Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ehdi Handoko - A True Warrior


I had arrived in Jakarta in the late afternoon and was soon meeting up one after another with PERCASI Deputy Secretary General Sebastian Simanjuntak, Publicity Head Kristianus Liem, WGM Irene Sukandar and her brother Kaisar Jenius as well as with Drs Bunawan till late despite having to leave at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Surabaya.

Then I was was woken by Sebastian with the sad news that our good friend  Grandmaster and FIDE Trainer Edhi Handoko has passed away at 1 a.m. He had been ill recently but we did not think it was so serious and I was looking forward to seeing him soon at a coaching assignment or at the JAFPA Chess Festival in April.

Edhi is well known to the ASEAN chess community at large and I am proud to be able to call him a friend since we first met in 1983 when he was already eclipsing the long time No 1. Indonesian GM Herman Ardianysah.

I have seen a lot of Edhi in the past year - meeting him many times at diverse places from Tarakan, Jakarta (JAFPA), Beijing (World Mind Sports Games), etc. and we spent at lot of time together in Dresden at the 38th World Chess Olympiad, often watching the games of the Indonesian team of which he was the captain with McDonald's for dinner often to follow at GM Susanto Megaranto's insistence! 

There is only one word to describe Edhi's career - uncompromising.

Edhi played chess without fear or favour and believed that he could find something in any position. His game was full of the tactics that has always epitomised the Indonesian chess school but with his own special twist with incredibly deep calculation of variations. 

As a result, he was Indonesian Champion in 1978, 1979, 1984, and 1991, and a member of his country's Olympiad Teams in  1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1992, and 2000.

He became a Grandmaster in 1994 and was Asian Cities Champion in both 1993 and 1994.

When finally overtaken by GM Utut Adianto in the late 80's as Indonesia's No. 1, they became a much feared and respected combination of good friends and genial rivals who certainly benefited from each other and together led Indonesia to its best every international results for over a decade.

In recent years Edhi had started to become a great trainer and brought not only his vast knowledge of the games honed through literally tens of thousands of top level competitive games but also by his attitude to playing chess.

He will be missed greatly as a friend (he had no enemies and no detractors), as a role model for all young chess players, and for the so much more he was starting to offer Indonesian chess in building a new generation of young talents in his new career as a trainer. 

Edhi's funeral  procession will be from Rumah Duka Tiong Teng, Solo, Jawa Tengah at 9 a.m. Sunday, 22 February 2009 to the Bonoloyo, Cemetery and is survived by his wife Endang Hastari S and his two sons Ekona Sulistya Wibowo (21 years) and Okana Razzi Giovani (10 years).

Contributions to his family are most welcome and I will be happy and honoured to facilitate these (email me at for details).

Monday, 16 February 2009

Playing Chess Again

I freely admit that I have long lost interest (and most importantly the motivation) to play tournament chess and for one who has experienced time controls of 40 moves in 2 hours (and even adjournments) I am finding the most commonly used FIDE time control today of 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move from the start of the game to be very difficult indeed.

But now as a trainer of top young talent - since being persuaded to be so at the 1st Asian Club Championships in Al Ain, UAE - I am convinced that it is important to play regularly (proper games) so that I don't lose touch with what my students would face over the board and that this personal "training" is also important so that when I teach I am able to analyse well and not depend on general principles alone.

So it was no big deal to agree to play in the recent Intchess 7th Vision Masters where I joined two GM's as the thrid veteran  (perhaps also the designated sacrificial goat!) in a six player double round tournament to give three talented young players (who had apparently trained extensively for this event) a chance to make an International Master norm.

Against these "kids" I happily played 1. e4 without any preparation and happily engaged in open games. Tactics of course are their strong point and I actually had quite some fun exercising my mind in the resulting complications (and not doing too bad in calculating variations) and even though the final result was two losses and four draws it could easily have been any score at all!  For the first time in my life I also played 1. ...e5 against 1. e4 including defending a Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game)!

I would have lost something like 20-25 rating points in total but for a trainer these things really no longer matter and I will probably also be in Pattaya for the Bangkok Open in April playing the openings my students play so I will be able to help them more in the future. 

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Keeping Your Hand!


The title of this blog post is an expression I have heard time and time again used by leading trainers - at least those who work with strong talented players - but what does that mean?

I think it is simple logic is that when a someone moves from being a player to a trainer, there are three things he or she has to bring with him or her to be able to do the job:

1. Knowledge of the game (he or she must have studied the game and done it well!).

2. Interest in teaching (especially experience at the level he or she is attempting to impart the relevant knowledge together with the minimum necessary playing strength).

3. Willingness to share what he or she knows because the trainer is now working for the success of his or her student and so cannot have personal ambition or approach the training as if he or she were still playing.

Items 1. and 2. above are closely related and each trainer must ask himself or herself at which level he or she can be most effective and of course 3. is one very clear indicator if you (as a student) has a playing partner or a trainer!

So what is this "keeping your hand" about? Well, even if a trainer meets all the above attributes, it is being argued that in order to teach a top student you have to keep up your analytical ability and part of that process requires you to play!

I asked around and many trainers expressed their fear of doing so as they know their results would be poor and it would also be likely that they will be looked down and perhaps even lose their students. (This is for sure as they would no longer have time or energy to prepare for themselves and for sure their best years would have been long gone with age).

But they would have a minimum level and that would show and it is the job of the trainer to do their best for their student and if such playing from time to time is a necessary part of their maintenance and ongoing professional development, then we must!