As SCF President seeks to reform chess at the world level by joining Team Kasparov, he will have his hands full from now till the August elections in Tromso. The chess world is holding its breath till then for the advent of long-awaited reforms to FIDE to reach out to the masses and gain bigger exposure for the royal game.
Yet however, there are also long-awaited and pressing reforms that need to be addressed at home should chess gain a bigger foothold locally. Though the SCF has aligned the Schools' competition into the format of the ECCA format, there remains a few other aspects that we in the chess community would like to see reformed:
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT
The current exclusivity of the National Championship, restricted to just players above 2400 (albeit with 2 wildcards) in my opinion should be rescinded. Even if it would cost some players their ELO points to play in the event. I do not think protecting the ELO points of the elite players would help the development of chess in the long-run. The fact is that budding Singaporean players from 2000-2300 ELO do not get a fair chance to play and try to improve themselves locally, causing them to seek their competition overseas which of course is a costly affair. The National Championship is one of the few standard-game tournaments held here and thus it should be at least open to anyone rated 2000 and above.
ENCOURAGE MORE ADULT PARTICIPATION
SCF should do more to organise competitions where only adults can play in - for the simple reason that not many of them would want to lose to juniors. Yes, I know it sounds silly but what can you do to FIDE-rated players who refuse to play kids in friendly games for fear of losing? Sad but if we need to revive the chess scene, we would need to encourage more adults to play by setting aside tournaments where their egos do not feel threatened. One of these could be the Inter-Team competitions which can be the continuation of the previous Inter-Clubs tournaments in the 80s-90s. In those days these tournaments do not see juniors participating. The casual format of gettting 4 adult players to form a team can persuade many a former player to take up the game and revive their interest, which can create opportunities to sponsorship of other similar events, Adults these days do not mind taking part in team events much like the Merdeka tournaments in KL which had grown to more than 100 teams taking part. I believe we can do the same here if we try. The ideal time control is perhaps 25 minutes with 5 sec increment so that the 7 round event can end in a day.
We would definitely require more arbiters to run so many events that it will be useful to conduct arbiter courses just before the National Age Group in November and have them officiate it. An estimated 8 to 10 more arbiters would be required to fill the gaps left by the previous generation of Mr Lim Chye Lye, Koh Sei Hian, George Wong, Tan Peng Huat and Douglas Wong who had served in the last 20 years.
NATIONAL SCHOOLS' CHAMPIONSHIPS
More needs to be done in the Schools' scene I feel as it is quite evident that many secondary schools are closing their chess clubs for lack of students joining. The reason? Most students who are representing their schools only get to play in 2 events a year and this is not sufficient to earn themselves CCA points for that activity. SCF can help either in creating more divisions amongst the schools to create more prize winners, or to create new competitions. Perhaps the National Schools' Blitz competition can be introduced ? It could then justify the trainers' costs if they had more competitions to prepare their students. Another one could be the National Schools' problem-solving competition or even 960 tournaments to allow more participation for the Secondary School students.
It is heartening to hear that there are steps taken to shortlist potential junior players to groom them for excellence, however I feel that it should be made known that those who are currently not in the National Junior Squad should also be considered in the shortlist. The terms can be spelt out to them and ultimately it is up to the player concerned to take up the offer and make adjustments to their training schedule with their personal coaches.
NATIONAL JUNIOR SQUAD AUDIT
As the program passed its 16th year from 1998, I feel it is high time an audit of the program is due. Some of the points of reference can be:
a. The efficacy of the program in terms of performance of students before and after they had joined, say over 4 terms.
b. Grading test results to track the students' progress in understanding of the materials taught
c. Feedback from students' on trainers' performance. Of course, the findings will be kept confidential and only used during performance appraisal.
Hopefully the EXCO can look into these points in their remaining year of office and make their due contribution to the local chess scene.