Wednesday, 31 December 2014

End of 2014... And Malaysia Is Now Officially Ranked 87th Going Into 2015

My quick take is this is that our top three are all 2300 level players and that Nicholas and Yee Weng will continue to play when they can while Li Tian should at least maintain his position and ideally rise higher and higher should he want to remain our best prospect.

As to Aron, I am not sure he is better that his rating as yet,,, but if he continues like anything he has been doing that last few years then he is easily our most committed young player and everything would still then be possible.

The next three can be grouped together but also represent different generations! Of course Eric, Tze Han and Jonathan are all 2200 plus players as they have always performed at that level and strangely enough all from Penang!

Now 50, Eric is making a comeback of sorts (even if he has actually always been involved in playing chess) and he is showing is is the equal of anyone out of the top three in Malaysia while Tze Han is one of the most consistent local performers.

Jonathan is now full time in chess which also might also explain his father's reemergence in chess but now more on the training side as that is his living and in recognising how professional he tries to be about work I am not sure how he wants to reconcile any ambition he might still have.

I would prefer not to waste my words further going down the list, needless to say Colin is a past master of getting dubious credentials and his very good friend Jimmy should by now realise is not the player he was.

However if we want to talk about young players then it is clear we have talent amongst those in that generation now in college but while it must be said they have not quite broken through as they should everyone knows that there have also been mitigating circumstances.

Bottom line is I do not see much more with them in terms of chess as studies and then career together with the many social pleasures that will continue to engage their time and energy, making real life demands, and rightly so! 

15th Bangkok Chess Club Open (Thailand Open) 2015

The only place to be from 12-19 April 2015 is the Dusit Thani in Pattaya Thailand. For all the details please go to

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Chessbase Coverage of Myanmar International Open 2014

The GM Zaw Win Lay Memorial Myanmar International Open Chess Championship 2014 received wonderful coverage from our chess media partners with timely periodic reports published by from Chessdom during actual play (not to mention numerous Facebook posts) and a week after the event it is time to sum up the articles in its three languages on Chessbase. 

Once the games are ready it will be on The Week in Chess as well as in the two premium print chess publications Chess Informant and New in Chess Magazine in their next issues! 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Special Treat from Mandalay

The "Bugs" arrived in time for the rest day - a very special treat for the 2600+ GMs

Monday, 24 November 2014

GM Zaw Win Lay Memorial Begins

Started with numerous interviews...

...also with local players

The Masters of Ceremonies got ready...

...then the VVIP makes his speech

All in a row...

...before making the Opening Moves!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Beyond Yangon...

I arrived early in Yangon for the GM Zaw Win Lay Memorial Myanmar International Open and was picked up at the airport by organiser Maung Maung Lwin, also the President of the Myanmar Chess Federation.

Dinner was a very nice Myanmar traditional meal before checking in at the Central Hotel and there was Sergei Tiviakov who had beaten me to get to Yangon by several hours and so after introductions a little late night drive to see the sights followed by drinks at a floating hotel down by the riverside was in order.

The next day with Tiviakov as a most agreeable sightseeing companion started with the obligatory and must see visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a massive complex in the heart of Yangon which easily ranks as one of the wonders of the world.

Even with the annual refurbishing ongoing it is always a pleasure to visit Shwedagon although it was a little more difficult than normal to get there with traffic in the city had now having reached Bangkok levels and this time around I also popped over to see the nearby and largely unattended Ne Win Pagoda which was so very typical of the memorials erected by "strongman leaders" in history.

A very pleasant time followed in the National Kantawgyi Gardens followed and then the Zoo which Tiviakov insisted on going to turning out to be a real treat, very well organised and maintained (and best of all the animals still friendly!).

The next day we took up the suggestion to go a little out of town, beyond the river to the ancient kingdom of Thanlyin with the highlights being the visit to the amazing Kyauktan Yele Pagoda only accessible by boat and the Kyaik Khauk Pagoda which played an important part in the life of numerous (18!) Myanmar Kings throughout their rule.

Now the chess will soon start, and on the way back while dropping by the offices of the Myanmar Chess Federation located in the Traditional Games section of the National Stadium Complex I saw a hive of activity with numerous chess players engaged in blitz but which I understood had nothing to do with the tournament and which went on day and night all year around!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Competing Events in the Philippines (and Elsewhere)?

The year end local school long holiday period is starting to get rather crowded for chess enthusiasts!

My readers will know that the Myanmar Open, now renamed the GM Zaw Win Lay Memorial International Open, will be from 23-30 November and will be followed by two international Opens in Malaysia.

Those are of course the Johor Open from 1-6 December and the Penang Open from 8-12 December .

