Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Malaysian Chess community votes again

And they say No to all Malay tournament. I have looked to the chess community as a bastion of reason, rationality and sanity in our turbulent times today. With the concentration of thinking power and goodwill, I have hoped we can be a model of what Malaysia can be and can do if we all work together. I am glad the votes have vindicated my beliefs. See here

ILLUSIONS & the mental warrior

I have written elsewhere that reality exists as a spectrum of possible outcomes. What imagined fears and its corollary, illusions do is to add to the mix to affect possible outcomes. Imagined fears are internally generated by past wrong conclusions and illusions are externally generated to disguise reality. But in essence both does not exist.

In chess we know this. It's part of the arsenal of the mental warrior. My observation is that we are more aware of the illusions, the psychological attacks from external sources than we are of our imagined fears, our enemy from within.

But nevertheless many crucial games are lost because of these factors than from an objective evaluation of possibilities of positions. ie reality.

(As opposed to imagined fears and illusions ie. our perceptions).

I believe if we look there (particularly imagined fears), we will find the games, the extra points that will produce our champions, our first GM.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Know your rights.

Know your rights in chess tournaments (with caveats) by IM Jimmy Liew here.

Imagined Fears

One of my favorite topic is imagined fears. And in my work I argued the seed of many future problems are created from one conclusion. And that conclusion is usually formed in childhood. This terrible conclusion is that there is nobody in this world that we can trust.

With that one conclusion, this person will be unable to hear the voice of a Saint or a Prophet. He/She will now lead an adversarial life with no reprieve. Everyone is an enemy.

If you read Daniel Goleman, he will argue that this person is on the verge of "tripping" ie this person is fairly close to or one straw short of dissasembling, breaking down, losing his impulse control.

The solution I suggest is reasoning, the ability to evaluate who is trust worthy and to what extent. This is an important prerequisite to having a balanced life. This ability to see through imagined fears is important or you always carry your fears with you; even in situations that are not threatening. You cant tell the difference. The conclusion was formed before the evidence.

In sports, especially mental sports, this is translated to having tremendous internal pressure. So a modicum of external pressure now breaks the player. Remember that I argued that we need to go down to 1000 meters for that GM.

Do you think I make any sense?

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is the essence of competition?

Just had an interesting chat with Mark. Asked him the same question. To me the essence of competition is changing yourself. We cannot stop the other chess player from improving. How? Take away his ebooks? Ask him not to think? Try and mislead him with false information? Are any of these methods likely to work?

Waste of time, same as blaming or making excuses.

If we are serious about competing in the international arena and bringing home the first GM, then all we need to do is change ourselves, learn faster, train harder. And we can do this by not wasting our energy in the above mentioned dead end roads.

More on mental strength

I said previously that mental strength is about reasoning being supreme over our fight or flight response. Daniel Goleman describes this as impulse control. I will go one step further and say it's also about character.

Let me use an example here. Lets say we have reasoned that the only way we can become a strong chess player is to improve our game. That will mean we must continually learn with no short cuts. That means we only strive to beat our opponent by out thinking him on the board. Full stop. And by the rules.

This is important for when we win that way we know deep down inside what our real achievements are. A test of character. For it is so much easier to take the side road, the easier road.

I hope you'll reflect on this. Note: This is important for that feeling is your source of fuel for the long road ahead. For the road to being GM is out thinking your opponent again and again.

You can't fix the matches in a big tournament, in the bigger world. You can't cheat and win for you will be found out. And if you dont cheat, you'll find yourself out thought and out prepared. That road leads to a dead end.

And so every time we do the right thing, refuse to take the short cut, we develop our character, we become stronger. We develop mental strength and a step closer to the GM.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So what is mental strength?

Mental strength is that strength to hold on to reasoning, to plans, to strategy despite the fears, the anxieties.

Have you ever sat with somebody and agreed something after prolonged discussion and detailed analysis and then they change course without any apparent rhyme or reason? Or they forget when the need is greatest?

Without reasoning being supreme, there can be no plans or strategy. Please think on this and how chess training can help us achieve this.


Very very simply put, the brain is divided into the higher centers where reasoning takes place and the more primitive brain, where the limbic loop or the fight or flight response, takes place. (If you want a more scientific treatise on this subject read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman).

Now a very pertinent point is that the circuitry for the limbic response acts faster than the ones from the higher centers. A relic from the days where we used to be hunters and immediate response was essential for survival. Now note that both fight or flight are both fear responses.

So when we experience fear, imagined or otherwise, our body immediately responds. (A few seconds before the reasoning faculties). And if that response takes hold, it can swamp all reasoning, all training.

In chess we have an understanding of this. What I am saying is that the training in chess has a larger application. It has implications in all facets of our lives. In business, relationships etc etc. It can prepare us for globalisation.

Now what does my reasoning tell me in view of the latest happenings in chess? Well it tells me that we are a small community with limited knowledge and still in pursuit of our own first GM. It tells me if we do not pool our knowledge we are that far from the goal. It tells me that we have local expertise that we are not using but we should, or the Country may experience a net outflow of foreign exchange by utilising foreigners. Please know that I have nothing against that in order to gain new knowledge but it's a waste if we pay for knowledge we already have in the Country.

A big challenge indeed, especially when the fear response kicks in.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

GM Gerhard Schebler is in town

My mind is whirling. Can we engage him to help us improve? If so, how? I have met him before and spoken when I was still in PICA but there was just too much politics to agree on anything of substance. But now....

Read here


Zarina Merican and Shafrina Selamatt joins First GM. Welcome Zarina and Shafrina to the First GM chess family. Zarina will be part of the events team in Perak and Shafrina will be working with Adzlin. Looks like our events team is becoming a power house. One more piece in the jigsaw puzzle. Please go to the First GM Chess Academy site to see the new line up.


I just read that the chess community has lost another member. My condolences to the family. Read here.

