Thursday, 25 December 2008

First Asia Club Cup Begins


It's Christmas today. And until New Year's day, the Al Ain Hilton and InterContinental hotels will be home to 30 teams participating in the first Asia Club Cup thanks to Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifah Al-Nehyan, President of the Asia Chess Federation.

Frankly I am mentally and physically exhausted after almost non-stop travel including most recently attending the Chess Olympiad in Dresden followed by coaches seminars in Bali and Sri Lanka and then to return home to organise the KL Open Championship, so what do I do for rest but end up here in Al Ain, UAE as part of an quickly put together ASEAN team under the Club INTCHESS banner playing in the first Asia Club Cup!

I am the captain and Board 4 of a team that is surprisingly seeded eighth with GM Bui Vinh of Vietnam, IM Julio Catalino Sadorra of the Philippines, IM Tirto of Indonesia the "serious" players and owner Ignatius Leong of Singapore, like me, the old "patzers" trying to hold up the last board between us.

Our  competition? Well, for example the top seeded Al Ain Chess Club has an average rating of 2679 and GM Li Chao of China is only the alternate! And in the second favourite team, GM Ghaem Maghami Ehsan is on second board for the Teheran Chess Club but is actually  only the fourth ranked player on the team.  We also have essentially the national teams of China, Philippines, Uzbekistan and Vietnam ranked third to sixth.

More relevantly, the team seeded above us, the Chennai Chess Club is well ahead of us with 4 IM's averaging 2432, and the Mongolian team just below us is not too different from their national side as well! So with me as the weak link (Ignatius Leong will only be around a few days), on paper at least we seem to have a chance and are of course hoping to win our group by finishing seventh!

Yes, the enduring optimism of chess players which often suspends reality! Such is the beauty of chess competition. And who knows, Christmas is a season of giving (and so some must be receiving!).

Monday, 22 December 2008

KL Open - Begining of a New Chapter for Malaysian Chess?

The KL Open Chess Championship has ended - on a high with a very memorable Closing and Prize Giving Ceremony at the Legend Hotel - and by any standard is happily a great success. The buzz this event generated ensured that FIDE General Secretary and ASEAN Chess Confederation President Ignatius Leong flew in from Vietnam and that the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) would be fully represented by both its non chess playing President and slighly more adept Deputy President.    

The Crown Prince of Perak, Dr Raja Nazrin Shah was at hand to give away the prizes which included the challenge trophy that he allowed to bear his name and that is indeed significant as he himself was not only a chess player in his Oxford days but is also someone who is very particular about his associations, being conscious of his standing and leadership role amongst the both the "rakyat" and his fellow monarchy.

I once played a game with Raja Nazrin, over 20 years ago after being introduced by a mutual friend as the national champion, and of course I beat him, not with too much difficulty (he was about a 2000 rating then) but only by just converting an advantage in the endgame and together with the polite noises one makes after losing (he was not a prince then and his father was still Lord President of the Supreme Court) I did not miss the gentle remark that as Malaysia's top player I should have done much better!  

This says a lot about the man and the respect he commands.

Kudos to Edmund Santhara, President of KL Chess Association and CEO of Masterskill (a real chessplayer who even attributes his success in the corporate world to strategic thinking he has developed from being a chessplayer!) which was the main sponsor, a big thank you to MCF Secretary Gregory Lau for ensuring smooth relations and close cooperation for an event that cannot be anything but good for Malaysian chess, and of course to the relatively inexperienced but hard working and always willing team put together by Chief Arbiter Latiff Mohamad.

As Tournament Director I must also thank my friends Butch Villavieja from the Philippines and Dawn Hui from Singapore for helping out in key roles and especially ASEAN Chess Confederation Secretary-General Sebastian Simanjuntak from Indonesia who not only brought a huge and representative delegation from Indonesia but also found time to help out in so many ways while playing and winning a big prize he prompty donated!  

There were many firsts, from having 11 countries represented, prizes for the visually handicapped, supporting events like the simultaneous exhibition between the VIP Tournament Guest of Honour and a National Junior Selection, the enthusiastic participation of numerous titled players despite a modest prize fund, two players becoming a Grandmaster and an International Master respectively, numerous young players getting rated, and many of these details can be found by going to 

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Nikola Karaklajic - R.I.P.

International Master and International Arbiter Nikola Karaklajic of Yugoslavia and Serbia, a true chess great and someone I was privileged to have met and spent a great deal of time with, has passed away on December 16 at the age of 83.

Karaklajic was never a full time chess professional in the fullest sense even though his accomplishments were staggering as stated in the press release by the Belgrade Chess Union 

"He was one of the most important figures in Yugoslavian and Serbian chess. Player, writer, trainer, organizer, arbiter, journalist, chess ambassador - it is not easy to sum all his achievements." 

Outside of chess he held a fulltime job and was a multi talented individual with so many firsts including being a radio DJ who very early discovered the Beatles and brought their music to the young people of his country!

Personally I owe him a lot as he taught me what was important in chess and he was a very kind and good friend indeed.

When I was in Belgrade in the 80's trying to understand what was the system of training used by Yugoslavia (at that time the number 2 chess nation in the world after the Soviet Union) I stayed with him in his cosy little apartment and he not only facilitate my research at the federation's offices and with clubs and players but would also find time to personally show me many aspects of life in his truly beautiful country. 

Sir, you lived life as everyone should - and fought the good fight indeed - we who have had the honour of meeting you and perhaps the privilege of knowing you do congratulate you!  

Monday, 8 December 2008

Yes, I was in Dresden

Yup. That's me working in the Press Centre. One of best places to be with Internet access and live game feeds, refreshments and lots of interviews going on through the day at official times as well as in the corners where old friends can often be seen in animated discussion.

I also consulted with a couple of teams and one even gave me a room which cut down significantly on my bills and allowed me to eat very well indeed at the wonderful breakfast and lunch buffets to be had daily at the hotel. 

