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Expressions

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Singapore-Malaysia Match 1997

by James Long 05/1998

Malaysia was the winner by a huge margin. Are the days when we used to hold our own over?

This is an annual friendly chess competition jointly organized by the Singapore Chess Federation and the Malaysian Chess Federation. Through such constant interactions, the respective federations as well as chess players from both side of the causeway can foster better relationships.

The Singapore-Malaysia Match was previously a biannual event. Therefore, both countries get to play host during the same year and extend their hospitalities.

Our Malaysian counterpatriots in chess have improved tremendously. Although no GMs yet, there are many strong IMs around. One of the brightest Malaysian star player is FM Mas Hafizulhelmi. He has performed exceptionally well in many tournaments, frequently winning board prizes in major events like the World Cities Chess Championship 1997 as well as the more recent Asian Team Championship. Mas look set to become Malaysia's first grandmaster.

The reason for his success, as well as other Malaysian chess stars, probably lies in a very supportive Federation. The MCF frequently send their players with great potential overseas for to play and to gain experience. If I am not mistaken, these trips are heavily subsidised by the MCF, making otherwise expensive trips affordable, especially at this time of economic crisis. The MCF must be congratulated in their efforts at securing the necessary sponsorship.


Educating Our Future

by James Long 06/1998

I really want to be a primary school teacher. I am one of those who believe in inculating good values in children while they are still young and impressionable. Impressionable is a key word because young children pick up habits, good or bad, with alarming ease. My ex-teachers in Secondary school have been lamenting about the type of students these days. Sinagpore's Youths these days are better educated and are generally more prosperous. They have more confidence and are highly image concious. The race to get the latest "IN" stuff is becoming a really dangerous and worrying social concern. It is not the race but the attitude youths bear these days. Getting the best education is no longer their top priority. Having fun, the coolest outfit and hanging out at pubs is.

Singapore is what she is today because of one main factor. Our leaders are sober visionaries who believe in hardwork and tough plans going well together hand in hand. Their logical approach to country building allowed them to force through sometimes painful but neccessary decisions. One example is the legistration of National Service. Our leaders realized that a country without arms is a vulnerable one. Real cases like Iraq's invasion of Kuwait bears a resounding truth. A more recent message from the government is the need to upgrade the skill levels of workers. The transition is always uncertain and painful, but neccessary.

However, these tough leaders will not be here for us always. Even our world reknown and respected Senior Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is in semi-retirement. Fresh blood will be needed in the govenment and they will have to come from our younger generation. These will be the future leaders of Singapore. If they are not started on the right path when they are young , it will be difficult to expect them to amount to much when they grow up.


Nationals without Qualifiers?

by James Long 07/1998

Traditionally, the 10 participants who get to play in the Nationals are: the top 3 from last years Nationals, the current National Youth Champion plus six best performers selected from two ( or three ) Qualifiers.

Initial rumour was that the old system may change, for this year at least. In addition to the top 3 from last years National Championship the remaining seven will be selected from only one qualifier.This is bad news. However, the truth is even worst - THERE WILL BE NO QUALIFIERS!!

The National Championship is meant to provide a basis for selection of players to represent Singapore in the World Chess Olympiad. The Qualifiers are supposed to help with that objective by ensuring only the best will get to play in the National Championship, from which the selection is based. However, that should NOT be the only purpose of having Qualifiers.

Qualifiers provide good chess playing environment for our players, especially our younger, aspiring players, that actually simulate serious tournament conditions and time controls. This helps train players in many aspects, like discipline. After a while, they will realise that having 5 mins for the last 10 moves for the first time control is not fun at all. Or proper chess preparation. Getting "outbooked" or "out-of-book" by more seasoned competitors will definitely wake them up to the real world that competitive chess without adequate preparation is doom to fail.

