Entrenchment and the politics of revenge

AUGUST 4 ― Unlike the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) which would be an illegal organisation should the relevant national sports authorities choose to act, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) does go through the motions and has just published the FIDE Congress General Assembly Agenda and Annexes.

I was surprised, however, that MCF allowed 10 juniors to represent our country at the Commonwealth Championships currently being held in Colombo, Sri Lanka where we are the third largest contingent; the hosts, of course, make up almost three quarters of the participants and India with their 33 participants are certain to sweep all the top places.

This is because for some time now there has been talk of sending our very best young talents to the World Youth U-16 Olympiad but that ended last week without our participation. It was a comprehensive victory for Iran who now have a group of special young talents who are already able to challenge grandmasters and are just short of being among the elites.

It would appear then that not as many Malaysians, as was hoped, would be participating in the newly-created East Asian Youth Championships to be held in Seoul, South Korea from August 4-11. The general understanding is the championship is organised by the Asian Chess Federation's Casto Abundo Jr together with his wing man KK Chan to destroy their friend, the former FIDE General Secretary Ignatius Leong and his ASEAN Chess Confederation (ACC) which has successfully organised 17 Asean Age-Group Championships to catalyse growth in the region.

Yes, two of the items listed for the FIDE Congress to be held concurrently with the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan from September 1-16, 2016, involve ACC. The first is the correspondence between FIDE and ACC which clearly states this as the reason to suspend ACC, and the second is an appeal by six of the 10 ACC members asking FIDE not to penalise its members and to restore titles and ratings earned by its players in ACC events.

Malaysia, who will be the host of the 18th ASEAN Age Group Championships in 2017, apparently led the appeal. Cambodia and Laos who have no chess players did not sign but Singapore also refused while Brunei did not actually get around to giving its formal support despite being seemingly in agreement.

Going down the Annexes, I can see that the politics of revenge by certain elements in FIDE is still being pursued.

In Africa, the Kenyan Chess Federation which stood firmly with Gary Kasparov has also been targeted with the usual trick of setting up a rival organisation and then choosing not to recognise the legally constituted one.

The European Chess Union despite defeating the incumbent at the FIDE elections held during the World Chess Olympiad held in Tromso, Norway in 2104, is still going after their former president and the Bulgarian Chess Federation he heads.

Two other agenda items jumped right out, the first being a peculiar proposal by the Russian Chess Federation to open up the World Chess Championships to allow suitably qualified challengers to play for the title on the basis of being able to raise a significant prize fund, and the second is the sad state of FIDE accounts and its explanations as to income and expenditure.

With a budget of just a little over two million Euros, FIDE is a pathetically poor international sports organisation and even worst is that they make all their money from taking royalties from a share of the prize funds at world events they award, collecting membership fees, from title applications and the subsequent licence fees, and through conducting arbiter and training seminars.

All which shows FIDE is now doing (and is) nothing more than providing an administrative function based on its being the international body for chess and so is able to impose tax on everything possible instead of generating sponsorship. It seems that MCF too is doing very much the same except that individuals in the council directly benefit.

So why does no one stand up to demand MCF do the right thing? It is of course a losing battle with FIDE but there are people who are still trying but in both cases incumbency and the ability to reward, no matter how inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things, have ensured that 20, even 30 years later, the same people remain in power.

We in Malaysia not only tolerate poor conditions and the arrogance and lies of officials but there is not a single protest against the numerous  instances of bad if not outright corrupt behaviour and one does not need to go further than the many questions, time and again, over national selection.

The truth is that our chess people who can make a difference are basically selfish and so make excuses not to serve while too many others would rather be silent and complicit so that next time around they can benefit in exactly the same way!

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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