Thursday, 16 July 2009

Wither ASEAN Chess?

ACC Logo - Small ACA Logo

The ASEAN Chess Confederation (ACC) has reached its 10th birthday and I think that while in the past there are achievements, today there is little to celebrate and so it is perhaps time to take stock, especially with a board meeting planned during the Zone 3.3 Championship in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Traditionally the board meeting meeting is held at the ACC’s flagship event – the ASEAN Age-Group Championships – but this year, at Hue, Vietnam, perhaps for the very first time, it had to be cancelled. 

I was appointed Executive Director of ACC in mid 2007 and it is fitting that two years later, in mid 2009, I have stepped down but in my time I have been a party to as well as observed a lot of what was attempted and had also gone wrong and so I will offer just observations and perhaps pertinent questions for the leaders of ACC member countries to consider should they in fact attend the rescheduled board meeting:

Q1. History has shown that few leaders are able to reinvent themselves and offer a fresh vision that can renew a country or an organisation after 10 years at the helm especially with rot beginning to set in so is it time for a change?

Q2. The three stated objectives of the ACC (1. organising developmental events, 2. chess in SEA games, and 3. broaden membership) may have once have been achieved but no longer is today and because it is essentially failure, I will break them down as follows for possible action:

  1. With the “natural death of the ASEAN Grand Prix”, as the President himself says, the ASEAN Age-Group Championship is the final remaining event (with titles to winners approved by FIDE) but without sponsorship and using the same model of making money from official hotels.
  2. These revenues are not available to ACC for development although banked in under Intchess Asia or its sister company the ASEAN Chess Academy (two vehicles, one private owner, and the latter endorsed by ACC) and certainly the event is no longer organised by member federations and perhaps sharing (not with levies) is the way to better unity and cooperation?
  3. The ASEAN Chess Academy has also failed to convince ACC members to be allowed into their countries via joint ventures let alone proving that the franchise model works. The sole branch in KL is marginally profitable only because it focuses on child enrichment.
  4. No national chess federation will outsource their talent development or training of top players to a foreign entity whose purpose is purely commercial and in many cases this is not only political suicide but also impacts government funding.
  5. Do we have a plan to address this pillar of ACC especially when Asia is doing well at Asian Games level recognition and there is also an Asian Indoor Games? Creating a better standing for chess together with political clout in every country might be the only way. After all, when was chess last in the SEA games? More importantly, will it be in the next SEA games?
  6. What is the real membership of ACC today? Of the three giants, Philippines is doing a great deal alone yet struggling with that cost and is also close to Indonesia which like Vietnam focuses its resources on participation on the international stage.
  7. Singapore aspires to lead but is expensive and small and as the home of ACC and Intchess Asia, Vietnam offers it a cheaper organising alternative while poor Myanmar tags along. Unprofessional chess wise, but economically rich, Thailand, Malaysia and Brunei continues as they always have.
  8. So, ACC is just 8 federations, two tiered at best (maybe even three in terms of their playing levels), and so how should this membership be best accommodated, supported and then grown? I would say a real and properly funded secretariat and brand development around grassroots development and aggressive fund raising or in short professional management!

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