Chheav Bora: Forming the Next Generation of Ouk Chaktrang Chess Winners in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH — In May 2023, Chheav Bora won a silver medal for Cambodia in the Ouk Chaktrang chess competition at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (32nd SEA Games) held in Phnom Penh.   

One month earlier, he had been second runner up in the Ouk Chaktrang competition at the Angkor Sankranta festival in Siem Reap city. 

Today, Bora is concerned about the country being represented in future SEA Games and having Ouk Chaktrang, which is a Cambodian version of the chess game, flourish in the country. Most players in competitions seem to be in their 30s or middle-aged, which worries him, he said. 

So Bora, who won twice the Ouk Chaktrang competition in past years, is now coaching eight students, although not in a formal chess school or club, he pointed out. “I'm offering courses specifically for children and women: I see them as future resources that we need to nurture,” he said. And he is doing this as a free service on a volunteer basis. 

In the course of teaching them, Bora has discovered that coaching children comes with its own set of challenges as their focus is not the same as adults, he said. “They are young, so we need to introduce them to Ouk Chaktrang gradually,” he said. “Sometimes, they get distracted during practice, and we have to bring their focus back. In addition, since they are new to the game, they require more guidance and patience.” 

Nevertheless, he remains committed to help train the next generation of chess players and have them represent Cambodia in international competitions in the future, he said. With this in mind, Bora has also authored a book entitled "Elephant Strategy” to serve as a guide for those looking to improve their chess skills.

Southeast Asian variants of chess games have been played during the SEA Games over the years.  During the 32nd SEA Games in Phnom Penh, players faced each other in Ouk Chaktrang games—the traditional Cambodian variant of the chess game. This enabled Cambodian players to showcase their skills and compete against international competitors.


 Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Chhuon Kongieng for Cambodianess.

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