It was with some reluctance that I agreed to conduct a FIDE Trainer Seminar in Malaysia... it is almost always never a good idea to have to teach and certify participants from your own country.
The new FIDE Trainers Commission has moved from merely establishing the playing strength of the participants at seminars and then giving them a title assuming that they could then teach to actually looking to understand the level and needs of participants and to teach how to train better and to share methods and successful practices.
We have found too often people are attending a seminar to pick up a title they feel is their right but this is no longer the case!
Given what was given out in the past I would understand that some would have been disappointed with the title recommended by me to be awarded but I was also pleased that so many responded positively to our new approach and many were indeed looking for help to do their jobs as trainers better and I think enough got a significant takeaway.
At the end of the day, Malaysians are passionate about their chess... but more as players and that is probably how it should be.
While there were questions, the group became most alive when there were given activities to perform and in the photo above, they were broken up into six groups to apply what was taught about analysing games by actually trying it out themselves step by step and to report their conclusions and see if they were getting it right.
Here are the 18 participants together with the organisers Steven Cheong and Dinesh Gerijan from the Johor Chess Association.
It was unplanned and as last minute as it could get but it ended up to be a good idea to meet in Amman, Jordan instead of in Dubai and Al-Ain, UAE.
We did get the work we wanted to do done and I got the opportunity to visit Sami Khader's Asia Chess Academy.
Here we are competing to have the better Blues Brothers look but we are failing to even look like Chess Gangsters.
The academy is wonderfully situated, centrally located and very accessible, yet in a quiet area, and is one of the most children friendly I have seen.
I loved the energy and passion, and the kids showed great focus and determination whether playing or working on exercises. Sami is to be congratulated for creating this learning environment and the evidence is in the rapid improvement showed by students just after a year and would surely be very strong players in two or three years time.
Besides the main area, there were smaller rooms where smaller groups could work.
Yes, Russian books. Sami might claim to have Arabic as his first language but he also studied in the old Soviet Union.
Jordan lays claim to the best sweets in the Middle East and I think we have to concede that as fact.
Sadly I forgot to steal one of these before I left.
Arriving near midnight with the seminar starting the next morning and then after three days, immediately after rushing to the airport to catch the red eye home and feeling like shit the rest of the day was not my choice.
But with the two seminars organised concurrently with the World Youth Championships in Mumbai and the World Junior Championships in Delhi, the hotels were five star and as good as anyone had experienced in past events.
I was not involved with the Malaysians playing in both these events but they were simply outclassed, at best playing to their low seedings and quite uncompetitive ratings, which I suppose is both an indictment of their training and the selection process.
This is one highlight for us to work with such a forward thinking and vibrant community to support development efforts there. Here FIDE Executive Director Victor Bologan was instrumental in making it possible.
Very happy that China has opened up and are now supportive to working with FIDE and TRG on conducting trainer seminars there. A very big thank you to CCA Secretary Abigail Tian Hong Wei and her fantastic team and even more so a big debt to a very old friend and China's first World Champion Xie Jun.
This was quite an experience with many memorable moments and I like to believe that my visit might have made a difference and my hosts seem to have thought so although given how hospitable, kind and gracious they had been...
And I will also have to say that their chess culture, while vibrant, is also certainly very entrenched!
Let's start with the 18 hour journey starting from KLIA to Bangkok on Thai Airways and then after the usual 4 hour wait, on a rather good Kenya Airways, to their capital city Nairobi.
The report on the seminar itself is on record and given in the link earlier so I would like share the highlight of my trip which almost did not happen given my tight schedule.
Of course, it was Safari!
Note how close the city is to the Nairobi National Park. Just 15 minutes away without the quite horrendous local traffic and when it starts at 5.30 a.m. and finishes at 10.30 a.m. and so with enough time to make your 11 a.m. appointment, then all is good!
Quite a variety of birds... including vultures! All too real but not as scary looking as you get in the movies.
Impala and buffalo
Yes, it's a Zebra crossing!
I was told I was lucky to get to see Lions,
A heated argument broke out on my FaceBook post when I repeated what my guide told me about this being an Alligator. Seems there are only Crocodiles in Africa.
I came primarily to see a Giraffe so mission accomplished.
My friend Kim Bhari and frequent dinner companion also wrote about my visit in his well followed blog as follows:
But he missed a couple of activities, not knowing I worked off the plane from 9 a.m. on arrival at 6 a.m. including several group and individual sessions with Chess Kenya Academy trainees but also visiting the National Inter-Banks.
What also stood out for me in my visit was seeing so much chess going on at the developmental level and it was wonderful to be able to join my old friend Githinji Hinga at his MiniChess workshop teaching teachers in a program that hopes to have chess in 20 schools serving 17,000 children in the slums by the end of next year.
Finally I have to thank Benard Wanjala for remembering it was my birthday for me and giving me something to always remember.