Thought I'd take this time to document one of my teaching joys, strangely, to my friends in Malaysia! It was a near 8 years but thoroughly worth mentioning.
One day in 1996 Mr Peter Long called me to ask if I would be interested to train a group of juniors from Chess Association of Selangor for 4 days in Penang, as he was busy and could not do it. It was a tough time for me at work, as my company was going through a split and I had to manage the IT separation task for my department. But somehow the lure of teaching chess was too hard to resist, so I agreed.
I met up with Tse Pin and Jason, the coordinators for the CTEP (Chess Training for Excellence Program) in Penang in December with Mr Lee (Samantha Lee's dad) who was the chaperon. The trainees were Lim Yee Weng, Matthew Khor,Yow Keat Tong and Ng Ee Vern. They were selected for finishing tops in the CAS junior tournament in 1996 and were selected for the program to be conducted at Sandy Bay Resorts in Penang. Here's some shots of our sessions.
As there were only 4 days, I had to balance the training with some fun activities (including visiting Georgetown and exploring the great Penang food stalls). Thanks to Mr Lee who's from Penang, we had a good time and got excellent meals each day. Gurney Drive and McAlister Road was really different then in 1996-7. Plus there was a great Western place just opposite Looking Good (a mall, now gone).
As it was my first overseas teaching assignment, I was trying to find topics that would suit the 4 trainees who were quite different in strengths and styles. Hence I chose to study pawn structures in their openings and the plans they could adopt pending on how the pawn structure would change due to pawn advances and captures. Then the next day was about visualsation of squares and diagonals. Calculation and the thought process was also introduced. That concluded our program for 1996.
In 1997 not much changed, except that 3 new trainees joined in - Gerald Soh, Law Zhe Kang and Seto (sorry, can't remember his name). I introduced Jeremy Silman's imbalances into the training syllabus as I felt that the boys were good tactically but not positionally. Overall, I realised that there was little attention paid to openings how they are prepared. For the first time, we got hold of a computer and I also introduced ChessBase as a means of preparation for openings
I was very impressed with Zhe Kang, though not the most gifted,but he was the best student in the 4 days and diligently absorbed my lessons. At the end of the program, I awarded him my copy of Silman's "How to Reassess Your Chess" for being the best trainee.
As he is a doctor now, I guess he has little time for chess. But I am sure he will remember fondly the days we spent in Penang in 1997.
As my computer during the years 1998-1999 had crashed, I had no recollection of the CTEP then but in 2000, a fresh group was assembled and this time it was held in Seri Malaysia Genting. Among them were Marcus and Nicholas Chan, Fariz and Hafiz Shaffrudin, a young Zarul Shazwan, Yeoh Keong Lee,Abel Yap and Pok Wern Jian. This time I decided to look into their games and suggest a repertoire for each player that would suit their style of play. Visualisation of squares is a must - strangely, the guy who often got punished for getting the colour of the square wrong when I called out the name of the square was...Nicholas Chan! But he is the strongest FM today..hmm..The topic of Fighting, Surrendering or Holding the Centre was introduced along with attack against the King with pawns. Evenings were spent examing each player's games to work out a playable repertoire.
In 2002 the same syllabus was used to help Zach Han, Ernest , Fong Yip Siang and the guys above minus Keong Lee. Additional topics include a study on How to Improve Tactics was covered followed by analysis of the student's games.
2003 saw Yeap Eng Chiam, Ezran, Sumant Subramaniam, Khairul and Faisal KZ, Aw Wai Onn joining the group. Eng Chiam was very strong tactically then for his age, having been taught well by his father. Sumant in my opinion was playing much too fast and skimping on his calculation, but nonetheless the boy was dedicated. Wai Onn was very enthusiastic, very keen to learn but somehow a little timid. Strangely, he was playing the Blackmar Diemer Gambit as White and often lost a pawn without knowing how to recover it.
Pity but I do not have any photos of my 2004 group - Chan Litt Bin, Eng Chiam, Sumant, Izz, Aw Wai Onn and Tan Ken Wei.
My last group was in 2006 with Tariq Amru, Ekwan, Tan Ken Wei, Chiang Ee John, Albert Ang, Justin Way Ong, Low Jun Jian, Geenish.
My thoughts on this series of trainings? What is important was that I chose not to cover specific areas in the middlegame or endgame but rather, devise methods of preparation and training on visualisation and calculation such that the trainees can apply to their games and benefit from the methods. This year, when I am back at the Merdeka Tournament and saw many familiar faces, including a cheeky Sumant who tried to use Scholar's Mate on his ex-teacher even though it was a blitz game! Meanwhile Eng Chiam lost a rook against my longtime chess friend Jimmy for underestimating the wrath of the Pirc Defence. When I passed Ken Wei who just lost his rook to a double attack, he told me "Didn't do enough concentric square exercises lah!" There's still room to re-learn I guess.
Before I sign off, my thanks to Mrs Jackie Wong, Encik Shaffrudin, Norhana and the parents of all the boys who participated in the program. Most importantly, my heartfelt appreciation to Tse Pin who tirelessly saw to the implementation of the longest junior training scheme that had spawned so many talents for Malaysia.