However not too many might be aware that the Philippines has recently also announced two big international opens, Philippines Cup from 5-12 December and then the PSC Chairman's Cup from 14-21 December, back to back events in Quezon City that overlap with what we are having locally in the same time frame.

Of course the core audience is not the same, the real different being that the numerous Filipino professionals will be forced to choose between the easy pickings in Malaysia or the much stronger opposition to test themselves with back home together with hopes of even bigger prize winnings.

I have already mentioned that the Asian Juniors will be held in Tagaytay from 28 November to 5 December, dates clearly chosen to dovetail into participation into their two Quezon City International Opens even if I believe less so about the players than the fact the on the ground organising team will be largely drawn from the same people.

But perhaps of more interest to locals is the Asian Amateur & Senior Championships held from 5-12 December in Colombo, Sri Lanka but again that means giving both Johor and Penang a miss.     

Malay Mail Online: Malaysia At The World Seniors

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

No Transparency in MCF Rent Seeking

In my earlier post "All Must Go" I expressed my disgust with Tan Sri and gave specifics of my own experience with his boy Greg, also I said that the rest of the MCF Council was doing nothing and so had no business holding office.

Let me put it more bluntly to those in MCF: Get rid of Tan Sri and put an end to all this endless nonsense that is going on or accept that you allow it and so are part of the problem.

I was very involved in the ASEAN+ Age Group Championships in Macau earlier this year and in two distinct capacities, the first being responsible to coordinate and help organise the supporting events and the second, because many KLCA members were represented.

So it was no surprise that eventually a copy of the following email got sent to me, something that absolutely confirms and proves again that everything I say is true and yes, I also have official standing in this matter.

Dear Tan Sri & MCF Council Members
During the recent Malaysian Chess Festival, the Organizers of the 15th 
ASEAN Age Group Chess Championship
held in Macau from 3rd - 12th June mentioned that there was a rebate 
given to all participants from Malaysia
amounting to US$ 4,320.00 (x3.4 = RM 14,688). This money was to be given 
back to the participants, but up to
now, no refund has been made to anybody.

Some parents approached me to speak to MCF about this. I attach the 
documents concerned for your information Tan Sri.
Appreciate a reply from MCF, so that the participants for the event can 
be advised accordingly.

Thank you, Tan Sri


Cc. All MCF Council Members

Several of the parents whose kids qualified to go either via rating requirement or through performances at the National Age Groups under KLCA have also since spoken to me and given this is now on record as per the email I will wait for MCF's response before officially writing in as KLCA although I can already guess at what is already going on.

1. Tan Sri is probably irritated that Hamid sent the email, missing the point that it is about money being taken or kept that does not belong to MCF let alone Greg who made the arrangements and was there early as Head of Delegation.

2. Greg has probably told Tan Sri the administrative fees he collected from each of the 50 or so attending (I am right that it is then RM 200 x 50 = RM 10,000) was insufficient and that he needed to use the rebate. He probably claimed he had to pay for hotel for him and various MCF officials, etc. Again that is not the point, that rebate money was not budgeted and certainly not given for this use. Probably, based on my observations of his usual modus operandi, Greg likely even demanded this rebate for himself with the hidden threat of MCF pulling out its players.

3. Now let me explain as part of the main organising team that every Federation was given a free room, no one asked Greg to come early with a female assistant and have to take another room and I have not checked but almost certainly Greg did not spend a cent on his room. As for other MCF members, I understand that the then MCF Treasurer came to attend the ASEAN Chess Confederation meeting so she would have gotten a free room and if talking about the then Secretary, as member of the ticket he was hosted as part of Kasparov Team Asia meetings.

I would sometimes want to feel sorry for Greg given the type of leadership we have in MCF but the fact is that he chooses to live this way and yet is so arrogant despite being dependent on his appointed position in MCF.

Bottom line is should someone (who I wonder and will the meeting even have a quorum?) raise this serious matter at the next MCF Council meeting it would likely either be brushed aside by Tan Sri and/or all would all find it easier to accept Greg's lying explanation again.

Which would then prove my argument that "All Must Go". I hope that for once I am wrong!

Zaw Win Lay Myanmar International Open 2014 Update

Finally I have gotten the interim list of foreign players (paid up?) from the organisers and have uploaded to

Two Malaysians are going - Justin Ong and Dilwen Ding - I also understood Mok Tze Ming was also playing but his name is not on the list of players I received but who knows, he has a lot of business dealings there.

Unsurprisingly quite a few Thais will be there and surprisingly is the large number from Singapore.

