Friday, July 30, 2010

Ex-chess champ Karpov on the campaign trail

Former world champion Anatoly Karpov wants to bring dignity back to the game.


THE message was clear enough. The World Chess Federation (Fide) must change or else it will continue to lose influence and significance, said Anatoly Karpov, the 12th world chess champion.

Karpov, 59, was in Kuala Lumpur for three days last week as part of a whirlwind visit through several Asian countries to raise support in his bid to be elected the next Fide president.

According to Karpov, the leadership in Fide had not achieved much in the past 15 years and had neglected the interests of many of the chess federations in its fold.

One of the sore points that Karpov raised was that the incumbent Fide president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, had alienated international sponsors.

Face-to-face: Karpov playing with 12-year-old Yeoh Li Tian.

“Chess is one of the most active sports in the world and Fide has 158 member countries.

‘In terms of members, we are among the biggest international sports federations and yet we don’t see long-term ties with sponsors that should benefit us,” Karpov charged.

“For example, world chess championship matches used to offer prize money by the millions of dollars but ever since the present Fide president came on board, we have seen lower prize monies. In fact, the many changes in the formats for the world championship cycles have caused a lot of confusion. Is it any wonder that international sponsors have shied away?” he asked.

If his team gets elected at the Fide congress this September, one priority would be to bring dignity back to chess. According to him, short 10-game or 12-game matches were hardly reflective of chess struggles at the highest levels.

“World championship matches should not be less than 16 or 18 games but Fide presently finds difficulty to bring in quality sponsors who can support matches of this length.” he said.

Karpov gave another example of the decreasing visibility, saying that significant activities like world championship matches used to be played in the big cities of the world – New York, London, Seville, Paris – but he claimed that since 1995, these events were being moved to lesser cities.

“It doesn’t say much for chess that this year’s chess Olympiad – the traditional biennial gathering for the worldwide chess family of close to 160 countries – is being held in Siberia, in a place called Khanty-Mansiysk,” he claimed.

And in truth, that is correct because I’ve written about Khanty-Mansiysk before. Even getting there is going to be problematic as most connecting flights are only available from Moscow and it’s a journey of several days.

But the chord that struck home was that in recent years, national chess federations have been feeling the pinch of having to pay increasingly higher fees for all sorts of activities. Smaller chess federations such as the Malaysian Chess Federation find that annual fees have gone up significantly.

Getting new players onto the Fide rating list, no matter their rating levels, means getting billed. Then there are the fees for registering even Fide-rated events. All these add up and it is not surprising that there are countries that find themselves temporarily out of benefit from Fide because fees are in arrears.

The MCF, for example, found out that our players were temporarily removed from the Fide rating list because of unpaid dues.

According to Karpov, countries should not be forced to fund Fide. It should be the other way around, that Fide should instead be helping the countries raise funds for their activities.

“It should make sense,” he argued, “that a happy national chess federation will contribute more towards the progress of chess.”

Apart from Malaysia, Karpov and his small entourage that included his candidate for deputy president, Richard Conn Jr, had travelled through China, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

While in Kuala Lumpur, Karpov paid a courtesy call on Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tunku Imran ibni Almarhum Tuanku Ja’afar at the OCM office and was guest of honour at a function hosted by the Malaysian Chess Federation’s honorary life president, Datuk Tan Chin Nam, who incidentally also sits in Karpov’s Advisory Team.

The former world champion also played two exhibition blitz games with Malaysian international master Mas Hafizulhelmi and up-and-coming youngster Yeoh Li Tian, winning against both players.

Quah Seng Sun can be contacted at

--- The Star Online

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Serious business


Training programme to groom young chess talents in the country.

BANGLADESHI grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (pic), who will be based in Malaysia for the next year or so, will soon be getting down to the serious business of training young chess talents in the country.

The Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) has finalised a 15-month development programme stretching over six terms to groom young talents.

Each term of the MCF Young Talent chess development programme is self-contained and will last 30 days. Every programme will cover all aspects of chess training. These include assessment of a player’s capability and understanding of the game, an intensive study of the chess middlegame and endgame, and the important chess opening theory.

Ziaur will take the students through all the stages of chess preparation, identify their playing styles, their strengths and weaknesses, and look into areas of improving them. To achieve this, he will have a small group of local international masters to assist him during each term.

According to the MCF, the focus of the programme is to discover and develop junior chess talents in the country who are between eight and 14 years old as they represent the future of Malaysian chess. Nevertheless, older youths are welcomed, too.

The programme will run from this month until September next year. The first term is from July 24 to Aug 22 so that the first batch of students to finish the programme can also take part in the Malaysia Chess Festival scheduled for September.

There will be a fresh intake of students every term. The second term starts in September, the third term in November, the fourth in February next year, the fifth term in April and the sixth term in July. So there will be ample opportunities for readers to send their children to attend these intensive programmes.

The approach to each term’s programme is simple: group training for all students to learn the fundamentals of chess, and a personalised session during which the students are paired with the grandmaster or an international master who will take them through a more detailed study mode. This session will help the trainer fine-tune the student’s skills to the best advantage of his playing style and preferences.

At the end of the term, each student would have undergone a maximum of 68 hours of end-to-end chess improvement experience and learning.

The fee is capped at RM500, thanks to sponsors. Normally, such training programmes with grandmasters can easily cost between RM4,000 and RM6,000.

Students interested in attending the first term should contact the MCF before July 19. Due to space constraints, there are only places for 10 students.

The MCF stressed that the development programme is not meant for beginners. Students are required to possess certain playing strength and skills.

For enquiries or to request for the programme prospectus, contact Najib Wahab (016-3382542, or the MCF secretary Gregory Lau (012-9020123).

---- the star online