Sunday, January 31, 2010

Congratulations Hairulov

Congratulations! Hairul for being nominated to the MCF committee. I am glad for you that your contribution to chess has been recognised.

An aside: I am wondering if the comments from anonymous in "MCF Latest news" has any bearings to this. I do not really know Hairul and so I was scratching my head why this person seemed so keen to create a problem between us. Then I recalled an incident from a distant past. I was nominated to the PICA committee in 2006 after my son won the MSSPK in 2005. My first glimpse of the inner workings. I soon realised they were not interested in any contribution from me. In fact my son was now attacked openly in front of me. Small things at first like making him stand for a long time when he wanted to hand in his results. Pretending not to see him. Of course I was conflicted. Afterall I was in the committee and could not be seen to go against the other committee members.

Anyway things came to a head when Mark was barred from even attending the selection for Merdeka Team. So I openly spoke up. In the end, Chan the current President, called me and said that he would ensure that my son is not victimised if I resign from the committee!! I did.

Remember that was in 2006. Very honestly I did not now what to make of it at that time. I had never experienced that type of behaviour before. For a while I even questioned Mark. It took me more years of careful observation to come to my conclusions. This seems to be the modus operandi. They bring you into the committee not for your contribution but to control you. Hard to believe isn't it. That there are people who would ask you to join their committee so they can attack your son!!?

Did they really think I was more interested in the position than my own son?? Are there people like that? I won't tolerate this sort of behaviour even if it was done on somebody else's child.

I am not saying that MCF condones this type of behaviour. So I'd like to think that Hairul is nominated for the right reasons. But I still continue to wonder if there is a connection given anonymous's behaviour. More careful observation could be revealing.

Sunday noon musings

Feeling a little tired today. Have been running around for the past few weeks trying to set the academy up as well as putting a tournament together. Yes you heard right, the academy has been formed, that is the easy part. Now have to make sure that the syllabus is properly thought through, talking to my partners. Some think that calling it an academy is over reaching as we are starting smallish and some think its a statement of our aspirations... I believe in consensus building so these discussions are necessary. Better to talk more now than all pulling in different directions when we launch.

Anyway this morning I had a telephone conversation with a sponsor and explaining our philosophy. Have you ever met people, you feel have somehow lost their spark? Or someone who is very negative and whining all the time? Somehow they have lost the big picture and now seem stuck. They focus more on tearing down than building. My belief is that these people will never be a GM nor can they help to build one. So it's important to protect the culture. To make sure that our boys and girls never lose that spark, that they always believe that they can do it, to reach for their dreams and achieve it, whether it is to become GM or any other ambition. So I focus alot on that and I tell all my partners, sponsors and possible sponsors that this is what I want to achieve. The rest will be up to the players. They do the actual fighting on the board. But I will try my best to see that they have what they need to succeed.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A random thot

Met up with a friend for coffee this morning. We were joined by a Mr Ang, who was a former coach to Cheah Soon Kit, our badminton player. He said that once a player becomes a champ, he begins to feel fear.... And while we were talking, a thot came in my mind. I wonder if the sports like squash, bowling etc. where Malaysians became world beaters were because they put their players first. Just wondering.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Latest news from MCF

I like the new wind of change in MCF and chess. I am seeing more information now than even when I was in PICA. With information we are able to coordinate our efforts. This augurs well for Malaysian chess. Keep this up and the GM will come.

Check out what Shamsuddin has found out here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A tickler by gilocatur

Sometimes it takes a kid to show us the way. I know I have learned alot from my son.
Have a look at Salleh's kid here.

A heads up- National rated event.

One more National rated event in May by Azhar. Remember, it's important to get a good National Rating for National events. Well done my friend. You are really going. Good luck.

Click here for more information

Report on MCF's AGM

I am truly heartened by this report from The Honorable Secretary MCF, Mr Gregory Lau. I am not sure if past AGM's were similarly reported but this looks like a great start for 2010. Thank you MCF for taking the lead towards transparency. Click here for more information.

And while you are there, look out for the Malaysia/Singapore Challenge 2010 (Post below). Good luck to our boys and girls.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is chess just chess?

Or is it more? In 1999, I was personally invited by Star Cruises PLC to form the first Malaysian Consortium to refurbish their cruise liners. The original protem Consortium members included WTW Lehrer Mcgovern (project manager of KLCC) and Federal Furniture PLC. I was told that Star cruises budget approx. US100 million every 1 1/2 years for each of its cruise liners and they had 11 vessels at that time. Star Cruises were sending their vessels for reburbishment in Germany then and if we could do it in Malaysia that will mean tremendous savings in our foreign exchange etc etc. After 2 years plus, I had to report back that it was not possible to form the Consortium.

Let me tell you why. In a normal land based job, the timeline for completion is long. A vessel is typically dry docked for a period of about 4 weeks. During this time thousands of workers throng into tight confines and typical projects run 24/7 and project management intervals is at approx. 20 minutes interval. This means that when the supervisor spots a discrepancy between plan and site he has to communicate with the designer, get the corrections approved and continue work in very tight time frames. With LAD running in the millions, you cant get this wrong.

At that time Malaysian companies were not able to perform at that level of pressure. Then I discovered chess. I thought to myself, this game can help our people to think well and think well fast ie. classical and blitz training. And I became a chess fan.

So I don't see chess as just a 64 square problem. I see more. I see it as a tool to help Malaysians excel, to help Malaysians become global players. I see chess as a National need. For chess provides that sort of training.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don't lose the big picture

Why did you get involved in chess? I got involved because I wanted my son to play a game that would nurture his creativity, develop his thinking skills and confidence. To be a better citizen and to contribute back to our society. He may or may not want to be a GM but if he wants to then I will do all that I can to help him achieve that. And if he does not he will still learn to be a better man. Better than his dad.

And for that I poured my money, my resources, my time, my contacts and my efforts into chess. Not only for my son but for all the other kids too. Because for him to achieve all that he will need a nurturing and positive environment.

I believe this is possible if we all work together. Don't let this ideal be hijacked, don't lose sight of the big picture.

Is Chess about life?

Chess teaches competition and healthy competition is life building.

