A look back at 2015 in the world of chess

DECEMBER 31 ― In chess the key to improvement is the elimination of weaknesses and at the end of this year, instead of silly resolutions ― no matter how well intended ― we need to take a hard and critical look back on the year and try to draw the right conclusions.

Whether we actually do something about it is another matter altogether!

Let's start with FIDE (World Chess Federation) which does not seem satisfied with the new world order it put in place post elections over a year ago and has chosen to continue (or at least not stop some individuals) from settling old scores.

This was done not only through the use of a heavily-compromised FIDE Ethics Commission but through regime change where some longstanding leadership in the East has been targeted.

It is also a FIDE without leadership as it seems that everyone who was part of the gang that so ruthlessly consolidated power is having their say in everything.

The rot started with the top and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, after happily celebrating 20 despotic years at the helm, is very much on borrowed time thanks to US sanctions ending his usefulness and it is no big secret that he will soon be replaced ― unless Russia has better ideas ― almost certainly by the ACF (Asian Chess Federation) president.

More alarming is both the rapid erosion of institutions within FIDE where positions and titles are so much loose change and the rise of a class of employees who have become laws unto themselves.

At home, we all know that the choices are bleak for Malaysian chess. Its long overdue election is now scheduled for May 2016 and frankly, the choices are dismal. Whoever is elected will bring with him a group of people who have been proven failures for the last 20 years.

However, there are bigger issues facing the chess world.

Cheating has become a major problem because technology has made it both too easy and difficult to detect. At the same time, the incidences of possible false accusations are complicating matters.

FIDE is simply not up to the task and with literally hundreds of thousands of chess competitions of various types organised at so many levels, it might even be impossible to deal with the cheating!

The other challenge for chess is to have a level playing field for the top players as there is a growing feeling that too much of the money in the game is being enjoyed by the elite players and there is no clear path for many other big talents to break into their ranks.

Besides calling for the current rating system to be revamped, I have long advocated a masters tournament circuit for the top players but with a secondary or challengers tournament circuit for the other professionals and with a qualifying system built in.

And more controversially I have also said that it is perhaps time is for the amateurs to decide if they want to try and join the professionals or just play in their own tournaments with no prize money.

Youth tournaments will of course continue to flourish, a young super talent can always still turn pro, like in other sports

At stake here really is the very survival of the vast majority of players who are trying to play for a living when they should have a system which might just suggest alternatives.

I am very tried of the fixing of results ― short draws the norm but all too often even thrown games ― in too many sub-standard events where neither player or organiser has really done the right thing by the game.

But with the kind of prizes going around and not being able to secure proper locations because there just isn't the money or because your standing in the game is not anything special, then what choice is there if one has to cover travel expenses and food is needed to be put on the table?

Many of the concerns pointed out earlier can all be addressed more easily with a formalised tournament circuit for the different levels of players ― as there would be checks and balances with multiple governing organisations together with different levels of enforcement and compliance as needed for matters such as cheating.

Needless to say this type of rationalisation of the competitions in the game will help to bring both mainstream and sports media to chess in all the ways we would like it.

Chess on TV anyone?

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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