Also, apart from choosing the best players from 2 or 3 Qualifiers to participate in the Nationals and weeding out the rest, Qualifiers serve to provide a second chance for promising players who failed to Qualify the first time. They will try even harder during the following Qualifier having learnt from the valuable experience gained from the first Qualifier. Successive implementation of this qualifying system over a period of a few years will breed a population of competitive chess players that will keep striving to win despite defeats.

This year's method of choosing our National Representatives (only the top 3 from THE National Champion will get to go) has one good argument on its side, that is only the BEST will represent Singapore. I do not argue with that because I agree fully that only the best should represent our country, but at what expense? Is this the best method for choosing our Olympiad players? Would the old system of choosing 3 representatives from a group of 10 selected players whom have proven their worth in other events a better way than choosing 3 from just one tournament? Must we be so short sighted and sacrifice the gradual development of local chess talents for the immediate gains? Have the Federation fail to consider the possibility that many promising players will not play in that sole tournament if people like IM Hsu LY, FM Terry Toh, FM Ong CG, CM Lau KB, CM Malcom Tan, Junior Tay or Ostric Mooi were to participate, because the formers' chances of getting in the top three will be very, very slim.

I suppose SCF did consider that point but decided that sending our best three from a single tournament is a better plan than what was employed before.

Readers, what are your views? Write to me at Expressions.


Thoughts On National Youth

by James Long 08/1998

Do you know that this year's (1998) National Youth Chess Championship will be runned under rapid chess time controls? (Note: Similary for the year 1999. Webmaster, 03/06/99)

For many years, Singapore's National Youth Chess Championship has always been regarded as one of the top chess tournaments locally in terms of overall players' strength. Great respect was given to the reigning National Youth Champion, who automatically qualify for that year's Singapore's National Chess Championship. The National Youth Champion also is presented with a Candidate Master (CM) status, something honorary but gratifying nevertheless.

For the past couple of years, however, for some reasons, the popularity, together with the strength traditionally associated with that tournament, have been declining. Some much so that 1997's National Youth Chess Championship could only muster a total of 12(!) players. The winner, Mark Kay, was not bestowed the CM title, most probably because of the limited strength of that event.

What could have been the reasons? Poor publicity? Few interested players? Whatever is/are the reason/s, SCF have to do something quick to restore this event to its former glory.

However, reducing the traditional FIDE approved time controls of 23 moves in 1st hour and rest of the moves in the next to 1 hour per side, and now to 25 mins per player is, I strongly feel, not the right way to go about solving this problem. The National Youth Chess Championship is supposed to be one of the strongest tournament in Singapore. For it to use a rapid time control system will rob its legitimacy as one of the premier chess tournament in here. A National Youth Chess Championship, any National Championships in fact, should never be a rapid chess event.


Chess books on loan?

by James Long 01/1999

Did anyone notice 2 huge book cases at SIGC that are filled with chess books?

There are opening manuals, magazines, bulletins, Informant etc.

This idea is a good one. By providing a source of chess information, more chess players will flock to the chess club to read up their favourite lines and openings.

However, chess players are not allowed to borrow the books out of the chess club. The Chess Federation is worried that the borrower will leave with the books and not return again!

Still, this problem is not unresolvable. I have some suggestions that may help solve another problem - late renewal of membership.

By restricting the borrowers to SCF members only will

  1. help to ensure a prompt return of all loans(within a specificed time-frame) since the particulars of the borrower are all with SCF Library Committe,
  2. encourage chess players to apply or renew their membership early and
  3. indirectly increase SCF memberships, as there are many chess players interested only in the game but not enough to participate in tournaments, which is when they have to pay membership fee.

If this plan succeeds, both SCF and us chess players enter a win-win situation. Why?

  1. SCF increases their memberships and succeeds in encouraging more people to play chess by making the game more accessible
  2. When that happens, SCF can reduce the ordinary membership fees to attract even more people to register as members. The resulting increase in turnover should make up for the money loss from reducing membership fees.

Finally, one last suggestion. Extend the "information disemination" ideology one step further - make chess databases available. SCF can either loan them like chess books or allow chess players to access the database from a PC provided at the club. If at the club, restrict users to 10mins usage.