But here is a game that teaches another aspect of life... The game of bridge. Bridge is a partnership game and arguably as complex as chess. Dato Tan's daughter plays it. And it's the game I love, although I stopped a few years back. If I ever find some extra time, it will be the one I would love to master. The chinese chess players are also taught bridge as it teaches other aspects of mental sport.

In bridge we learn to compete as a partnership, we learn to understand each other. Imagine this... when we compete (the sabotaging type) with our own team, our own partners, our own players, coaches, trainers, etc. What happens?

Partnership is a game of building trust. I arranged for Yeoh Li Tian & Li Yuen, Sumant, Mark and Amier Hamzah to learn how to play bridge from a top coach in Malaysia. Amier couldn't make it and I understand only the Yeohs are still playing.

In life, we need to be clear. Are we partnering or are we competing? When do we partner, on what terms and when do we compete? I think we are not very clear in chess, hence the confusion. I am more than willing to help out chess players who want to play on a high level to have some bridge training. Please write to me.

Check out the Malaysian Bridge Association here.

The culture of reasoning

In response to the comments to "Ethics, Latest", allow me to say this. Chess is a game where we are taught the skills to analyse all the evidence before us. We also look at the thinking that brings us results and the thinking that does not. I would also go on to say that our thinking in general is also reflected in our thinking on the board which means to say, for example: if you are hasty in general you cannot be patient on the board.

So let us go back to question of Ethics vis-a-vis sponsors. I think a reasonable assumption is that there should be certain rules of engagement in the market (can you imagine chess being played without rules). Another reasonable assumption is that sponsors who have the means to make a difference in chess will also be busy and successful people. (I spoke to another sponsor and told him what is happening in the new MSSM initiative and he was not shocked as he is a businessman but said that he would never participate in that type of cowboy behaviour. I called him to tell him simply because he has no time to even read my blog).

Let us look at a possible example of what happens when it's a free-for-all and a culture of sabotage. Let us look at what happened to the Commonwealth Chess last year that was supposed to be held in Perak and what the lack of proper rules of conduct can result in. In the free-for-all, from the accounts I have heard, Singapore swooped in and took the event. What does this loss represent to us? Briefly, a loss of revenue to local businesses in Perak, a loss of confidence by the promoters and sponsors in our chess officials, a loss of foreign exchange and a loss of the opportunity to promote Malaysia Boleh etc. etc. Maybe a detailed post mortem is needed. Because now this same behaviour may scuttle the new MSSM initiative and we'll have another lost chess game.

I also want to state here that I do not view MCF, the same as PICA. The evidence before me now does not justify that conclusion. I have not witnessed the deliberate sabotage of players in MCF like I have in PICA. I have not seen the total and flagrant abuse of authority as I see in PICA. What I see is the need for a better system of engagement between all stakeholders in chess. MCF's officials work hard and that itself is a big distinction from PICA. So here all I am saying is a need to improve. PICA is another story altogether. I will post the evidence in due time. I only ask that the readers examine all the evidence carefully without jumping to conclusions. Question me and question the officials in PICA and make up your own minds.

Another point, (brought up by chess angel in the comment to "Ethics, Latest") - which I won't cover in too great detail now as I will write on it later - is the question of profits and profiteering. Two very different words. Profits mean the reasonable return for appropriate risk and effort to enable the organisation to grow and develop. Profiteering means to take unreasonable advantage of circumstances to make extraordinary profits and is deemed unethical.

Thank you for your time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lost and Found

Just found out that the Fong family from Perak is back in the fray. Welcome back to Fide tournaments. Good show. And good luck to Mi Yen, Yit San and Yit Ho and also to old faithful Mat Zaki Yeop. If any Perakians want to follow and support their fortunes, do tune in to DATCC blog here.

On gifted children

There is one thing I always notice about gifted children. They ask a lot of questions and they are a hand full.

Intelligent kids need answers and they come up with intelligent excuses. And they frequently lose their way if they cannot be guided. They won't listen to you if they do not respect you.

So in our exasperation, we tell them to shut up, to listen and not question. We threaten and intimidate till they lose their spark and become a pale shadow of what they could have been. Am I exagerating? I have seen so many examples that it would take a whole series of books to recount. So I wont here.

I agree, it is hard to reason with them. They can talk rings around us. But try to reason is what I feel we must do. Chess is about reasoning. It's about judgement and the courage to execute what we think is right. Look at a chess game. How many are lost when we lose our courage, how many are lost when we doubt our judgement. So I think the way forward is to teach our players to reason, encourage them to think clearly even when they feel fear and self doubt. And to execute that on the board and in life. And our promoters, chess officials, trainers and coaches can be that shinning example for them to follow.

Then the GM will come. Let us ask ourselves the hard questions first before we blame the players for not performing. Chess needs a culture of reasoning to progress.

Ethics, Latest

I got a call last night from the MCF official about my posting. Said that his assistant did not contact my sponsor and wanted me to post an apology or he will bring this matter up to the President of MCF. So I asked him if he was saying that my sponsor was lying? And I also said if that was the case I will sever all ties with the sponsor for giving me false information and causing me to falsely accuse this official. Maybe he wasn't expecting that but I would. I do not need a sponsor to bring discord to the chess community.

But while he was denying this my sponsor contacted me and said there were 3 calls from this persons assistant and 1 call from the MCF official. The sponsor felt harrased. A conduit was established and not respected. Please understand. No sponsor can talk to everyone involved in chess. That is why channels are established.

Where is the professionalism? The sponsor has already indicated a readiness to look into sponsoring chess and this is the result? I get threatened again, the sponsor gets harrased. Is there any wonder chess is languishing the way it is?

So I told this official to stop harrasing the sponsor and to talk to me directly. That is just normal protocol. I was asked by this official if there is something wrong with me. Are we so far gone that we cannot tell right from wrong anymore? Can we not see that we do not harass sponsors or they will run away. So what's the point of marketing when this is the way sponsors are treated?

So what is this about?

(My son, Mark read my posting and I asked his opinion. He said he feels what I write is fair but maybe there was another way to say it. I said I hoped he finds that way but this is the way I know. Maybe the kids can find a better way.)