Friday, 5 December 2008

Coaches Seminar in Bali

I was in Bali, Indonesia from 1-4 December to conduct the first ever FIDE Seminar for Coaches in Indonesia and I am now writing this in Sri Lanka where I would be doing two national seminars in the next few days before rushing back late on 12 December for the KL Open.

This seminar was organised by Gunadarma University under the auspicious of the ASEAN Chess Academy (as the FIDE Regional Academy for Asia) and is endorsed by PERCASI (Indonesian Chess Federation).

A total of 23 participants took part, 21 local and 2 from Malaysia, and because they came from all over Indonesia and found the cost extremely expensive, and yet wanted badly to learn, most had to travel several days over sea and land just to attend.

The full report is posted at

What I would like to share from my experience teaching this seminar is that in general the Indonesian participants demonstrated a high level of tactical ability (as is their traditional strength) and only needed structure and systems to harness their natural passion and enthusiasm to play and now to also teach chess.

Most also had their own successful schools and there was a recognition not only of improving their skills but also that such qualifications were very important for their professional development.

Indonesia despite its many challenges related to geography has now the biggest pool of young talent amongst girls in the world and I hope the seminar has helped many of these dedicated coaches continue their excellent work and perhaps even do an even better job!

My compliments to Bunawan, the prime mover behind this seminar, who tirelessly organised and whom I suspect also personally bankrolled many expenses too because he understood its importance to development.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Announcing the KL International Open Chess Championship!

klca logo


KL Open in Malaysia
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

The Kuala Lumpur Chess Association (KLCA) is pleased to announce the KL Open Chess Championship with sponsorship from Masterskill University College of Heath Sciences.

Managed by Intchess Malaysia, this event will be held in Kuala Lumpur from 15-21 December 2008. There will be three categories - Open, Challengers, and Visually Impaired (Blind) and there will also be a blitz tournament on the rest day and also a special simultaneous exhibition in aid of charity.

The KL Open will immediately follow the Singapore Open (download prospectus here)  and the organisers will facilitate transfers from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur for invited players who are also early registrants in the Open. 

Participants wishing to combine chess and a holiday in Malaysia are allowed up to a total of three half point byes in the 9 round swiss tournament which will be FIDE rated.

Details can be viewed below and the prospectus can also be downloaded by clicking here .

Sunday, 2 November 2008

World Youth Championships 2008 - Final Medal Standings


I think that this was clearly a most memorable event that has set new standards for future World Youth Championships - all thanks to the warmth and hospitality of the Vietnamese people.

All the games are now at as well as the updated photo galleries which can also be found at

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

4 Types of Trainers?

The following is taken from Senior FIDE Trainer & International Grandmaster Efstratios Grivas's lecture notes at the Seminar for Coaches held in Vung Tau, Vietnam. 

Written in 2003, this sure looks a lot like the FIDE titles awarded to trainers after you take away the Senior FIDE Trainer title which currently cannot be earned anyway!

Trainers’ Ranking

Every trainer is useful in specific stages in the progress of a chess-player. We could try to categorize chess trainers as follows:

First-Level Trainer: The trainer who will teach the student the basics and bring him into contact with the world of chess. One of his main aims is to infuse the student with love and respect for chess. DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTOR?

Second-Level Trainer: The trainer who will teach the student his first openings, simple tactical motifs and, generally, will introduce the student to the aspects of working and learning. NATIONAL INSTRUCTOR?

Third-Level Trainer: The trainer who will teach the student, first and foremost, the theory of the middlegame and the endgame. Moreover, he will work closely with the student towards the creation of the student's personalized openings repertoire, which he will also help enrich with new ideas. FIDE INSTRUCTOR?  

Fourth-Level Trainer: The trainer who will continue in the footsteps of the previous one, but will also introduce the student to other important aspects of chess, such as the concept of and preparation for competitive success. Trainers of such calibre and skill are very scarce, and are only necessary to those chess-players who wish to reach a high level of play or seek competitive success in any form. FIDE TRAINER?

Friday, 17 October 2008

China are the First WMSG Champions!

The 1st World Mind Sports Games has concluded and by sweeping the Team Rapid events China is only now finally 100% sure they are the overall champions!

Until the very last move both Ukraine and Russia had a real chance of spoiling the host's party and all credit to the young Chinese players who pulled through so soon after a the disaster of the Team Blitz when two Gold medals were lost in the finals.

Looking at the final standings you cannot imagine how close it all was:

1. China 4 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze 
2. Russia 2 Gold, 1 Silver, and 
3. Ukraine 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze

I was handling the top boards every day during the games where as top seeds China almost permanently camped out event after event and I have never seen at such close quarters how a group of young players was subjected to so much pressure to succeed.

All were guilty without understanding it - the officials, coaches (naturally), so called friends, expectant media, even perhaps the organisers.  

Until the overall victory was confirmed with victory in the finals, this memorable and meaningful picture that I persuaded them to let me take just before a must win game is the only picture you will see of the Chinese womens team taking a moment to relax and let it out the entire event!  

Congratulations China! Your players deserve to be Champions.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Duties of a Match Arbiter

The 1st World Mind Sports Games (WMSG) is the second such event dedicated to "game type" sports endorsed by and supported by the International Olympic Council that I have been involved in (the other of course being MAIGOC last year).

Both the WMSG and MAIGOC (as events of this type will) share two special charateristics which differentiate them significantly from "normal" chess tournaments but if FIDE chooses to continue to go down the path of chess as sport we will certainly have to get used to these type of events!

First is that we are part of a multi sport event and there are common rules and obligations that have to adhered to. It has been a learning experience for many players (even officials) to realise that the event is less about them than for all!

Second is that there are big physical demands. We have games from 10 to 7 daily, and in blitz and rapid play format (no classical chess as that takes too much time if the objective is to have many medals at stake). There is great stress and tension from having to perform game after game, in one match after another in quick succession, and a lot is at stake. 

The arbiters (we are called referees here) also realise our great responsibility as the wrong decision can be the difference between Gold and Silver and that first or second place in the overall standings.

Normal rules of play have had to be modified and we even have Yellow and Red cards to give warnings to players before the ultimate penalty of forfeit.

