After two unsuccessful bids in the past, Heng Saody outwitted his rivals this year in the Angkor Songkran Oukchatrong Championships to be crowned the “king” of Khmer chess in Siem Reap last week.
The unassuming Saody scored a technical win in the final over Bun Kaiseng, a veteran of many battles, as the eight-player event drew to a close at the Angkor Wat temple complex, adding an exciting element to the New Year festivities.
In keeping with tradition, the finalists wore Angkor-era costumes that symbolised this ancient game’s historical perspective. Oukchatrong is an offshoot of chaturang, an ancient strategy game that originated in India and spread to many parts of the world centuries ago, evolving into the international chess that is played and followed today in as many as 170 countries in the world.
Apart from the much-coveted title, Saody received a cash prize of 12 million riel from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia for his triumph and an additional 20 million riel as a personal reward from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is a big supporter of Cambodian sports in general and oukchatrong in particular.
Runner-up Kaiseng was richer by 20 million riel, 8 million from the NOCC and 12 million from the premier.Chhoi Vira created a sensation by beating two-time winner Chheav Bora in the contest for third place.
The winner in 2011, Vira had repeatedly failed in his subsequent attempts but recovered his winning touch to finish as high as third best among the eight contestants who qualified for this final showdown from a pre-Songkran event held at the NOCC last month in which 160 players took part.
For his effort Vira was rewarded with 4 million riel from the NOCC and double that from the prime minister.
Chheav Bora got 7 million riel in all. Ros Rithya, Lim Phala, My Keonimith and Kang Heng were ranked fifth to eighth, each receiving 2 million riel from Prime Minister Hun Sen.