This MCF official is someone who have done very good work. It is not personal. It's about wrong action, damaging action. It's about conducting ourselves professionally. It's about building chess, so the public and corporate sponsors do not think chess is promoted by cowboys. So in this matter what was done is wrong.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ethics, is this where we are going wrong?

I just got back from KL. There are some amazing developments. But as usual, it also brought up new questions. This is what happened...

Spoke to one party about collaborating with the new MSSM (or National Scholastic), and with an MCF official about sponsoring tournaments in general.

I made a lunch appointment for the MCF official to meet my sponsor. The MCF official couldn't make it, so I met him the next morning instead and we had a fruitful discussion. However, I got a call this morning that the MCF official, via his assistant, contacted my sponsor for a meeting! Hmmmmm.

Next case. Talked to this guy about collaboration in general. This morning, he emailed me and asked me to name my investors & sponsors and also to reveal my business plan. I told him there is no need. Tell me his plan for MSSM and what he thinks our role should be in it. If it makes sense, I will talk to my sponsors. And tell him yes we are in or no we are not. After all, this is his initiative and I respect that.

Why did I say that? And why is it wrong for the MCF official to approach my sponsor without informing me? Please also see posting below.

Let's look at it this way. A promoter will look at the situation in the market and do his own evaluation. He will then approach his investors & sponsors to back his plan. Investors & sponsors will only do that if they feel that the promoter has the better strategy - otherwise they will back other promoters. As simple as that. It is not personal, it's about backing the better idea.

Ah, but we are all in the business of promoting chess. Yes. So we will collaborate when we see that there are common goals for the betterment of chess. But of course each promoter's strategy differs. This is, after all, "chess" played in the promotion game. Each likes to think they have found the answer to the 40 year problem or think they can.

This is important. This helps to foster healthy competitive spirit. This forces the promoter to keep checking his ideas, to keep looking for the better way. A good analogy is horse racing - you put your money behind the better horse, the better team, right?

But what is happening in chess? Could it be?... Hey, I have no ideas, so I am going to sabotage the other player, the other chess school, the other promoter. I don't have to get it right. Just make sure the other guy can't get it done. No GM? Never mind. (For the GM will come only with better ideas. Not sabotage.) The sponsors will run away if they see behaviour like that.

Hmmmmmmm... Could this be why, after 40 years, we are still at the same place? No ideas? I was personally attacked, I was told by this guy that I'm a new player. Yes, I know that. So why be afraid of competing with me? If you do an excellent job, my sponsors will come to you by themselves. I am only ikan bilis in your opinion. If you are a shark, no need to bother with me. If my ideas don't work in the market, I'm history. Of course, the same applies to you. So I will collaborate and cooperate with you if your idea makes sense and not because you can shout. Does that make sense?

So c'mon guys, play nice. Let's see who has the better idea. Whomever wins, the first GM will be born and WE ALL WIN. That is what we want, right? And let's have fun finding that idea, that system that will get us our first GM. Let's have some basic ethics. I have never approached your sponsors. That is your team. And good luck to you. Just think of it as chess, you can't win by removing my king from the board when I am not looking. :) So how about some fair play? To the MCF official, ever wondered why you have no solid backers? Were there any lessons in my previous post?

One day in the life....Part 3


What is the purpose of this series? (Please look back to Parts 1 and 2 to follow in entirety). I hope to show, in part, what to look out for in electing officials. PICA is a State NGO, meant to serve the State of Perak. What happens when this organisation is hijacked from its purpose? How much damage will that do to the State of Perak if it does not join in the National Vision of producing our first GM? I also wish to show here my belief that while I was running around trying to improve things, certain committee members were 100% focused on trying to "fix" me. Of course that is only my impression. So all I will do is present the evidence here and Perakians can judge for themselves. I believe that the final authority is in the hands of our members. So whether we elect good officials, or NOT, It's up to us.

Let's continue to follow the thread.... no postmortem. And no postmortem must be followed by control of Agenda or it doesnt work. So let's see what happened. One of the new committee members elected to represent change was finally nominated by the President to the post of Secretary. Sounds about right.

OK, let's get on with the stories. There are too many incidents to mention here so I'll just pick a few illustrative examples...


This happened during Datmo. The selection committee had announced during the Syuen Tournament the criteria for representing Perak in the Merdeka Team Event. I was to be the team manager for the event - and the selection committee agreed to an allowance to be paid to the team manager, for which I was grateful. Remember I was also the team manager during National Close but at that time, there was no budget for the team manager so I volunteered my services and absorbed the costs. But that's a small thing. The story gets more interesting.

The Syuen Tournament was held just a few days before Datmo. During Datmo, I got a call from the President asking for the Syuen accounts. As he knew I was tied up at Datmo, I explained to him I couldn't understand why he needed the Syuen accounts so urgently. Moreover, we had concluded Batu Gajah and Clearwater events earlier (in May & June) and the accounts had yet to be tabled to the committee. Curious. So I asked for some time and a meeting to clarify some points concerning Syuen (that will be another story - coming soon).

Anyway, back to the Merdeka Team Event. The President handled the players for that (as I was in KL for Datmo). We were supposed to send 3 teams - Open, U16 and U12. The budget had been agreed and I got a sponsor for the Open team. Later, I was informed that only the U16 team will be participating. I tried to find out what was happening but got no clear answers. Representing Perak, 4 players came for the U16, and 3 players for the Open. One of the players was Johan (who is also a committee member). So with only 3/4 of a team, these players could not register as the Perak Team. And the sponsor pulled out.

Now, Perak had booked 2 rooms in Cititel. And when I found out that the senior team came late in a morning game because they had difficulty finding a place to stay, I offered them to share in the 2 rooms (after consulting with the U16 boys). Then I got a shock. The parent of 2 of the boys threatened to pull them out if they had to share the rooms. I tried explaining to him that even I was staying outside and the rooms were for the players. I called the President and Zaki to make a decision on this matter - and it was decided that I was to take no action. So I said we needed to have a discussion at the committee - to prevent this from happening in future, and also to find out what happened to the rest of the Perak Team that was supposed to come. So in the meantime, we had a committee member and Perak players sleeping rough and resting in the corridors.