PS: My sincere apologies to the family for the earlier mistake.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lessons from IM Yee Weng

I was sitting with rapt attention when Yee Weng was talking. For so long now it was like the blind leading the blind with Mark. The main thing I could not help Mark with was the technical aspects of the game. So we tried many things, went down many dead ends and wasted alot of time. The evening before, Mark spent a few hours with Yee Weng and that helped clear up some of the technical problems still plaguing us.

But the point I want to raise from Yee Weng's talk, that caught my attention, was when he told of his defeats. How hard it was to take up the games he lost and look at his defeats. To me that is courage. It is hard to look at our mistakes, and it is harder to evaluate correctly where the mistakes came from. The normal response is to make excuses or to blame.

But without correct evaluation we are doomed to make the same mistakes again and again. Chess is about thinking, about correct evaluations, it's about looking at the evidence no matter how hard and reaching the correct conclusions or we cannot improve.

If we cannot see past the illusions and self delusions, if we cannot look at the evidence with courage, without flinching, then we are that far from our first GM.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Photos of our opening.

Hey, check out the photos here.

Lets keep chess in the family

The majority said No. This is good news to me. Chess to me shows there is no racial superiority or inferiority. Lets keep chess in the family, the Malaysian chess family. Lets keep politics and race out of this gentleman's sport. Read Jimmy's comments here.

ps: If we are to join the globalised world with dignity, I see no better training than chess. It can really help our kids to take the pressures of global competition. We cannot afford to be short sighted. The price is too great.

Good for chess

This is good stuff. In my time I have seen this practice a few times too. Here's to clean chess in Malaysia.

See here


When I first started coaching Mark, I noticed that it was very difficult for him to hold on to the agreed strategy. Now I am not a strong chess player so I focussed on the mental aspects.

The most obvious problem was fear. When the child panics he forgets. Too much fear shuts down the brain. Many times I asked him after, do you remember what we agreed? And he says, sorry, I forgot.

The next insight is not so obvious. Thinking is a bit like juggling a ball. First the juggler tries 2 balls and then more and more. What does this have to do with chess?

Well, first the child learns the technicalities on the board, he studies his opening, his tactics, strategy, end game etc. He becomes more proficient over time and with correct guidance. When he plays in a timed tournament he has to factor in time. He needs to remember his predetermined strategy etc etc. And in the beginning he always drops a ball. Eventually he remembers more and more, is able to hold more and more variables. He cannot do it all at once. He needs to be told that so he does not get discouraged.

Hey, I dont know many adults who can do all that. And to handle all that they need to manage their fears.

I want to leave a tickler here. If someone comes at you with a knife in real life, the fear mechanism can save you. From what is called the limbic route response, the fight or flight response. Now lets look at chess. Where does the fear come from? Is your opponent likely to stand up and punch you in the face? The ceiling fall down and crush the chess set? In my work, I call that imagined fears. See here.


Somebody clicked on our page 10,000 times from last night. Hope he/she got some sleep.

ps: my mistake, its over 200k now and only 10k plus last night. Must be a blitz player.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First GM Chess Academy open its doors

What an eventful 2 days. Yee Weng came and shared with the trainers yesterday and we opened our doors today. Frankly I'm a little wacked. Going to try and get my hands on the photos to post on the academy blog so you can share the day with us.

In brief, Yee Weng had his simul with some of Peraks top players including two of our newly minted National players, Mark and Putri. Yee Weng wiped the field as expected. Good thing for us for in our exuberance we offered RM50 to anyone who can beat Yee Weng. :)

Puan Adzlin and Shafrina (Bukhary Foundation) came all the way from KL and Mr Lee Ah Kow from DKLS graced the event.

Ipoh Echo also kindly sent a reporter to cover the event. A great start for us! Going to take a break now. Will let you know when I have the photos and I will post a blow by blow when it is in. Bye for now.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The nature of Strategy

I have written on the nature of strategy before. See here. Now strategy is a devilish word to define for it can change. To understand why, we have to understand that information is not perfect at the onset of determining any strategy. You first have the known unknowns which means that you have things you know you do not know but the devilish part is the unknown unknowns ie. yes, there are things you do not even know you do not know, but will only begin to realise as you travel the road.

The above section is very big and takes a little time to understand. I hope you will reflect on it.

My main point in this article is to say that, once you have formed an interim strategy it takes courage to stay the course. Fear and anxiety shuts down the mind (like public speaking). It can also cause you to subvert, abandon the strategy.

An example is when you have a group of soldiers and you tell them not to shoot till they see the eye of the enemy. It takes discipline to hold that when the enemy is charging down the ranks.

Another point about fear is it causes alot of chatter in the mind, historical wrongly formed conclusions, disrupting concentration.

And if you combine all of the above with the nature of opportunity, which is you can only strike when opportunity opens its doors and only in that little time frame and not before, I hope you'll see why, our thinking system ergo mental strength is an important prerequisite to getting the GM. Do you see the examples applied in chess?

See you guys after the weekend, First GM Chess Academy is opening its doors this Sunday and IM Yee Weng is coming down today to meet our trainers. If you are in the neighbourhood, please come over. See here for more info on the itinerary.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our thinking system and pressure

At NAG, we saw some strong players crashing. This is what I think. We need to see chess as more than just the technical.

Under pressure, our thoughts naturally turn negative, anxieties and fear creep in. This fears essentially come from our thinking system. And the higher the pressure the more these fears come through.

Let me use an illustration.

It's a little like a submarine. If it is built to withstand pressure at 100 meters, it will function to that depth. Higher pressure will create leakages. So say, an IM's submarine can take pressures to 500 meters before the hull is crushed and a GM can takes pressures at depths of 1000 meters.

I believe, that at the GM level it may not be totally about technical skills anymore. If you can beat one or more GM, you already have the technical armament. But to beat enough of them in succession it is about your mental system.

