The hall was silent. The atmosphere was tense. Young people sat absolutely still, concentrating intensely on the desk in front of them as the clock ticked. Some chewed gum, while others sipped from bottles of water when the pressure got too much. When time began to run out, panic set in and they were forced to make their moves. They were not taking examinations, however. They were taking part in the 11th Southern District Chinese Chess Competition last Sunday at the Aberdeen Complex. Of the 80 participants, 38 competed in the student category with the rest in the open category. The student category is open to candidates aged under 18. 'More and more young people play Chinese chess nowadays,' said Kwan Ho-pui, chairman of the Southern District Chinese Chess Association which helped to organise the contest along with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and Southern District Council. 'In the past, Chinese chess was not considered to be civilised. But now, with the help of government departments such as the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, there are more large-scale and well-organised formal chess competitions. Parents are more willing to let their children play chess,' Mr Kwan added. Lo Kwong-tat, a Primary Five student who has played Chinese chess for a year, said that he could make more friends through competitions. 'Chess is fun. Sometimes I play chess on the web, but many are worse than me,' he said. Although not a veteran, the 11-year-old was eager to unveil his winning strategy. 'You have to secretly put the chess to one side to strengthen your attack and launch a fatal attack on the opponent,' said Kwong-tat. His parents, Mr and Mrs Lo, were there supporting him throughout the competition. 'He can get more experience by competing with others,' said Mrs Lo. 'We also encourage him to take part in competitions in other districts. Chess is good for thinking and we allow him to play only on long holidays such as Christmas and Lunar New Year, so it won't affect his school work.' At the next table, Form Four student Kevin Chu was thrilled because he had just won a match. The 16-year-old has been playing chess since he was just six. 'I like playing chess a lot. Even if I lose the game, I am still happy because I can learn from the game, and see where I went wrong,' said Kevin.