Anyway, to cut the long story short... When I returned, I was told the President would not pay the team manager allowance. Not only that, no discussion will take place on what happened. So what has taken place is the President has completely taken over the selection committee and over-ruling everything. So no post mortem decision is making itself felt. Note: This can only be done by control of Treasury and Secretary. Hmmmmmm, Secretary.... isn't he the guy that got elected on the platform for change? Are we back to square one?

Things moved very quickly after that which led to my sacking from the committee.(unconstitutional, I believe) - and they are now accusing me of committing CBT during the Syuen Tournament which led to my sacking as a member of PICA as well. But let's look at the evidence before we jump to conclusions. I will present it here and I hope to prove my case.

Another curious event took place at Datmo. I was asked by Dato Tan to talk. Please note. I did not approach him. It was the other way. More on this later. Anyway, the gist is that he wanted me to undertake a tournament in Perak, which he will arrange sponsorship. When I returned to Perak, I asked the Secretary for a meeting to discuss this. I was told that another committee member was arranging a tournament in Kampar, with sponsorship that sounded strangely similar to Dato's. So what is happening? I was informed that a MCF official had contacted this committee member about Dato's sponsorship. Anyway, I called Dato up and asked him whether he had given the project away. I have no problems with that, I just wanted to be clear so I do not waste any further time on it. He told me I was the only one authorised and to carry on. There were 2 MCF committee members present at the meeting although they were not invited. So my guess is that it's probably one of the 2. Anyway, in the ensuing confusion...and Dato came to Ipoh to try to sort out matters and got a verbal agreement from the President to try to work things out. The sacking came directly after Dato left...... no tournament and no sponsor. What a loss to Perak. I think this series is becoming a saga.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What is the Vision?

As I have mentioned before I am apolitical. What I see happening in the Country is sad. As one of my readers mentioned earlier, leave politics outside of chess. And I couldn't agree more. I do not want to add to the din outside. I would like to be part of something that builds.

I think it may be possible to plant a tree in chess. A tree that shows what we can accomplish as a Nation if we all work together. My friends call me an optimist. But I think it can be a reality.

This is what I see. We have a history of the spirit of muhibbah, with the exception of a very few bad apples. We also have a collection of some of the best brains in Malaysia. And I am confident if all that IQ is brought to bear on this "little" problem of producing our First GM, it can be solved and solved soon.

So lets leave politics to the politicians, lets just plant this small tree as a seed of what our Country can be and can do.

I have just come back from a meeting with a sponsor where I articulated the very thoughts mentioned above. He didnt throw me out of the door. He quietly listened and asked me to come back with a paper. I have an investor for the chess school, she didn't throw me out of the door either or call me a mad person. So I think it is possible. We can call this the chess rakyats 1Malaysia project. The name doesn't matter. It's the spirit and will behind it that does.

My suggestions to the meeting with Dato Tan

Get our house in order. First lets have sponsorship to our National Players open and above board. Sponsorship should be based on proven and tested ability and not by race, religion or creed. And it must clearly be seen to be so. Make chess truly inclusive and let this be OUR 1Malaysia project.

So I suggest that all sponsorship be directed to MCF for correct and fair disbursement. And MCF, the money spent must be transparent and for the benefit of the players first and not the officials.

Ensure that our players have the same support system as those of other Countries in International competitions.

And lastly, ensure that MCF officials are open and above board. And this includes your affiliates. No matter how much marketing we do these officials bring a bad name to chess and efforts must be made to discipline or remove them. These bad practices have been swept under the carpet for too long and this has lead to a loss in confidence in your ability to get it right. Get this done and you will find fresh energy coming in and the first Malaysian GM will come.

Thank you for your time.

Meeting with Dato Tan

I was not able to attend the meeting with Dato Tan but I see some excellent suggestions. Anyway do check out what was discussed. I am upbeat of this effort to correct and direct our efforts so we are all pulling together.

Click here for more details

What happens when you CHEAT?

The moment you cheat, you have given up and you have lost the lessons. And it will show on the board. You can't run away. There is no place to hide, your thinking shows on the board for all to see.

But actually more happens. If you are a parent, a chess coach or a chess official, this is what you have done. You have condemned the player to a life of insecurity and low self esteem. The player himself and those around him who play chess will know. The player will have no respect from the other players. And the player will not know what it is like to really work for something, to struggle to create something good. Over time he will lose his confidence. I have seen this happen many times.

So if you are one of those who practice cheating or encourage cheating, I really hope you will reflect on this. Try struggling with the players, stay in the uncertainty till you find the way together. For then you will have given birth to dignity, integrity and a truly confident person; a world beater and a person worthy of respect and maybe even a GM. So please play by the rules and you will reap the rewards.

Malaysia Top 100 Fide players

Fide is the route when you want to represent the Country for International events. These are the guys still slugging it out. The mental struggle for better ideas and systems by officers and gentlemen/women.

In memory of Goh Yi Zhang

I just read from Marcus's blog that one of the lives lost in the boat tragedy was a chess player from Chung Ling. My condolences to the family of Goh Yi Zhang and the families of all the other young lives lost.

Click here for more details

From around the blogs

Hey, check out what Saleh from gilocatur dug up.

Click here

And here

And here too!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Further thots and expansion

I mentioned earlier that there is a difference between discomfort and hostility. I think the fundamental difference is motive or intention. If the motive is to examine why we are stuck and to help us move on then the correct emotion could be discomfort. It's always tough. But if the motive is to subvert, destroy etc. then we may feel hostility. But unless we are trained to tell the difference, it can look the same and sound the same. Our response to both should be different.

Monday Morning Musings

Had an interesting conversation with a brave soul this morning. This is the gist. Good thinking involves risk. It involves judgement. It requires you to join the dots. (Have you ever met someone who gives you contradictory answers? Someone who hedges?)

Good thinking is born of confidence, of tested judgement. The more times you make the right judgement, the more confident you get. If we keep getting it wrong (say for 40 years) our confidence could be affected?

We are not born with the ability to think correctly, it must be taught. Thinking is not merely pumping in information. I have alluded that fear and anxiety affects thinking. And increased pressure brings out more fears.

