Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vision and simul in business

I've had 3 business mentors in my life. The late Mr Arumugam, owner of RIMA college, the late Datuk Hisham Albakri of Kumpulan Arkitek and Mr Yan Kok Yuen of Syuen.

Today I would like to share some stories of Mr Yan. Mr Yan started out in life as a tailor and was only educated to standard 6. Yet his was probably the most incisive mind I have ever met. I was always awed by the way he could cut through a problem and see issues clearly. Putting to shame all the rest of us with higher education.

I've had over 10 years now to figure out how and why he could always see more than the rest of us.

First was, he had almost no imagined fears. And the second was that he was a possibilty thinker with few peers.

He saw a multi million dollar/ multinational business from looking at his threads and needles. A Visionary. If only we could see half as much, what would we accomplish?

Very soon after joining him, I asked him why he normally had dinner spread out over 6 or 7 tables at his chinese restaurant. He smiled at me and said, "Raymond, every table represents a deal. Every time I sit down, I evaluate where the deal is, what else we need put in/or subtract to move it forward and which deals are not going to pan out and need to be dropped.

Simul being played out in business deal making. Amazing yes?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday reflections

Imagine what our own journey towards grand mastery may produce? Our own world here.

Can we believe this? Or does it come as we journey?

MCF gives refund to parents.

MCF has given refunds to parents from Asean. I received around RM633 and I hear from some of the other parents they received theirs too. I believe this is one little step forward.

Why do we bother?

More malign in the Malaysian chess world. Read here.

So why do we bother? Lets remind ourselves. Read here.

I re-discovered chess around the time I was beginning to wonder if our education system is going to provide my son with the type of education that will help him thrive in a globalised world.

Lets me try to list some of the things I've discovered from chess:

1. I found a way to discuss otherwise dry subjects like logic; deductive, inductive, inferential.

2. The role of imagination, big picture thinking as well as operational thinking.

3. Other thinking skills, perspective etc.

4. The role of emotions in thinking.

5. Basic psychology.

6. I was able to use chess analogies in debating, aikido (martial arts), business and believe it or not even music.

7. Planning, the building and testing of hypothesis.

And the list goes on. And to a 17 year old boy!

I believe that if these subjects can be succesfully taught we will develop powerful global players who can think under pressure. So chess is not just chess. It's a powerful tool, a gift.

Along the way, I am sure a GM will come as I believe the GM comes from this path. Not from the limited vista from which we are looking at the subject now.

Isn't this gift worth liberating from narrow mindedness?

Also read here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mistaken belief

I overheard an MCF official say that he wants to sit on the fence. Be neutral. You are either for tansparency or you are not. There is no middle ground. There is no half transparent or half opague.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My perspective and offer of solution

I see that we are very much mired in ego based rather than result based decisions. Read here.

That is why we observe the drama surrounding the Asean training. Supplier that was out to "take over" the training rather than doing its job properly. Overcharging as if they do not have the confidence of repeat business from a job well done. MCF in part supporting and in part sabotaging, depending on the emotion of the moment. The conflict of; we need to do something but shit if First GM succeeds we will look real bad. No clarity or mental strength to hold a decision. We also observe some parents "sabotaging", maybe because if the training succeed their kid/s may not get to represent Malaysia in future tournaments. Short sightedness.

In this climate we will keep running around in circles for a long time more. A chicken running around without its head.

But we can change things in 2 simple steps.

Step 1 to turning our fortunes is getting proper criteria for selection. This one "little" step will have a system wide effect. Read here. Parents can help. Stop asking for "favours".

Step 2. Demand for results. Measureable results. Eg. Next Asean, how many golds, silvers etc. Get them to state it now when there is time to prepare. Not whine after the fact.

What is our problem? I will postulate an answer here. Our kids are smart. Real smart. High IQs. Proven. But after 12 they slip. I believe that the cause is because we have not helped them to handle the emotional baggage that comes together with competition. To deal with the wrong conclusions, wrong assumptions. In short we need to see bigger than just the technical. We need to face the real problem.

There is one perspective, one understanding, that will be helpful in this endeavour. And that is understanding that ego based decisions are not helpful. It takes us away from our goal. Ego does not want to see the real issues. It is a defence against admitting mistakes/failure. Ego creates drama to hide no results. To drain our energy so that we have no more useful energy to get results.

We cannot stop it altogether but if we can reduce it sufficiently to work together, then our future will be bright.

Just 2 steps. Can we do it?

Without fear or favour. Thats what this term really means. With one properly set goal we can turn things around. With one result, that we set together, achieve together, we will see the climate change. Then our GM will come.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Perspective 2

Perspective is actually a function of reasoning, thinking. Weeding out irrelevancies, considering all that need to be considered. And it is not always apparent.

Then a perspective is formed, a position. A lot of thinking.

Now you need to hold, to hold that position, that judgement, unless new evidence presents itself.

In the meantime the push and pull comes from the emotions. Fear, imagined or real, euphoria. Emotions can derail the best thinking.

Have you experienced this playing chess? When fear, anger, shuts down your thinking; when your strategy is derailed because you cannot hold, cannot remember; when your courage fails you.