In psychology, it is well known that it's the conclusions formed in childhood that is most difficult to change. This is because the child has yet to develop rational evaluation. And wrong conclusions mount into a complex mix of negative thinking over time.

Another example.

Mark first played competitive chess at 11 yrs old. He got knocked out at district level the first year. The next year he came from nowhere and became State Champ.

That year he also played his first Perak Close. On the first day, he was the front runner and there were whispers that he could be the youngest ever State Champion but he crashed on the second day. I remember that the then President Dr Yee going up to Mark and telling him that he was mentally weak.

But Mark was still under 12 Champ. At the prize giving somebody elses name was called and I objected. I was told a mistake was made but they will give him the U12 medal after the ceremony. I insisted that they give it to him during the prize giving and not after. They finally relented.

Now lets look at what conclusions a child can form if we are not careful. Mark played a number of former adult State Champions the first day and beat them but he crashed on the second day. On one hand there was me, his dad, a non chess player and new to chess saying that Dr Yee's evaluation was unfair and Mark made some notable achievements in that competition. And there was Dr Yee, the President of the Chess Association, and a person who people believe knows chess who told Mark he was mentally weak. And to compound that he was not even graciously given the age group prize he had won. Was there a seed of doubt in himself that was now planted in his young mind?

That is why I say tournaments can build or it can destroy. After every tournament, after every game, young minds form conclusions rightly or wrongly. And over time, if the wrong conclusions are not corrected, it becomes part of their mind set, their thinking system. And under pressure those words uttered so many years ago, those wrongly formed conclusions seep into the thinking system.

We have to be more careful to nurture for the sake of our young talents and I believe we will then find someone who can take the pressure at that 1000 meters to produce our first GM.

If you want to learn more please read my sponsored work here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The new COS, Associations and implications.

As some of us are aware, all affiliates of MCF are now required to register with the Commisioner of Sports as opposed to the Registrar of Societies. To me this move is a double edged sword.

This is my understanding:

Let me first explain from the perspective of the Association. An Association belongs to the members. So lets say an Association dissolves and the net value of its assets is RM 1K and it has 100 members, then theoretically each member should be reimbursed RM 10. This understanding has many implications. Firstly it means that elected committee members cannot be removed except by AGM as elected committee members represent the members who voted for him/her. Removing him/her tantamounts to removing the members who elected him/her.

Second, the members must be consulted before a move like dissolving itself and going under the COS umbrella unless the committee has been so authorised by the members at the AGM. So the case in question I would like to bring up here is the case of PICA. At the last AGM, it was decided to not join under COS until more information is brought to the members. After the committee was constituted, Dr Yee was appointed by the President to undertake this task. At committee meetings I have continually asked for feedback but none was forthcoming. Now I understand that PICA has applied to join MCF without bringing its findings back to the members via AGM/EGM. I wonder if it now makes the application invalid as this is now done against the agreement reached at AGM.

Now another big question is why was this done?

There are pros and cons as I said to registering under COS. One of the pros is that there is now a uniform constitution and this will make management of affiliates much easier. But it is only a pro if MCF exercises that authority and not act in collusion with abuses.

Now there is also a big, big con. Associations like PICA now become an umbrella body. So PICA now has affiliates. I am only surmising here now... maybe that is why no report was forthcoming in the PICA committee. Somebody is busy creating PICA's own affiliates. And with it control of PICA ad infinitum if done properly.

I have been asked many times by many people. How do you get rid of non performing officers in MCF? My answer has always been the same. You have to influence enough affiliates of MCF or their posts becomes one for life, a long and winding road, or when they voluntarily step down.

Personally I prefer the structure where members can elect or remove directly for the affiliates, with MCF as the umbrella but with uniform constitution with bite. A hybrid of the new and old structure. Chess is a small body. The new structure becomes too bureaucratic with too many umbrella bodies and can lead to more politics in chess.

So coming back to the case with PICA. My argument with MCF is that PICA is applying for membership with MCF now. So if my case has validity, it can reject that application. Maybe a new MCF meeting for stakeholders can be convened. The new structure may be a huge mistake that can stunt Malaysian chess for another 40 years or more.

This is my best understanding and I had to work out stuff by myself via inference without adequate information. I hope others with more knowledge can contribute.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Historical MCF meet the parents at NAG

According to Najib, the event chair, this is the first time that MCF has conducted such an event. This is indeed a welcome new transparency to chess. Lim Tse Pin started the event off by explaining the importance of National rating and the new rules and fees to event organisers in the future. The fee increase sounds a little stiff to me and I wonder how it will affect future tournaments. I hope if it causes a problem MCF will be responsive but for now the new rules and fees is a start to some regulation at least for tournaments, as there were complaints that some tournaments did not turn out as advertised.

At this point I would like to acknowledge Puan Adzlin's contribution. She has been pushing for this dialogue with MCF. In fact the very first criteria for NAG etc. that first appeared on this blog was via an email correspondence between Puan Adzlin and Greg. I hope this shows that parents can influence change. Of course it takes 2 hands to clap and kudos to MCF for responding with equal vigour.

The event almost turned into a PICA thing when the next speaker, Tuan Haji Ibrahim started by talking about little Napoleans and people who are not team players while looking directly at me. A little awkward to say the least as this wasn't the forum for that discussion but I felt a limited response from me was necessary. I tried to explain that little Napoleans are the people who do not follow the rules and the constitution and act ultra vires. I hope the point was understood.

As for team playing, this is my point. I have made my stand on principle; transparency and healthy competition. In another conversation I was asked to drop the matter. Now this is possible if it was a personal matter which it is not. For me to drop the matter would be for me to become "opaque", to condone unhealthy competitions. And that I am not willing to do. That is why I stress in my writings that principles must be the underlying fundamental factor of any alliance or it is impossible to act as a "Team".