Including Nguyen Doc Hua whose GM title was just confirmed by FIDE, there are now a total of 11 GMs (Two are 2600+) and over 50 rated players. Around another 50 unrated locals will swell the already impressive number of entries.  

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Asian Junior Championships to be in Tagaytay, Philippines in Two Weeks!

I just noticed the following email and doubt very much that our current National Junior Champions Fong Yit San (open winner) and Tan Li Ting (girls winner) have been told yet by the Malaysian Chess Federation.

Press Release

The Asian Chess Federation shall organize the Asian Juniors and Girls Championships from 28 November (arrival) to 5 December (departure) 2014 hosted by Tagaytay City, Philippines.

Entitled to participate are chess players from the federations in Zones 3.1 to 3.7 who shall not have reached the age of 20 by January 1st 2014.

Attached are the regulations.

The tournament was originally scheduled 21-29 November 2014 in Shandong,China which had to withdraw at this late date. FIDE Secretary General Abraham Tolentino graciously agreed to assist to ensure that this developmental junior competition is held within the year 2014.

Casto Abundo
Executive Director
Asian Chess Federation

A quick look at the FIDE website sees no front page announcement as yet to this "Press Release" made to National Chess Federations in Asia and the official FIDE Calendar has not been updated too. Not even the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) website!

Well, to be fair, all very sudden - the event is in a little over two weeks time! (Typical of how FIDE and ACF operates).

The question is whether Yit San will take this opportunity given he has probably already planned to play the Johor Open 1-6/12 (it does not clash with the probably stronger Penang Open 8-12/12) but I understand that there will be the Philippine Cup 5-12/12 in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

He has not done well since Tromso Olympaid, a very so so result at the Malaysian Open followed by a disaster at the World Junior Championships. But he should still take the chance and play as this is his last year in the junior ranks and the competition with his younger (and older) peers is not going to get any easier.

Even less certain is Li Ting who opted out of playing the World Junior earlier in India, probably happy enough to be a Juara Kampung via Malaysian Masters and was then easy winner of Asian Schools so others eligible might want to apply to play.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Third Time Was As Unlucky!

Three old friends and candidates for FIDE General Secretary from Asia united in their love for chess had all in their time tried to remove "the Evil Emperor" so as to save FIDE! ( L-R: Panupand Vijjuprbha (Thailand) - General Secretary for Bessel Kok 2006, Ignatius Leong (Singapore) - General Secretary for Kasparov 2014) and Abdul Hamid Majid - (Malaysia) - General Secretary for Karpov 2010).

Saturday, 11 October 2014

All Must Go!

In my column for the Malay Mail Online "A country (federation) with no chessplayers?" I had already pointed out that the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF), amongst other things, had no sponsors and a website that is has never been updated while also observing that it had a committee that served only to hold office for what ever personal reasons.

There has been a reaction on the ground to what was said but so far no tangible action resulting and while I don't expect anything to change, perhaps I should explain it in a different way.

What Malaysian chess is today can be argued to be a poorer reflection of what FIDE (World Chess Federation) is rapidly becoming, because on one hand we now have a rent seeking model in place and on the other hand the real stakeholders, parents and players, choose to tolerate a situation which all but ensures they will suffer.

Let me list the main problems:

1. Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib is the MCF President but has so little interest in the game that he has not even until today bothered to learn the moves, provided zero leadership, the only visible efforts on his part are to play the politics needed to keep himself in office! Not only has he not made any effort to get sponsorship but has survived three successive Deputy Presidents he invited to come on board and who put money in for him to spend. Yet Tan Sri has showed no interest in accepting funds for development such as offered by the Kasparov Chess Foundation and is even letting well supported projects for chess in schools agreed with the likes of MARA die a natural death.

2. His sidekick, the man who needs him to remain MCF president so as to keep his own position and so remain relevant, is Gregory Lau. With no funds from a MCF with Tan Sri at the helm, he has successfully (if clumsily) developed a system to keep himself in the money. One part involves controlling all selection and international representation so as to charge commitment fees to players and leverage administrative charges from parents, all which go direct to his pocket. Greg has also been caught on more than one occasion charging players for official places and who knows what his dealings are with organisers as the MCF representative? Till today he has not returned RM 1,000 to me from playing in the Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad much less the RM 5,000 advance for the Istanbul Olympiad and I have also had my sponsor cheated into paying for a room given free as Head of Delegation at a World Youth Championship, (Don't even go to the issue of his keeping FIDE fees paid to MCF for licences). The other part is in having a monopoly on organising of National events where questions are constantly raised as to where the entry fees go to... and it goes on and on.

