Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking to the future in chess


Chess enthusiasts can expect a busy year ahead.

IT IS three weeks into the new year already. Pardon me if I’m still delving into the past but I need to mention two things before I move on.

The first was the demise of a fellow Malaysian chess journalist, one whom I’ve known since the 1980s.

Local chess enthusiasts will know the name of Lim Chong who worked with the Economics Desk of our national news agency, Bernama. Lim passed away in November last year while en route from an assignment in London.

In the 1980s, The Star and The Malay Mail were the only newspapers in the country with a regular chess page, and Lim was in charge of the chess output over there. Though we had different styles, I rather enjoyed what he wrote.

After a long helm, he was transferred to a sister publication and was in charge of the computer section. Much later, he left for Bernama. Though he no longer wrote about chess, he was still very much in touch with the game and concerned about the accuracy of local chess news.

For instance, in April last year, I had a rather long conversation with him about a news item on one of the Malaysian chess players. It was quite clear that the reporter had misunderstood our player and written something that created a minor flap in our chess circles. I was right there when the player was interviewed, so I could explain to Lim what went wrong.

However, that was an exception rather than the norm because Lim was a person of very few words, even in conversations. What he wanted to say, he preferred to say via e-mail. At least, that was my impression.

In the last year of his life, we exchanged quite a number of e-mails. He was working to compile information on the history of the Selangor open chess tournaments and he wanted me to fill in some blanks. I don’t know the extent of his work but I hope that he had completed it and handed it to the Chess Association of Selangor.

The other thing I must mention is the withdrawal of Datuk Tan Chin Nam from chess sponsorship. Immediately after the conclusion of last year’s Malaysia Chess Festival, Tan announced that he would be taking a sabbatical from sponsoring chess activities in the country.

He said that in order for chess in Malaysia to progress beyond the present, the chess movement should no longer be dependent on him to provide monetary assistance.

Chess organisers, he said, should be prepared to look at other sources of sponsorship. He considered himself a hindrance to chess. Though he did not say it, that could possibly mean that he did not want chess organisers to take him too much for granted.

I believe the implication of his decision has finally sunk in. I heard that when the Malaysians went down to Singapore in December for the annual chess match between the two countries, Tan declined to help meet the travel expenses. The Malay-sian Chess Federation was forced to look elsewhere for funds.

I have also been told that the running of the Datuk Arthur Tan Chess Centre at Wilayah Complex in Kuala Lumpur may also have been impacted. For the past two years, Tan had been meeting the cost of running this place. But since the beginning of this month, it has been different. Several chess supporters have banded together to keep the centre up and running.

There is definitely change in the air. In the months ahead, surely there will be more changes. The greatest impact will be felt nearer August and September. How will the next Malaysia Chess Festival be affected?

Although I’m not privy to the Festival’s finances, I know that the cost of staging it can be quite monumental. Hundreds of thousands of ringgit, perhaps? If Tan is not prepared to bankroll it, we should not expect this year’s Malaysia Chess Festival to be organised the same way as before. Only time will show how this will turn out.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten these two things out of my system, I’d just like to mention that this year’s Malaysian chess calendar has been released. Frankly, I’m very much surprised as this is only January. That’s pretty efficient on the Malaysian Chess Federation’s part.

So what sort of events can we expect this year? Well, in two months’ time, there will be the national age group championship and the national closed championships. They follow one another: the age group event is from March 12 to 15, while the national closed and the national women’s championships are from March 16 to 20.

In May, there will be the Malaysian men’s and women’s masters tournaments. Also in May and extending into June, we shall see the national schools chess tournament, organised by the Majlis Sukan Sekolah-Sekolah Malaysia (MSSM).

Also on the calendar will be a Malaysia inter-state chess championship in June, the Merdeka team chess championship and the Malaysia open championship in August, the national rapid age group and the national rapid championships in September, various chess camps for students in November, and the national junior chess championship in December.

On top of all that, the Chess Association of Selangor is certain of holding its Selangor open tournament, the Penang Chess Association will want to hold its Penang open tournament, and the Kuala Lumpur Chess Association will be planning its next KL open, while the Sarawak Chess Association will be looking into organising its Sarawak open.

Then, we should also expect to see all manner of organisers around the country coming out to plan their one-day tournaments as well. All too many to mention here at this stage, but they shall be announced as we go along.

It looks like it’s going to be another busy chess year indeed.

source: The Star Online

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