And the Appeals Committee must now start to understand that they have a big job and that if they agree to be a member it is not for a line in their resume or even some paid holiday (not the case here I think) but a big job demanding high standards of integrity and a desire to be pro-active to do the right thing.  

The experienced and competent arbiters amongst us (some which are representing a "Gang of Four" in the picture above which was taken at the Temple of Heaven!) understand that all arbiter jobs are diffferent but equally important.

A match arbiter has to immediately pick up a problem during a game and to intervene for fair play and also to make a call in case of dispute and if not also a strong and experienced player he or she cannot do this job (it is no accident that the four above together with me and a few others are all former chessplayers of a good level and so are handling the top boards and matches).

There is also the protocols involved in getting results confirmed by players and captains and the setting of DGT boards and clocks with various configurations of increment time controls.

Give me the supervising job anytime!          

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Staying at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Village

I am one of the few foreign arbiters fortunate enough to be at the 1st World Mind Sports Games in Beijing and the picture is the view looking out at the entrance of Beijing International Convention Centre (BICC) where the games are held (and in the background is the famous Bird's Nest we have all been so used to seeing on TV leading up to and during Beijing 2008).

Our schedule unfortunately is rather hectic - from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (and for unlucky ones like me who have other duties it is usually back to work after dinner) and so not much time to do anything else besides sleep!

We lowly match arbiters are staying at service apartments nearby (10 minute walk), two to a room, the same accommodation the athletes at Beijing 2008 enjoyed. Meals are at the main hotel within the apartment complex and there are also all sorts of recreational facilities such as restaurants which I suppose was necessary to keep the athletes sane and to make sure they spent their dollars!

Full coverage of the 1st World Mind Sports Games is available at and don't forget there are live games at

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Perennial Parent Problem!

As a parent, helping your child reach his or her fullest potential - and to grow up happy! - is perhaps the most challenging and difficult task (job?) you would ever have. And yet in today's world with ever geater demands of time due to technology and globalisation, often both parents struggle with full time careers while still bringing up a family.

Now, throw in the extra component of nurturing young sports talent, even if real as opposed to imagined or hoped for as is often the case (!), it is a miracle indeed if it does not end up a complete mess!

In chess (and it must be the same for other sports), the game's administrators, tournament organisers, and especially the professional coaches clearly further complicate the mix, and yet where it comes to recognising which parents are failing their little "talents" in realising their potential, there seems to be an immediate consensus!

But let me perhaps try and offer some perspective for the chess administrator, tournament organiser, and trainer:

1. He or she is still their child, their responsibility - we can only play our role in relation to the development of the game no matter what our agenda/role might be (national promotion, child enrichment, successful international participation, etc.).

2. For every champion, there have been (and will always be!) literally thousands who started the same journey and fell by the wayside for whatever reason - we only see the few at the top of a very large pyramid and so can only guess at the many tragic stories (the sacrifices, bad luck, etc.) of those many who did not make it - although sometimes we get to learn about it because they almost did!

3. And if you have a child, really how good a job are you doing with your own young superstar?

My advice: Chess is not life. Just let your child grow up happy!

Monday, 15 September 2008 - Providing Asian Chess Organisers & Talent with a Media Showcase

ChessASIA aims to provide comprehensive coverage of major chess events in the Asia-Pacific, and in doing so, to document the exploits and achievements of the talent emerging from the region.

Where possible we seek to establish event marketing partnerships with organisers to offer our media services on site during tournaments - including helping with daily press releases and generating daily bulletins.

In short, ChessASIA desires to facilitate promotion of national and international events held in Asia both online and through the use of other digital technologies where available and possible.

Our content is available without charge to all official media organisations and tournament organisers, and through our international media partner Chessdom.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A Malaysian Tragedy - A Comedy With Endless Acts?

I first learnt last year from Mas Hafizulhelmi at MAIGOC (Macau Asia Indoor Games) that he had been given 18 months paid leave by his employer Petronas (the Malaysian National Oil Company) to pursue his dream of becoming Malaysia's first grandmaster.

With encouragement from Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) Deputy President Ibrahim Abu Bakar who was present there as their team manager, we met with FIDE General Secretary Ignatius Leong (at my very personal request) to discuss how best we could help him achieve this and so the following plan was developed (after Mas was warned by him that than 18 months might not be enough time):

1. Senior Trainers from the ASEAN Chess Academy would begin reviewing his games and in the meantime we would arrange for him to play in a number of tournaments to get games for much needed practice against top level competition.
2. After 3-4 months, we would review his performance, subject the games to detailed analysis and if necessary, do any required remedial work. Otherwise it would be back to competition.
3. The first objective would be to get him to the level of a strong IM (2460) and if achieved, then work towards the second objective which is a 2500 rating after which hopefully the third and final objective of making GMs norms (2600 rating performances) could happen. In short, a realistic step by step approach.

But immediately on our return to KL this began to unravel.

Of course I do not think for once the above approach is the only way but judge for your self what happened next (just the facts and not the inside story!):

1. Mas was immediately shipped for a month of training with the Australian Grandmaster Ian Roger thanks to sponsorship by Dato' Tan Chin Nam (at that point still MCF President) and so what was agreed by us in Macau was immediately brushed aside. In fact then MCF Honorary Secretary Abdul Hamid Majid (whom I understand is only qualified as an arbiter in chess) had taken personal charge of his program and was arranging his tournaments so he was then sent to play in the Commonwealth Championship.
2. After that, following the Singapore-Malaysia Match, Mas played in the Singapore Open, then at the Tarakan GM "A", in a tournament in Iran, and finally, together with more training from Rogers, at the Doberl Cup and Sydney Open in Australia, all with results consistent with his current 2380+ rating.
3. Having run out of tournaments, Hamid asked the organisers for a free entry and full conditions in the back to back Philippines and Subic International Opens (he actually told them that Mas was too poor to pay the entry fee) but after that embarassing request was refused he paid up and played anyway and with pretty much the same results.
4. Next I heard that Mas was playing in First Saturday Budapest followed by the Biel Open in Switzerland and that suddenly his results were much better and even if he had missed GM norms he might have finally made an IM norm and he would have gotten rating points (some 30-40 elo points).
5. Back at the Malaysian Open, Mas is again back at his 2380+ rating level despite his trainer Rogers in attendance, but all the buzz was about the special GM tournament being arranged for him after where he would hopefully make his first GM norm. (I am writing this after he failed mathematically just after the half way mark as Mas is sensitive to criticism and I don't want him to blame me!).

