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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

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Chess Championships and Collegiate Fun

— As academic societies, residential colleges can engage in and support a wide range of activities that are both fun and educational without being curricular. A fine example will be taking place later this month when Tuanku Bahiyah Residential College at the University of Malaya plays host to an international chess championship:

Rakan Muda GACC World Inter-Varsity Chess Championship is an annual project of Tuanku Bahiyah Residential College, University of Malaya. [Don’t miss the rotating views of the college’s lovely tropical gardens and grounds. —RJO] Undergraduates worldwide gather here in University of Malaya for an international chess competition. This championship is held with the support from the Malaysian Chess Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Malaysia. This is also the one and only rated international chess championship run by Malaysian undergraduates and is recognised by Malaysian Chess Federation and World Chess Federation.

What a perfect illustration of how a residential college can enhance the social and intellectual life of a university. This tournament is an annual event, so the college members in charge of it can build on their experiences year after year to make it more successful each time; it is not merely a local event but draws internationally-ranked student players from around the world, thereby enriching the life of the college and enhancing its reputation; and for those members of the college who don’t play chess it brings the world of high-level competition right into their home for a few days so they can see it up close—something they would never be likely to do if the event were held at some remote location. (In this latter respect the tournament helps to counter the extinction of experience that can accompany educational over-specialization.)

Any residential college can follow the example set here by Tuanku Bahiyah College—not with another chess tournament, but with something else educational and fun. Perhaps a regional wood-carving exhibition, or a public recitation of an ancient epic poem, or a demonstration of advanced model airplanes, or a spelling bee, or a geography bee, or … you and your students will be able to come up with far cleverer examples than I can, I’m sure. Just make it something that you can do every year, for the community at large, and that doesn’t otherwise fit into the black-and-white boxes of the standard curriculum. Before you know it you’ll have a famous tradition right there in your college.

So best of luck to all the players in the GACC tournament and to their hosts at Tuanku Bahiyah College. May the most skillful tacticians win!

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021