It is a common sight in international chess of a female player pitting her board skills against men in matchplay or even in a tournament, but it is a rarity in Khmer chess.
But that barrier was broken two days ago when 153-strong field of players in the Khmer chess okchaktrang qualification tournament for Angkor Sangkran 2017 saw a female player take part in a major event for the first time, as Phun Makara, a fourth-year tourism student at the University of Asia-Europe sat down across the table to set her pieces.
A resident of Phnom Penh, Makara grew up in a family of chess players, with her parents encouraging her to enter a competition. She lost in the first round to male rival Sok Limheng but left determined to improve her skills and keep competing.
“I’ve liked the game since I was young. My brothers are good players, and I always used to watch them play. I also watch the game on YouTube and play online. My parents inspired me to take part in this event,” said Makara.
She said one of the main reasons she decided to compete was to conserve the cultural value of this sport while encouraging more women to take part.
The secretary-general of the Okchaktrang Federation Chiev Bora confirmed that Phun Makara was the first female player to appear in a tournament.