Consider this. Is our problem technical or one of mental strength? In what proportion? Can brave players be nurtured in an environment of fear? If they accept an environment of fear, have they not lost already? Can brave players be lead by weak leaders with no vision?


Our perspective comes from what we see and what we see comes from how we feel unless trained otherwise.

Do you know that our strongest memories are attached to our emotions? An emotional state will trigger select associated memories. That is why when you are depressed, angry etc. your memories are locked. It is hard to see the bright side, if not impossible, at the time. To see the bright side you need to deal with the emotional issues first.

Do you know that when you are scared, fearful, your mind can only go into narrow focus? You cannot maintain the big picture. Try to observe that in your own mind.

Have you seen it in chess? The blunders associated with the emotional state. The blind sidedness.

So the answers are before us but we cannot see. We cannot see because of our perspective, our emotional state. We cannot see the possibilities because we see the cup half empty.

Look at my own story again here.

I was not short of technical experience then. But I couldnt see the possibilities, the way out, till I saw the cup half full.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is there a way forward?

Is there a way forward then? Anon has been commenting, it's always been like this and it always will. He has observed the "facts". Read this again.

I hope I have established that a key issue is to establish proper criteria for selection. The following of rules. Once this is established then the officials will no longer enjoy the taste of illicit power, of haram power. The power that exploit the fears of parents and players.

Once this is done, you may also find that players proper recognition will not be a problem anymore and maybe the officials that have overstayed their usefulness will leave the scene. They only stay because of this illicit power. They may retire gracefully when they find that there is no more "reward" from spending all their time trying to stay in power. With them gone maybe someone who actually can do something for chess may come in.

And without this drama, the players may actually learn how to play the game of chess instead of trying to get their results recognised by "officialdom".

I implied at the top, in the link, that this can be achieved by a change of perspective. Of seeing the cup half full. When this is done we increase our chances of getting that GM. More over the weekend.

Friday reflections.

Does this help your chess? Read here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Selection Criteria

Just saw this at Jimmy's site. You judge for yourself. Read here.

Unpoison the pawn

This underlying sense of guilt is an all pervasive thing. It contributes to the negative culture in Malaysian chess. And the victims are our players.

That is why we cannot even agree on what the problem is. Over time the culture has become one that agrees in the open and sabotage at the back. We all say the same thing. We love chess. We are doing this for the love of chess. But our actions belie what we really think.

MCF nods their head and say yes. In their minds they are thinking. We need to control this guy. If he succeeds then we look bad. Guilt. No results. No confidence.

The parents will agree with MCF when it favours their kids and have tea tarik sessions on how to overthrow MCF when their kids are overlooked.

In this scenario there can be no solution. Solution can only come when each party own up to their part in the problem. And each party is properly recognised and compensated for their contribution.

Then we are all on the same page. Then the wheel touches the tarmac. And we have traction to move in the right direction.

But first we have to agree. Do we have a problem? And what that problem is. And then we have to deal with it.

This is the same methodology for developing strong chess players. Do think on this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My poison pawn "theory"

Before I start, let me remind us that the goal is a vibrant chess community bringing forth champions. And this is best served if we can work together. There is a proper role for each of us. And the roles need to be understood and appreciated.

But first we need to understand where our problems are coming from.

Part of the symptom of not recognising somebody's achievement comes from the power play described in the post below. The officials know that the power they hold comes from the fear of parents and players. It has no legitimacy and can only be perpetuated by the continuation of fear. And this is best sustained by an arbitrary show of power.

Can you recognise this "fact" from the terrible difficulty of setting proper criteria for selection? Once proper criteria is set, the officials have no more power to grant favours, set aside rules.

And this problem is created by parents/players who want special favours. That started the problem. Over time they found that they have lost control. The officials now have a taste of this power. It doesnt matter if you are a big shot outside now. In the chess world they rule; they hold power over your children and so they can use this over you. But parents/players started this. Not the other way around. The officials didnt have this power until parents/players gave it to them.

The other part of the problem is that the officials hard work is not recognised or properly compensated. So they cannot see the hard work of the parents, the players. You dont give me recognition, I dont give you recognition.

The psychology is that all want to be right. The officials need to justify to themselves why they are abusing their authority, and the parents need to blame someone for a problem caused by them in the first place.

And so the drama begins and continues. And its been going on for a very very long time. Only different actors. But same theme and no resolution.

And so the players, the children suffer. Every one is pointing fingers. Every one is right and every one is wrong.

Do you think I'm getting the picture? Is this what you see too? So how to get GM? All the energy is spent pointing fingers, avoiding blame, responsibilty and not on a proper development program.

Energy spent on big lavish ceremonies to show how important they are and to hide the fact that there is no result to feel proud of.

Does this explain all the dinners, tea tarik sessions on how to "fix" MCF and all the back door manueverings by MCF to fix parents/players and more recently First GM?

If this is the real problem and we can all agree that it is, we will be one step closer to a solution. Can we admit to this?

The story of the poisoned pawn

Every story has to start somewhere. This one starts with a chess enthusiast who volunteered his time and started an Association. And the parents came to support and brought their kids along to play the game. And all was well.

