Helping the Singapore Chess Federation move forward

DECEMBER 24 ― During the 8th Asean Para Games held in Singapore early this month, there were plenty of opportunities ― in between rounds and after games at the end of the day ― to engage in conversation with the various members of the SCF (Singapore Chess Federation) present at the event.

What did we talk about? Among other things, the role of parents in chess which I had written about in an earlier column.

Given the importance of parents in chess today ― so much being done in chess is for and about the kids and much of the money flows from their parents ― they are certainly major stakeholders and there is no question that they should have a role, but only with checks and balances.

However, my SCF friend was much less concerned about my comment that parents had no business taking over and running chess federations but much more interested in my views as to how SCF could best proceed!

If it is for reasons of personal and/or political prestige, to directly favour or influence your children's international chess opportunities and success or to benefit financially, these are all big No's.

I am not saying that those in SCF do this although I have said that some in MCF (Malaysian Chess Federation) are as guilty as can be and a great deal of what they have been up to is well documented in my previous writings.

I do, however, think that my friends are new to the leadership of SCF. They claim to be there on a mandate to unite the so-called various factions but actually do not really know what they are doing and in fact, through their actions, are doing the exact opposite and dividing the very small chess community there!

Clearly some hidden hands backing them are guiding revengeful actions to settle old scores while perhaps for others, there is an insecurity over an election won thanks to a chance opportunity rather than a real mandate. As a result there have been quite a few less than transparent actions.

We all know how selfish chess players are, so very often they do deserve the national chess federation they get but parents are naturally guided by the interests of their kids first and foremost and today's SCF is definitely not a better balanced organisation.

I summarise below the five points I think SCF can adopt so they can move forward with a policy, a strategy and a plan for Singapore chess:

1. The world of chess can be divided into two: that of the amateurs i.e. ― the hobbyists, kids, etc. where chess will always be a leisure activity, and that of professionals i.e. the elite players and those who seek some form of living from the game as coaches, arbiter-organisers, etc.

The reality check would then start with realising that in Singapore ― as in every other Asean country and in most of Asia and the rest of the world ― without a single elite player, there is really no top level chess.

2. Next, then take the attributes of chess and consider its positive images in the minds of the general public i.e. the less informed non chess specialists. Ask yourself what sells? Not a programme based on real sporting success but showcasing brilliant young talent. Not necessarily in chess but made real and actualised by chess!

3. Finally, understand what then does the Singapore government want for its youth, etc. What are the propaganda messages? Align with chess!

4. So, invest in the kids and youths. Parents know how to do this although not always well or in the best way. But now you have the needed guidance by taking and using the positives of chess aligned with government policy.

You don't want professionals unless by chance a one in a lifetime super talent emerges and anyway that is a special problem which can largely take care of itself.

So build your national chess program around the young and ruthlessly end it for them when it is time to focus on higher studies and more important things in life.

5. No national representation in official Team Singapore events for those older than 16 unless near to being or is a grandmaster already and able to be rated at least 2650 by 21 years of age.

It does not make a difference if adults play; Singapore is not going to get a medal in a major chess event like the World Chess Olympiad or Asian Team Championship.

With this it will be certain that the players will be better younger. More importantly, everyone will be excellent as all results can be made to be achievements! For example, if a kid draws a grandmaster in competition? Its not uncommon nowadays in Open and team competitions. But for the media and general public? Wow!

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.