Thursday, September 20, 2012


While enjoying some blitz games, I was watching the pieces till someone passed me the phone:

"John! It's Garry..speak to him, he needs your help". 

I noticed that Garry was no ordinary chap given the earlier discussions of him coming to Singapore. So I asked:

" Kasparov??"

"Please...please speak to him" replied the owner of the phone.

I took over the handset and an anxious voice immediately responded " Hello..Hello..this is Garry Kasparov!"

With tingles rising all over, I composed myself and answered : "Yes Garry, this is John Wong. I am in charge of your lecture in Singapore. How may I help?"

Garry asked if I can provide a screen attached to a computer with ChessBase, which of course is no problem. He then asked what should he be speaking?

" How about your game with Topalov in 1999 Wijk Ann Zee?"

"Very good, good choice! That's the one I was thinking of! Please prepare the file thank you."

Some weeks later, I met the man over breakfast at 7am on August 15 2010. He looked tired but was cheerful to discuss the day's events, after apologising for the lack of sleep he had on route to Singapore because of a crying baby onboard. Garry was also briefing us the state of affairs as he saw it in the chess world, why he was keen to promote chess over the next few years and his mission to see chess elevated to a world sport. Thought a little upset at the response of the SCF at snubbing him, he brushed it aside and believed that his name alone would stir the chess-loving public in more ways that we'd imagined. And he was right! The crowds came, the fans came, even the press (who normally bypass any chess events)!

Back to business as I knew time was short - Kasparov asked for a 15min shut-eye after breakfast so I had to run through the chessbase file with him, deleting what's not important comments and highlighting the threats on the chessboard for the benefit of the audience. With that, I excused myself and went about to Thomson CC. The rest of it you can read  here.

It's slightly over 2 years from the day I spoke with the ex-World Champion, a great honour for me. Though we are the same age, one can notice the radiance and the regality he possesses, like an Emperor of the chess world. He was groomed for this since young and he makes no excuses for it. Garry is likely to be on the path again soon, championing his cause for chess in schools. He has succeeded in New York and the EU. Hopefully, we can see him persuading our new ministers what chess can do in stimulating great thinkers and entrepreneurs??


  1. Wow!... 15 minutes with legend...envy you! :)

  2. Thanks John for a lovely chess blog.
    It writes bravely on many chess issues, which as chess parents, we don't get to hear from "the official version".
    Keep up the good work.

    Some gossip has also reached our ears that there will be other chess heros like Anand, Kramnik Carlsen, Nakamura, Hou Yi Fan, Koneru Humpy, etc coming to our part of the world.

    Is that true ?
    Another parent heard that when these players arrive, they will be brought onboard a cruise ship and within a week play a tournament onboard while the ship will dock at several Asean countries where chess simultaneous matches will be played. Wow.

    We understand that Singapore chess players can also take part in the cruise and that will be a great holiday for chess parents and our kids.

    Please keep us informed; as we need to plan our December school holidays.

    With best wishes to you and your brave chess loving friends,

    A group of chess parents

    1. Not to my knowledge till date, but indeed if this happens in Singapore, it will put us in the world chess map. I would not hold my breath.

      Chess does need such a stimulus (much like QE3) in order to resurrect the current chess scene here.

    2. What is happening in Singapore chess is like the latest Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises". If you parents want CES to rise again and bring chess back to glorious days, please show your support in very visible ways.

  3. Hi John,

    yes, we also heard of this piece of good news.
    One brave soul among us asked the official chess federation but were told scf has no money to organise such an event, looks like if we parents want it, we need to raise the funds ourselves rather than hope scf can do so. Any idea what such an event will cost?

    Excited chess parents and our kids will be awaiting your updates please.

  4. It will be a mulit-million project I'm afraid, only the likes of the Spore Govt or Apple may be able to fund.

    Kasparov and Karpov's visit was a dream come true thanks to CES. I doubt it will be repeated.

  5. This reminds me of another story attached to Kasparov ... a very good read nevertheless.

  6. Is CES dormant or are they planning new activities? It would be good to get SCF and CES to work together for the benefit of chess in Spore. Everyone should put aside their self interest and work for the common good.
    En Passant

  7. Agree with En Passant. However, the ball is in SCF's court to reach out to CES for the greater good of chess in Singapore.