Monday, 1 November 2010

Tired... after all chess does not imitate life

If I forgot why I left chess and moved on 16 years ago, the last four (4) years has been a constant reminder!

Looking back, I remember that in 1993 I felt that I had achieved all that was possible in chess for me and even though until 1995 I still did a few things like write a series of columns for The Sun (a brand new publication then!) and even played in the Asian Team Championship when it was held in KL, I had all but quit, having given away a massive library of books accumulated since I started playing at 13 years of age.

Well, to quit today is too harsh a word and not quite correct either given I still have obligations with the KLCA and also to Polgar Chess Asia which I will have to continue to fulfill and support as best I can.

But at the end of the day, not that it is wrong or something one can have issue with, I will remind myself that anyone in chess in a serious way, be it self appointed official, mediocre coach, famous/top player, parent of  latest "GM talent" and of course the emerging new and uniquely Malaysian category of "chess blogger", for them chess has become everything - their life, even status to die for - and that I have to remember this when being asked "to help" as their starting point assumes you share their self serving values/perspectives and that you are also expected to agree to their rather obvious hidden agendas!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

An Embarrassment and A Real Disgrace!


So the FIDE Elections came to pass pretty much as any informed or intelligent observer would have understood from the beginning.

But what must poor old Dato Tan Chin Nam have been thinking when he chose to drag Malaysia into this fiasco as an advisor to the Karpov 2010 campaign at Garry Kasparov's behest (and then making it worst by proposing Abdul Hamid Majid for the seemingly key but largely symbolic position of General Secretary) and to choose participation in slander and much nastiness?

Even Hamid’s must ardent fans at DATCC must have been surprised to be shown a whole new history of his ideals, achievements, and capabilities as that was completely at odds with the obvious 20+ years of failure we are suffering from his running the Malaysian Chess Federation.

Yes, it was expected that other than making a few choice trips for personal pleasure and then sending out a letter to Asian Federations quite defamatory in its claims, all Hamid could really do to contribute was to make the final IGB Dato Arther Tan Malaysian Open into a platform for a political meeting where very few, people either without votes or people like him who had long lost standing with their federations for the very same things he accuses FIDE of are of course his honoured guests!

It cannot have been no surprise then when with Hamid as Malaysia's FIDE Congress Delegate, and especially when all knew how the likes of his friend Koya was allowed to condemn both FIDE and India in KL, it was all but certain that Malaysia would be shut out from all positions and bids.

At the end of the day it would seem that Dato Tan has thrown away his money again and damaged his reputation beyond repair and once again it is because he has chosen to believe the blood suckers under his employ and patronage that have surrounded him for years.

So much for political tragedy... in Khanty-Mansiysk what however has upset me personally is that the Malaysian team playing at the 39th World Chess Olympiad suffered the fact we only have 4 players and all because because Hamid was included in the team and yet not only have we not seen him once, but his room in unused, the flights booked for him not taken up, etc. and we really could have done better than to throw away money we could have used for a reserve.

But then again I forgot it is his patron's money and perhaps for him to waste as he pleases.

With four players we had no options in terms of strategy and no cover for tiredness or poor form and I can only say that it would have been a worst disaster for our team if the senior players (not me as my last Olympiad was 24 years ago) did not force Gregory Lau to stop becoming a non playing captain and into playing three of the last four rounds where as our super sub he helped us win two crucial matches.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Rest Day in Khanty-Mansiysk… A Welcome Break Indeed!

After 5 rounds of play, we have our first day off and it is welcome indeed! From the way I played in my last game, I for one could have done with the day off a round earlier and the 11 games I will eventually have to looks even more challenging!

Khanty-Mansiysk is indeed a wonderful place and the organisers have pulled no stops to make this, if not the best, then certainly one of the best Olympiads ever!

Not only is the city beautiful and the facilities excellent, but the weather this time of the year is superb, and no expense was spared be it in a veritable feast daily at meal times or at the numerous official and social events, and all this was supported by an extensive and on time fleet of buses. But most of all was the hospitality that is without precedent and which can only be described as out of the world!


