1984 was George Orwell's peer into the future world when he wrote it in 1948 - a dark world with rigid control devoid of human freedom of expression. "Big Brother is watching you" pretty much underlines the theme.
Yet in 1984 I wrote anonymously to a chess publication Singapore Chess Digest about the chess club scene. Our club scene was much better back in the 70's till 1982 but went downhill since. I was stating my point that we in Singapore did not do enough to promote a chess culture amongst our chess players, in the promotion of chess clubs and non-competitive chess activity then. I wrote that we should encourage more to take part in chess playing by attending chess sessions at the clubs, without having to compete only in tournaments. It will be much more cordial, relaxed and most importantly socially healthy for chess-players to interact, discuss and further their interest in chess. The club scene would have been further developed into a league that can attract sponsors if it was significant. Generally countries with a healthy club scene will do much better in increasing the number of chess enthusiasts, thereby expanding the number in the masses who can understand and appreciate and love chess. Should the Federation not be pursuing this direction, I ended by asking?
The editor thanked me for airing my views, albeit he was not in favour of publishing anonymous letters but I made an interesting point. The reason was that I was not a subscriber of the magazine as yet then
Look at the success today of the 4NCL in England and the Bundesliga in Germany. They have spun off into providing the impetus for the European Team Championship. In the US the US Amateur Team Championship has also taken off.
So what has changed in Singapore chess club scene since 1984? Hardly. We are still promoting chess tournaments as the main activity, with a little sweetener thrown in by offering age-group prizes to entice innocent parents into believing that their children can ,deservedly or otherwise, win trophies. Our pool of chess mercenaries will still emerge whenever a large prize pool is offered in any event. Let's face it - who's really interested in a competition without a decent prize fund? Our active chess clubs have dwindled over the years to a mere handful. The National InterClubs used to have over 40-50 teams total back in the 80's. Today? It can't even be held last year. I am seeking my annual chess holiday in the Merdeka Team Tournament which may not take place this year.You may wish to ask me what has happened to the Singapore Intellectual Games Centre at Bishan , our version of the DATCC, where SCF has a club-house and office? Isn't that supposed to be open daily for members who wish to play? It's now a big class-room folks. Think of all the donors that have raised the funds to make it our National Chess Centre...surely this is not what they've envisiaged the place to be?
So rather than lament at 27 years of stagnation, I am determined to make Thomson Chess Club as lively as I can this year. I hope to inspire clubs like the Serangoon, Cairnhill, Toa Payoh West and hopefully others to revive the interest of playing chess over the board as opposed to playing online. There are many I believe who borrow chess books from the libraries and it is this target group we should reach out to recruit as members for the clubs. So where are the volunteer organisers who would give up their weekends and weekday to run chess activities ?? We used to have more than a dozen. Today they are down to less than 5. I would not count on parents of young chess-players to do this, it has to come from the chess-lovers with a passion for chess. Without the nursery to spur the future growth of these organisers, I fear we are slowly slipping our beloved game of chess into oblivion - I feel the Sports Council seems to think it already has.