Niaz Murshed, the country’s first Grand Master, regained the title of the National Chess Championship, beating Manon Reja Neer, the youngest Candidate Master of the country, in the final round of the event at the Engineers’ Institute Building in Ramna yesterday.
The 53-year-old, who won his first national title 40 years ago at the tender age of 13, collected eight points from 10 rounds to scoop his sixth national title and the first since 2012.
Niaz, also the first GM of the sub-continent, had started the tournament strongly, winning the first four rounds. However, he drew the next four rounds to share the lead briefly with two others before regaining a half-point lead going into the final round against nine-year-old Neer.
It eventually did not prove to be a big challenge as the veteran, playing with white pieces, earned his victory after 25 moves. But Niaz admitted he was a bit tensed as a draw might have seen him share the lead, leading to a tiebreaker.
“I was a bit tensed as I needed a win to ensure the title. Manon had even offered me a draw early in the game, but I knew I had to win,” Niaz said with an almost apologetic smile.
It was the first time that all five GMs of the country had participated, so the feeling was special.
“Obviously the first title was way more pleasing. But since this time all five GMs played and there was good competition and environment, I enjoyed this title,” Niaz said.
Niaz had first participated in the national championship at the age of 10 and won the first of his six titles when he was just 13. Yesterday, he was playing against a player who is a year younger than when Niaz started playing national chess.
Neer, in his first senior event, upset a few established names including forcing a draw against defending champion Ziaur Rahman. Niaz could see bright future for Neer.
“It is more difficult now than when I started as there was less competition at that time, especially as a few good players had left the country,” Niaz said. “I can see a bright future for Neer. I would like to see him become a GM by 15. Becoming a GM by 20 is not good enough at this day and age. But in order to achieve that, he needs more knowledge about the game as well as more support.”
After the penultimate round, GM Abdullah Al Rakib and IM Fahad Rahman were trailing Niaz by 0.5 points. The last round had pitted Fahad, another youngster tipped to make it big at the international level, against GM Enamul Hossain Rajib while Rakib was up against Zia.
Both those games ended in draws as Rakib was adjudged runner-up while Fahad finished third, in tiebreaker.
At one of the tables in the next row, Zia’s son Tahsin Tajwar took the fight to FM Mehedi Hasan Parag. It seemed like the past of our chess was fighting to keep their supremacy over the future, just managing to keep themselves ahead for the time being. With the country’s last GM coming a good 11 years ago, it would be a welcome boost for our chess if these prodigies make it to the top sooner rather than later.