Thailand belongs to that large number of countries in the world without a classical chess tradition but in recent years, largely due to the long standing Bangkok Club Chess Open Championships as well as for a long time being the venue of choice for the Asean Age-Group Chess Championships, the country has started to become a popular international chess destination.
Last year saw a very well organised Asian Amateur Chess Championships and this time around Chiangmai is again the host, but to a much larger Asian Youth Chess Championships.
While organisation excellence has been a hallmark of chess events in Thailand, be it Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, and now Chiangmai, the standards of their national team has somewhat lagged behind but now we are now seeing a boom in acceptance of the game under the leadership of Sahapol Nakvanich and Thailand Chess Association President Kittiratt Na-Ranong, with both leading local private and international schools including chess in their co-curriculum programs.
The local chess community is growing, with many young Thais now beginning to take up the game and this is slowly but surely adding to the existing local chess die-hards and the many chess expatriates.
Now there is a full calendar of chess year round in Thailand and there are now even grandmasters deciding to come and stay in Thailand and adding to the many Filipino chess masters already here that are making a living of giving chess lessons.
It is always a challenge to nurture young talent where chess is not taken seriously by either the government or private sector and while there Thailand has several FIDE Masters, they do not yet have an International Master.
One big prospect to become Thailand’s first International Master is 11 year old Prin Laohawirapap who is already their national junior champion, and starting to take all the right steps in that direction with the full support of his family and the guidance of his coach.
Prin got interested in chess when 8 years old and joined his school’s chess club and in his second year, at 10 years of age, was selected to play the team and promptly won the Gold medal in the national schools championships which has only one are-group category and he had to compete with children much older with him.
At that point it became a little more serious for Prin and his father and a coach was employed.
The World Youth U-16 Chess Olympiad last year was their first foray into international competition with the Asian Youth Championships the second and he will then play in the Bangkok Chess Open Championships from 13-21 April with participation planned for the Asian Schools Chess Championships, possibly the World Youth Chess Championships and once again the World Youth U-16 Chess Olympiad.
Team Prin is still finding their way but is is already clear to them they need to identify and participate in as many suitable competitions as possible and to increase the amount of time available for training. School will remain a must and even now their demands on his time are serious!
Are there targets? There should be and in a five year plan, it is to be Thailand champion in two years, an International Master in three years and maybe even a Grandmaster in five years.