In the morning the team joined in Russia’s annual run that was held all over the country and in the evening we took a walking tour and the sights were varied indeed but the main thing was everyone had fun!


Monday, 20 September 2010

Stop Over in Moscow

We left Kuala Lumpur mid morning on 18 September after a 5 am start and 24 hours later via Dubai found ourselves in Moscow!

Our chartered flight would only depart for Khanty-Mansiysk early on 20 September so what else but to head to Red Square for some serious sightseeing!




Friday, 10 September 2010

Thoughts on the Olympiad & FIDE Elections

Let's start with the Malaysian team. I think with Nicholas and Yee Weng out, both with new jobs, we all hoped that Chern Ee and Ronnie would somehow be able to play and when that did not materialise either, I for one had hoped and proposed Evan (last year's national champion) and the currrent national champion to be selected but it was only Khai Boon got the nod and I think if it was certain that Li Tian could travel by himself and that funds permitted a separation of officials and players, then he too might have been included.

So I will have to play some 11 games at the coming Olympiad and even though I had to miss my last two games at the Pichay Cup, I think I did manage to play myself into some form as evidenced by three successive and rather well taken wins before my work commitments got in the way. Now, if only my openings and aging body can hold up....

Returning in time to watch the start of the Malaysian Open was a bonus when I concluded my business early and this was part of my strategy to try to be as engaged with chess as much as possible before going back to work (so I could try and keep a decent level in the three weeks before I would be playing again) and so I was taking every opportunity to analyse games with the participants.

Of course I was doing my best to not to be involved with anything FIDE elections as while I absolutely have big problems with the self serving Asian leadership as "dumped" on us year after year in the form of Ignatius Leong and the likes of Casto Abundo Jr, I certainly have reservations of what a Karpov-Kasparov alliance would bring to chess especially when so many formerly who were part of the problem in FIDE (but not currently which says something as to their motives) are now being reinvented as "change agents", "activists", "ethical", etc.

I believe that real change will come after 4 more years, either from a renewed Karpov team who would have learnt from their mistakes should they have won, or from a new grouping of absolutely principled individuals should the Kirsan team manage to hang on (as they could short of losing a legal fight or be betrayed by one or more of their own less than savory team members) but for now it would seem it is the better option to choose change for the sake of change!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Playing the Pichay Cup and not the Campomanes Memorial or Dato Arthur Tan Memorial

When I was told some time back that Malaysia might struggle to put up a representative team for the Olympiad to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from 19 September to 4 October and if I would play if needed, I saw no reason to say no (provided I was given equal terms with all other representatives) as I never for a moment thought that so many players would not be available.

(I must also admit that playing would be one way easy to avoid being caught up in the coming FIDE Elections where I have friends from both sides should I decide to drop by as I did in Dresden last time around).

But in the weeks that followed, players kept dropping out and I found myself constantly suggesting alternatives and other solutions but in the end it seems I will indeed be playing in Siberia, and so here I am in Manila trying to get some games in at the Prospero A. Pichay Jr. Cup.

Of course, like all my so called chess trips, I am combining business meetings (and luckily I am not conducting a workshop too!) and I really did want to be part of the Campomanes Memorial except that this event overlaps with the Dato Arthur Tan Memorial which seems to be this year to be very much a part of the campaign for the rather sad Karpov camp, and as I have said so many times before, I am "Not impressed by FIDE election options" and so have chosen not participate in either in whatever capacity possible.

Real Young Talent Development!

A new event, and committed for an initial 5 years!, the inaugural MSSM-Masterskill National Scholastics (U-9, U-11, U-13) Chess Championships will be held at the Masterskill University College Campus in Ipoh from 8-12 November 2010, and Polgar Chess Asia will be organising this event for the Ministry of Education and the Malaysian Chess Federation.