Sometime later, one parent went to the official and said, "my son/daughter didn't make the grade to take part in that competition. Can you help out in some way?"

Now this official was straight and honest. He did all he did for the love of chess so he said no. But beside him was another official and he didnt quite have the status of the first official. He heard this and realised that the first official could not see all that was going on. So one day he pulled that parent aside and said, "I can help. I can do you a favour."

And the favour was done.

Now 2 things happened that day. The undeserving child got a curse from his parent. The child got something he/she did not deserve, did not work for and so didnt appreciate.

And the monster official was born. He discovered a new power. A power not given by his post. A power given to him from the well meaning but misguided parent. A power born of fear.

And so the poisoned pawn was taken. Does the story end well? All got what they wanted.

The story goes on. The official realised that if he gives the favour without asking something in return and he could not ask for money then he doesnt get that sense of power. And it is that sense that he craves for. So he now offers the favour to others. He makes the first parent wait. He wants the first parent to see that he has power. And so the power game begins. Over time the relationship changes. The financier, the parent now become helpless. They fund the enterprise but have no more say.

And the child? The child sees many things. The child sees the parent sucking up to these little people. The child sees that there is another way to do things besides working hard for it.

And the child senses the parent's fear.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A national tragedy

I have an inkling of what it takes to nurture a chess Champion from the struggle of the last 6 years of trying to get Mark to the National level. The hours upon hours that we spent discussing from our own limited knowledge. Trying to get clear information and working things out step by step through so many false starts. So many dead ends and false trails.

(And this is not even considering the financial costs of the journey.)

That he even managed to get top 4 at NAG was quite a feat to me considering I have very little chess background.

So I can only imagine what a loss it must be to the Country when even one strong player drops out for no good reason. When some of our own IM's have decided to withold the very information that we need to move ahead. At least that is my perception.

I hear so many horror stories, witnessed even a strong National player that have brought glory to the Country and his name is deleted from our history. (Deon Moh from Perak) Accomplishments not acknowledged. This happens so often that we are sometimes too numb to care anymore. Normal what.

But with every loss, we go further back. Every loss is a National tragedy. Should we not care more? Is it in our interest to care about what is happening? How did it get this way? I have a "theory". I hope you'll listen. I'll share it in my next postings.

Message to parents

I remember a time when Mark asked me why I would try my best to help as many of the strong players around him as possible.

My reasoning went like this. The best way for him to be strong was when others around him were strong too. Healthy competition. Iron sharpen iron.

This way the field in Perak would be helpful if he tries for National level. The best way for our National players to do well Internationally, is to have many strong National players. That is the direction to succeed.

By acting selfishly, we condemn our own players and our child will never be a world beater. Of course this may mean that the world beater may not be our child. But that is still our best chance. Otherwise they get beaten by someone else out there anyway. If my son has to lose, then let it be a strong Malaysian that beats him. No shame in that. That is my reasoning.

Of course the other reason is that I like them, our mental warriors. I see something special in each and everyone of them.

This was much more eloquently put by the Author of Kite Runner. When the boy's father was dying, he asked, "Baba, what will I do when you are not around?" His father answered, "Son, I hope I have brought you up in the way that you will never need to ask that question".

A walk back in time

I wrote this sometime back. Read here.

This was written in April.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A lesson from Afghanistan

I'm currently reading a book called "The kite runner" by Khaled Hosseini. It's the story surrounding a boy's flight to America with his father after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

In it the boy talks about his father's revulsion at being given food stamps as a refugee. His father said, "In Afghanistan I work, in America, I work. Thank you,....but I dont like free money".

His greatest fear was that an Afghan would see him buying food with charity money.

I was deeply touched by the story of this man's dignity, his stature. An amazing story about courage.

Why take what is not yours when you are fully capable of earning, of giving value and service?

Latest development

I just received notice from MCF that the refunds to the parents will be made in a weeks time. No mention of compensation to First GM.

Another issue was also raised by 2 parents. They dispute MCF's claim of number of days stayed in Subic Bay. I hope MCF will in their wisdom also clear up these remaining matters.

With almost zero credibility left in the eyes of many, MCF had better do some serious housekeeping.

MCF and First GM spat

I hear there is still much confusion out there about the spat between First GM and MCF. So let me spell it out more clearly with numbers.

But before I do that let me state First GM's position again since that is about us.

First GM is about getting results. We believe that money is needed to get results. We need money to buy expertise, we need money to pay ourselves for the time invested and risk undertaken. We believe that when we have results, we will have the means and resources to contribute to the chess community, in the form of sponsorship etc. But we need to first survive as a business entity.

And so we partnered MCF. We took our first of hopefully many steps. But as we walk, we need to evaluate. Just like in chess.

Here are the figures from the Asean training.


RM200 x 8= RM1,600 + RM100 x 5= RM500(Administration fee)
RM3577 (approx) based on differential on exchange rate. MCF used 3.8 and we estimate 3.3 for US exchange (for accomodation).
RM1435 (approx) based on same assumptions (for registration fees).