I still wish Mas well but I have to break my silence with this article and also to say here that he has not yet demonstrated he is playing beyond 2400 level and that is far from the 2600 performance he needs to make GM norms.

From the start we had advocated a step by step approach to get his level up (as far that is possible would of course depend on his talent, character, and work ethic and of course the tournaments arranged) but instead he is expected to immediately be playing at GM level!

There are so many things wrong with how Malaysian chess is run and do blame the people responsible for it for easily two decades now but this is really a tragedy that should not be played out in public.

But perhaps to understand why we might need to assign roles to the leading actors:

1. Mas (the ultimate victim perhaps but not totally innocent of all responsibility as he is naturally a willing party and prepared to go along)
2. Petronas (perhaps duped by MCF - wittingly or otherwise - into giving Mas their full support)
3. Hamid (at best clearly simply completely incompetent to run this program)
4. Dato Tan (apparently no longer with the capacity to make decisions on his own but did he ever understand what he was doing where chess was concerned as is now so vividly illustrated by 4 decades of complete failure?)
5. Ian Rogers (can easily be accused to be professionally dishonest and even of being in it for the money and/or to curry favour with Dato Tan)
6. Malaysian chess (our hopes unnecessarily raised and then to be horribly shattered)

Do you know why do I choose to illustrate this post - my first in genuine anger at what chess in Malaysia has come to as I thought I had stopped caring - with the logo?

Because while the likes of Andrew Ooi do means well, it also has come to be representative of the celebration of mediocrity together with self delusion that is Malaysian chess today.

In short, we deserve what we have as that is what we are, having chosen it!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Both My & Chessdom's Report on Asian Dragons Invitational

Kaohsiung was warm, the hospitality even warmer - thanks to Chinese Taipei Chess Associations's Liu Ko-Fei Fei, Dina Chen and Elsa Yueh - my schedule was very tight from arrival at night to double rounds daily and departure immediately after but they found a way to drag me out two evenings.

Despite only getting out after 8 p.m. and with an 11 p.m. curfew (!), I got to ride the MRT, see Central Park, stroll along Love River with other tourists, visit and eat at a Night Market the first night out, and on the second occasion, to take a drive across the entire city to the Harbour to catch a ferry to an Island for Seafood and after to climb up to the former British Consulate for a great view and of course more of the "Flavoured Tea" drinks locals enjoy so much.

A happy picture - the Singapore team celebrating Gold, Silver & Bronze! Once again, and expected, the biggest winners and probably will be for some time yet.

On the chess tournament, the report by Elsa Yueh published on Chessdom pretty much covers the event and because we used Swiss-Manager, results are at

I should end here by congratulating the players on their fighting spirt, the organisers for understanding the importance of having events such as this to expose their players to competition and to give them the opportunity to earn FIDE ratings, and all for the spirit of friendship.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Asian Dragons in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

After catching a welcome few days back home to catch up with family and work (see "A Successful African Seminar for Trainers", I'm off again - this time to be Chief Arbiter at the Asian Dragons Invitational in Kaohsiung, Taiwan from 16-23 August 2008.

The Asian Dragons Invitation, held at the National Sports Training Centre, is an annual event that involves 5 countries - South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and of course the hosts Chinese Taipei - and has two sections, an Open for players 2100 and below, and Youth Under 16.

So it is a largely developmental event.

Last year Singapore took the bulk of medals and it is expected to be the same this year although a more serious challenge is expected from South Korea and Hong Kong which have made significant progress in the last year.

Until I get there, for more details you will have to contact Dina Chen of the Chinese Taipei Chess Association via email at

Monday, 4 August 2008

Travelling to Gaborone, Botswana, Africa

Ever tried long distance air travel recently?

I have been so used to hops of a few hours between ASEAN and neigbouring countries of late that I have forgotten what it was like!

The other big thing is that security arrangements tend to vary by country, airport, and airline.

Of course, KLIA, Changi, and Johannesburg are some of the very best airports in the world but it was "still off with your shoes", "take out your laptop", etc., all I suppose necessary in today's much less safe world.

I am now in Gaborone, Botswana, Africa at a very pleasant time indeed - the end of winter where it is cool but not cold and a jacket is a nice thing to wear while sleeping without air conditioning is very enjoyable.

But to get here necessitated a 4 hour wait in KLIA to get onto a one hour flight to Changi, Singapore for another 4 hour wait to catch a 2.20 a.m. much longer flight to Johannesburg, South Africa where on arrival it was yet another 4 hours (but now with also having to check out with baggage and clear immigration before checking right back in) before boarding a twin turbo prop driven plane for the short hop to Gabonone.

The seminar has started - but my assistant lecturer is still trying to convince Indian immigration to let him leave the country because he has already gotten a visa on arrival in Botswana - but that is for a further post.

A pictorial essay of my journey is being updated as I go along at:

Sunday, 27 July 2008

I was present at the 4th World Schools Championship, 23-31 July 2008, Singapore

The 4th World Schools Championship 2008 attracted 258 players from 24 countries of which about half, some 115 came from Singapore (of its neighbours, Indonesia had 37, Malaysia had just 3 but the again Brunei and the Philippines had none!).

Organised by the Singapore Chess Federation, managed by Intchess Asia, and co-hosted by Teck Ghee Community Club, the event had 11 categories - Open 17, Open 15, Open 13, Open 11, Open 9, Open 7, Girls 15, Girls 13, Girls 11, Girls 9, and Girls 7 - so a total of 12 individual and 11 team gold medals were up for grabs.