Have we as the chess community identified the characteristics of a GM? If we haven't, can we produce one? Is it only about throwing money at the problem? If it was wouldnt we already have a GM? Haven't enough money been invested? Dato Tan alone has already put in RM 10 million by his own estimate. Will pumping in another RM 10 million get us better results?

So, sounds silly I know... But can we use the lessons of chess to help us find that first GM? If our thinking is not right, the results show on the board. If our thinking is not right then no GM is born.

Good morning.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday morning musing

I was at a seminar many years back. And I happened to glance over my shoulder at something a young girl was writing in her notes. The note said, "I have to change. But what to change? How to change?" Today I will tell her, learn to play chess. Come to my chess school. You'll see that if you are properly trained, you will learn to observe your thoughts as you play chess. The thoughts you have before each move. And so you'll have endless practice to change. You'll learn to observe that if you are negative, you won't see the evidence before you, you won't see the possibilities. And you will also learn that when you are euphoric, the same thing will happen. To see with clarity you will need to stay calm.

Then you will see that pressure will increase your fears and anxieties. And this will be caused by the clock. Nothing more. Then you will continue to practice using your knowledge in ever increasing pressure. You'll learn about thinking.

Change is one of the hardest thing to accomplish in life. Our propensity is to return to sloth, our propensity is to take the easy way out. But chess will show you... everytime you do that, you lose. Then hopefully you'll take those lessons and apply it to your life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More weekend musings

I've had a little time to attempt to digest all the discussions I've had over the past few months and try to integrate it with my past experience. There is one aspect of our culture that troubles me greatly. And that is our seeming inability to address the real issues that keep us from progressing. One problem is the need for "harmony" and the other is "not to talk about things that hurt feelings". And the two aspects are linked - but are they really?

This is how I think our "harmony" looks like. Major differences are not addressed. In psychology, particularly group dynamics, it is the unstated and unresolved issues that drive actions. So what happens is that on the surface we all look like we are getting along but in reality each is going in different and conflicting directions, and the net result is running on the spot. However relative to the rest of the world we are moving backwards.

In my experience as a coach, I find that I often have to deal with unreasonable fear and sloth. Translated to chess, this manifests as the fear of losing and the laziness to think. I don't know if you agree with me but I don't think we are born with courage or discipline. The child is often intimidated by the adult or the so-called strong player. But what is the reality? To me the reality is that the child can beat any player that he is better than - if his training is better, if his preparation is better. If it is not, he will lose. That is all. There is very little "luck" in chess. The luck is made. As for laziness, if you lose your concentration, even for one move, you can lose. So when I first say this, feelings are hurt. Nobody likes to admit that the lose was due to a failure in courage or laziness. Note: There is a difference between uncomfortable and hostile feelings.

And in chess, we have the opportunity to tell the player that again and again when we do postmortems. Eventually over time, with mounting evidence, the player starts to see for themselves. When and why they lose, move after move, game after game and tournament after tournament. And if they have some success towards their goal, they will admit. Yes coach, I chickened out there. Yes coach, my concentration slipped. For now they will have the confidence to admit. But this confidence is built over time.

Chess is about conflict. The conflict of ideas. And the results vindicate the better idea. And with success, the relationship between coach and player becomes better, despite the conflict, and harmony ensues. Real harmony.

So, in my mind, harmony is not the result of no conflict, harmony is the result of conflict conducted in mutual respect and understanding. Harmony comes when we are pulling in the same direction and achieve our goals. There is no better teacher than chess. A gentleman's game and a mental sport. The ultimate gift of chess is confidence, (courage in one's tested judgement) and discipline.

Friday, January 15, 2010



Was just chatting on google with our famous blogger who I wont mention here except to say he is one gila fella. Asked him why he thinks there are so few comments. He told me that many like him has run out of fuel. Which got me thinking again... We need success to fuel us. The other fuel of course is money. Which is why it is absolutely essential we find the right strategy and form the right partnerships. I recall a conversation with Dato Tan a little while back. He told me that we needed to come together. He said he would support me if I could find a way to work with PICA. I told him I had given it my best shot. (More stories later in my series to come). But I feel that after sufficient time has been given and you sense no sincerity in the collaboration, in fact maybe even the opposite, then you have to move on and find better partnerships. Spinning your wheels for too long will cause you to run out of fuel. Traction comes from correct strategy and partnerships and then correct action.

Just my after dinner and before coffee musings.

Training, Preparation and Tournaments

I had a long conversation with Mr Yeap (father of our current National Junior Champion, Yeap Eng Chiam) as well as Greg Lau (Secretary, MCF) over the last 2 days. Each brought up different points. These are my views.

There are 3 aspects to chess development. The first is the training, this encompasses the knowledge part of the system, studying the lines, counter lines and in finality coming to a deep understanding of positions and its possibilities.

The second part of the system is preparation, this will encompass the studying of our opponents past games, characteristics, and illiciting strengths and weaknesses.

A strategy is then formed which is tested in tournaments. And the tournament will tell you the coach as well as the player if you're understanding is correct or not. If your understanding is correct, then you will achieve your goal. If it is not, then you will not. As simple as that. You then go back and re-examine your training, the assumptions underlying your strategy and then you test it out again.

I advocate toughness in training so our players are prepared for a good fight (of ideas mind you), and the preparation stage done well before the tournament.

During the tournament the job of the coach is to keep the player on an even keel, gently remind him of the lessons taught, keep him focused on the strategy and also to look out for latest development and information that may give his player an edge. During the tournament, it is too late to input technical knowledge

I dont think I need to say to those who know, that our practice is different. We have trainers and good tournaments organisers. But I think we are missing the coaches to connect the two.

So a chess school provides training, a coach prepares the player and then both coach and player go out there to see who has the better system.

I do hope you will add your comments to this little note. Any other suggestions or views?

Thank you for your time.

First GM policy for postings

My fellow chess family,

There have been numerous requests for me to post your tournaments here. So I believe a clearer picture of what First GM is all about, can avert some misunderstandings. My intention for starting this blog, is to encourage opinions and thoughts leading to our first GM. (So its important that readers wont miss the woods for the trees with too many postings). I will write and promote any good ideas in that direction here. In a nutshell I will also promote National & Fide rated events as much as time allows. I have posted all the sites that will give information about all types of chess events in Malaysia on the right hand side. Readers are encouraged to go there to find tournaments not mentioned here. And lastly I will also give information about what is happening in Perak bacause we have a tremendously large pool of talent that, in my opinion, have been ill served. It is also my belief that Perak is a sleeping giant that when awakened will greatly add to the healthy competition that will produce our first GM.