That makes the total income RM7112

First GM

RM6000 from paying Asean players.
RM900 (from others)

That makes total income RM6900

Costs to First GM
CS solutions RM3500
Excel chess academy RM600
Flag ceremony RM480 for banners+ RM100 for food.

That means First GM was left with RM2220 for our other costs, time and expenses divided over 2 months to set up.

First time venture right? Rome wasnt built in a day.

Consider this also.

1. Administration was managed by First GM not MCF although they charged for it. Ask the parents and players.
2. MCF promoted Asian, after agreeing to support the Asean initiative by First GM, to the extent of calling parents and asking them not to go to Asean behind our backs.
3. MCF did not even want to pay for the flag ceremony even though First GM undertook the Admin, even though First GM sponsored MCF's official return flight to Subic Bay.

So from a purely business point of view, it makes no sense to partner someone who not only do not carry their weight but actively sabotages their partner.

As for the insults from them, not giving the certs, attacking via the family etc. This speaks of who they are. This speaks of their character. But still it's a secondary point.

Note: We have written to MCF as First GM asking that we be compensated for the flag ceremony. We should also be compensated for the extra administrative work but we will leave it to them. Ethics.

We have also demanded that the differential from exchange rate be refunded to parents. So far no reply from MCF but I hear one parent got a private reply. Does that mean that only one parent will be getting a refund? We have given MCF one week from today to respond or we will initiate action. We first wrote to them on the 7th of this month.

The spat is why should MCF get all the benefit from no risk, no work and sabotage. That is the point. See the figures above again.

PS: A parent contacted me and said one of the numbers was wrong. The mistake is that parents only paid RM100 to MCF for admin. It's now been corrected. My apologies.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Step 2 to mental strength

Step 1

After you have that freedom of the mind to consider all the variables that affect results and managed to weed out the irrelevancies. And you are able to hold them. Hold all the variables without dropping the ball. Giving each variable its proper weightage in your considerations.

Then the wheel meets the floor. At that time you have to do. And that is when many will falter. When their courage will fail them.

So this is not easy. But that GM will come from there. Do think on it at least. Give yourself that much freedom.

Ego vs result based decisions 3

Read here for 1,
For 2

This posting is dedicated to my muse.

In chess, the board represents the partnership and the opponent is the opponent. The board in real life is actually made up of many people, the pieces. The pieces need to coordinate, cooperate so the final objective can be reached. The pieces need to understand each other and the situation they are in deeply in order to achieve this.

And so as I have previously written, we need to know who our partners are.

But ego based decisions are about winning and winning at all costs. But notice that the victories are always phyrric in nature. Observe that ego does not want to understand the issues. The tools of ego is obsfuscation, distortion, manipulation and lies. They will attack rather than understand the issues. The base of ego is the lack of confidence, the protection from admitting failure.

So the ego cannot let go. It will not allow you to observe where the problem is. People ruled by ego will do almost anything to prevent feeling discomfort, pain. It will always deny personal responsiblity and blame the other for the problem/s.

And so in finality, there cannot be a solution when ego enters the picture. For a solution, you need to partner. Each identifying where the problem is and agree on that. And all applying to solve the identified problem. But to do that you have to visit the discomfort, embrace it even. Tough.

Note: From here can you see where the weakness of our players are?

The really funny thing about it is that from their ego they throw away the very thing they are really looking for. A connection, an end to the emptiness; the feeling of achievement and the confidence they are looking for. From results, which can only come from partnership, will the bonds be cemented and the confidence gained.

From ego they will sacrifice the team/the partnership so they can say... "see, I am right".

Note also: Ego prevents learning. The ego prevents you from seeing where the problem really lies and so you are now condemned to making the same mistakes over and over again and expecting a different result.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday observation

On Saturday, over 90 former MGS, Ipoh, girls decended on the swimming club in Ipoh. They came from Canada, Australia, Singapore and all over Malaysia.

This morning Mark and I had brunch with nearly 30 of them. Many of them had known Mark when he was still young and living in KL. Over the last 10 years, I've heard many stories about the personal trials and tribulations many of the families had gone through.

And it was so nice to hear that many had come through stronger and not embittered. There was some hugging between old friends. I got a few myself. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thinking with emotions

Why are you so emotional? So the answer must be to think without emotions.

Look at this article again. Read here.

What do you think Bruce Lee was talking about? Is that an emotion?

In almost all things except maybe a very dry technical subject, emotions are invloved. Emotions are involved in all bigger decisions.

Bruce says not anger. But is there an emotion that foisters the fighting spirit that is not anger, hatred? Have you seen an Aikido master fight?

I was once at a seminar where the facilitators (Americans) called up a lady and began insulting her. To me it was insulting. Her failures at a project was broadcast to all without understanding her background. The funny thing was her response. She tried to treat it like a joke. She was so embarrased she didnt know what to do. I thought giving the guy a slap in that circumstance could have been more appropriate.

Actually all our decisions over a chess board/in life is reflected by our emotions at the moment. If we are angry, frightened, indecisive, surprised etc. We need to always see what the appropriate emotion to any given situation should be. If we are insulted, if we are cheated.

