Indonesia’s Rising Chess Stars
Translated by Adolf Richardo
Graphic by Yudi Tri Utomo
Chess has experienced a rapid surge in popularity, with the release of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix last October, triggering renewed interest in the game. Within the first month, Netflix recorded 62 Million viewers of the show, whilst Ebay reported a 215% increase in the sale of chess sets and accessories.
Indonesia has been particularly impacted by the Chess boom, with a recent live streamed match drawing an audience of 1.25 Million viewers. The match, which is the most watched chess event in online history, saw Indonesian International Master Irene Sukander take on Dadang Sarbur, an online player accused of cheating, in order to truly test the cheating claims.
Clearly, chess in Indonesia is increasingly popular, with the Sukander-Sarbur match drawing 10 times the typical audience of the most popular chess events. Whilst Sarbur’s talents were disproven in the Sukander showdown, Indonesia has a number of bright chess prospects beginning to emerge.
History of Chess in Indonesia:
Chess is believed to have started in India around the 6th century, before spreading through much of Europe around the 10th century.
The game is believed to have been brought to Indonesia by the Dutch, with Chess clubs emerging in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and Bandung in the late 19th Century. The game experienced a decline during the Japanese occupation of the Second World War, before returning as Indonesia claimed independence.
The Indonesian national chess federation, PERCASI, was established in 1948.
Current politician, Utut Adianto put Indonesian chess on the world stage, claiming Grandmaster status (the highest honour) in 1986, and defeating four time US champion Alexander Shabalov in 1993.
Indonesia’s Rising Chess Talent:
Despite Adianto being the face of Indonesian chess, Indonesia has an impressive array of young chess talent, threatening to become a global force in the popular game. Coupled with the significant spike in popularity, the array of young talent means that Indonesian chess has an increasingly bright future.
Earlier this year, International Master Levy Rozman posted a video on his Youtube channel, highlighting the talents of young star Satria Duta. Satria, who was born in 2008, has beaten Rozman, and a number of other high calibre players. A child of the online chess era, he has developed his craft largely over the internet. He is set to play against 12-year-old National Master Brewington Hardaway from New York on June 26, in a match that will be available to stream on Youtube and Twitch.
Last year, Novendra Priasmoro became the eighth Indonesian to reach Grand Master status, achieving the feat at the age of 20. Priasmoro is the second highest rated Indonesian player.
Equally, Indonesian women have been asserting themselves on the global chess stage, with Medina Warda Aulia defeating former Yugoslav champion Ivan Sokolov in 2019. Aulia was just 21 at the time, whilst Sokolov is a highly respected champion of the game.
Indonesia currently ranks 32nd in the world in women’s chess, with Sukander, the most successful female in Indonesian chess history, being the top ranked player.
With chess expanding rapidly in Indonesia, and a number of young players making their mark, many expect Indonesia to join the likes of India and China as Asian chess superpowers.
Where Does Australia Rank?
Whilst Australia ranks ahead of Indonesia in men’s chess (42nd), the ranking of Australia’s female players lags behind that of its neighbour. Australia sits 50th in the women’s rankings.
With all of the top 10 Australian women born before 2000, Australia lacks the young female talent on show in Indonesia.
Anton Smirnov, a 20 year old from Canberra, is Australia’s highest ranked player, having achieved Grand Master Status in 2017.