Taken by surprised by certain developments regarding a late request and then an actual agreement to provide financial incentives, I found myself flying to Singapore very late on New Year's Eve and even playing in the fourth and final round of the long running Singapore-Malaysia Chess Challenge on New Year's Day, officially the 2011 edition, played over 38 boards with two rounds of classical chess and two rounds of rapid chess.
History was made in that Malaysia won and kudos are well deserved to the team and especially the young kids that did so well.
I was not present the first day but was told that after round one Singapore has taken a 7 point lead and everyone was bracing for a hammering but then that strange fellow Ignatius Leong (I am being polite not to call him something else), the SCF President, also recently reelected FIDE General Secretary, expressed his sincere hope that Malaysia would win and that sentiment was well beyond that of a polite host!
Was it to do with the fact he has so little credibility in his own country that with the flurry of recent activity by FIDE on the on and off agenda of chess in schools, he has instead is depending on Malaysia to make it happen because Singapore cannot? (Why again has Dato' Tan Chin Nam's gotten involved? To dump DATCC? To save his face after the FIDE Election fiasco? To help Hamid again or to finally kick him out?)
Of course Leong's "highly successful" academy is up for sale again but then again since when has it not ever been?
Back to the match: Malaysia did hold Singapore 19-19 to stop the rot and then won the third round by a whooping 10 point margin and so took a daunting 3 point lead in to the final round which was drawn 19-18 and so history was made.
I like to believe the team rose to the occasion and it was not actually the incentives offered!
But actually what really took me by surprise while I was briefly in Singapore this time around, was in learning that the inaugural ASEAN Championship had just ended and our good friend Zurab Azmaiparashvili, now apparently playing for Singapore but still listed in the latest FIDE rating list as for Georgia, played and was even declared the champion on tie-break over Oliver Barbosa who is without doubt Filipino and from ASEAN through and through.
Then again a player, a former China No. 1 no less, and still based there, played top board for Singapore at the Olympiad while home grown GM Wong Meng Kong was left out and their No. 1 local IM Goh Wei Ming also did not make it, and we already all know how the Commonwealth Championship was last organised as part of this same Singapore International Chess Festival last year.
(Disclaimer: I do not fault all the players mentioned above as they just play chess and I also do personally know them all and generally with one obvious exception can fully vouch for them).