Wed, 07 May 2003

Evie strives to become Judith Polgar

Musthofid, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

It was an experience at a simultaneous chess contest back in 1996 at the Enerpac Chess School in Roxy Mas, one of the business hubs of West Jakarta, that teenage chess player Evie Lindiawati seems to savor up to now.

The exhibition matches, which featured Grand Master (GM) Judith Polgar against around 30 local players, saw Evie as the only playing member to end up with a win.

The win over the Hungarian chess star, albeit in a simultaneous contest, appeared to leave Evie, who grew up in a low-income family, with a deep impression and instilled in her the goal of reaching as high a status as Polgar.

"I want to be a Judith Polgar," said Evie, now 17 years old, on the sidelines of the Anniswati Memorial Cup last month, around seven years after her victory over the Hungarian player.

Polgar is undoubtedly one of the world's chess greats today. She is intent on competing against her male counterparts, frequently with impressive results.

Her last appearance in Indonesia was at the Japfa Chess Classic in 2000 where she triumphed, shunning opposition from her all-male rivals including some of the world's top players such as Russian GM Anatoly Karpov, GM Alexander Khalifman, Dutch GM Jan Timman and Indonesian star GM Utut Adianto.

"I was very proud that I could defeat Judith; I still am. She is a great player," Evie said. "I played with a Nimzo Indian at the time," she recollected the course of the game, while mentioning one of the chess openings she devised in her play.

The teenager said Polgar was equally impressed by her. If it was not for her parents, she, then a 10-year-old child, could have gone to Hungary. "She wanted to take me along but my parents did not allow it."

Evie has since improved her play and now become one of the top national players. A year after her meeting with Polgar she won the age-group tournament in Banda Aceh, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

She was twice crowned national champion in 2001 and 2002. Opening this year's campaign, she triumphed at the Gunadarma Master Invitation and Anniswati Memorial Cup last month.

Her international appearances began in 1997 when she played in the World Youth Championship in France.

As the most improved junior, Evie was included in the Indonesian women's team, with the rest of members comprising seniors, for the 2000 Chess Olympiad in Turkey.

She still won another slot in the national team the following year when chess was exhibited at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Evie proves she can challenge her more experienced seniors, shown by her victory at the Anniswati Memorial Cup, which lined up, among others, Women's International Master (WIM) Upi Darmayana Tamin and IM Lisa Lumongdong.

Evie's current status is partly due to her father Edy Rachmat's obsession to build a family of chess players and his motivation to raise their living standards.

Edy said he had taught all his six children chess in their early years, though only three have lived up to his expectations. Of the three, the other two have yet to show results.

Given his work as an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver which provides him with daily earnings of around Rp 20,000 (US$2.2), Edy said that Evie's cash gain from the tournaments had helped augment the family's income.

"Evie will usually give the money she wins to her mother. She keeps just a little," said Edy, whose tone revealed his pride.

He expressed hope that Evie would get more opportunities to play overseas in a bid to further her chess career.

More appearances in international tournaments, according to Evie's mentor Hendry Djamal, is important as it might prove whether Evie can hold up against more difficult competitors rather than being just complacent about running over domestic rivals at home.

"Her performance in international tournaments has not been satisfactory. She has performed under form on each of her four overseas outings," Hendry said, while being optimistic that his protege was well-equipped to raise her performance to a higher level.

The upcoming SEA Games in Vietnam in December, for which she has been awarded an automatic berth in the national team, may be a test for Evie whether she can make a dent in the regional event.

Against Vietnamese players, who are renowned for their international experience, Evie will definitely have the odds stacked against her.

However, the upcoming Vietnam outing will give her yet another chance of making Vietnam a playing venue she might one day still be enthused to savor.