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.