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First Friday shifts from Kuala Lumpur to Manila

by Peter Long - 16/03/2018

The March edition of First Friday 2018 was won by Uzbek WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova. She scored 6.5/9 but narrowly missed her norm. Three Indian players participated in the event but couldn't achieve anything special. In this article, organizer of the event Peter Long shares with us his experience of organizing the First Friday tournaments. He has organized four editions and made a loss of nearly 5,000 USD. Hence, the First Friday events will no longer take place in Kuala Lumpur. But the good news is that it is not the end of the road for First Friday as the next edition will be held in May in Manila, Philippines. Read on to know more.

WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova of Uzbekistan won the fourth edition of the First Friday Masters with a better tie-break score over IM Nguyen Van Huy of Vietnam and Myanmar's No.1 IM Wynn Zaw Htun who also scored 6.5/9.

First woman player to win First Friday: Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova

Final rankings:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 Krtg+/-
15WGMTokhirjonova GulrukhbegimUZB23186,526,750,042028,4
28IMNguyen Van HuyVIE24546,525,250,0510-1,2
39IMWynn Zaw HtunMYA24436,524,250,0510-0,2
44WGMFrayna Janelle MaePHI22756,025,000,042028,8
53Zulkipli ZaidanMAS21685,018,000,032034,8
62FMDushyant SharmaIND22613,514,250,0020-17,6
710Gahan M GIND23113,511,250,0220-30,0
86WFMPatil Mitali MadhukarIND20513,09,250,022020,0
97Ahmad Nazari Emir RusyaidiMAS19902,510,250,004039,2
101IMNay Oo Kyaw TunMYA24012,09,250,0010-40,6


Gulrukhbegim remained unbeaten through out the tourney but many of her games could have been any of the three results and she really should have made an IM norm. After a hiatus of one year, Van Huy came to get some chess before the very strong HD Bank in Hanoi and Zaw Htun who had played very badly in the previous First Friday February was looking for redemption. Both of them finished with 6.5/9 and were able to maintain their Elo.

Alone in the fourth place was WGM Janelle Mae Frayna with 6.0/9 who already has three IM norms and now she only needs to get her rating up past 2400. She was very happy with her result of +29 Elo points that got her back to 2300+. While she still lacks consistency, her talent is clear to all and her brilliant effort against Gahan MG all but confirms that!

The two achievers in Malaysia! | Photo: Peter Long

The three Indians, FM Dushyant Sharma, Gahan MG and WFM Mitali Madhukar Patil scored 3.5/9, 3.5/9 and 3.0/9 respectively. Dushyant came without self-belief while Gahan quickly understood after a bright start that he was going to suffer as an amateur in a field of professionals while Mitali had a bad start and had to go for broke as nothing less than 4.5/9 was enough for a WIM norm.

Mitali came to Kuala Lumpur with her trainer Raghunandan Gokhale | Photo: Peter Long
The Participants of the 4th Edition | Photo: Peter Long

Players in action at the Institute of chess Excellence in Kuala Lumpur | Photo : Peter Long

The First Friday: Organizer's experience 

When I first conceived the idea and agreed to do the First Friday, admittedly modeled after the long-running First Saturday monthly tournament series in Hungary, I had done my research. I absolutely understood what I was getting into and unfortunately, I have been largely proven right despite my best efforts.


My simple objective with the First Friday was to give opportunities to players in Malaysia and the region to increase their ratings and get title norms. I started with an IM tournament in October 2017 which was won by Young D. Gukesh from India. But, the problem of not having enough titled players had already arisen and I had to give a free entry at the last minutes with a lowly rated FM for the event to take place but at the cost of a norm becoming more difficult to achieve.

Gukesh has already become an IM but his first norm was scored at the First Friday 2018 | Photo : Amruta Mokal

The next in November saw participation by several locals including two of our best young talents and it seemed things were immediately starting to pick up. But what many did not appreciate was that it was the school holidays and really the only time I was going to get Malaysian juniors and more worrying was that I had to cancel the FM and CM tournaments as there were no takers!


I look now at the emails and I see 1800 level players insisting that they were really 2100 level and demanding to play in the IM event and nothing else was going to be good enough! Also, my friends in Thailand thought we could do one concurrently with the Asian Amateur Championships but in the end we cancelled, as we could not find more than one local there interested.


From the beginning I never intended First Friday to clash with any major open or official tournaments so we took a break in December and January. When I restarted in February, again we struggled to do an IM, but wonderfully for India and for him, Young Pranav V did the near impossible task to make a norm. The fact remained that the average rating made the title norm difficult and again we could not find players for FM and CM tournaments.

Little Master Pranav with yours truly | Photo : Peter Long 

At that point I decided to pull the plug but was persuaded to give it a final go and so I pulled out all stops, The March edition, the fourth in the series, saw some changes in that I arranged for much higher rated titled players but the taking up of places was the worst so far, with numerous vacancies in the end that I just gave away to old friends, and for me the last straw was a local entry perhaps feeling similarly entitled and so refusing to pay his fee.


I did have a small upside that a double round robin rating tournament was conducted with six players alongside the IM norm event that went very well.

Reality check!

My total loss till date, even after not including waiver of fees by arbiters, my personal hospitality and expenses besides loss of income? I think if you guess something like USD 5,000, then you will not be much off the mark.


So what has gone wrong and what can I do to make it work? First is that in the region, outside of Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia, chess players are largely juniors where school is more important and that First Friday is competing with the numerous international youth events and perhaps even the more iconic opens in exotic locations where families can go together and have fun.


Secondly, in Malaysia, our players are in general not very good, and this is shown with just eight active players with ratings above 2200. Thirdly is where I will have to be even more brutal in saying so, is that even the stronger players, the national players, and hopes in the region, are all spoilt, expecting everything to be done for them, and by large, not prepared to make sacrifices that my generation made to be better in chess while holding down careers and family. In Malaysia, First Friday will continue based on market demand.

Welcome to Manila, Philippines!

My good news is that the First Friday as orginally conceptualised will now be in Manila, Philippines where they have the numbers of GMs and IMs, even WIMs to support it and I will be doing this together with GM Jayson Gonzales.

Asian legend Eugene Torre visited the March edition of First Friday in Malaysia

So far it has been agreed that First Friday IM will be from 11-15 May 2018 and First Friday GM will be from 1-6 June 2018. Do mark your calendar!


Indian players can send in their entries to GM Gonzales at with a copy (cc) to WhatsApp/Viber of Jayson: +639258952308. I will also be in Manila too to help facilitate and serve as Chief Arbiter and can be contacted at and WhatsApp/Viber +60133920920.

About the author:

Peter Long heads the Institute for Chess Excellence which is also the National Chess Academy of the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) and a Regional Asian Chess Federation Academy. He is also MCF Secretary and Press Officer for the Asian Chess Federation as well as Features Editor for American Chess Magazine.