Gen Z’s love for chess keeps growing in Indonesia

In the recently held 12th JAPFA Chess Festival 2022, International Master Medina Warda Aulia managed to hold Woman Grand Master Gong Qianyun to a draw.

Radhiyya Indra and Deni Ghifari

Radhiyya Indra and Deni Ghifari

The Jakarta Post


PAPER EDITIONTODAY'S PAPER Gen Z’s love for chess keeps growing in Indonesia All-age meet: Amateur and professional chess players, from junior high school students to pensioners, compete on Sept. 11, 2022 during the 2022 JAPFA Chess Festival at Gedung Serbaguna Senayan in Central Jakarta.(JP/Radhiyya Indra)

September 12, 2022

JAKARTA – The 12th JAPFA Chess Festival 2022 commenced on Saturday with two boards played, one for men and one for women.

International Master (IM) Medina Warda Aulia managed to hold Woman Grand Master (WGM) Gong Qianyun to a draw with the Wade variation of the French defense that dragged the game to Move 50, resulting in a half point for both players.

The men’s board, on the other hand, saw a grittier fight between IM Mohammad Ervan and Grandmaster (GM) Darwin Laylo, where black played with a barbaric style, with multiple pieces hanging simultaneously in numerous positions, resembling Mikhail Tal’s approach during his lifetime.

The sharp symmetrical variation of the Petrov defense led Laylo to be down a full bishop, and he resigned on Move 32 after Ervan took him for a king walk. One point for Ervan and zero for the Philippine GM.

Childhood hobby

On Sunday, The Jakarta Post witnessed an interesting sight at Gedung Serbaguna Senayan, Central Jakarta, where the JAPFA chess festival takes place. Apparent from the front door, the players ranged from elderly to middle-aged players, seemingly in total focus on their respective matches.

But half the building was also packed with college students and junior high schoolers, which may come as a surprise for those who are not aware of the massive scale of youth talent the country has.

“I started liking chess way before elementary school,” 23-year-old Aditya Ganta Saputra told the Post on Sunday.

Aditya, who came all the way from Palembang, South Sumatra, to compete in the tournament, played chess with his neighbors since he was little.

“It’s more like a hobby to me. I prefer playing chess over video games,” he said.

Given his love of the board game from a young age, Aditya gushed over the rapid growth of Palembang’s chess community in recent years, especially among people his age.

“Back then, there were few who liked chess, but now more events are being held. There’s even a chess café, which opened in Palembang last October, where you can play in groups of three,” he shared.

Twenty-one-year-old Ken Nahel Falsaveta from Malang, East Java, also shared the same experience of discovering and loving chess since childhood.

“I have liked chess since I was in kindergarten,” Nahel told the Post. “My father was the one who used to play at the village-security post, and I often watched him play.”

Nahel then started playing at the age of six, almost always winning every game. Her father, intrigued by his daughter’s talent, put her in a chess school in Malang. The same route was also taken by 13-year-old Arjuna Satria Pamungkas from Malang who, at the age of 11, won the gold medal at the 2019 Asian Youth Chess Championship.

“I had a senior high school friend next door when I was little, and he always beat me at chess, so that motivated me to try to win against him,” he shared.

As the youngest of three, Arjuna is the only one among his siblings who loves chess. But when asked about his passion for the game, he could not pin down the reason.

“I just like it all,” he smiled. Nahel, whom Arjuna has been close with since elementary school, mentioned that the difficulty of the game is what appealed to her.

“I like thinking about tactics and strategies, so it’s challenging,” she said. Being close to many of her peers also comforts her. Nahel emphasized that social media and gaming platforms are not supplanting her generation’s interest in chess; rather, they are making the community bigger.

“Thanks to social media, I can find chess players on Instagram or the ones who stream their plays on YouTube,” she said. “So, in a way, it opens up the door to more younger people as well.”

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