Anyway it looked a little bleak for me for a while as I could feel the crowd not liking the direction the dialogue was going and I felt that I could not totally ignore the attack from the podium. But things turned around when Haji Ibrahim said that MCF could not support anyone who was not a member of an affiliate, in reference to me of course, as I have been expelled from PICA without any due process or chance of defence. Puan Zurin and Puan Adzlin took immediate offence and attacked that point. Puan Adzlin is of course more aware of what happened because she was involved in helping me get sponsors for Syuen and had followed the sequence of events. See here. But after that many spoke up and that changed a few minds.

Conversation with Greg, Haslinda, Puan Adzlin and I.

I was informed that Haji Ibrahim had a change of heart and is now in favour of a fair hearing. That has been all I asked for. A chance to clear my name of these false accusations. I told them that I have resorted to this blog because there is no other avenue left to me. Lets hope they come through on this. Greg now has the constitution of PICA. There is no provision for my expulsion. There is the provision for the expulsion of members if they bring the Association into ill repute. But note the sequence of events. I was first expelled as a committee member and then expelled as a member. Wrong order. And to expel me as a member, they have to prove that I brought the Association into ill repute. The charges must be specified and I have the right of appeal at the AGM. All of these were denied me. Now the interesting point would be what happens if it was the rest of the committee that brought the Association into ill repute? What if my allegations are found to be true? Do all that were involved get sacked as members? I believe this hearing is important. I believe that Associations and officials need to follow the rules and the constitution too.

Maybe Haji Ibrahim's intention was to bring some life into a slightly sleepy event. If that was his intention, he succeeded. And I hope he is gracious enough to now accept my point as I have been informed he has. So I would like to thank MCF in advance for looking into the genuine grievances of all stakeholders in chess.

NAG, the experience and major going ons.

NAG in Penang was a fantastic experience for many of us. I heard chinese and malay families saying that it was like experiencing a throw back in time. A time when we had a different Malaysia, a more inclusive Malaysia. Before todays complications.

PCA is also a very well managed Association and in my opinion, a model for other Associations to emulate. The amount of goodwill and cooperation among Penang players is well known to chess players. First GM chess Academy has invited Loo Swee Leong, the Penang coach to come to Ipoh to share with our trainers this Saturday. I hope this will happen.

Another conversation is noteworthy. Penang had a special room downstairs where they analyse games. Some parents from other States thought it was maybe a little unfair but I think that is what we all should aspire to. That all State Associations would want to emulate this. Lets incorporate best practices. Let us all rise together.

Many other things happened which I will write on later. But first let me congratulate Perak. This is my 3rd NAG and for the first time I saw "many" Perak players. Cikgu Amin, brought down Putri and Munirah. The Fong brothers were there, Aaron Teh flew in all the way from China to represent Perak! And do you know it, Perak now have 5 players who can play for Malaysia. For NAG, the selection process to play for Malaysia is top 4. So the Perakian Malaysian players are now, Aaron Teh, Fong Yit San, Mark Siew, Putri and Munirah. I believe we haven't had National representation for overseas tournaments in a very very long time. Since 1975, as best as I can ascertain and now 5 players. Wow! Well done boys and girls. Well done Perak.

I have also invited cikgu Amin to share with our trainers this Saturday. So thank you cikgu for your dedication to our players.

NOTE: To Najib...Putri the U18G silver medallist is from Perak. Please change the medal tally. Thank you.

For full results please see here.

For the photos and blow by blow please click here.

A suggestion if I may; since Salleh from gilocatur was there, couln't we have used him to give even more publicity to the event by cooperating and giving him the official results so people can follow the event live. This will help generate more interest in this important event.

For Mark and me, this has been a long road to the National level. A major problem was getting information. We didn't even know of the existence or importance of the event until we were informed by Sumant. PICA does not see NAG or the National Junior as important events. I think this attitude has prevented many earlier Perak players from the opportunity of playing for Malaysia. I hope they will change their minds now that we have 5 National players. As far as I know, PICA did not publicise or encourage Perakians to participate in this event. What a shame.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy School holiday reading

Just read this. Think you may enjoy it too. Have stuff to do then NAG in Penang.

Happy reading and a good holiday.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Affiliates of MCF

Please go here to see current affiliates of MCF.

MCF guidelines for selection

Please go here to see the guidelines. Good luck boys and girls for NAG.

Also there is meet the parents by MCF during NAG - Click here


Adzlin Azhar joins First GM. Adzlin will be leading our events team for First GM Chess Academy events. Welcome Adzlin to the First GM Chess family.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One day in the life....Final article

A penny dropped after the KLK tournament and a meeting I had yesterday in KL. I have puzzled over the events leading to my sacking as a committee member and then the much more drastic act of removing me as a member of PICA. It seemed a crazy and vicious act to me.

But let me start at the beginning here. When I came into PICA, I was surprised that they had no major sponsor in place after so many years in existence. One clue was presented when I went to Cosmopoint to try and get some help for Syuen tournament from their manager. She said that I had some nerve to approach them after not turning up and not informing them that PICA cancelled their tournament the year before. I tried to explain that we were a new committee but I don't think it worked.

So, Syuen.

What was so controversial that it lead to my sacking? Let's put this in perspective. Income was RM 1,725. Direct expenses paid in tournament is RM 678.03. That means the total in contention is RM 1,046.97.

So what was different about Syuen?

Syuen was a new model. At the outset, I sat down with Chan and said we needed sponsors. I have some corporate contacts although I haven't been in touch with most of them for over 10 years but will do so if it is helpful to bring more life back to PICA. We also had a heart-to-heart where I told him that I was glad he won the Presidency. I only stood when it was apparent that nobody else would make a stand. I tried to assure him that I am happy in the background so long as we produced healthy competitions and we practised transparency because that was the ticket that I stood on at the AGM and I carried the mandate of nearly half of the membership.

