Spotlight on the promotion (or lack) of local chess events

OCTOBER 13 — One of the most common questions I am always being asked is: “Where do I find information about where I can go to play chess?” Usually this is asked by someone intending to visit Malaysia

Sadly, outside of the major events like the Malaysian Chess Festival, the Penang Open, Johor Open and perhaps even the Selangor Open, I am often unable to give them a satisfactory answer and there are more than a few reasons for this.

Chess is indeed thriving in Malaysia but with very few exceptions, people no longer get together to play chess for fun. Only at competitions.

Indeed it is not because of the major events like the national championships organised by the Malaysian Chess Federation(MCF) but the sheer volume of events held every weekend all over Malaysia.

Just two weeks ago, there were no less than three sizeable events that clashed with each other!

These chess tournaments which were held in Rompin, Seremban and Langkawi saw an amazing number of participants from among our diehard local chess community largely based in KL together with the usual visiting Filipino professionals.

Publicity was very limited and yet enough people knew about and participated in them.

I do not personally see any problem with these events clashing as they are in different states but there is no question that it is very useful to have a publicly accessible chess calendar that is kept up to date. 

Even for the long-announced Penang and Johor Opens in December, we now have a clash with two back to back bigger money tournaments in the Philippines on practically the same dates!

Once upon a time — and really not that long ago — there was an enthusiast calling himself GilaChess and who started a blog, the first in Malaysia dedicated to chess and who took the trouble to list all the local chess tournaments. But over time, he found it difficult to keep it up to date.

There were appeals to share the workload and for a short period, a few blogs also emerged which carried much of the same listings but they quickly suffered the same fate!

Over time, volunteerism for the greater good simply might not always make sense.

Well, the setting up of an events calendar is really something MCF should be doing given they have been dealing directly with local organisers but then again I suppose it is not in their interest to get their hands too dirty with events they have no real say over but endorse just to get the ratings fees.

The problem is too many people in chess are satisfied with being able to play while chess organisers are happy to just have a tournament so even basic promotion is forgotten or largely left to chance.

But things are changing with more and more enthusiasts in positions, especially with government, to leverage their workplace connections in order to have tournaments.

Yes, many serve targeted segments but in time they grow and open up and when collectively put together, they make up a very large number. This is especially so when the efforts of professional organisers like Mohd Fadli Zakaria (and his serious but of course friendly competition from AB Chess) are added to those of state associations and through the largesse of Datuk Tan Chin Nam’s patronage.

It is good for local chess that GilaChess has decided to again do a chess calendar and more frequently update his blog

I already see a positive response from many who are starting to promote their events there, and there is now talk of automating feeds to other social media platforms like Facebook.

GilaChess has done a lot for Malaysian chess in the last 15 years now and has been the sole media presence at the Malaysian Chess Festival.

He deserves the support of everyone in the Malaysian chess community to do this often thankless and unpaid job.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.