Chess is an interesting game is it not? It allows us to examine how our emotions affect our decision making.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Coffee shop talk

There is one distinguishing feature about coffee shop talk. We are always talking about somebody elses problem. And the best thing about it is that its always out of our hands anyway and so any "solution" we propose is OK since it will never be tested anyway. So we are safe.

And so we can now escape from our own problems. Neat.

It is perhaps the hardest thing in the world to solve our own problems. For that we need hope, confidence, passion.

We need a lot of passion to overcome the fear of seeing ourselves clearly. More passion than the fear. And chess can give you that. The passion that comes from chess can overcome alot. That is the gift of chess. But to utilise that gift we need to see more. More than just the technical. Only seeing the technical is an escape.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The test of mental strength

After the first day of the Asean training, I went back with Mark. I asked him to give me an evaluation of the day's event. I was aware that some of the other juniors were unhappy with the first day. I wanted to see if he could give me an objective evaluation. See what was going right, and what needed improvement. Use his own judgement.

He repeated what the other juniors were gripping about. He lost his objectivity. Peer pressure. So my conclusion? More work needs to be done to improve mental strength.

When they are strong, they learn to carry their own weather, trust their own judgement, evaluate fairly and independently. Not repeat what others are saying unthinkingly. Not even accept what I am saying unthinkingly. Not be susceptible to Jedi mind tricks. Remember he is playing the game not you.

That is the work. When they have that confidence, they can play chess. If that confidence is lost then all the technical knowledge will not help them. Under intense pressure, they forget the plan, they cannot access the knowledge. The mind shuts down.

Addendum added to mystery and grandeur of chess

Read here.

Glitches in

For some reason, many comments were lost yesterday. I think things are back to normal now. Just to say that I did not delete them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vision, the larger perspective.

Let me recount a construction story here. And lets see what lessons can be learned from it. I once had a contract to undertake the interior of a Japanese company. Chairmans office, executive suites, lounge etc including furnishings. Design and build. Now the entire contract was project managed by a structural engineer who did the main building.

Can you imagine Interior Design working with a guy who saw that lighting should be in a straight line, preferably fluorescent? Who tried to test the structural integrity of the fancy designer tables we built by trying to break them.

Get the point? He saw one aspect, a technical aspect but he didnt see the whole. Interior Design would work much better with an Architect and preferably one who specialises in Interiors.

To establish a Vision for chess, we need somebody to see the larger perspective. Someone who can join the dots.

Note: And the one with the larger Vision should be one at the top.

A culture of mistrust and negativity

We cannot give birth to strong creative minds from a culture of defeat, from a culture of fear. Some on this blog says this is the law of the jungle and just the way things are.

Let me relate again from my own experience. Read here.

Sometime in mid 2006, I made a very difficult decision. Things were touch and go then. The decision I made was not entertain the clients that I had that were problem cases. The ones that took up a lot of energy and gave us little in return.

I reasoned that the positive ones had the better chance of growing their business and if I placed my energy there I will be able to grow with them. And if I got rid of the drama cases I will have more energy to invest in the positive clients.

With that one decision, I turned the company around.

Note: Positive culture produces results. Negative culture enter into dramas to hide no results.

A popular misconception

When I first joined chess, I was urged by many people to learn more about the game so I can teach my son. That idea never made much sense to me but I can understand where it comes from.

My experience on the internet and in construction disproves this assumption. Consider this. I became the Corporate director of a multi national company not because I knew everything about construction. Prior to that my biggest contract from my own construction company was only about 1/2 million. But you need to know something about construction so that people cant get away with rubbish but you dont need to know all. That is dumb. More important is to know how to form a team according to different strengths and knowledge base, and to recognise a dysfunctional team.

And very honestly, I am not internet savy. I only know how to get the contracts. But I know how to farm it out to the right experts to get the job done. I know how to evaluate and make judgement calls. And I know when the team is not working.

We need to learn to see the bigger picture. See the culture that is best to nurture our players and keep that end in sight as we are navigating. As I said before, seeing purely from the trainers perspective, the parents perspective is too limiting.

Seeing only from the technical perspective is too limited.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The mystery and the grandeur of chess

Chess is a game of amazing mystery. It is truly a tremendous tool to promote creativity. Consider this. Just 64 squares, and so many people arguing about the possibilities that lie in a position.

As we grow, we see more and more from the same position. Finally, we start to see the position as a GM. And even then Kasparov sees more.

Einstein; he only had the facts presented by Newtonian scientists. And he saw more. He saw so much more from the same set of facts, it is argued that today there are only 6 people in the world who can understand his theories.

Malaysian chess; we only have a few people in the way of opening up these mysteries to our children. To allow their minds to expand. And so many people sit down and say, we have run out of ideas. It's all been tried before.

Note: The thinking methodology is the same. Kaparov, Einstein... We now have a situation in Malaysian chess, a position. What are the possibilities?

Divide and Rule the parents

When we were in Subic Bay, I heard that a parent had been calling parents not to go to Asean. Now, I can understand if a parent decides not to go because of all the confusion. But to actively pick up a phone and sabotage is displaying venom. How did it get this way?

