JUNE 9 ― The 17th ASEAN+ Age Group Chess Championships has just ended in Pattaya, Thailand and it was a big success for both the Asean Chess Confederation (ACC) and Thailand Chess Association.
I have in a previous column mentioned that the World Chess Federation (FIDE) at the instigation of the Singapore Chess Federation (SCF) through the Asian Chess Federation had acted to suspend the ACC and in so doing has refused to rate or allow the award of FIDE titles in an event which is now in its 17th year.
Given this situation, I am sure that the organisers would have been gratified by the strong show of support by its members; of the 14 countries participating, no less than half were Asean member nations.
Despite the best efforts of SCF to discourage them, many young players from our neighbouring island state made the trip as did hundreds of players from the regional chess powerhouses of Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia who were joined by host Thailand, Myanmar and of course Malaysia.
The ACC holds its annual meeting every year during the Asean Age Groups and Malaysia Chess Federation (MCF), who had opted out in support of SCF and an expectation that a takeover of the organisation was possible, has now rejoined the family with MCF Deputy President Muammar Julkarnain taking the vacant country place in the council.
Malaysia also asked for and was awarded the Asean Age Groups for 2017 to be held in Sabah with a promise it would be at the 4-Star Nexus Resort Karambunai in Kota Kinabalu.
For many years now, Brunei was absent and busy with other priorities while Laos and Cambodia did not have any chess players. They existed as little more than votes for the incumbent FIDE leadership and did not participate.
It was clear to me when walking around and chatting with the parents and coaches that it was a joy for them to be at the Asean Age Groups and it was not because it was being held at the Dusit Thani Pattaya Beach Resort either!
Winning medals and the title of an Asean champion meant more than getting FIDE ratings and in some ways, it was so much better for the children participating not to have the added pressure of fighting for really quite meaningless rating points which fluctuate madly with every event in their first years of competition.
The presence too of the legendary Eugene Torre, Asia's first grandmaster and also Asia's first World Chess Championship candidate ― he gave away the prizes ― was very special and more so when he kindly consented to give a number of simultaneous chess exhibitions for the participants.
Yes, it was unanimously agreed that the Asean Age Groups would continue next year, FIDE rated/titled, or not. It has become too important an event for our young players as otherwise the best of them will have no opportunity to showcase their talent and many more others will have no benchmark of their progress. Even more will have no opportunity for international competition with their peers.
It is therefore unfathomable to me that SCF wants the event to fail and the two Filipinos who are FIDE General Secretary and Asian Chess Federation (ACF) Executive Director, also respectively National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) Secretary General and FIDE Delegate, are happy to deprive their own country's chess players of this opportunity.
Well, that's not what the remaining ACC member countries want as they will go individually and collectively to FIDE to ask for the event to be both rated and titled with the argument that players should not suffer from the political machinations of others with less interest in the game.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.