Friday, September 21, 2012


Now that our government is engaging all stakeholders (citizens and PRs) on what kind of country we would envision, certainly the time is also ripe for the chess community to rally together to discuss some important issues concerning chess in Singapore?

Some background knowledge may help:

SCF started in 1961. Tan Lian Ann became an IM in 1973 at the age of 26. He was then seeded into the Petropolis Interzonals and finished 16th-18th. Singapore competed in the Olympiads and finished 43rd in 1968, 40th in 1970 (64 countries took part), our best showing was in Dubai 1986 - 33rd out of 108 teams. In terms of individual world-class achievements, Terence Wong finished 2nd in the World Cadets (now the World Youth)  in 1975 while Alphonsus Chia finished 9th in 1976. That year, Leslie Leow finished 4th-8th in the World Junior U20 in Groningen.

These players only had their books, themselves and constant sparring within the National squad but I can say that the number of strong adult players gave them good grounding in the 70s. So we had world beaters within our ranks in chess before without the assistance of computers, coaches and what not.

Question:  Where is our junior scene heading to NOW?

Next, the rapidly dwindling of adults in the chess scene. Many are not keen to come out of retirement to play rapid chess and lose to active kids. Many of these adults are of course well-to-do individuals, busy with their schedules to play chess over-the-board. The number of social clubs in companies and institutions playing chess back in the 80's number about 45. Today it is not over 10. Adult chess-players have been mainly replaced by foreigners who are active in our tournaments organised today. What's worrisome is that without our local adults' participation, the pool of sponsors also shrinks.

 Question: Where are our sources of funding chess programs coming from?

Chess in the secondary schools is experiencing a serious erosion. JC participation has almost disappeared. It is shrinking rapidly in secondary schools due to the weird CCA ranking of chess. If the system does not change, we may not have any players rising from the primary schools continuing their chess career in secondary school. That means our remaining stock of good junior players will die off.

Question: How does SCF intend to arrest this worrying trend?


  1. Dear John,

    While wishing well for Singapore Chess in general, the scf people are so petty and disappointing. They cannot see beyond their noses.

    I have stopped my kids from taking part in their so called junior training shams, as my kids learnt not much about chess but lots of bad values like win at all costs, claim win on zero start when opponents just arriving, do not share openings preparations, outsmart their peers to promote from silver to gold to titanium ?

    From discussions with other parents, we hear of this great chess outfit called ces.

    Can you tell us more who are the people in such high regard at ces?
    Why doesn't ces come forward to supplant the lousy lot at scf?

    Thank You.

    Ron and Adel

  2. Dear Ron and Adel,

    I seriously urge you to read about my earlier post and the news article that clearly states the stand CES has on the matter of leadership. If not, let me reiterate on their behalf that CES has NEVER any plans to take over the reins of the SCF, contrary to what others believe. It was a public statement made by the 2 founders who clearly wish only to promote chess on their own capacity. CES is not even a public entity or society - it is just a movement formed to organise mega chess events for the public here.

    The articles can be found on my posts in 2010 right after the Kasparov visit in August. Happy reading!

  3. Dear Mr John,

    Good morning. After reading through your blog and heartened by other chess parents who shared, I am motivated now to share.

    I knew in my heart that the training at SCF was not healthy for my boy, however as a entry like "in national training squad" would do wonders for my son's school CCA records, I have closed both eyes.

    Pain comes when I see my boy being unhappy, learning bad traits, and SCF asking us to pay a lot for sending my son to tournaments and for example when I travel with my son, I pay hotel charges that are quite ridiculous.

    Now I gather that chess parents are cajoled into supporting the SCF fund raising dinner. It is like a disease getting worse and worse, like an incurable cancer draining us dry.

    Today I decided to have a talk with my boy to ask him if he wants to stop the junior training at SCF. To my surprise my boy was so happy to stop, he was worried that I will be unhappy.

    So parents, we need to examine what is best for our kids. Let them have some childhood. If they love to play chess, let them join other training centres or just play at happy places.

    I felt like a stone has been lifted from my heart.


    1. Hi Anthony,

      You are indeed a brave parent who has decided that enough is enough. Honestly, I have been approached by several parents to try to groom their kids to do well in chess so that they can get DSA to the schools of their choice. This manner in my opinion is not the best for the child as it puts them into an environment where they will be constantly pressured to perform. What happens when their interest in chess dries by the time they are in secondary school? It will end up a double whammy - the child no longer wants to excel in the game, the school ends up frustrated. I have seen it happen and hence your decision not to go down this way is absolutely right. We must teach our children to enjoy the game first(without having to compete all the time), then all other benefits will come in time.

    2. John that is precisely my point. The other NSAs have difficulties in funding despite having volunteers who spend so much of their personal time raising funds. They are passionate advocates of their sport. They give generously of their time but even when there is all this passion, corporates will still look at the bottom line. I would hesitate to suggest that the ExCos of other NSAs do not work their socks off to look for funding. When you meet up with the officials of the SSC (as i had previously done), you will find that they do acknowledge that the different NSAs are trying their hardest to raise funds but in the end there is only so much corporate sponsorship going around. Even the S-League clubs are struggling financially despite football being such a popular sport. Just this year the chairmen of various S-League clubs came together to raise the issue of funding, despite the annual funding they already receive from the FAS and Singapore Pools.


    3. I would not think that we need as much in terms of money to run chess tournaments as compared to other sports. We can do with less events but resources can be pooled to make 1 big event rather than several small ones. Corporate sponsorship is normally secured through people in high places being able to commit on funding on behalf of their companies. The sad reality is that our adult players have been neglected all this while by the SCF in their skewed direction towards junior chess development and many have faded away. So it is not a surprise that our friends in chess have dwindled and that means corporate sponsors would have shrunk. I have yet seen any parent of the current group of chess-players coming forward with ideas and contacts to help the SCF secure some form of sponsorship.

      I would like to hear other views as to how we can get our former chessplayers (who are now well-to-do) back in chess? So that they would be persuaded to help bridge connections and contacts to help make chess a sponsor-friendly sport?