Same old lessons on how to be better

AUGUST 13 — The Asian Youth Chess Championships in Suwon ended two days ago. I have now moved some 20 minutes north to Seoul for the next stage of my Korean adventure; visiting local chess academies for the next 10 days.

I have to congratulate the Korean Chess Federation for doing an excellent job in their first major international event since the Korean Open some seven years ago.

The general consensus was that the choice of venue — a beautiful university campus with the various playing halls and dormitories a five- to 10-minute walk apart — together with the many recreational facilities provided the perfect backdrop for the event.

On the technical side, everything ran smoothly. 

Several of Malaysia's best and most promising young players participated and perhaps with just one exception, it was again nothing to shout about.

The reasons why have been written about ad nauseam; they are an indictment of the long drawn-out 20-year failure of Malaysian chess, not to mention the culpability of over-indulgent parents.

Some parents told me that their children found it too difficult as they were not able to compete with the best players but able to mostly beat the tail enders. While I fully agree with the first part as that has long been the case, I am seeing more and more that beating the bottom third is not anymore a sure thing.

With computers — software programs and databases — and the Internet, the playing field has been levelled globally.

The failure of our young players, especially those who are able to find the resources to compete regularly in major national and international competitions and also have training assistance, simply comes down to two things.

Firstly, the environment today where our children, not because they cannot or do not want to, simply lack the necessary discipline and ability to work hard.

And secondly, most parents simply do not know what is needed in chess for their kids to excel as their points of reference are what they see around them. And when applying their own intellect and experience to this peculiar challenge, understandably the task is often beyond them.

My advice is for their kids to play a lot but have their games carefully analysed with the help of strong experienced players and to learn from the mistakes.   

And since their kids have a trainer, then he or she must not just point out weaknesses but be able to develop a plan to address them. Giving appropriate exercises to the students to work on is a start!

One last reminder is that computers are just a tool.

The great 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov enthused about the ability of current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen (who is from and a product of the computer age) "to resist" the computer, and by this he of course meant that Carlsen was more able than his rivals to analyse independently and with the computer and not just follow it.

Is there a better example than the highest rated player of all time? 

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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