At that time, I still thought the solution was for MCF to show proper leadership and put down clear guidelines.

Before I go on I would like to address this issue. Before Subic Bay I got a note from an American trainer in Taiwan with 30/40 years experience. He told me that the most learning comes from the interaction of the players. Upon reflection, I realised this was true. The GM is only there to show the roadmap.

There is a principle that you cannot be taught anything, you can only learn. If you join the dots, you'll realise that good relationships between the players is the best way for them to improve. The GM is only there to make sure they dont go off course. Now in this system, parents save a lot of money. Do think on it.

Back to the topic. I hear rumours that Greg is pushing for Li Tian to go to World Youth, and the Asman daughters to go to Guagzhou despite not being qualified according to the guidelines or something like that. I am still waiting for the facts.

But this much is true. The parents are not happy with each other. So they are now divided. And so easy to solve, proper guidelines by MCF. But instead of putting the blame squarely on Greg's shoulders. They turn on each other.

Makes me think. Is that what Greg wants? By creating this drama he turns the parents against each other. Create a negative atmosphere of suspicion. Then if the confusion is great enough, no one will realise that he is the cause of all the problem. Remember our own experience in Asean? Where the attack was on Adzlin's family?

If this is true. Then parents, dont let him succeed. It's a Jedi mind trick. If you fight, your kids will be affected. The learning will be affected. If you cannot see where the fault lies, they will learn to turn on each other. So do not let them divide and rule you. Make them accountable. Do it for your kids. Re-read this.

Show them you know how to partner in their best interest. There is a very sick culture in MCF. Dont let this virus spread anymore.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Step 1 to mental strength

Nobody is born mentally strong.

Willfulness, stubborness are not the traits although they may appear to be initially. Why? Because it has no direction. And because it cannot be directed, it is dangerous. It can shoot anyone, anywhere and act without purpose, without rhyme or reason.

True mental strength can only come from, start from deep reasoning. And to do that you must first be free in your mind.

This is a hard blog to read. Why? Because there are issues raised here that are not only technical, issues of character are raised. And these have strong emotional content.

In my article about "What is a Champion", I used the word internalise. Another good word is resonance. When all the qualities of a Champion are imbued, there is a resonance.

The Champion needs to evaluate without fear, trust his judgement and make clear decisions. Move by move, game by game.

Let us observe the thinking process, let us slow everything down and look at our thoughts very much like how we slow down the notes when we practise the piano.

This is reflected by how we read. If you find that there are gaps in comprehension because certain lines you cant read, jump over, it shows something you are not facing. That you are avoiding. And that place is normally where the truth is found.

In the game of chess, you must consider many things apart from the technical aspects. Self evaluation of strengths and weaknesses, judgement of opponents etc. This cannot be done without facing your fears, cannot be done by editing out the parts you dont like.

Selective reading. Now stop and consider. It's only words afterall. But this affects the clarity of your understanding. Your evaluation and judgement is affected.

Look at it this way. Nobody can see into your mind. Only you know what you think. And there is one basic principle you want to understand here. Whatever you do, dont fool yourself. Remember that. There is no one to impress, just you knowing that you have the freedom to think. That is step 1 to mental strength.

And you can start right now. Go back to the parts on this blog that your mind rejected. Look hard at it, without flinching. Engage your mind.

If you really want to learn more. Read this.

Sunday morning riddle.

Just sent Mark for his tuition. On the way he asked me a trick question. He asked, "Dad, who will you choose? A strong tyrant or a good, righteous but weak leader?"

No choice. Why? The good, righteous but weak leader does not exist.

The start of a plan.

We want our saplings to grow into mighty Oaks. Some into GM's, and the others to stand tall in a globalised world. To be men/women of worth, of substance, making valuable contributions. Not parasites, weak people that run around with a begging bowl that only know how to prey on the weak.

Is that what you want for your child? Is that the end in sight?

If it is, there is one principle we need to embrace. They do as we do, they do not do as we say.

So, what do we have now? In the chess world. We hear people have tried for many many years to change the system. None have succeeded. Money have been spent, persuasion tried, opportunities offered and it's still the same. So many just sit down now and say we are helpless and some have joined that system.

A circle of negativity. How do we change that? If you go back to my personal story, read here, I hope I've shown that one positive result can take us far.

It brings back hope and positive energy. Just one.

So forget about changing MCF. If you try, they will suck your energy, you will use 1000 pounds of energy to produce one ounce of work. Over time you will be exhausted and nothing will have changed.

Think, do we really need them? What is the fear? That they will fix the matches? That they will not submit your results. That they will victimise your child? That they will victimise you?

They are using your fears against you. And if they succeed, you would have lost all you wanted to get out of chess. I remember telling Mark, if you allow them to intimidate you, you will never be a GM or for that matter a person of substance.

So look again, can MCF really do what you think they can do? The threats lie beneath the surface. They smile and try to look reasonable on the surface. Why? It's because nowadays with the blogs, they cannot do like they did before. News spread like wild fire today. So they have adapted. Your fears may not be grounded in reality today.

