As the term of the current SCF Executive Committee ends, the elections for the 2013-14 SCF ExCo beckons. I can foresee some issues which can be pressing for the new Committee to tackle so for those aiming to avail themselves for the posts, please do keep these issues in mind.
If we look around our arbiters and ground staff working to get the tournaments running, many are in their 50's ( I had just joined them). I do not see any young blood coming in to step in our shoes. This is worrying for without the core group of arbiters, helpers, no tournament can be organised. It is time that there should be recognition and most importantly, costs be designated in tournament budgets to pay for the required manpower. As for arbiters, we now only have 2 active IAs (as Mr Chia and Mr Tang had passed on) capable of submitting results for FIDE-rated tournaments. This is indeed worrying as we do not have younger players wanting to do the job. Sadly, the pool of candidates for arbiters can only come from passionate chess-players rather than from external parties such as parents, who will exit the scene once their children quit the game. As I have mentioned in my article 27 years ago, the passion for chess has not been cultivated with the promotion of chess clubs. I am heartened that there has been effort in creating the SCF Chess Club sessions on Fridays and its better late than never. But the critical task upon the new Committee should be to identify possible candidates for arbitership amongst the youth and to rope them into chess organisation as soon as possible. The future of the Singapore Chess scene depends critically on the success of this project.
CHESS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
From the players taking part in this year's National Schools Individual Championships, the number of secondary school players taking part has diminished greatly. This is evident in the merging of sections particularly at the Open, Girl's Open with the Under 16. It is a reflection that chess interest among the youths today is degenerating. I hear that some players who were selected into their choice schools via DSA do not even fulfil their obligations to play for the school. Therefore there is little wonder why lesser and lesser schools are offering DSA for chess-players. As CCA points matter in Pre-U admission, many chess-players are pressured to give up playing chess to opt for other CCAs which score better CCA points. As the membership of school chess clubs decrease consequently, many secondary schools chose the easy option of shutting down the chess CCA.
The other problem I see is the practice of allowing primary school players to play in higher age-group sections (to boost participation numbers). This can be a bane to the secondary school players who can be deprived of finishing within the top positions in their categories and depriving them of achieving their CCA points through achievement (as the CCA participation points are pitifully low). For such students, they will see that their time spent in chess cannot yield them any benefits and naturally this will accentuate the diminishing trend as the school/s may close the chess club or stop sending the players who could not garner any titles. I understand that this is mainly a policy issue with the MOE but I urge the new Committee to tackle this problem before the erosion pervades to the primary schools.
It is known that for years, the SNOC has not been supportive of chess and therefore we can bank on little hope of any change of direction from them until Singapore hits the world map with a globally stunning performance from one of our juniors. I wonder can we not instead focus on using the benefits of chess in the classroom, such as looking into the programs of Judit Polgar or the Kasparov Chess Foundation to convince parents that chess develops young minds. This may be the only path I reckon that the MOE will take serious interest in changing their mindset towards chess as mainly a sport towards a possible curriculum option for pre-school. In the long run, if the SCF should embark on this course of popularising chess, we may yet be able to see a renaissance akin to the English Chess Explosion.
The chess world today is brimming with possibilities upon the possible transition to a new era under Magnus Carlsen. Let us hope that he can infuse hope into rejuvenating chess interest amongst the young parents of today, such that our Education institutions will open their doors to chess through this lobby.