Friday, March 22, 2013


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.


  1. Thank you for the summary of what happened. What troubled me more was the announcement by Ignatius that the SNOC had voted against allowing chess to have more medals at the SEA Games in Myanmar! It is very demotivating for chess players, parents and trainers to hear about this.

    The SNOC has to be educated and shown why it's thinking is wrong although before doing so we ave to understand what motivated the SNOC to vote against the increase in medals for chess. It cannot take a selfish approach of trying to reduce the number of medals earned by other nations but rather must take the long term and generous approach of allowing Singaporeans the chance to earn more medals in the future.

    1. Yes, you are right to assume that the increase in medals may go against Singapore's medal tally in Myanmar. But if the SNOC takes the stand that chess holds no medal prospects, we will also need to take a deep look at the mirror. The SSC/SNOC collective view, though implied, points to the non-performance of our National players in overseas competitions and therefore as a chess community, we should relook the current concept of chess talent that is groomed via the current pathways.

      Is it then not sufficient reason that we open state represent in chess to other players who may do better than our current crop of National Junior Trainees? So far all I see in SCF's policy is the closing of doors to promising juniors, bending the will of inactive seniors to do National Service in contributing their FIDE-rating points, protecting the small group of 2300-2400s who won't play down and expect others to do the seems hard to reconcile the current licensing policy with their protectionistic bent on the current cream.

      I believe the HPE league can be structured in such that every FIDE-rated player over 2000 should attempt to play 5 games in a average rating pool of 1800-2000, then be given an opportunity to play up as well against the 2300-2400 players. Sacrifices made by players should be compensated this way in my opinion. Better if they can be offered playing opportunities overseas should they choose to play all 10 FIDE rated games down.

      As we are only talking of Standard Chess, the scale of the problem is really small so it does not trigger a major uproar for now. But I shudder to think what will happen when the scheme is extended to the Rapid players come 2014 when SCF scraps the local ratings.

  2. John has a good summary here of the sentiments of parents at the meeting. Parents asked for their children not to be delisted, queried SCF's practice of continuing to FIDE-rate given our low rating problem and spoke for a more competitive selection criteria for state representation outside the NJS single-pathway.

    Since the bailout of financial institutions in the economic crises of the last decade, it has become clear that it is no longer to possible to predict outcomes and the best defence and check for any country is allowing multiple pathways to success.

    On support from higher up, I guess we need to get our house in order first. One can hardly expect to be recognised for delisting Juniors and locking out promising Juniors from state representation.

  3. Assuming that the SNOC took the stand that chess holds less medal prospects than some other sports is more logical and less stressful and demotivating, than that chess holds no medal prospects. How many medals are for all sports in SEA Games in Myanmar and does chess already have more medals than some other sports?

  4. I do not think we need to look down on what we have done internally with respect to Singapore chess but rather look at how to convince the SNOC/SSC that chess has to be given further encouragement. Everybody is aware of how the athletics association has never really got its house in order and yet gets good support from the SNOC even when the chances of winning medals in track (not field) events is next to zero.

    The SNOC/SSC probably still do not see chess as a sport and therefore do not want to give the necessary support even at the SEA Games level. That has to change before anything else, in order for there to be greater recognition of chess as a sport to be supported in the SEA Games.

    It is also apparently the intent of the SSC (but I stand to be corrected) that funding of associations include assessing whether the associations have a junior squad program. The recent furore with table tennis is a perfect example where only students prepared to follow the table tennis association program would be selected and so parents of children in schools that could not keep up with the commitment in terms of hours for the program were told that their children would not be selected. It was as plain as that, despite many of the players left out apparently being of equal or higher standard than the trainees in the table tennis association program.

    The compromise reached was that the parents of the children not chosen for the program could have their children chosen for selection to represent Singapore in table tennis if they signed an undertaking to commit to the program.

    You could sense the outrage of the parents but ultimately the table tennis association has the responsibility to decide what it thinks works best even if some parents were understandably upset and vehemently disagreed with the position taken by the table tennis association.

  5. STTA Youth Development Squad has to be able to commit to at least four training sessions per week. STTA National Youth Team has to be able to commit to at least six training sessions per week, correct?

  6. What I have learnt recently is that NSAs are self-governing bodies, and it may be safer to check with SSC first before attributing junior squad programs and linking outcomes of controversies arising therefrom to SSC's intent on anything, whether one stands corrected or not.

  7. It is precisely because people who advocate change must first understand and research the existing constraints on funding and otherwise before making suggestions which may not pass muster. If there are issues of concern then if there is sufficient interest the persons making suggestions should assist. There are avenues open to find out whatever information that is necessary to support a change or changes that will benefit the chess community as a whole. Do the leg work and then suggest the changes. The SCF must then look at proposals for change and determine within the existing framework if such changes are indeed beneficial or do the changes serve the interests of a vocal minority.

    There are always attractive suggestions to make but without doing the hard work in assessing the viability of the suggestions first, let us not get carried away. Notwithstanding NSAs being self-governing if the members do not fully fund the NSA and still expect government support, then the views and plans of the SSC carry weight.

  8. Dear Siva,

    Really sorry, not sure what you are saying in the first para. Is someone from outside SCF advocating change that will put a strain on SCF funding? I know of none. The only issue I can think of is the new SCF Admin Fee which if SCF were to recover in full from all Juniors U18 and below in the FIDE March 2013 Active Players list would be about 57x$60=$3420 or 3.5k thereabouts, give or take. (I refer to Juniors only as I am more familiar with their situation.) I'm not sure how this amount is going to make much difference to the 30k that was mentioned by SCF on 22 March at the Parents' Dialogue as having been spent already in past months on HPE Training League, and more that is going to be spent this year? These are huge sums!

    On SSC, again, I think it is safer to speak with SSC first before referring to things like "views and plans of the SSC carry weight" and attributing NJS and outcomes to them. You may be surprised by what you hear. It is also not fair to SSC to keep referring to them without prior clearance.

    Anyway, won't take this dialogue further.

    Good night!