JUNE 11 — The 11th Asian Schools Chess Championships 2015, held from May 30 to June 8, 2015 in Singapore has ended and there were quite a few takeaways for the organisers, national chess federations and players, if indeed there is any real interest in the many lessons that can be learned.
For the organisers, despite their vast experience, I can certainly say they will want to learn, and especially so as the 16th ASEAN+ Age-Group Chess Championships is immediately following at exactly the same venue with very much the same team running it!
What is different is, of course, the participant country mix even if the numbers are about the same, and that they are in odd rather than even age group categories which strangely enough has always translated into stronger events.
Go figure the difference between U7, U9, U11, U13, U15, and U17 versus U8, U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18; other than the fact that the kids are one year older when starting the latter and eligible to play one year later, but perhaps that alone is our answer.
Let me start with the organisers.
One of the biggest differences between the World Schools Chess Championships held in Pattaya just a few weeks ago and the Asian Schools Chess Championships is the type of accommodation. The Dusit Thani is a resort hotel while Nanyang Technological University could only provide hostels.
None of this is actually a problem as it is usually one or the other, depending on what is available in the host city, and published in its prospectus well in advance.
If there was any real criticism of the Singapore organisers, it was simply that the logistical challenges had been a little underestimated as the championships was held at the time the SEA Games was taking place. But to say that Nanyang Technological University, a world class host of numerous national and international events lacked facilities is a little bit of a joke.
Now let me move on to the national chess federations.
One of the "lies" I see at such events is that there are countries taking part. The reality is that different parents or groups of parents take part and they go under the flags of their national chess federations, and as we well know, their level of commitment and competence varies greatly.
Organisers struggle with too many different flight details where last minute changes are the norm and parents vent their frustration at the only party they can on arrival: in most cases, this should be the appointed Head of Delegation who is however usually not only indifferent to the problems of those playing under the same flag but has no relationship with them beyond the trip.
Yet they are the supposed point of reference and so often, that means getting caught up in internal problems, even petty squabbles amongst the groups, when in fact organisers should be allowed to focus on running the event.
I often see too many cases of partial or even non-payment, and to be fair it is not always alleged payment but an actual payment to their federation that was not somehow transferred, but what I find disgusting is actual refunds are demanded when arriving late or deciding to go home on an earlier flight.
The real audience in these championships are parents and here is some advice for them:
1. It is an international championship in a foreign country where things are not like they are at home so try to have some consideration even if understanding is impossible for you.
2. The organisers are not your paid tour agent or a servant you order around for your personal needs or to make changes in your holiday itinerary.
3. Every official competition has a schedule and that includes attendance of the technical meeting at the start and the awards ceremony at the end where everyone is honoured.
Now let's get on to the competition itself, where it is about those are playing.
First, let me congratulate the three World Schools Chess Champions -- Shania Mae Mendoza from the Philippines in Girls U-17, Tejaswini Sagar from India in Girls U-15 and Amira Kaibekova from Kazakhstan in Girls U-9 -- who confidently and convincingly added the Asian Schools Chess Championships title.
Hosts Singapore can also be happy with their big hope Liu Xiangyi winning Open U-17 and especailly so with Cyrus Nisban confirming his talent with a gold-winning performance in a strong Open U-11.
In an event with a record 19 countries and 367 players, an amazing 13 won medals. The Philippines won six gold medals of the 11 total it won beating perennial winners India who had 19 medals but only five gold.
Malaysia? The group that participated were pretty representative of what we are so it was not a big surprise to me that we went home empty handed.
We did, however, make our mark in the event with numerous unpleasant incidents that were noted by all present and which simply confirmed our status as having the most difficult parents with spoilt kids even if a few other countries and delegations did give us some initial competition in this regard.
Once again, Malaysia Boleh!
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.