Search on for Cambodian Chess Champions

The Cambodian Chess Asso­ciation and National Olympic Com­mittee are organizing the first-ever Cambodian Chess National Cham­pionship this weekend in Phnom Penh to sift out the best players to represent Cambodia in international competitions, officials said.

CCA Chairman Ly Hout said more than 50 competitors are already registered and encouraged more to sign up for the free event.

“We want international chess players to know about our chess,” Ly Hout said by telephone Monday. “And we want to introduce Cam­bod­ian players to international chess.”

Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the competition offers prizes of $1,000 to first place, $700 to second place, $500 to third place and $100 apiece to the next seven finishers, NOC Secretary-General Meas Sarin said.

This is the committee’s first time hosting a chess competition, said NOC technical assistant Vath Cham­roeun, and its aim is to preserve Cambodian chess and develop players to compete abroad.

“We want to recruit strong players…for international chess competition,” Vath Chamroeun said by telephone Monday.

Ouk Chatrang, or Cambodian chess, is depicted in several reliefs found on the Angkor temples and traces back to the type played in India, believed to be where the game was founded in the sixth century.

Cambodian chess is unique from international chess as pawns start in the third row and the queen is only able to move diagonally one square at a time, to name two major differences, said Michael McDermott, a private English teacher in Phnom Penh who organizes a weekly chess club.

“It’s a much slower game. It’s much more strategic,” Mc­Der­mott said by telephone Monday, adding that because of this and other subtle technicalities, he would need to be primed be­fore jumping into this weekend’s Cam­bodian-style chess tournament. The tournament is open to locals and foreigners.

Interested competitors have until Thursday to register at the NOC office on Street 276 near Olympic Stadium.

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