Singapore Chess

With the largest contingent and especially in the categories where other countries were under represented, Singapore was always going to win the bulk of team medals but the question was how many individual medals would they actually get with their junior development program?

In the end, Terry Chua in the Open 17 and Daniel Chan in the Open 15 did the host country proud with great fighting performances to become Singapore's latest World Schools Champions.

The Singapore players generally dominated these two categories, and several others had their chances to win too but still all credit must go to these two who after losing their way early showed great determination and put together a string of wins against their main opposition to emerge the gold medalists on tiebreak.

Young Nathan Mar in the Open 7 was horribly unlucky to miss out by losing out through the narrowest of tiebreaks and so failed to emulate compatriot Derek Lim's ground breaking championship performance in 2006 when he became their first ever World Champion.

Helping Out

I was the Deputy Chief Arbiter, but also served (with many others) as a kind of Tournament Director/Assistant Organiser, ensuring buses left daily on time with most of the players, arranging to taking care of minor medical needs, finding lost bags (on occasion even a missing player), looking into things like hall air conditioning, barriers, etc. and ensuring clocks worked, there were sufficient scoresheets and that the pairings were up and the bulletins printed and distributed on time.

Some Observations

1. Teck Ghee Community Club proved to be just right for this size of event, the hall fitting all participants comfortably, and the facilities there made the parent's "wait" more pleasant that in most similar events (the only complaint perhaps being a shopping mall next door would be so much better than a food court!).

2. While there was free wireless broadband access thanks to Intchess Asia's ASEAN Chess Academy also being located in the same premises, with 4 official hotels in 3 locations, maybe taking advantage of modern communications to more aggressively publish pairings (even making it the only option) might have been the way to go.

3. But all in all, most saw the event as very much a training tournament, an opportunity for some to expose their children to international youth competition and for others to have a benchmark towards a longer term plan (and if in doing so becoming a World Champion was also nice!)

Finally, I would like to put on record my thanks to Executive Director Thomas Hoe the Singapore Chess Federation for putting me up at Hotel Royal where the very professional staff there also proved that service and hospitality is still very much alive in Singapore!

The detailed results, games and other information can of course be found at the official website at

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Second Half of 2008 is Full Indeed!

From my previous post, my readers would have gathered I was recently in Manila where amongst other things I witnessed the start of the Philippine National Championship Finals which also serves as their qualifier for the 38th World Chess Olympiad.

On getting back home I started taking a harder look at the emails I was viewing there via Blackberry Connect and started inking in the events I might be involved in and the list just grew and grew!

22 to 31 July 2008: 4th World Schools Individual Championships, Singapore

3-10 August 2008: FIDE CACDEC Seminar for Trainers, Gaborone, Botswana, Africa

16-23 August 2008: Asian Dragons Invitation, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

26 August to 2 September 2008: 6th Leg ASEAN Grand Prix: 1st Dragon City - Vietnam Open, Vung Tau, Vietnam

6 to 13 September 2008: 1st Leg Asia-Pacific Pro Tour: 3rd PGMA Cup, Manila, Philippines

13 to 20 September 2008: 2nd Leg Asia-Pacific Pro Tour: 4th Pichay Cup, Manila, Philippine

3 to 18 October 2008: 1st World Mind Sports Games, Beijing, China

19 to 31 October 2008: World Youth Championships, Vung Tau, Vietnam

12 to 26 November 2008: 38th World Chess Olympiad, Dresden, Germany

29 November to 6 December 2008: 3rd Leg Asia-Pacific Pro Tour: 1st Korea Open, Seoul, South Korea

7 to 14 December: 4th Leg Asia-Pacific Pro Tour: Singapore Open, Singapore

Just look at the above. From Deputy Chief Arbiter in Singapore during the World Schools, I would have to immediately switch to being a FIDE Trainer in Botswana.

Then after a week it would be from 16 August to 31 October 2008, literally 6 tournaments, many back to back (opens, games, and championships) in more than two months, where I would likely be either part of the organising team and/or arbiter!

Some 10 days later (probably just catching up on sleep!) going to the Olympiad in Desden, but in what capacity is probably another story by itself!

After all these, coming home at the end of November would be very nice indeed.

While there is also a number of big events immediately following including the 1st Korea Open, and Singapore Opens, and whether I am involved or not, and at what level, I will certainly be celebrating Christmas with my family!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

National Team Selection - On Merit and Without Fear or Favour!

With the start of the National Chess Championship Finals today and which will be held in Manila from 1-13 July 2008, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) is at the final stage of a 4 month long Olympiad team selection process that saw 1,500 players participate in 16 regional qualifiers!

The qualifiers, together with titled players, 150 in total advanced to the Semi-Finals where 12 men and 6 women made it to the finals where they were joined by the top 6 men and women on the FIDE rating list.

NCFP President Prospero Pichay who inaugurated the event in a short opening ceremony announced that this event would, as published earlier, be the basis of qualification for both the 38th World Chess Olympiad 2008 and the World Mind Sports Games held a month earlier in Beijing.

He also reminded the players present that it was indeed a honour and privilege to represent your country at such prestigious events and noted that GM Mark Paragua and GM Darwin Laylo had even returned from playing in the USA to try and qualify.

The men finalists are: GM Wesley So, GM Mark Paragua, GM Jayson Gonzales, IM John Paul Gomez, IM Julio Catalino Sadorra, GM Darvin Laylo, GM Buenaventura Villamayor, IM Ronald Bancod, IM Chito Garma, Jerry Nodado, IM Barlo Nadera, Jony Habla, Noel Dela Cruz, Edmundo Gatus, Leonardo Carlos, Haridas Pascua, IM Richard Bitoon, and IM Rolando Nolte.

Notable absentees were veteran GM Eugenio Torre and his long time rival GM Joey Antonio.

And the women finalists are: Catherine Perena, Shercila Cua, Enerose Magno, Sherily Cua, Chardine Cheradee Camacho, Kimberley Jane Cunanan, Daisy Rivera, Christy Lamiel Bernales, WIM Cristine Rose Mariano, Rida Jane Young, and Eden Tumbos.