So I say, let them be. We focus on getting results. Achievable results. We stop barking up the wrong tree.

And we keep in our memory one major point. We need a safe nursery to incubate our saplings. Then they can grow into tall oaks. Then they can fend for themselves one day. When we are no longer around or even when we are around but older.

Remember that, dont compromise. Do it for the children. They cant stand on their own yet. For now we need to stand for them. Will you do it?

First GM is formulating a plan that we hope will have the elements that will achieve real results. The sight is a little further; beyond our shores. Why? Because the first GM can only come when we can compete Internationally. More work needs to be done still but it is coming.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The nature of parenthood

Parents by nature are protective of their kids. They want their kids to do well. When I was in the UK, I was shocked when I found out that many leave their homes at the age of 18. And from what I see of the Americans, they have little control of their kids. But on the whole, they are better risk takers because they are allowed to experiment.

We Asians are more controlling. Sometimes stiffling. But we all want the best for our kids. And we try to do our best.

But what do we really want underneath all these different methods of child raising?

In my case, I want my kid to learn how to compete as I want him to be able to stand tall when he faces the outside world eventually. I dont want him to be bullied, taken advantage of. I want him to learn how to take measured risks, have good judgement, learn how to tell who the predators are in all their sophisticated guises these days. They dont bare their teeths anymore nowadays, they come bearing sweets. Internet and TV?

I also want him to learn how to partner, how to find the right partners. We are heading for a globalised world, like it or not.

In chess, I found a useful tool to learn about healthy competition and genuine friendship, in my internet business he learns about partnerships.

Is that what you want too? Is that why you brought your kids into chess? Is that what you are getting out of it? Was it the plan to see their fighting spirits crushed out of them? Was it the plan for them to see us sitting down defeated and say there is nothing I can do? Is that the way to prepare them to face a globalised world? They will be facing it, like it or not. Not all will become GM's but there is value if they are lead by example. If we want our kids to stand tall, then parents, you are part of the system too, so are the trainers etc. etc. The kids are watching, learning to do as we do.

Saturday night after dinner musings

All my life, no matter where I sat on the totem pole, I've always had this philosophy. If the cleaner in the office says something that makes sense, I listen. And if a Dato, a Tan Sri or a GM says something that doesnt make sense, I reject.

To me it's always been the value of the content, the value of the contribution.

Then I joined PICA, and I heard so many self congratulatory and insincere flattery, I wondered if they actually believe what they were saying.

I now wonder if that is why when a known strong player sits opposite someone else, the other guy crumbles. Maybe they respect the title too much and then forget how to think. Just musing while my coffee is brewing.

What is a champion?

From the comments of the trainers on this blog, I dont think they see the bigger picture. It is an obvious and easy conclusion to say that the technically stronger player will win some games at a tournament.

But let us look further. Let us look at what the final objective should be.

Let me use an example here.

In a lower rated tournament, the technically stronger players will just beat half the field with no pressure. Say 9 rounds. That is 41/2 points. Then he may beat one after a little tension. Say it takes 7 points to be champion. He needs 11/2 more points. Now what do you think are the factors that will give him those points?

Confidence? Good judgement? Concentration? Remember he is playing the game, not the coach. Would how he view things, whether negatively or positively have a bearing on outcome? If he cannot see the possibilities because he is anxious, fearful, angry, frightened or just plain tired or jaded. Would that affect the outcome?

Now let us see even further, he goes for higher rated tournaments, the pressure mounts. There are no more easy games. What do you think happens at ever increasing pressure? We are nearing technical parity. What will carry the day?

If he cannot look at the board clearly. (Is there a correlation to if he cannot even read a posting with understanding, with comprehension?)

If he cannot evaluate the position correctly. (Is there a correlation to how he sees himself in the larger scheme of things, like partnering, training?)

You cannot learn to fight on the board only. The Champion is distinguished by having internalised all the qualities it takes to be Champion. And that is why there is so few of them. That is why they are special. That is what it takes to be GM.

But even a Champion can be crushed when they are young. By trainers that need to prove they are superior to the young ones. By needing the respect of the young minds, they try to bring them down to their beaten state, instead of grooming them. These are observable phenomenons, if you care, dare to look. It is happening everyday all around us. Is this a clue to why we do not do well after U12?

Over time do we not crush our Champions. Or Champions to be had they been nurtured; had we been more vigilant to protect their fighting spirit in the course of giving them technical knowledge. Do I have a point here?

We need to plan with the end in sight. If this is what we want, what are we doing wrong? As a VP from Thailand Chess Association said to me in Subic Bay, technical we can buy, its no big thing. But how do we instil fighting spirit in our players?

Saturday morning musings

Looking back on this blog, do you see something? Do you see where most of the comments come from? When there is a chance to tear someone down, there is a flock. Where a finger is pointed to where the problem really is, silence. When a suggestion is asked for, the most substantive contribution comes from a Singaporean.

Now consider this. If we realise that it takes the efforts of many to produce the First GM and to do that we need to partner. And partnering must come from trust; Partners must carry their own load.