My caveat for Syuen was that I would try to recover some of my expenses from the entrance fee but will indemify PICA from losses. So all expenses for Syuen was fully funded by me. And it took me many trips to KL, hundreds of phone calls, manning the registration and website etc etc. It was almost a one-man show until the day of the tournament. Please read the sequence of events in my letter to MCF in this article here.

Direct events that have a bearing on my sacking.

The first came a few days after Syuen when Chan called and demanded for the accounts when I was in Datmo.

Another event took place when I was approached by Dato Tan - see here.

This MCF official was in direct contact with PICA and tried to take over the KLK tournament. Yes, it was offered to me first but I found I could not get a meeting to discuss this when I returned to Perak.

Instead I was called to a meeting with Kamaruddin and Kumar, both of whom got elected on my ticket. They showed me the Batu Gajah accounts and proceeded to tell me where I could buffer the Syuen accounts so I don't lose too much money. They even gave me a copy of the Batu Gajah accounts and told me that if I was to quietly present Syuen's accounts to Chan, then even the money due to PICA for clock rentals can be waived like he did for them. I told them I could not do that. I believe all the accounts must be tabled in the committee and that is what we promised when we stood for elections and we owed that to the members that elected us and that I will continue to hold them to their promises to support change and transparency when they came under my ticket.

The next significant event that took place was Dato Tan coming to Ipoh to meet my potential sponsor DKLS. At that meeting, in front of Dato and the representative from DKLS, Chan said he had no problems working with me when I announced that I would like to form the Chess Academy. Dr Yee, past President and current Treasurer came late to the meeting (as Dato was leaving). After Dato left, we adjourned back to the boardroom to recap. At that point Dr Yee declared that PICA would not work with me.

And 2 days later I was sacked.


Let's now go back to the events leading to Syuen to see if we can find a thread...

Kamaruddin and Kumar did not deliver on their end. At that time Adzlin, Amier's mum, was helping me to find sponsors from Tun's foundation. She suddenly called me out of the blue and said that her contacts told her that Dato Bandar was not aware of the Piala Datuk Bandar (as Syuen was called earlier). My credibilty as well as PICA's was on the line. I was thoroughly embarrassed. I scrambled and asked Kumar and Kamaruddin to produce the letters they said they wrote and the name of the sponsors they had secured. None. Not one letter. Not one sponsor. And no Datuk Bandar.

Chan was calling around the committee members to cancel the event. Kumar and Kamaruddin did not agree. Maybe they thought I would fall flat on my face and they didn't want to miss the opportunity to witness that as they had even more traps in place.

Kamaruddin was to provide help at the registration desk. Luckily I had a plan B, I got my wife, a teacher and students from St. Michael to volunteer as a back up. Of course Kamaruddin's help didn't arrive.

Then another bombshell. I had already argued that we could not pay the prize money for the age groups as we had already lost out from the H1N1 scare (at least 3 busloads of players cancelled). Chan, Kamaruddin and Kumar said that PICA will underwrite that in view of the circumstances. On the day of the tournament, no money from PICA. By now, I was a little smarter. I brought my own money and said, fine. If PICA doesn't pay, I will. My company will sponsor the prize money but then Chan will not go up on the podium to deliver the Presidential address. They coughed up finally.

So why all this ugliness? It didn't make sense to me. I called in favours from my former boss in Syuen. I had stood with him through the financial crisis in 1997 and we lost that battle. I have never asked him or anyone else for a favour for myself in all those years of my own financial difficulties but I did it for PICA. My former boss provided VIP parking at the front of the hotel, free parking for all the officials, a many-course meal served by waiters for the VIPs in a VIP room. The banquet hall was given free. I had to call him in Laos to explain as the hotel management did not have the authority to give us all that. I also went to see Puan Sri Loy from Taylors college (my old bridge partner); I called up all my old contacts for PICA when I would never consider asking for myself. So what is happening?

Inferences from circumstantial evidence.

Why bother to sack me when I was prepared to quit or at least scale down my activity drastically in PICA after Syuen? Why take the step to sack me as a member and smear my good name over RM 1K? In my time at PICA, I have only received RM200 for the set up of the blog. And even that was paid to my staff because I am not technical. All the times I ran events for the blog, organised activities, acted as team manager, I was never paid. Do look at PICA's website to see what I contributed during my term there.

All I asked for from PICA was a meeting to discuss the Syuen accounts since many of the discussions were omitted from the minutes, additional expenses were incurred, and decisions were made over my head as organising chairman. How can the accounts be prepared unless I know what is allowable and what is not? And why can't the accounts be presented to the full committee and why only to Chan?

It didn't make sense. I looked at the Batu Gajah accounts. At most, they could have made a couple of hundred, if any. But wait, who is the boss of PICA? Is it Chan or Yee? Chan agrees and Yee disagrees and Yee's stand holds. Why the "senseless" sabotage of the Syuen tournament? Hmmmmmm.. What if Batu Gajah is only a trial run? What happens if I am discredited, does the KLK money now go to someone else? Why the interest from this MCF official in PICA? Let's try to join the dots.

Let's look at PICA now. Zero transparency, doctored minutes, controlled agendas.

PICA the last bastion

What happens when you have 50K to play with in the above scenario? I needed to be kicked out. No hearing, no due process with flagrant disregard to the constitution. Where is my appeal at the AGM? Under what powers did they use to sack me and deny representation to half the membership that voted me in? I hear it is getting very hard to cari makan in MCF now. There is a new atmosphere for transparency. Is this why it is so important to protect the backward culture in PICA?

Get our house in order or someone else may do it for us.

I met with Greg yesterday and presented my case. He asked for PICA's constitution and said he will raise the matter with Tan Sri. I also met with the person's daughter who has Datuk Bandar's ear. She remembers Kamaruddin very well and tells me of his colourful past. My reporter friend from Ipoh Echo also called me to find out what is happening. Of course we have no facts now. In law, sometimes sufficient circumstantial evidence is enough but the best is concrete proof. And that can only be provided from transparent accounts.