Sheerie Joy Lomibao missed the start of play.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Invitation for Young Champions to Participate in the World Schools Individual Championships 2008


The Singapore Chess Federation has the honour of inviting National Chess Federations, School Sports Associations and school chess champions to participate in the 4th WORLD SCHOOLS CHESS CHAMPIONSHIPS organised in Singapore from 22nd July (Arrival) to 31st July (Departure) 2008.

Each National Federation or School Association or schools may enter an unlimited number of players in each of the 12 age groups. In the event that any girls’ category has less than 10 participants, it will be merged with the same age group of the open category.

Entitled to participate are players who shall not have reached the age:

- Of 7, by 1st January 2008 (date of Birth – January 1st, 2001 and after) – Category Under 7;

- Of 9, by 1st January 2008 (date of Birth – January 1st, 1999 and after) – Category Under 9;

- Of 11, by 1st January 2008 (date of Birth – January 1st, 1997 and after) – Category Under 11;

- Of 13, by 1st January 2008 (date of Birth – January 1st, 1995 and after) – Category Under 13;

- Of 15, by 1st January 2008 (date of Birth – January 1st, 1993 and after) – Category Under 15;

- Of 17, by 1st January 2008 (date of Birth – January 1st, 1991 and after) – Category Under 17;

Entry forms must be filled from the National Federations or School Associations or own School and returned to the Organising Committee not later than 15th June 2008. If the registration form is not filled by the Federation a copy must be sent to the National Federation.

The Playing Venue is Teck Ghee Community Club, 861 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Singapore 569734. Board and Lodging will be provided at Hotel Royal (4-star), Newton Road (20 minutes by train) and Hangout Hotel (30 minutes by train).

All participants are obliged to lodge at the official hotels. Every accompanying person who requests a visa from the Organising Committee is obliged to lodge at the official hotels. Bookings are made only through the Organising Committee (fill registration and bookings forms).

For registration and more details, go to:

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A Generation of Young Talent Emerges at the 9th ASEAN Age Groups!

L-R: Camacho Chardine Cheradee, Cherrie Ann Meija, Nguyen Thi Mai Hung were All Gold Medalists in the U-14 Girls Rapid.

Vietnam, with 134 medals, more than twice that of the Philippines, was the clear winner at the ASEAN+ Age-Group Championships 2008 held in Danang, Vietnam.

But they did not have it all their way in the ultra competitive U-14 age-group categories! 

In ASEAN today, as in the rest of the world, talent is confirming itself after 12-13 years of age, and Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore all showed they have many such players, amongst boys (all) and amongst girls (most). 

Singapore: Gold, Philippines: Silver, and Vietnam: Bronze in the Boys U-14

There is no doubt at all in the normal course of events, all these players would easily become IMs/WIMs in the next two years (the weakest would be FMs/WFMs and the very best possibly GMs/WGMs).

But there are very serious questions as to where they would be then and their respective National Federations must pay attention!

1. Young players are not professionals - they will be faced with increasing challenges of school, even going to college.
2. They need proper training and they need international tournaments - otherwise they will be FMs/WFMs and not GMs/WGMs.

None of the above is new, and certainly not rocket science. The question therefore before parents, teachers, and officials is what are we doing for them?  

Monday, 16 June 2008

NCFP Outsources the Event Management of its International Competitions

From L-R, Standing: Sabli Metussin (Brunei), Gregory Lau (Malaysia), Yap Choon Tun (Brunei/Auditor), Casto Abundo (Deputy President, Asia Chess Federation), Thanit Chirananthavat (Thailand), Edmundo Legaspi (Philippines), Peter Long (Executive Director) Seated: Sebastian Simanjuntak (Indonesia/Secretary General), Ignatius Leong (Singapore/President), Prospero Pichay (Philippines/Deputy President), Dang Tat Thang (Vietnam/Vice President & Host) and Maung Maung Lwin (Myanmar/Treasurer).   

In a ground breaking development, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), represented by its President Prospero Pichay signed a contract - outsourcing the Event Management of all its International Events in the next two years - to Intchess Asia Pte Ltd represented by its CEO Ignatius Leong.

This followed the ASEAN Chess Confederation (ACC) Board Meeting in Danang, Vietnam, where amongst other things it was agreed that all ACC events would be managed for ACC by Intchess Asia Pte Ltd on the proposal of ACC Treasurer Maung Maung Lwin which was seconded by ACC Deputy President Prospero Pichay.

ACC Secretary General Sebastian Simanjuntak was then tasked by the meeting to develop host and organiser guidelines together with and any necessary rules and regulations required to support the bidding process.

This agreement, according to Prospero Pichay, was significant as it engages professionals with a proven track record in organising international chess events while challenging both parties to develop mechanisms to better engage media and developing activities which would not only further promote chess but also bring tangible benefits to media.

More importantly, it would also allow the NCFP to focus its resources on grassroots and talent development in the provinces while supporting the aspirations of top players in meeting its stated ambition of becoming No. 1 in Asia and ultimately a chess world power.

Besides planned bids for major FIDE events, the NCFP have already confirmed sponsors for 4 GM Opens - to anchor the planned Asia-Pacfic Pro Tour - in each of the two years of the initial contract with Intchess Asia. For Intchess Asia then, its challenge would be to successfully leverage these assets in a brand opportunity that can be expanded across the region.


Sunday, 15 June 2008

Danang IM Tournament - Concluding the ASEAN Masters Circuit

Concurrently and little known, at the same time as the 9th ASEAN Age Group Championships held in Danang from 9-18 June 2008, the Vietnam Chess Federation is organising an IM Tournament which is of course part of the ASEAN Masters Circuit.

The objective is to give deserving players a chance to make IM norms, and the participation of two GMs have make the candidates' job both easier and more difficult!


