant), Sit-ke or general (same as queen) are different from international chess. In technique, moving king, horse (knight), and castle in the international chess are the same in Myanmar chess. There is no bishop in Myanmar chess.

As well, playing style is different. In Myanmar chess, like ASEAN, the Ne (pawn) starts the game at the 3rd and 4th row of the board. There are 8 Ne (pawns). Two castles only start at the back row in Myanmar chess. The other chess pieces, like king, Sit-ke (general), elephant, and horse can be placed randomly  behind the Ne (pawns) in Myanmar chess.

If a pawn reaches the final row, it can be replaced by the fallen queen, castle, horse or bishop in international chess. But, if a Ne (in Myanmar chess) reaches the last row, it can only be a Sit-ke (general). If the Sit-ke is still in the game, the Ne, which reaches the final row, cannot be a Sit-ke.

Question: what are the benefits from playing chess?

Answer: Players can improve their IQ (intelligence quotient) and strategy making skills. In a chess game, the player has to capture the king of the opponent. Players have to think, calculate and make a plan to do that. As well, players have to plan a defensive strategy to protect their own king.

With U Myo Zaw Min’s assistance, the best chess players from Myanmar will make their move to win regional honors against teams from the nine other ASEAN countries in Jakarta, Indonesia, playing this new chess style.