I hope MCF will investigate as promised before everything comes out in the open. I don't think this can be covered up much longer, the way things are going. At the very least, Datuk Bandar will now know who is the Secretary of PICA as the cat is already out of the bag. If any impropriety is investigated by outside agencies, this will be bad for chess. Sponsors will run away. So MCF, you must act. I believe there are enough questions raised to warrant a proper investigation. Call me up. Call PICA up. Let's get to the bottom of this.

Monday, March 8, 2010

One day in the life.....Penultimate

I wrote this sometime last week but decided not to post it in view of PICA's upcoming tournament which I do consider a positive development. However I still think the issues I bring up in the series should not be swept under the carpet. Read the article here.

Congratulations to PICA with caveat

187 participants. Well done! This will help revive chess in Perak. My beef has always been the running of suspect tournaments. I hope the cross tables will be published this time. Please go to Datcc for the results. I can't help but notice that Fong Yit San (former Selangor player but currently Perak) is 4th overall as well as U16 champ. As far as I know if you win in the top prizes someone else is given the honour for the age group. Maybe this is a new format.

Hopefully from all this activity a Perak champion/s will be born eventually.

PS: Hmmmm, dunno lah. Just got some feedback and also on closer look, the ratings look a little out to me. For instance, why is Fadzil's national rating used when he has a 2000 plus Fide rating? Surely PICA must know that. He is one of the very very few flying the Perak flag in National and big tournaments and still stand tall. And no offence to Sit Seng Yaw, but what rating is that? 3rd placing? More hmmmmmm. And 187 participants and so few rounds? I hope things will improve or it cannot be considered a serious tournament.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

From First Sat. to KL Grand prix

Got to Jax's and there were only 4 players including Jax. Just too many tournaments I guess. Anyway, upbeat as usual, Jax says let go to KL grand prix, my treat! Never turning down a good offer we all went. And boy, what a tournament! Strong players galore and excellent practice even if it was 45 mins dead time. Both Firey Rook and Gilachess covers the event so please go there for the blow by blow.

There were many notable achievements during the 2 days but one stood out for me. Maybe because I'm his dad. :) In the 2nd round Mark was playing with Jason Lim and losing. Jason's phone rang and the arbiter came to forfeit his game. Mark told the arbiter, Marcus Yeoh that he did not want to claim the win as was his prerogative. I wasn't there but when I heard, I couldnt have felt prouder of him.

Sportsmanship and gentlemanly behaviour. I love this game for what it has taught my son.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Train the trainer- Reply from Greg Lau

I just received a reply from Greg that the course is indeed from MCF. I hope readers will please check carefully before posting such allegations in the future. I have posted the reply here.

Time management and Malaysian time

To me mastery of chess encompasses 4 elements. One is understanding yourself, the second is understanding your opponent, the third is time management and finally the board.

Time management

As some of you know, I do business on the internet and I deal primarily with Americans and we charge by the hour. What does that mean? In our case that meant we had to learn to look at a piece of work and estimate how much time that work will take to do. That requires development and refinement of judgement. We started by looking at pieces of work that others were doing and what they were charging for the time taken and then putting ourselves through the same test. We timed ourselves. And we did that until we could perform the same task, at the same quality as the global market. And then we went one step further. We tried to do it more efficiently, more effectively. See eMasters

We even did that to our sub contractors. We evaluate them not only by their hourly rates and turn around time but also by the amount of time they spend using up our time; whether there are unnecessary wastage of our time from careless mistakes, whether they communicate in a timely manner.

This value of time, our time and other people's time is a cultivated habit. So if you have one week to complete the project you have to hustle. If you have one day, you hustle even faster but without making a mistake.

Does this sound familiar? This is chess. How many games are lost because of time trouble? How do we learn this habit to the level to produce that GM?

The time given to every player is the same all over the world, and to get that GM we have to compete in the global arena and they won't let us play Malaysian time. You can't not value time in every other area of your life and master time on the chess board.

Update on train the trainer in Perak

Just spoke to Greg on the phone. He says it's an MCF event. I invited him to clarify on the blog but he said that he can't. He said that if there are any doubts we can write to him officially and he will give a reply. On behalf of First GM Chess Academy I will do just that and keep you all apprised. I continue to want to give him the benefit of the doubt until there is positive proof otherwise because the alternative spells a very bleak future for Malaysian chess.

PS: I have to admit that I am currently suspicious of my own judgements since transfering my day to day responsibilities and coming off the online world in 2009. Every one I have met in chess talks about wanting development and obviously I have been fooled, leading to my explusion from PICA. Too many skilled wolves in sheep clothing. I do not have the skills to evaluate other than by closely examining their actions over time.

Seeking clarification from MCF

Please go to the train the trainers piece here and read the comments. Thank you reader. Can we have clarification from Greg please? Your credibility is on the line. First GM Chess Academy trainers have attended the course and paid good money on the understanding that the course is conducted by MCF. If this is untrue then it may constitute fraud.

More on fighting spirit

I talked about Li Tian's fighting spirit. And I inferred that without it we will not have our own GM. Mark was not so lucky. I was not sufficiently aware his first 2 years. By the time I realised, the damage was done. But kids are resilient. I believe he will bounce back with my full support.

We need many Tigers to struggle with each other in healthy competition to bring out the first GM.

In order for them to do this every stake holder need to play their role. At the train the trainers course for instance, I see PICA already taking steps to control the trainers in Perak by forming a committee of trainers. Why? They are not the certifying body. They themselves have no clue on training. Is this helpful? Or will this lead to more politics? MCF needs to be more discerning. What actions and policies move us to our goal and what actions do not.