Thank you for your understanding and I hope for your continued support.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

National Rating - for period Jan to Mar 2010

Hi guys,

The latest National rating list. For those who are new to it, just click on it and see how many chess players there are in Malaysia now. This is the list tournament directors will use for the pairing. In my estimation a rating of around 1500 will give you a good starting position in National events. Good luck.

Click here to view the ratings table

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I was just sitting down and sipping my cup of coffee, when this thought entered my mind. I was thinking of a certain MCF chess official. In my opinion a very likeable person. Yet I will both praise and criticise him here.

I have been both meeting and corresponding with a person with a doctorate in cultural anthropology with the view of doing something with her group. And she had this to say. She said "Raymond, Malaysia is a "high context" society. If you make a criticism, it will be received as if you have criticised not only him but his ancestors, his race etc. etc.

Yet I continue to wonder. In my life I have seen very good men do some incredibly callous things and I have been touched by hardened criminals that have performed deeds of such sensitivity I find a lump in my throat.

So by praising and criticising different actions in the same person, am I contradicting myself? Or does it just represent the duality in everyman? Can the act of criticising an action be divorced from criticising a person, his ancestors and his race? How can we progress as a nation if we cannot affirm the good things we do and criticise the things we do wrong?

Ahhh, maybe better to focus on my coffee.

Message to Dato Tan

Dear Dato

In the event I cannot attend the meeting, kindly allow me to share a few words here...

Anytime more than one gather to promote an idea, it is important that they share the same principles and values. Otherwise the collaboration does not last.

I believe if we all come together with the values of honesty, integrity, fair play and justice, the principles of transparency, responsibility and accountability, chess will grow in leaps and bounds in Malaysia and we will produce our first GM. For these values and principles promote trust and partnership. And in the spirit of partnership, a solution will be found.

On the other hand, if we come together without those values and principles, the net result is the practice of Sun Tsu Art of War, the romance of the 3 kingdoms and the fractionalisation of the chess community. And maybe no GM. Could this be why the result of 40 years is the continuous loss of talent and creative energy?

For chess to grow, decisions need to be made without fear or favour. That is why I believe MCF is the best vehicle for this meeting, if you are able to call it in your capacity as honorary life President. MCF is promulgated as a non profit chess body to serve the chess community. While I am supportive of the efforts of Datcc and indeed I see Hamid doing a lot of good things recently, a for profit organisation may not be the best vehicle for this message. Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Message from Dato Tan Chin Nam

Click here for the message

I believe this is an important event and I will try to attend if possible. But if I may offer a suggestion to the organisers, it would be this. Have a clear agenda, ensure that the people with the authority to make a difference attend, have the meeting minuted and if possible, form a small committee to ensure that there is follow up and implementation. I feel certain all stakeholders will make a serious effort to attend a meeting of this nature. I will certainly reschedule my appointments and drive down from Ipoh.

Important News

Wah, just got back from KL and I see the chess blogosphere is chock-a-block with news. Things are really looking up for chess. Havent had time to look at it all in detail yet but I have some good news for Perak chess players. I have managed to secure an investor for the chess school and so one more piece in the jig saw puzzle.

Still looking for a venue and then it should be a go. Anyone out there with an idea or willing to help out? You can write to me via email...

Click here to email Raymond Siew

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A sad day for Malaysia

The events of yesterday left me shell shocked and numbed. The burning of churches! I am generally apolitical. I look at issues. If BN has a point, I support it, if PKR has a point, I support that too. But yesterday forced me to stop sitting on the fence. I find myself blaming the leaders who have incited the intolerance. I have told myself for too long that I do not have the inside track, there are 2 sides to a story. But the evidence before me now is such that I cannot afford that luxury anymore. A sad day for Malaysia.

Friday, January 8, 2010

International competitions

If you are a little tired from my story telling and want to get back to the real world of chess for a breather. Check out Firey Rook's site. He is covering the World Team chess championship in Turkey now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One day in the life....Part 2


The feelings of the committee at that time, including the new committee members, were we should bury the hatchet and start working together. I had a sinking feeling about this decision. I felt a postmortem of past failings is an important part of the process to find the way forward. The reason is this: Every chess player knows that an impartial postmortem is very important. To learn from the past so that the same mistakes are not repeated. Furthermore, the training of a chess player encompasses impulse control, the accurate evaluation of the facts before him, reliance on his judgement and to execute those decisions with courage.

And if the chess Association is entrusted to impart those skills, don't you think it might be an idea to practice it in the committee? To be sure, a postmortem is a difficult subject to tackle - but tackle it I felt we must IF we were to move forward. For surely after spending so much time on a lofty mission statement: "Bringing Perak back to National Level" what follows should have been, where are we now vis-a-vis the other States, what resources do we have and what other resources would we need to achieve that mission. What were we doing right, if any, and what were we doing wrong? etc. etc. But no postmortem was allowed.

This was a mistake that was going to plague and infect every decision from that time onwards, as we shall see later in the series.

So were there hidden motives? Or was that decision just made out of sheer ignorance? Or is it just the Malaysian way? (Please see mysterious event #1 for your first clue; Hmmmm, maybe I'll make it a contest)

The net conclusion of this decision was everyone was "right". If everyone was right, what took place at the AGM? Were there no grounds for dissatisfaction? In that one decision, everything that was achieved was lost. For now we don't know which direction we should go. And the new committee members that were elected to represent change did not support change.

So being in the minority, I abided by the majority decision. As a result the selection committee now comprised the President, Zaki Mahmud and me.

MYSTERIOUS EVENT #1 (a clue to the reasons behind "no postmortem"?)....

By the time we had settled the members of the selection committee, the National Close was around the corner. Prior to that, I had just completed the arbiters training. So we had no time for a selection tournament. It was agreed by the selection committee that we will instead come up with a list of names for the free slots for State players given by MCF. So Zaki and I went through the list of strong active players (since we know the players) and shortlisted it. And the President was kept apprised.