1. CM Nguyen Van Huy 4.5/5, 2. GM Dao Thien Hai 3.5/5, 3. Nguyen Thien Viet 3/5, 4-7. David Elorta, FM Hoang Canh Huan, GM Zaw Win Lay, FM Nava Roderick, 8. IM Wynn Zaw Htun 2.5/5, 9. FM Bao Quang 1.5/5, 10. Nguyen Hoang Ham 0.5/5

Only two players are still unbeaten in this very hard fought tournament, the leader CM Nguyen Van Huy, most recently the winner of the Vietnam National Championship who only needs one draw from his remaining 4 games to make an IM norm, and GM Zaw Win Lay who has made 5 straight draws!

Nguyen Thien Viet is also on track with +1 while FM Hoang Canh Huan and FM Nava Roderick needs to win one more game to join him. But David Elorta has the tougher task of making two wins as his IM norm requires +2

See Latest Results

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Appeal by Myanmar Chess Federation for Cyclone Nargis Victims

Many of us in ASEAN would personally know IA and FM Maung Maung Lwin, the selfless President of the Maynmar Chess Federation who for 20 years now has single handedly kept chess alive in his country.

When Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar recently, Maung lost his businesses and yet he has chosen to focus his energies on trying to help those even less fortunate!

I cannot post the copy of the official appeal of the Myanmar Chess Federation due to the graphic nature of the embedded photos but would be happy to forward it if requested by email (be warned that it is a very big file).

The facts as we know them today are up to 134,000 dead and 2.4 million destitute. But you only need to Google "Cyclone Nargis" to see for yourself how bad it is.

Chessplayers are considered rather self centered and not known to part easily with their money but let us prove otherwise this time around.

Donations can be made:

c/o Mr. Maung Maung Lwin
Bank: Bangkok Bank
A/C Number: 127-0-672262
Branch : Soi Aree, Bangkok, Thailand

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Radical but Long Overdue - Enforcing Changes in Chessplayer Tournament Behaviour

The recent FIDE Presidential Board Meeting held in Athens from 31st May to 1 June 2008 finally addressed two long time issues in chessplayer behaviour during competitions - driven by IOC and International Sports standards - that of being punctual for games.

Chessplayers, for some strange reason have always been allowed to show up as long as an hour after a game has started and not only is this clearly poor sportsmanship but very often even a deliberate ploy to put an opponent off. And of course it encourages tardiness and clearly demonstrates a lack of professionalism.

With media being recognised as key to universal acceptance to recognistion of chess as a sport, it is clear that chessplayers would have to be dragged into line with their counterparts in other sports to be recognised as professionals. Not being on time (seated) at the start of a game would now be penalised with an immediate loss!

The 38th World Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany later this year was to be the first event where this new rule would be implemented but instead the young participants at the 9th ASEAN+ Youth Team Championships now being held in Danang, Vietnam, have been urged to show grandmasters how to conduct themselves!

A second problem - one that is constantly discussed by just about everyone - is that of quick (or even arranged) draws and here FIDE has failed with yet another half measure by stating that draws would not be allowed before 30 moves are completed.

The real problem is fundamental to what a competition is supposed to achieve, and for me one has to distinquish between a game result and the outcome of a match or tournament - for chess to be easily understood and appreciated as a sport, there needs to be winner and loser for every game.

It matters not that the winner is lucky or the loser valiant and the impact on players FIDE ratings cannot be a consideration either as that is based on competitive performance anyway.

Firmly implementing both of these long overdue changes will finally bring chess in line with the rest of world sport and in doing so allow the participation of the general public and international media so FIDE must show resolve and courage in making sure this happens.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Philippines 46.5 - Myanmar 25.5

Following successful back to back international tournaments in the Philippines, a training match was organised between the Philippines and Myanmar on the initiative of National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) President Prospero "Butch" Pichay.

This double round match played using the Scheveningen System between the two 6 player teams was held in a boutique hotel overlooking beautiful Lake Taal and sponsored by the City of Tagaytay led by its Mayor Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino who is also the NCFP Secretary General.

NCFP Events Director Willy Abalos flanked by the Myanmar Team the day before the big match in beautiful Tagaytay.

Despite playing against an essentially Philippines "C" team, the Myanmar team, perhaps exhausted from two months of non stop chess and worried about conditions back home in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis which has left 133,000 dead or missing and over 2.5 million homeless, tried hard but were convincingly beaten.

Rolando Nolte top scored for the Philippines with 10/12 with GM elect Jayson Gonzales on 9/12 and Oliver Barbosa on 8/12 the other standouts. Rolando Andador with a valuable 7.5, Dino Ballecer with 6.5 and Edgar Reggie Olay with 5.5 were the other Philippine team members.

For Myanmar, GM Zaw Win Lay led with 6.5/12 while IM's Aung Aung and Wynn Zaw Htun both scored 5/12. FM Kyaw Lin Niang and IM Nay Oo Kyaw Tun managed 3.5 while FM Kyaw Kyaw Soe got 2.

GM Zaw Win Lay is still very much the "desperado" of the Myanmar "posse" when playing cowboy or tucking in to a special Jolibee highlands burger!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Record Entries at 9th ASEAN Age Groups in Danang, Vietnam

The ASEAN Age Group (U-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16, U-18 Boys & Girls) Championships, now in its 9th Edition will be held in Danang, Vietnam from 9-18 June 2008.

This flagship event of the ASEAN Chess Confederation has to date attracted a record 319 players from 10 countries – the 7 ASEAN member federations (Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Thailand) plus representatives from India (1), Australia (2) and Korea (12) – and more entries are trickling in daily!

For the full official list of participants, please go to

During the tournament there will also be a "live" blog at and all participants are welcome to join and tell their stories!

The Vietnam leg of the ASEAN Masters Circuit (IM Tournament) will be held concurrently, as well the ASEAN Seniors Championship, and the ASEAN Chess Confederation will also hold a Board Meeting on 15 June 2008 which will also discuss and plan the expansion of the inaugural ASEAN Grand Prix 2007/8 as proposed by the Philippines, and will also consider starting an ASEAN Clubs League as proposed by Indonesia.

Back to Back Philippine Opens - the ASEAN Grand Prix Continues!

Two back to back International Opens are confirming the commitment of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) which is being so ably led by their energetic President Prospero "Butch" Pichay, to making the inaugeral ASEAN Grand Prix a success.

