Toby's Chess in Hong Kong
We've not been at the chess club lately as we've had an impromptu visit to Hong Kong to visit a sick family member. However, we used some of the little spare time we had to explore the world of chess in Hong Kong. The predominant game of chess in Hong Kong is still Chinese Chess with some Chinese chess tables positioned around local communal areas and parks.
Chess or "International chess" as it's called in Hong Kong is still fairly uncommon so tracking down a chess club was pretty difficult. Nothing really materialised until we came across the Hong Kong Chess Federation, speaking to a member of staff (KK), it would seem chess clubs are rare with the majority of players just turning up to play regular rated tournaments. Having not played chess for over a week, I could see Toby was getting withdrawal symptoms so we arranged to pop round to the next tournament to have a nosey.
When we arrived at the venue (Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai) at 6.30pm there was a slow flow of players turning up. For those who have visited Hong Kong, it's a manic and hectic city so a chess tournament after a long day at work or school sounded like torture to me. However, there was a good turnout and as the start time arrived there was over 20 players with what seemed liked junior players out-numbering the adults.
Unfortunately, Toby was unable to participate as he was not FIDE registered, so we watched some games and Toby had the opportunity to play some friendlies. However, unbeknown to us, these friendlies were against some formidable opponents, one of which was the current Hong Kong Champion, Andrew Leung. To say Toby got slaughtered was an understatement, but we got chatting to Andrew and he gave some tips and advice for Toby on how to improve his game (work, work and more work). He also spoke of chess classes he runs for underprivileged children in Hong Kong, asking if Toby would like to help out, we saw it as too good an opportunity to miss. I've always encouraged Toby to do charitable things and to try give something back to the game, so this was a perfect opportunity especially so close to Christmas, a time of giving.
We arrived at the tuition centre ran by a local charity. Volunteers offering their personal time to provide opportunities for underprivileged children to learn and take part in anything from English classes, piano lessons and of course chess. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to sit in the class (I need lessons in chess more than anyone), but Toby had a great time and helped out as Andrew's assistant in the 2 classes he was running for the day. He also got much needed practice to use his broken Chinese (Cantonese with an English-Bristolian accent, enough to confuse anyone).
Hopefully, next time we are back in Hong Kong Toby can help out again. I've also introduced Andrew to the Downend and Fishponds Chess Club, one of the finest chess clubs in England for next time he visits England. He's a top lad and has studied in England in the past and participated in several UK tournaments including 4NCL and the London Chess Classics where he was a section winner.
Reflecting on our visit, we in England are so lucky to have such wealth of resources in chess, CSC (Chess in Schools Charity) to help our children across the country have access to free chess lessons in school, our friendly local chess clubs and Downend and Fishponds being the most awesome for encouraging our juniors to participate, and all those local and county tournaments and team organisers run by local volunteers. As for Andrew in Hong Kong, I hope his efforts inspires the next generation of chess players in Hong Kong and more volunteers to promote and teach the great game. Well done Andrew and the team of volunteers at Kwai Chung Principal Chan's Free Tuition Centre, keep up the great work. Merry Christmas!