But during the National Close, where I acted as the team manager, I got a call from Sumant's dad. Apparently, an official from MCF had informed him that I had omitted Sumant's name. From his angry tone, I can only assume that the information he received implicated me in some way. Also, Sumant's dad had met with some PICA officials earlier and the fingers somehow got pointed in my direction. The mystery is how did this MCF official get to know about the inner workings of the Perak's selection committee and rather quickly I may add? Why did this official take such a personal interest in Perak's affairs to the extent of informing Sumant's dad? Why did the PICA officials he met not inform him that it was a selection committee's decision? After all, if they wanted to be in it, why suddenly say they don't know anything about it? Did they want the post but not the responsibilty?

Even more interestingly mysterious still, this item subsequently appeared in PICA's agenda as a parent's complaint against me, even though my main input was to include Zaki Yeop's name (for which I was questioned). The reason I gave for my recommendation was that he had flown the Perak flag in FIDE tournaments for many years (long before Mark and Fadzil joined the fray) and I felt that it was fair to recognise his contribution. All other names were approved without contention by the committee. So, Subra my friend, this is the explanation I was not able to give you when I was in the committee. It was a "collective" decision.

But it gets even more interesting - so do wait for my next posting.

One day in the life....Part 1

After that fateful date in Perak chess, March 15th 2009, where some members showed their disapproval and spoke heatedly about past abuses, a new team was elected (comprising both old and new members). The previous President did not contest and was later nominated as Treasurer by the new President. And new committee members were mandated by dissatisfied members to bring about change. I'll fast forward a little into the story here. (And so as not to be cheong hei, I'll abbreviate the stories.)


After some ado, committees were formed - A change from the old structure where the President held all power and authority. A change for the better, I thought. My committee was Education and Training. I was also the webmaster. The first major struggle was when it came to deciding the selection committee. This is not part of the official structure and so was open for debate. To me this was an important matter as I have personally seen abuses during selection. For eg. my son, Mark, was barred from a selection a few years back even though he was the U12 champion at MSSPK. After being invited by one official to attend, he was thrown out by another official when he arrived. And this was not an isolated event. So I argued for strict criteria for the selection committee to prevent future abuses for I believed I represented the voices for change and I sit in the committee on their behalf. The first criteria was that officials in that committee should be ones that are present in most Perak tournaments and know the players well. The second was that those officials that have been implicated in past transgressions of this nature are not in that committee. This was important as the players will represent the State and no hint of impropriety should raise questions of the selection committee's decisions. Of course, all hell broke loose. Since that meant only Zaki Mahmud (then the new PT for Perak) and I qualified under those conditions... guess what happened?

More in Part 2.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One day in the life of a former Perak chess official

If you are like me, these snapshots should prove interesting. The burning questions in my head then were...

What is an NGO? What does a chess NGO do? Why do some diehards cling to their posts so tenaciously? After all, it's non-profit right? No one makes money right? So why fight so hard to stay on when you are clearly not contributing? Why fight so hard to get in?

What really happens in their meetings? Why can't Malaysia get her first GM? (Surely we can if Bangladesh and so many other smaller and poorer nations can.) What has happened to all the talented chess players I have seen as a parent over the years? Those feisty fighters, who battled so hard over the board.

After all, I see chess as something for the thinking man/woman. Chess brings together some of our best minds... something our country badly needs.

So on that fateful day, March 15th 2009, I took the plunge to try and find the answer to those questions. (To understand the whole, one must first understand the parts.) I stood for election in PICA, losing the President's post by 2 votes. But that's not the story.

In this series, I will tell you what actually happens in the committee. You can be the fly on the wall. The stories will come in little snippets as and when I have the time to write. I will tell you how decisions are made, and what the motives are behind those decisions. I hope to show what happens when a noble and thinking mental sport is overtaken by non-thinking and irrationality.

I also hope you'll gain as much in understanding from this exercise as I did. That you will see how an Association that was promulgated to serve the community became one that rules by tyranny. How members have been hoodwinked into thinking that these officials hold power over their children and need not act responsibly or be held accountable. And that you will come to realise that, in finality, ultimate authority rests with YOU as a member of that Association - for by law, the Association belongs to YOU, the officials are merely caretakers you have entrusted to serve on your behalf.

Please think about this: If our best thinkers can be hoodwinked or frightened into meek compliance, how will this augur for the future of our country? How would it make Malaysia Boleh?

So look out for this series. I will start with the first writeup soon. Caveat: The series essentially covers my experience in Perak and is not meant to cast aspersions on many dedicated chess officials who do not conduct themselves in this manner. And no, I do not have all the answers but I have certain insights that may be helpful.

National rated tournament in Perak- 21st Feb

Finally a tournament in Perak. I hope our Perak chess Association will also come up with some good tournaments for this year. When I was in the committee, one of the first thing I did was to organise a joint venture of MCF, PICA and Unit Sukan to train over 20 arbiters in Swiss manager thus enabling the first National rated event in Perak. So PICA, use those people. I hear everyone of you saying that you are in the Association for the love of chess. Put your words into action. The arbiters are now trained. Why havent they been used? Lets see some good tournaments in Perak this year. You now cant say you dont have trained arbiters. Remember your stated mission: Bringing Perak back to the National Level.

Source: Marcus Yeoh

Click here for more details

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

KL rapid

Wow, another big tournament. Just saw it. This is a format I've never seen before. But one thing I know. If you come through this you'll be so mentally tough. Source: Hairulov

Click here for more details

5 Minutes Lamentation

I try to allow myself 5 mins to lament if something troubles me before I kick my own butt to move on. So allow me this time here.

Perak. Wake up! During my time in the Perak chess Association, I've heard committee members talk about getting a Perak GM, like it's the easiest thing in the world to do. They talk about certifying coaches in Perak. Funny thing to me.... there are no qualified coaches in Perak (bar Zaki Yeop who is an experienced coach for junior players and who will, in my opinion, resist certification by people who have no idea what coaching is). On top of this I have never seen a single committee member in a tournament out of Perak. (I tried urging them to go to Penang, Selangor, KL to see what is happening). They were also a no show at MCF's AGM. So lets be honest, dont talk about things you have no intention of following through. Just say, we want Perak to remain where it is while we still stay in the committee and make big proclamations. Who knows, if you say this, at least we can say they speak sincerely and that will be one point in your favour during the AGM. And you will all get re-elected again. Perak Boleh!