Both tournaments are being held at the Subic Exhibition & Convention Centre at Subic Bay Freeport, Olangapo City - the recently concluded 11 round 2nd Philippine International Open from 7-14 May and now the 9 round Subic International Open which is being played from 16-24 May. See for results and updates.

Once again I have been honoured - this time by being the Chief Arbiter of the 1st ever Subic Interational Open, my second such high profile assignment, the other being part of super technical team put together for the Asian Indoor Games in Macau last year.

In fact, from the 5 legs held to date this year, 4 have been organised by the Philippines with Singapore Chess Federation contributing the other leg. Indonesia has concentrated on invitational and round robin tournaments while Vietnam has so far been focusing on major youth events like the ASEAN Age Groups and World Youth Championship.

But much much more is to come for the second series with many more legs being planned and other Asia countries even proposing to join up and expanding the circuit!

So while we can expect changes, for now the 2008 calendar for the new series is as follows:

1st Leg: PGMA Open, Philippines - 24 to 31 August 2008
2nd Leg: Pichay Cup, Philippines - 1 to 8 September 2008
3rd Leg: Singapore Open, Singapore -12 to 19 December 2008
4th Leg: Dragon City Open, Vung Tau, Vietnam - 19 to 26 December 2008

Young Indonesia Primadonna Irine Makes WGM Norm


Clockwise from Top: Catherine, Irine, Aye Win, Ruofan


1. IM/WGM Li Ruofan (SIN) 7/12, 2. WGM Regina Pokorna (SLO) 6.5/12, 3, WIM Irine Kharisma Sukandar (INA) 6/12, 4. WGM Jana Krivec (SLV) 5/12, 5. Catherene Perena (PHI) 4.5/12. 6. WFM Thanda Aye Win (MYA) 1/12.

WIM Irine Kharisma Sukandar, together with GM Susanto Megaranto, the young hopes of Indonesian chess made her first WGM norm at the JAPFA Chess Fedstival 2008 at this specially organised WGM Tournament.

Initially things did not look too good for Irine after a poor first half but an amazing second half performance including a 23 move win over top seed and eventual champion IM/WGM Li Riofan saved the day!

Philippine No. 1 Catherine Perena too had a successful outing, quietly making a WIM norm. while WFM Thanda Aye Win who was badly out of practice brought up the tail end but did well too by emerging with two credible draws against battle hardened opposition!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

India Gets Trainer Certification

FIDE Instructor and FIDE Trainer courses in India.

All India Chess Federaration will organize the International courses for FIDE Instructor and FIDE Trainer which are scheduled at Chennai, India from 30 April to 7 May, 2008. FIDE Senior Trainer IM Jovan Petronic of Serbia and FIDE Trainer FM Peter Long of Malaysia will conduct the course and the examination. The course will be conducted in English language.

This posting on the FIDE Website says it all. Or you can go direct to the source at to find out more.

We are indeed very honoured to be asked to conduct the course but I think it is time the world knows that Senior FIDE Trainer Jovan Petronic is the Technical Director of the ASEAN  Chess Academy and it is his hard work day and night (literally) that is making our product world class.

So to be honest, it is also my very special honour to be able to share the stage with Jovan and to learn from him while assisting him at the seminar. I will certainly be a much better trainer from the experience!   

Friday, 1 February 2008

Grandmaster & FIDE Senior Trainer Zurab Azmaiparashvili is the New Head Trainer at the ASEAN Chess Academy

Grandmaster Zurab Azmaiparashvili, a former top 10 player and many time winner of prestigious international tournaments has become the new head trainer at the ASEAN Chess Acadamy, a position he took up soon after winning the Singapore Masters last December.

A FIDE Vice President, Azmaiparashvili is equally famous as a coach, being a FIDE Senior Trainer who has worked with now retired world champion Gary Kasparov whom he also lost a match to in 2003!

He became a grandmaster in 1988 and some notable successes include being USSR Junior Champion in 1978, becoming Champion of Georgia in 1980, having the best result at the Elista Olympiad, the winner of the GMA World Cup qualifying tournament in 1990, and of course European Champion in 2003.

Azmaiparashvili has also taken first place in tournaments in Albena (1984), Harare (1985), Tibilisi, Moscow, and Albena (1986), Amsterdam, London, and La Havana (1988), Toledo, and San Sebastian (1992), and Struga (1995), and has beaten many World Champions including the legendary Anatoly Karpov and current holder Viswanathan Anand.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Tarakan - A Great Start to the ASEAN Masters Circuit

From 6-21 January 2008, Tarakan, Indonesia provided a perfect start to the ASEAN Masters Circuit, with the holding of simultaneous GM, IM and WIM events with players from Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and of course Indonesia taking part.

Players first flew into to Jakarta for a good nights rest and the following day travelled together to the island of Tarakan via Balikpapan in Kalimantan where they were warmly received by Yusof SK, the Mayor of Tarakan (seen making the opening moves in the picture).

Chessplayers in the region know it is a certainty that when PERCASI (Indonesian Chess Federation) organises an international event you can be sure that everything possible as been done to make guests comfortable and there is also no doubt that Indonesian hospitality is second to none but when a entire town opens its arms to embrace you it is something extra special.

In the Grandmaster "A" event, the top seed, GM Zhang Zhong (Singapore) was an easy winner as was GM Mark Paragua (Philippines) in the Grandmaster "B" event (the IM event was even upgraded). See full results at and full coverage at

The WIM event saw innovation as veteran Indonesians, GM Handoko and IM Irwanto took part although clearly male. They volunteered their ratings to help the event meet title and category requirements but fought hard nonetheless, giving their female opponents no breaks and took the top two places!

Both GM events were productive in terms of title norms, as in Grandmaster "A", IM Jayson Gonzales (Philippines) managed to make his final GM norm while veteran IM Tirto (Indonesia) also made his first GM norm, and from Grandmaster "B", FM Rolando Nolte (Philippines), FM Mahmud Sharif and FM Sugeng Prayitno (Indonesia) also achieved IM norms.