Winners will have the opportunity to play in the Asian Schools Chess Championship to be held from 16-23 December 2010 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

At the same time, Polgar Chess Asia will be looking to conduct a Seminar for Coaches designed together with Polgar Chess University to provide teachers and parents with the methodologies, skills and tools needed to effectively support their young talents.

Please direct your enquiries to

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Taking in the Sights of Bandar Seri Begawan

Bandar Seri Begawan is not a very large city but well laid out and easy for the tourist with most of its major attractions based on culture and history laid out by its river waterfront.

After 9 rounds at the rate of two games a day, Friday morning saw the conclusion of the first tournament with Indonesian WGM Irene Sukandar and Indian FIDE Master Ramnath Bhuvanesh emerging winners and earning International norms, the first for Irene and the final for Ramnath! (do see one of the many reports at

While young chessplayers would be chessplayers and moved on to blitz, Facebook, and shopping, I decided to take an afternoon tour of the city.

Sultan Father Mosque
I call it the Sultan’s Father’s Mosque!

Ceremonial Boat Royal Regelia Museum  

Highlights for me were the stories of 29 Sultans of Brunei, whose rules and lifetimes had simply everything you could imagine, the wonderful extravagance of a Royalty with wealth second to none, and seeing how the people of Brunei live, work, and play with their own identity intact and evolving notwithstanding the obvious influences of its neighbouring countries, the western world, and parallels that can be drawn with some of the Gulf states.

Water Village
This is at the centre of the waterfront area and although now modernised with water and electricity and internal furnishings that would rival a luxury condominium, it represents a major link to Brunei’s past as is therefore well preserved with the full support of the government.
IMG_1497  IMG_1511
 IMG_1519 IMG_1516

Monday, 26 July 2010

Brunei’s First IM Tournaments!

The Brunei Chess Federation (BCF) is currently holding its first ever IM title events – the Brunei Invitational IM Tournaments being held from 25 July to 4 August in Bandar Seri Begawan  and I am honoured to serve as the Chief Arbiter.

Participants in Brunei Invitation IM Tournaments

Both are 10 player round robins, with a strong ASEAN presence, and a touch of glamour with WGM Irene Kharisma Sukandar also participating. (All participants in group photo above).
Details of the just started Brunei Invitational IM Tournament 1 is at and Brunei Invitational IM Tournament 2 at

In Search of Everest

Hj Zainal is BCF's Prime Mover

The BCF is very ably led by their long serving President Hj Zainal Abidin Ali who is well supported by a dedicated team of professionals, and in doing so has always chosen its own path in chess – which is whatever that makes sense for Brunei (and for Brunei chess!) given its relative small size.

From a spate of big organising in the early 90’s, BCF has been an adopter of technology, and as a pioneer in Internet chess organised a very successful blitz held on ICC on 15 July 2008.

Today it is certain that pride of place is the BCF becoming the first Brunei team to reach the Mount Everest Base camp and playing the first ever and highest ever altitude chess tournament to be organised there (of course all in the name of charity where 50,000 Brunei Ringgit was raised!). See

Of course there has also more conventional moves too by the BCF like the setting up the Brunei Chess Centre and a develop-mental program including engaging Grandmaster Taxir Vakhidov from Uzbekistan to develop a young national team.

BCF PlaqueGM Vakhidov at Work

The Brunei Chess Federation’s website is at

Thursday, 22 July 2010

In Chess, it seems that Everyone is an Expert!


Why not? If you believe you have (or do in fact) standing or enjoy domain… like would a parent, a teacher, a coach, an official, a patron, a sponsor, a player, etc.

No need for elaboration here. I think the only danger is when you assume and/or do not properly research, or worst, have an agenda to promote.

It’s a free world (I hope?) and in the end the “market” decides whether you or I (or whatever them is!) can agree or not… and really if you think about it, all choices are equally valid.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Malaysia at the Asian Junior Championships in Chennai, India


Sisters Nur Nabila Azman Hisham, 13 years old, and Nur Najiha Azman Hisham. 11 years old, are two of our brightest young prospects, Nabila already a dangerous opponent for even our senior players at Rapid and Blitz events, and Najiha dominant in her age category and already demonstrating maturity in her play.

