On 2 August, a landmark meeting was convened between the SCF and interested parties to discuss key pressing issues regarding the popularity of chess in Singapore and its continued survival.
Led by VP Leonard Lau, he correctly assessed that the number of children playing chess, especially in secondary schools, has dwindled and this needs to be addressed. Other areas of concern include the current branding of chess amongst Singaporeans, the education of chess ethics to the young chessplayers' parents instead of players themselves, beefing up the chess organising infrastructure in terms of new organisers and staff, eg arbiters and volunteers and so on.
Many ideas were offered and feedback sought amongst those who attended, a number of them stakeholders such as chess schools, trainers, arbiters and parents. It was felt that that the current chess tournament calendar was a little too intense, with little opportunities for one to play casually. Some opined that the present Grand Prix system needs to be reviewed as it requires compulsory participation should be in the running for the top prizes.
Through Leonard the audience did get an insight of how the public at large looks at our chess community. The public sees chess-players as cloistered, insular beings who do not integrate with others socially (as chess is individualised in many respects), sedentary as opposed to physical (which does not augur well with the current sports authorities). It is little wonder that chess-related initiatives do not receive support from institutions like the Centre for Physical Education, the Schools Sports Committee where the emphasis is to get schoolchildren to do more physical activity at school. To this end, the SCF would soon initiate a dialogue with the school principals on how to take the role of chess in schools further, with emphasis of chess as a tool for character building and family value cultivation. Apart from this initiative, more needs to be done in outreaching chess to the various other sectors like the disabled, the under-privileged and the elderly.
I am all for this form of engagement by the SCF as it tries to bridge consensus with feedback from interested parties. Taking the lead from our government, there is greater urgency for the chess-governing body to listen and at the same time share perspectives and explain constraints faced in their aim to promote chess today. The chess education market is a huge one and certainly requires involvement from every stakeholder who should contribute ideas and action to keep the chess scene vibrant, albeit for financial reasons eventually.