Any action that can lead to the reduction or destruction of the fighting spirit of our players are wrong policies.

So what can we do? We cannot stop them from forming those committees. True. But we do not have to support them. MCF does not need to support such actions. Then we will have direction.

Suspect tournaments do this to our players. They rob the players of the ability to gain glory by their own efforts. Someone else can take it away from them. Will they continue to fight, if someone else less deserving wins by nefarious means? Is the lesson here to them that they must suck up to the organisers or they will lose. Look very closely what happens; What happens to their fighting spirit when they do that? Is there any point to training? Lets instead learn how to suck up properly. GM class sucking up. Is that what we want for our children/players? To suck up to small people or they get victimised? Note: I am not asking them to be rude. In fact gentlemanly behaviour is part of their development.

So what can we do? We do not organise. We do have power you know. We can stop supporting such tournaments. Yes, simply not go. We can support the organisers that run good tournaments. There are many now. Then we have direction.

Something happened at World Youth.

I am informed that during the world youth, the parents grouped together and told MCF that they will not pay for an MCF official to go to Turkey. And MCF backed down. They nominated a parent who was there as their representative. So we can effect change if we have the courage to work together.

Another important point is the message to our children. If the adults stand for what is right, they too will learn fighting spirit from us. If they see us meek and accepting of abuses, that is what they will learn too. They will have learned helplessness from us.

I dont think we can continue to look the other way if we are serious about finding that first GM. I don't think we can afford to support indiscriminately wrong policies, abusive officials. Why? Because they undo the work we have done. For every step we take forward they move us back. For every child we build, they tear down. Is that why we have had no movement for 40 years? No results. Our National juniors now are nowhere near where they should be in terms of Fide rating, relatively, even compared to our own past.

So Greg, you have the helm now. Don't keep us spinning our wheels again. I hope you wont let us down. For others we can take affirmative action. We are not helpless unless we choose to be.

This is not about us. It is about the players. They are the ones who compete, who sweat it out. We are only meant to support that effort.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More from IM Jimmy Liew

In his series IM Jimmy Liew talks about the structure of MCF as well as the experiences of senior Malaysian players. A must read. Please note that I have never discussed anything or collaborated with Jimmy in anyway. We have met a few times in tournaments but have never been introduced. Click here

What are dramas?

Dramas are depicted by the type of behaviours that keep us spinning our wheels. They keep us on the same spot no matter how much energy is poured into the effort.

To see through dramas and to get results and movement we need to understand a few things and get rid of a few old assumptions. We need clarity on the role of Associations, of private initiatives like Academies. We need clarity on the role of tournaments and the role of development via training and coaching. In coaching I talk about goal setting for individual players that are determined in tournaments etc. See this article.

We need to see clearly our roles as parents, players, bloggers and all other stake holders like sponsors etc.

If we are not clear then Associations can be used to make money, accounts are hidden, no proper criteria can be set because it now goes against private money making initiatives within Associations. When I was in PICA, I argued that I have nothing against making money but it must be done outside the Association. Start an Academy I said. We need those. But an Association is an NGO. It is not meant for money making.

It is a fallacy that money should not be made from chess. We need top trainers and top coaches. And we need money to train them and pay them.

But an Association is not the place. Besides where would the money go? Not towards development I think. Associations, in my opinion, are meant to create guidelines, set criteria and to hold State and National tournaments, if they are able to, etc.

So I think officials should be chosen that are financially independent. But if this is not possible then proper rules against conflict of interests need to be established.

Or the drama continues. And so long as it continues we will not get a genuine GM in Malaysia. We will keep spinning our wheels.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We need to think deeper- Goal setting

There is a flurry of activity in chess today. This is fantastic but we need to look deeper. We need to see where we want to go and how to get there. I have stated in a round about way that we need direction. Basically it means the horses pull together.

I have said that values are important, partnerships are important. That it is important to build trust amongst partners. Sabotage, back stabbing, character assasination within our community is not helpful.

Let me put it another way. In physics effort must be followed by movement or no work is done. Let me give you an example. After Mark got advice and videos from Sumant, he did a lot of "work" and felt his game had improved. So I took him to Limau Bali (our local chess haunt) and he got thrashed. So I told him no work was done. Sound harsh? Or reality?

When we set goals, it must be measurable. Say we aim for 5 FM's in 2 years and we reach it. That is measurable. From the Fm's will come more IM's and then eventually a GM is born. Then we need to look at what it takes to produce those 5 FM's and pour our efforts into it. If one FM only is produced then there was some work done. Then we need to examine what went wrong with our plan. Then we try and do it better, focus our energies better, find the flaws in our strategy etc.

So it is not only about activity. It's about directed activity. It's about values, partnerships with trust or this cant be done. We'll just end up chasing our own tails as we have done for a long time. We keep looking for the short cuts. Is there any that are genuine?

So after this flurry, will any work be done?

One day in the life....Penultimate.article

Please see the rest of the series here. Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I am going to reveal here the events surrounding the Syuen Tournament. I am now able to do so because I am no longer a committee member and under no moral obligation to the team. And I will do this by way of the letter to MCF outlining the case.

My reasons for doing this are 3 fold.

1. The manner decisions are reached in Associations are a mystery to most. I have been in chess for 6 years now and only from my short stay in PICA did I manage to catch a glimpse of the internal politics. I think it is important for members of Associations to know what they are voting for.

2. This is also a poser to MCF to see if they feel they have a moral obligation to ensure that the elected officials of their affiliates are treated fairly and in accordance to the Consitution. Or if it's just a decorative piece of paper? Whether they believe that they have an obligation to address the excesses of their affiliates? MCF's response will tell us much about what they think is important for the development of chess. Whether if the rules only apply to players and selections or if they apply to the affiliates/officials themselves? I have officially written to MCF when I was still in the committee and the ball is now in their court.

