Tuesday, August 20, 2013

MALAYSIAN CHESS FESTIVAL - LESSONS


The annual Merdeka Team Tournament in KL marks the largest team competition in ASEAN region, with participating countries from ASEAN as well as the competitiors who have taken part in the Malaysian Open. Singapore has been sending teams to this event, notably present were the players from Chess-Kidz and 2 other teams, QY+3, (all NUS team members)
plus IM Chan Peng Kong who stayed on to play for Brian Jones's team. AMS Bolih contained 2 Singaporeans, Jimmy Ng and Lee Wang Sheng (who may be Australian by now). 

My visit to the  Festival this year was fruitful in many ways, with some observations and lessons that we can draw from should we in Singapore attempt such a feat.

SCALE

It is undoubtedly true that without scale of participation, no media would want to cover such an event. The latest Merdeka Team Tournament held last week attracted 473 players, with 8 GMs, 11 IMs and 12 FMs in the fold. For such a tournament to be held in Singapore, a decent hall the size of the wedding banquet will have to be found..very likely this can happen when weddings are scarce, such as the Seventh Moon period.  September and October will be out of the question as no hotel will be able to accommodate the request, unless the event takes place in a sports hall. 

I do not see a problem of getting the number of participants that they have there, although the bulk of it will be juniors. It takes a lot to coax our seniors here to give a weekend to play chess, but if it is presented as a social event rather than competitive, it may just work. 

SPONSORSHIP

Malaysia has had the generosity of Datuk Tan Chin Nam, whose unfailing sponsorship of the event by way of the Function Room in the MidValley Cititel and prize money in conjunction with the other sponsors delivered RM17350 ( SGD 6940). Not big money in Singapore, but the buzz it creates for the local chess scene is tremendous. Can we do better? I am sure we can, so long as the business plan is well crafted and substantiated with the 3 factors. 

Securing sponsorship for such events is no easy task for any organisation, be it the recepient or the sponsor. How much of the budget is allocated as advertisement to the sponsor and the rest to the organisational costs has got to be carefully worked out. I have seen too many events where not enough was done to tend to the sponsors' needs and thus there was no continued support hence. 

INFRASTRUCTURE

This is perhaps the only weak link we face - the number of arbiters, volunteers to enter the scores, set up the boards and score sheets, etc. But can't we utilise the schools to send their children who are not playing to do this under the VIA scheme and earn CCA points for it? We should start to garner help by having enough parties to take up the FIDE arbiter course, then get them to officiate this event to earn their wings. 


COMMENTS FROM CHESS PARENTS PART 2

Once again, my blog is open for comments from parents. Please post your comments if you are a chess-parent on matters which are of concern to you and your child regarding chess.

The floor is once again open. Let's keep it clean.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

OUR OWN NATIONAL CHESS CONVERSATION

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.