3. Despite the Kuala Lumpur Chess Association being a member in good standing we do not get any communications from the Malaysian Chess Federation, of course as said before, the MCF website since launch has never been updated and so I have no doubt this is not personal and that all suffer largely the same and that includes emails and phone calls to Greg constantly ignored although he is all sweetness and light when he needs something from you.

4. While FIDE has lowered the entry level into its rating system to 1000 (when I first played chess it was 2200!) and now also includes Rapid and Blitz chess and so ensures we have a universal international system that caters for all levels, being integrated from beginner to World Champion, MCF continues to promote and prioritise its national rating system, the cost which is not only transferred back to players but a system which lacks expert administration. This is to me very serious as firstly events complying to international standards so as to qualify to be rated helps raise the level of local organising and secondly a list that is published globally monthly ensures benchmarks together with needed currency and integrity especially given it is a basis for internationsl selection.

5. MCF has in a year lost one Deputy President and one Vice President, also its Secretary and its Treasurer - these were clearly the only honourable people there - and no one knows who is now acting for them in these positions if indeed it matters given Tan Sri and Greg seem to be able to do anything they like. Given who the rest of the MCF committee members are, one cannot expect they would bother to question the embarrassment brought to Malaysia by their actions in Tromso, after all they contribute nothing except to show up for the occasional committee meeting. But now some are suddenly buzzing around because again there is a chance to go for a trip under the national flag - so we have the usual machinations by and between officials and parents going on as to who goes and plays in the World U-16 Olympiad. Of course for them and too many others, the stage at even any local event together with requisite photo opportunity is always a very important part of their job.

6. Is it so difficult to have development plans - for grassroots, states, young talent, national team, etc. and to have fundraising, marketing and promotional activities? Is it because that is real work and those in MCF are not up to it? Are we also the only National Sport body without an office of our own and a single employee? Perhaps we should start with addressing this.

Quite a few people have told me there is no alternative, some in MCF even going so far as to excuse them keeping their position and doing nothing by claiming there is no one else?

What a joke! Such arrogance! I have long advocated that all must go, that means all of us, those in MCF and others outside of the same generation. So as to create space and opportunity for a younger generation to step forward, and they will, don't need or have the right to worry who they are!

Yes, mistakes will be made, they may or may not seek advice from some who could help and sometimes will even fall on their faces, and so what? It does not matter, vested interests should not prevail. After all given what the current MCF and those who openly aspire to be part of it have or can contribute, really any idiot will do, and I have a great deal of confidence that we have not idiots but very capable 20 and 30 years olds who will do much better.

They deserve a Malaysian chess that is theirs to shape and to own.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Two Big Losses to Chess

This year we had our own Laurence How pass away due to complications arising from a mercifully short battle with cancer ( and sadly now Evelyn Koshnitsky too has left us at 99 years of age.

Evelyn, Mrs K, as I and many others called her, had not been well the last few years but until the end she remained alert and engaged in the game she had literally lived her life for.

My connection to her was primarily on two special occasions and both involved Laurence!

The first was when Mrs K brought a team of girls for a tour of Malaysia, I think it was the late 70's and while this was a time when very few girls played chess so there was hardly any locally at all to match them and so we put up a National Junior Boys team which was anyway well beaten!

In 1985 I finally made the trip to Adelaide where Mrs K lived and so naturally led the organising of women's chess in Australia from there and this was for the Asian Girls Championships.

Again it was Laurence who found the money and it was at this event that Malaysia had its finest moment with my student Audrey Wong winning our first ever major Asian title and I remember especially well the two adjourned games won in the first two rounds against the two favourites!

Till today I have wonderful memories of that trip, the backyard BBQs, Alan Goldsmith holding forth at the Adelaide Chess Centre, long discussions with Gary K., watching cricket with our host family, and of course Anne Slavotinik picking up and driving us to her house where her new found student cooking skills were on display!

For the reader to understand and appreciate what Mr K did, perhaps the following blog post will provide a perspective:

I will be the Chief Arbiter at the Myanmar Open from 23-30 November 2014 and I am very happy that with the sudden passing away of Zaw Win Lay, his country's first and only Grandmaster, the event has now been renamed after him.

He was a very fine player in his time, very well respected and a big inspiration to Myanmar chess players.

A few years back I had even looked to employ Zaw as a training-analysis partner for young talents at Polgar Chess Asia but it did not work out because the gentle man missed his country and life there too much.

A pity as he would have helped make a difference with some of the young talents breaking into the national team today.

Rest in peace Zaw, your contributions to chess everywhere will never be forgotten in your country and by all of us who came into contact with you, and much more importantly that any of your many achievements, you were a good man.