Young Chess Champion Defends National Title

Self-taught chess champion Chheav Bora on Thursday held on to the title of Sdech Ouk—“King of Chess”—after defeating his opponent in the final round of the national championship on the last day of the Angkor Sankranta New Year festival in Siem Reap City.

Wearing headgear and costumes inspired by those carved into the walls of the city’s Angkorian temples, Mr. Bora, 25, and his opponent, Sok Pheara, sat down opposite each other at 8 a.m. for the final round of the competition, which was watched by about 500 people on a raised stage near Angkor Wat made to look like a giant chess set.

Defending champion Chheav Bora, right, and Sok Pheara compete in the final round of the national chess championship in Siem Reap City on Thursday. (Angkor Sankranta)
Defending champion Chheav Bora, right, and Sok Pheara compete in the final round of the national chess championship in Siem Reap City on Thursday. (Angkor Sankranta)

The match lasted just under two hours, with Mr. Bora prevailing in the end.

“My opponent was very tough to beat because he has a lot of strategy. It was neck and neck,” Mr. Bora said by telephone after the match.

Mr. Bora, who also won the national title last year, said he was only introduced to the game in 2010.

“I learned by watching others and sometimes I beat players in coffee shops in Phnom Penh. To sharpen my skills, I played with computers to learn more techniques and innovative ways to defeat my opponents,” he said.

The national chess championship, which is organized by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, has been held every year since 2008. This year’s championship began a month ago at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium, according to Mr. Bora, who said 91 contestants competed for a chance to play in the final rounds, which began on Tuesday.

“[P]eople were very curious to see if Bora could keep his championship,” said Som Ratana, a spokesman for the festival. “I think this was a highlight of the Angkor Sangkranta festivities and that is why so many people attended.”

According to Mr. Ratana, Mr. Hun Sen on Thursday awarded Mr. Bora $5,500 for winning the tournament. Mr. Pheara received $3,500, while the third and fourth place competitors, who faced off on Wednesday, took home prizes of $2,500 and $1,500, respectively.

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