Of course neither sister has ever had proper coaching so while their strong points are obvious and impressive, their knowledge gaps are often surprising and there is no program (teaching, playing and analysis) in place to develop their talent.

In Chennai, participating were 8 countries and 53 players in the girls championship, including 2 who were Women International Masters and 12 who were Women FIDE Masters, and after being ranked 35th and 41st respectively, a finish of 20th and 27th respectively is rather good and they would have enjoyed nice rating gains as well.

The trainers of the other participants were surprised at their age relative to others, and even more surprised that they were able to largely hold their own.

Evan Capel, 16 years old, is also largely self taught and while he could be considered a late bloomer after going it alone in the last few years, he was still able to win the National Championship last year at 15 years of age and only lost out at the recent MSSM Championship on tie-break.

He started ranked 45th from a field of 74 players including 12 International Masters and 8 FIDE Masters and finished 47th so it seems really played very much to his level even though he too got a rating points gain.

But I also did manage to spend some time with Evan at this event and his score could so easily have been 5.5/9 as opposed to the 4/9 it got and I think he just lacks experience and of course exposure to strong competition, but like Nabila and Najiha he has also several glaring weaknesses, most of which fortunately can be remedied with a program of playing and analysing but that decision is his alone.

The Importance of the World Junior and Asian Junior Championships


Before the explosion of “open” age group events, be it World Youth, Asian Schools, or even National Age group championships, the World Junior Championship and Asian Junior Championship were the only opportunity for a country’s best young talent to showcase their talent.

Each country could only send their best player for this under 20 event and the rewards were the International Master title for the winner of the Asian Junior Championship and the Grandmaster title for the winner of the World Junior Championship.

Today, these events are still incredibly important to top young players but not for the International Master or Grandmaster title but for the title of World or Asian Champion itself as many who play are already International Masters and Grandmasters!

See this year’s World Junior Championship entry list:

I was very pleased therefore to help facilitate Malaysia’s participation in the just finished Asian Junior Championship held in Chennai, India, and especially so when we were arguably being represented by our very best prospects.

Our players impressed in Chennai, and while the girls shone, I think that we all saw this as really more of an opportunity to better appreciate what it takes to succeed in chess at this level of competition and to take lessons for the future because if Malaysia is to develop a new generation of young players capable of flying our flag at senior level we must continue to make these investments.

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Old Man’s Last Hurrah?


Our Dato Tan has been, for good or bad, synonymous with Malaysian chess for half of his life, almost 40 years now, and is many things but in his last few years has clearly taken on the role of being a not always self appointed Messiah.

By facilitating sponsorship of DATMO he has continued his long involvement, then saved the Malaysian Chess Federation from deregistration (and his Hamid from perhaps much more serious problems), and finally with having DATCC (albeit still in a carpark), local chess players (as few as we sadly are) have somewhere to go to to play chess (maybe we should also thank Najib for successfully creating the “content” and keep it relevant).

Now Dato Tan has looked to make himself even more relevant again by jumping onboard the Karpov (American?) bandwagon.

I fully support change in FIDE as 15 years is much too long for any one leader let along the near 40 years as in our case but the jury is really out as to whether Karpov now backed by Kasparov together with a whole bunch of rich people largely associated with him is going to be any better ( than the Kirsan led largely incumbent team (not unsurprisingly Ignatius Leong has already jumped ship – either because he is not wanted or because he is as always looking out for a better deal for himself) so let’s hope that this time all of Malaysia benefits and not just one or a few select individuals.

Over to you Dato’!  

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Back to Chennai


In the last couple of years it seems that I have been making an annual visit to Chennai in Tamil Nadu, India!

Last time around it was for a couple of hours due to a misunderstanding over a multiple entry tourist visa but this time around I have an entry visa as coach of the Malaysian players playing at the Asian Junior Championships from 14-24 June 2010.

