SCF held a dialogue session with parents of FIDE-rated children, some players, coaches and SSC observers to discuss on matters on SCF program, direction but what drew the most attention were the new conditions on the licensing of chess-players having FIDE ratings on Standard Chess. It was made known to all that this scheme could be further extended to players having Rapid Chess and Blitz Chess ratings currently.
SCF opened the session with Treasurer Mr Leonard Lau explaining the rationale behind the licensing move. It was two-fold : to raise money for the SCF coffers as SCF is currently implementing the HPE league whereby senior inactive players with high FIDE ratings can be financially compensated (akin to an appearance fee) for playing against the juniors in the HPE squad.SCF has spent about $30,000 on the project as the Treasurer informed the members of the floor. The other reason was to coerce (rather than coax) players with FIDE ratings to fulfil their obligations to play 10 FIDE-rated games a year LOCALLY, otherwise their ratings would be delisted from FIDE rating list. So it is not enough to just pay your way but to also play in order to keep your ratings published.
Several parents spoke their minds on this matter, some apprehensively in seeking clarification as to the consequences of being delisted. The SCF replied that delisted members can be relisted back to the list so long as they fulfil their 10 FIDE-rated game obligation and agree to pay the licence fee. What is more serious, as a parent pointed out, is that the predominant low-rating base amongst the Singapore Juniors today will be a huge stumbling block in their quest for FIDE titles such as the FM and IM. It would take players with low FIDE ratings many tournaments (provided they are doing well in them) to crawl their ratings up to the 2000 level owing to the lowering of the base FIDE rating floor by FIDE progressively over the years. The SCF President did remark that the lowering of the base rating was a bad decision made by FIDE 13 years ago and till date, no one has the solution to rectify this. However, some parents were still puzzled as to why the SCF would still insist on rating the Standard Chess tournaments for Juniors if it was doing them disservice in their ratings? Several parents have also expressed their concern that it may not be as easy to find the tournaments locally that will fit their currently tight schedules. Many sought to play overseas when it is during their annual year-end holidays.
I suggested that there should be a possible way of decoupling the playing obligation for players from the licence fee, ie allow the players to keep their ratings by paying for it but this was flatly rejected by the SCF who insisted that such players ought to keep their ratings active by playing and improving the vibrancy of the local chess scene.
If the SCF intends that local FIDE rated players should avail themselves to do National Service by contributing their time in playing local FIDE Rated tournaments, surely one ought to start creating Rating Tournaments by forming pools of players within a band of 200 rating pts, so they can mitigate the effects of "playing down" ( losing rating points when one loses to a lower rated player). As we do not have big-time sponsors to fund a super Swiss system tournament (eg the Thailand Open) of high average rating, this may probably be the way to go in helping those whose ratings are in the 1500-1800 region to climb. Can the National Youth Squad or ex Squad members be willing to get involved in bridging this pool ? It would so much more difficult to try and bring in inactive FIDE-rated players to agree to play in the HPE as their priorities may not be on chess at the present. Most are fairly successful in life and may not budge for a mere fee of $120 a game. However, my opinion is that many of such players once invested time, money and effort in getting their titles and it seems draconian and cruel to rip them off their hard - earned ratings this way. There has to be another way to achieve the vibrancy of chess participating in Standard Chess without resorting to this measure.
There was also another plea by some members of the floor to review the current selection of National representatives solely from the National Junior Squad. However, SCF has maintained that this cannot be compromised as it represents the only pathway to selecting the best talent in Singapore. It is lamentable that there are many non Junior Squad members who have proven themselves in competition that they too have the strength to be selected and merely asking a fairer selection process in which the playing field can be levelled. I guess this would not materialise until there is a change of SCF administration.