Life After AGM ?

by James Long 05/1999

AGM to decide the new committe to run the Singapore Chess Federation was held in March.

Result? The last team was relected without a sweat.

Reason? They did a good job? Perhaps, but perhaps too no one wants to run for the committee, or perhaps too few people knew about the AGM to be even there.

As mentioned in a note I placed in the Forum in March, I was very unhappy about how SCF prepared for the AGM. Brieftly, I felt that the people running the federation did the minimun effort in letting members and chess players whose membership have expired know about the AGM.

Members received a letter information them of the AGM date. And that was it, believe it or not. There were no notice anywhere, not on the notice board at the federation headquarters nor on their offcial webpage, that gives any clue about the coming AGM. I only got to know of the AGM a week before it, and that was by word of mouth. But it was too late then to join as a member to attend the meeting. I was told by a committe member that there is a clause that states all AGM participants must be a member of SCF by a certain date in January in order to have voting rights at the AGM iitself.

The consequence? Many concerned chess players in Singapore who are not members yet were denied the chance to attend the AGM to voiced their opinions and to vote in the candidates of their choice.

The Federation, since it is still runned by the same people, should do a better job of making sure chess player know about the next AGM, else only a select number of people will turn up for it, and the result of such a vote cannot be representative of the wishes of chess players in the country.


Fee Hike After AGM'99?

by James Long 05/1999

To anyone who have read my comments for the 3 tournaments before the AGM [Christmas Overnite 12/98, Hari Raya Pusar Rapid 01/99 and Ang Pow Rapid 02/99] will see that my impression of SCF runned tournament have improved gradually. There was a slow but steady increase in prize monies in the immediate tournaments before the AGM.

The tournaments created after the AGM, howeever, were massive disappointments from the point of view of prize monies. Total fee for a non-member is still S$50.00 (S$20.00 entrance fee + S$ 30.00 membership fee that is valid till 31st December only), but prize money dropped again to figures like S$120.00 for top prize in Vesak Day Rapid 05/99 and Labour Day Rapid 05/99, from S$188.00 in the Ang Pow Rapid 02/99. The decrease in prize money has the same negative effect of increasing entry fees.

Even worse was the just concluded May-FIDE rated event which showed a blatant increase in entry fee. A FIDE-rated event held in 1998 requires FIDE rated players to pay S$20.00 while non-FIDE-rated players pay S$50, but the MAY-FIDE rated event demands S$30 from rated players above 2200 and S$50 for those below 2200. Non-rated players now pay S$75. Prize money? Extracted from 60% of the total entry fee to bee divided among prize winners. I was surprised that there are people who actually pay to play in such an expensive tournament.

Judging from the prizes offered in the Golden Jubilee tournament, it seems that the new trend after AGM'99 includes

  1. dividing up a portion of the entry fees tto supplement prizes,
  2. increase entry fee directly and
  3. reducing prize money.

I am now a non-member mainly because of such reasons. Somehow, competitive chess is becoming more and more expensive especially in this time of economic crisis. I were at SIGC on Friday, 28/05 to check out tournament results for updating my webpage when I came across a table listing the number of members for the past ten years. The table indicated a large increase in the number of chess players for the past 2 years. That is a good trend, no? Of course it is but note that the greatest increase in membership is ONLY in the junior section. Whatever increase in adult membership is negligible in comparison.

Why is that so? I think the reason is juniors (under 21) are least affected by fee hikes. S$10.00 entry fee + S$5 membership fee is still affordable. That is why the increase in membership in that age group is big.

Not so for adults.

Even a serious competitive chess player like myself who have been active since 1993 finds the entry fee these days truly prohibitive, not to mention someone who just wish to play in tournament for the fun of it.

One of the main aims of any Chess Federation is to increase membership. That translates to bringing chess across to everyone so more people can learn and enjoy this delightful game. The emphasis here is EVERYONE, not just a single group of people. Please bear that in mind.


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