For the boys that is 16 year old current National Champion Evan Capel and 11 year old Nur Najiha Azman Hisham will be accompanied by her higher ranked sibling, 13 year old Nur Nabila Azman Hisham.


Unfortunately due to a combination of school exams followed by the MSSM (National Schools) Championship Finals just before I have no time to prepare these young talents and they will also be up against much more experienced and significantly stronger players than  the age group events they are used to.

The Azman Hisham girls will find it particularly tough as they will be significantly younger than most (if not all) the other participants.

I will do my best of course but my focus will be to get to know their play and to try and show them the way forward by using this event as an invaluable learning experience.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Karpov as FIDE President in 2010?

Karpov 2010 Website

“A Champion For Change”? We probably still remember very well Obama’s promise of “Change We Can Believe In” and the less than satisfactory outcomes to the American people.

But I do think in this case it is “Change That FIDE Needs!” and the fact that so few in Asia care is indicative how irrelevant FIDE has become to us outside of the rating system (a big burden in the increasing fees that have to be paid and the rating ceiling dropping ever further), the outrageous entry fees together with forced and inflated hotel charges imposed by organisers if participation in youth events are desired (what happened to getting sponsors?), awarding of various international titles, and of course for a smaller number, the chance to play at events such as the Olympiad every two years and the various World Championship cycle qualifiers.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Norms Galore!

The 3rd KL Open held from 6-12 April 2010 saw Vakhidov Jahangir of Uzbekistan, Julius Joseph De Ramos of Philippines and Laksana Augusta of Indonesia earn International Master title norms while Bhakti Kulkarni and Mitali Patil, both from India earned Woman International Master title norms.

Desperately unlucky to miss out was our own Nicholas Chan and Indonesia’s Medina Warda Aulia who exceeded the point requirements for International Master and International Women Master title norms respectively but failed to satisfy other criteria through the variables of the pairings system.


(The traditional group photo of participants and officials of the UKM KL Masters)

Then immediately after, at the UKM KL Masters, a 10 person, 9 round robin event, Singapore’s Daniel Fernandez together with India’s Ankit R. Rajpara and Thakur Akash even went one better with their third and final International Master norms earning them the International Master title.

A finish really deserving of the superb effort put in by UKM into this event and Abdul Haq Mohamad is especially to be commended for a really excellent organisation!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Thailand Open


The Thailand Open is being held at the Century Park Hotel in Bangkok from 14-20 April (during the Songkran holidays).

Some 108 players made it amongst which are 4 GMs, 1 WGM, 12 IMs and 1 WIM. 

See Bangkok Chess Club website and for updates.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

KL Open Ends, KL Masters Starts

Yesterday saw the end of the KL Open and tomorrow will be the start of the KL Masters, thankfully organised for the KLCA by UKM.

But I will still not risk going to Bangkok for the Thailand Open - not because of any risk to life and limb - but because the UKM KL Masters is a part of the Masterskill KL Chess Festival and that is my responsibility.

So my recovery from a month of no more than 3 hours night sleep every night will instead have to be regular sleeping hours at home in the next few days!

Results, pairing, etc. can be found at

Monday, 12 April 2010

Hou Yifan Wins KL Open


Hou Yifan was a very popular and most convincing winner of the 3rd KL Open 2010, the 16 year old grandmaster from China having already been crowned champion one round before the end.


See video of closing and prize giving ceremony by clicking here.

All reports are at the tournament website and the final standing can be found at chess-results.

The organisers of the KL Open also would especially like to thank, amongst many others, our friends at www.europe-echecs,,, and for daily international coverage.

Chessbase has also published a nice little final report summing up the KL Open at

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Photos from the Nigel Short Simultaneous Exhibition

Abdul Haq got the only draw and here he poses together with his wife.

Short is being consoled for only getting a 9.5-0.5 score.

The final game is always one on one.

Oops, I blundered a piece...

The Chief Arbiter also plays chess?

Just before the session gets underway... it takes a team to do this properly!

Father and son.

There are all sorts of physical handicaps and none actually matter in chess.