3. In a manner of speaking this will also be an attempt to clear my name as I have been sacked as a committee member without a hearing and without due process. And to compound the matter I have also been removed as a member of PICA which now casts aspersions on my integrity. Currently this blog remains my only voice as my rights as well as the rights of every member who voted for me have been taken away. Someone once said, if they believe, no proof is necessary and if they don't, no amount of proof will suffice. Lets put this to the test.

Note: This blog and it's "revelations" started much after the events stated and so should not be confused for to the reasons why the behaviour mentioned ocurred. I have also mentioned names here for reasons of clarity as I see no need to protect their identity in view of their attack on my person.

I will try to conclude the series in my last part so you may share my perspective.

ps: Please excuse my ramblings in the preamble of my email to MCF. There was and still continues to be much confusion about what model is permissible given the status of PICA as an NGO. This is much clearer now with the successful launch of the DATCC model. Strangely this model was "rejected" by PICA when I proposed it although I understand they were acting under advicement from the initiators of DATCC. And we now see DATCC working in tandem with PICA. You'll get better clarity just looking at the sequence of events. But if you are interested in the convoluted logic to Association politics, the preamble can shed some light.

My email to MCF here. This email was sent before I was officially informed by letter of my sacking. At that time Greg told me there was nothing he could do until the official letter came. I am still waiting for an official response from MCF.


Meet IM Lim Yee Weng at the First GM Chess Academy on the 21st March. All are welcome. Entrance is free. Click here

Monday, March 1, 2010

Something doesn't smell right

Or am I missing the point? I've been reading some of the attacks on Greg with some interest. It feels a little like the experience I went through. Look here. The official I referred to is not Greg.

What do I see in the Jimmy, Najib and Greg discourse? I see a desire to be open about the selection criteria for the Women Masters. Is the criteria perfect? Probably not. But it's a step in the right direction. There is engagement at least.

In my case (above); prior to me wanting to set up criteria it was all the President's choice. Mark was missed out on a few occasions. No explanations given.

Question. Was it as open before Greg? Were any criteria published before him? I heard it was a lot worse. Have I been mislead or is it that we have short memories? Shouldn't this new openness be encouraged?

I had a discussion with Greg a few weeks before the Women Masters when he met my sponsor. One thing we discussed was conflict of interest. I told him that there is nothing wrong for him to be in the selection committee but he must abstain from voting when it comes to his students.

I note Najib's point that the selection criteria must be established before the players are selected and not the other way round. As chess people we know the significance of move order.

So was this done? Is there a selection committee or was the decision solely his? Was the selection process done without conflict of interest? I don't think these points are properly established.

So in the absence of this confirmation, I can only tentatively conclude that, this is a step for the better and the virulent attacks are not justified.

My suggestion to Greg, is to examine the points raised by Jimmy Liew and Najib and come up with firm criteria for the next Women Masters and post it up early so everyone knows what to gun for next year.

But I can't shake the feeling that there is a hidden malevolent hand somewhere.

ps: Greg, the selection committee members should also be named.

I saw Yeoh Li Tian play

I saw Yeoh Li Tian play at 10/20/30 at Jax's. One was against Mark. Mark had won Li Tians queen and winning in my opinion. Li Tian fought him to a draw. Another game with Alfred Ting was even more spectacular. Alfred had 2 queens, a rook and I think a minor piece against Li Tians queen and rook. I thought Alfred had found the winning stategy as he was trying to exchange off one queen. And Li Tian was trying to avoid the exchange. I stopped looking and then I was stunned to hear that Li Tian won!

I think we sometimes mistakenly believe that its only about IQ. What I saw in Li Tian's game was he was out thought in the opening. After all he is only 10 years old. But what is truly remarkable about this boy is his fighting spirit.

If he had lost his nerve or became negative, I think he would have lost both games.

So what am I trying to get at? In my conversation with Greg, I said this. I will support any effort that goes in the direction of the development of chess. And this includes the development of the fighting spirit of the players. I once told Mark, if you ever allow yourself to be unfairly intimidated, you will lose that fighting spirit and if that is lost you will never be a GM or a person of stature.

I said to Greg, its not about PICA or personalities. It's about values. Some values are helpful for development and some are against development. So we support the ones that go towards development and discourage the ones that do not. Then we have a direction. We cannot support all and in every direction. That will mean another 40 years in the wilderness.

To me, development of a GM is also about character and character is built by doing the right thing despite the obstacles and fears. I saw that beautifully demonstrated in Li Tian's game.

Predator mentality

I've been asked many times why there are abusive officials. And why so many in sports particularly? Why are they like that? Why don't they get a life?

This is my observation.

There is a lot of power in officialdom. And that power comes from parents fears for their children. Under normal circumstances they have no power over us. For the abusive ones are generally little people. But once authority is placed over our children they now have tremendous leverage over us. We can't look after our children all the time so we have to rely on the officials. And they know that. Thats when the drama begins.

So what can we do? For one, we can be more careful in the Associations who we vote to power. Check their backgrounds to see that they have no history of this type of behaviour. And the second is to make sure there are proper regulations and procedures. For once the constitution is respected they cannot abuse that power any more. They will have to follow guidelines. Think on this. Why is it so difficult to set up proper criteria? Why so much resistance and sabotage? (I will write more on my experience in the Perak Association soon). Because once proper procedures are set up they have no more "power". They cant select randomly, they can't exert their "power". So I am supportive of Greg's efforts to lay down the ground rules despite the opposition.

We can help too. For predators need victims. Especially young ones. So I see it as the duty of the grown ups to prepare good ground for them to thrive. We can protest and publicise abuses as I said below. And we can support the proper follow of rules.

Actually, we are also helping these officials stop their abusive behaviour. For without the victims, they will have to grow up, get a life. They only exist when victims exist. So by our inaction we are only encouraging them. In fact we created them from our fears.