Thank you for the 5 minutes. I feel better now.

Jax's new blog

I have always viewed Jax as an example of the difference one dedicated man can make. He is a one man show and he has come up with some amazing innovations. There is his first saturday, which allows players to practice FIDE and National type tournaments with correct time controls. Players need to be familiar with this time control to do well in big tournaments. Then came his innovative 10,20,30 tournaments. This means 10 rounds (plenty of practice), 20 minutes (get past the opening and middle game stage) to the meat. ie the 30 sec. increment. During Datmo I saw an amazing display of mastery of the 30secs by a WGM. In the game she played with Mark she took out an hour to work out Mark's Lowenthal. She could do that because once she worked it out she knew she had enough time to finish the game as demonstrated in another game. She successfully used the 30secs in an end game struggle without any signs of rush. She played for over an hour on just the 30sec increment. An amazing display of virtuoso.

So if you want to play like that, Jax's tournaments is a good place to learn those skills. Check out his blog for tournament dates - Excel Chess

All my best Jax and keep this up. We need good ideas for us to find that GM.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chess for 1Malaysia

I love chess tournaments. I usually leave recharged in the belief of 1Malaysia. There I see our kids... chinese, malay and indians and everyone in between :), "fighting" it out in healthy competition. The fight is for a better idea, a better solution and the board vindicates the winner. I see our kids shaking each others hands, win or lose. Sharing their ideas. (In chess etiquette one does not leave the board without showing your opponent where he went wrong). And so I see the development of gentlemanly behaviour and the building of character. And this revives my belief that Malaysia Boleh. In these children I see our future.

So I struggle hard against those that would corrupt this future for our children. Against those that would keep us divided. I also see chess as the mental sport that will prepare our children for a globalised world. Chess teaches thinking skills, something that is sadly lacking in our schools. Chess shows you how to apply knowledge and not just be the reservoir of mere information.

We have the knowledge to produce the first GM in Malaysia if we learn to work together. So let the first GM be a 1Malaysia project.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

National Rated Event

Hi guys

Just got an sms from Azaha. Forgot to mention his event. :) Sorry lah. Many things the happening. New school term etc. etc.

But this is an important event. It is National rated. When you get a high enough National rating, you'll also get a good position in your first round pairing. This precludes you having to meet the strong players on the first round. An important tournament stategy. And this year we have the NAG, and maybe even the new MCF National Scholastic (to replace MSSM). So try to get there. It's on Jan. 24th.

Click here for more info

My best wishes for your event, Azaha. May many Ikan Bakar be won. Hopefully someone from Perak will get one of the Ikan. Over and out.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Get your Fide rating

A very important aspect of tournament chess is to get yourself rated. To know where you are in the Country, MCF does a National Rating. This enables the player to chart his progress vis-a-vis other players in the Country. For those that aspire further or no longer in school, there is FIDE rating which is Internationally recognised. Now one of the better looking chessman, Hamid, International Arbiter and all round sportsman has come up with this event. It's called the Datcc weekender. This will be his second event and we were there for his first. This event will start on the 26th Jan weekend and 1st Feb. weekend.

Here I want to urge all our strong Perak players to attend. We need to get you guys back in the fray. Now I only see Fadzil, Mark and old faithful Zaki Yeop carrying the Perak flag. So Perak players, dont miss this opportunity. And this appeal also goes out to the Limau Bali Lions. Go and get your FIDE rating. I have confidence you will do well.

Please check out the Datcc blog for details.

For those of you who feel that you are not quite ready, look out for Jax Tham's First Saturday tournaments on the first sat. of every month. Pls note: Jax also provides free accommodation for outstation players. (password is Raymond Siew :))

Practice there till you feel ready for FIDE rated tournaments. Same time controls. Call Jax for more details 013-323 2280 or email him at

Lets make 2010 a chess year.

The need for cross tables to be published

I brought Mark to play some friendly chess at Limau Bali yesterday. There were alot of murmurings about the recently finished Perak Close which is an important event to determine the Perak Champion and flag bearer. Apart from the fact that it was only 8 rounds with 45mins time control when most important tournaments are 9 rounds and 90mins+30sec increment, no tie break was announced. I was also told that there were a few players with the same points. Normally in a championship tournament, the champion will be decided by a play off. To add further injury no cross table has been published. (The cross table together with the tie break allows for the results of the tournament to be checked). This is the common practice everywhere I go. Then there can be no dispute who the real champion is.

Over the years there have been some controversy about the results coming from Perak. From personal experience, I can recount this incident. Mark was playing at a tournament at Cosmopoint a few years back. In a 7 round event, he won his first 6 rounds and lost his 7th. He came in 5th. Just outside of the prize category. I didnt know about cross tables then but I have asked many experienced tournament organisers since and they have categorically said that the result was not possible.

And this is not an isolated incident. Surely the Perak chess Association does not want its results mired in such controversy. Can our State champion stand with his head tall in the midst of this? One clear way out is for the cross tables to be published.

Then there can be no dispute. I invite the Perak chess Association to give an explantion here or post the cross tables for all to see. Let 2010 see a new chess culture in Perak.

Interview with Mas

Hey guys

Check this out. Interview by Shamsuddin of firey_rook.

2010 Tournaments by MCF plus plus

It is in tournaments that chess finds its greatest expression. In healthy competition we find the creation and moulding of strong character. This is a mental sport that can equip our children to face the globalised world. Once I see a player cheat, I know that he/she is not going to go far. In his mind he has given up, he is not good enough. The way forward is to find out what he/she has done wrong, search his/her mind and spirit. For more games and tournaments are lost when the competitive spirit wanes than from knowledge alone. And it all begins with training and preparation. So this is your calender, plan your tournaments. Good luck with your chess and life for 2010.

MCF Calender 2010

Raymond Siew