DECEMBER 29 — The long-awaited Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) election was finally held on December 11, 2016 and incumbent president Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib finally retired.
Ramli, in his final address, attempted to defend his sad record but there was little sympathy from even those who served with him.
I, however, take the now increasingly less controversial position that the biggest barrier to development of chess in Malaysia has in fact been its patron Datuk Tan Chin Nam (and his many hangers-on).
Even when not serving as MCF president, a post he held for decades from the 70s, he shaped Malaysian chess according to his will and decided each of his successors including Ramli.
The self-titled "dream team" Tan put together to take on Ramli at the elections expected to win as they arrogantly felt that only they were capable of leading MCF but this was not what other members felt and the only question really is why were they surprised when they lost!
A mixed bag is now in place at MCF and the appointments for Honorary Secretary, Assistant Honorary Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President for Womens Chess might create more challenges than solutions.
There is a President and a Deputy President now in MCF with sufficient access to funds who are relatively new to local chess but more importantly are not compromised as are too many of those re-elected who served under Ramli.
It is good that the Datuk Tan era in Malaysian chess — one marked by vanity, racism, and nepotism — has come to an end, but more importantly the new leadership needs to be able to forge its own path.
A sad election threat made was the ending of sponsorship of the Malaysian Chess Festival but that event is nothing but a reinforcement of our own self imposed mediocrity where every organisational shortcoming (and there are too many) is on public display.
The new MCF leaders will very likely face numerous obstacles from those with vested interests who had been elected with them as well as from the appointments they will make. This includes placing trust in those who claim to be experts or even to represent the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and/or Asian Chess Federation (ACF), lies that were already made at the MCF election.
Many have asked my take on the way forward and my advice remains the same:
1. Plan: Set priorities and have a budget. Finally, put in the operating framework including guidelines, rules and regulations.
2. Implement: Have an office, hire an Executive Director with administrative help to do the work. MCF Council then just sets policy. Each office bearer and council member gets a project to lead and work with the Executive Director to implement, jointly reporting to the Council.
Without any of the above, MCF may not fail but will definitely not change for the better.
After all, this MCF, as it stands today, even with the expected appointments, will lack real technical expertise but more importantly will also struggle to come up with a co-ordinated strategy and direction.
But with the fundamentals put in place and the regulations actually adhered to, then the many mistakes that will be made can be easily accepted (as opposed to tolerated) as part of the learning process.
Then Malaysian chess will be able to find its own voice — one that collectively addresses the aspirations of the entire local chess community — and not that of those who think they know better!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.