And we are working with people who wants to tear down at first opportunity, not give suggestions when they have the knowledge to help the team succeed. Where will this get us? I'm assuming of course that this blog has some reflection on our mindset.

Mental Strength

As the players gain in knowledge, they should also be gaining in confidence. If not something is wrong. And we should look there instead of denial. To be fair to the trainers, not all is in their control. But this is. Observe carefully. Many trainers that have had their fighting spirit knocked out of them, pass on their negativity to the players. Read this.

Do you see that? Will you reflect on this and the article above or will you just quickly skim through what I just said? Actually you have shown alot of courage already if you can even read this message without panic.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Parents 2

Part 1.

A bigger say. Yes, but there is a caveat. Let me qualify. What I mean is that their proper expectations of MCF should be met... MCF, should regulate, set well thought out policies, partner with people who can give them results, value. In other words, get their act together. Not only jump when Dato calls.

They are beholden to all. They belong to the chess players, parents, sponsors and every other stakeholder. Not the other way around.

But let me qualify again, they also cannot cater to every whim and fancy of parents, players, trainers etc.

Why?.. because they have to carry the bigger picture. Although I have been in chess 6 years, I only started to see the bigger issues, when I first joined PICA. Dealing with sponsors, and all the many other parties is not easy, even when you have a select team. Much more difficult when all have different ideas. The needs of Academies to thrive so they can afford the services of experts, relationship with State Affiliates, other bodies like MOE etc. are all very very difficult to balance.

So I can emphatise. It is difficult. And that is why I do not begrudge them a proper pay. But only and only if they are doing the work.

Honestly as a parent, player, even trainer, you have no clue. Your perspective is too small. But you have a right all the same. You have a right to an MCF that is doing its best to get results. Chicken and the egg? We have no money and so we do the monkey business. And because of the monkey business nobody feels you should be paid.

Well, someone has to start. So unless Dato Tan suddenly decides that he will pay a decent wage to all properly working officials for say 2 years to prove yourself, I suggest that MCF, you get your act together first. Hard, when MCF demands so much of your time and the bills keep coming regularly. But people are not blind. They can see good work. Ignore the unreasonable people. They dont really matter. Get your act together and you will receive goodwill. You have blown many chances, many opportunities to get it right. Dont let failure be your legacy.

The current biggest stakeholder


Make no mistake about that. Their contribution, in my mind, far outstrips any that even Dato has contributed. Why do I say that? Well, there is no public accounting.

My estimation from my own small personal contributions compared to many others, realising that there is money to be made in chess by certain parties (from my Asean experience) and from the answer to my point blank question to Ignatius at Subic Bay....

They do make money but they tell you that they dont. Part of the fault is because our chess community believes that no one should make money from chess. And that could be the reason why some otherwise honest people have to resort to all these smoke screens to hide that fact. So the blame is partly that faulty assumption. I believe we should let them make money. It is crazy not to. Let them make it honestly. By giving value. Halal money. Not this hide in the dark kind of money where even quotations are suspect.

So if we add up all the contributions from parents, look at the 10 million that is said to have been spent by Dato, factor in that he may have profited from that investment, then I think the numbers will show that parents made the most contribution. And they asked for nothing more than for MCF to lead and produce results. And so since MCF is the beneficiary of the current biggest stakeholder, shouldnt they have a say? And maybe, just maybe, a bigger say than Dato? And not just lip service.

Who started that rumour anyway? How did it get so entrenched in chess that people are hypnotised not to see the fact that it needs money to do well in chess? I am really, really curious where it all started.

Further to Lessons from Asean training

Given that statistic that our players do not do well after U12, it is reasonable to investigate the way we are teaching them at the onset, if a solution is to be found. A few suggestions has been brought up by John in his comment. What we must not do is find a way to blame the players and then say it's not the trainers fault.

If we look carefully, and its been mentioned many times, our players were not deficient at a young age. So there remains a possiblity that somehow the way we are teaching them does not give them the foundation to grow in the later stages.

Personally, I believe John may have a point. We need to nurture their curiousity, teach them to experiment, help them to set realistic goals, horne their judgement and understanding of the nature of risk.

One big mistake is to only look at the technical aspects. They lose because they have bad habits of last minute preparation. We teach them to look at the lines. They lose because they cannot manage their fears, we look at the lines again. They lose beacuse they have no patience, again the lines, they lose because their goal was unrealistic, back to the lines etc etc.

They say you cannot build a home with just one tool. And they also say that you can have a beautiful racing car but if the spark plugs are missing, the car wont run.

You can have the most talented player but if the fighting spirit is knocked out of them they will eventually fade.

So stop pointing the finger at the players, look at our system. Stop looking only at the technical aspects, look at where the problem truly lies. Further avoidance of this truth will only delay our own recovery.

At my lowest point in 2005, I realised this, I cannot change the internet world and make them all like me. I can only change myself. I cant even change my own son. I can only point the way and if he agrees then he must walk the road. I cannot walk it for him no matter how much I want to.

So stop looking at blaming the players. Look at yourself. Look at our support system.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ego vs results based decisions 2

Part 1.

Observe carefully, one is based on reality, the other based on delusion. Go back and read the comments on this blog and see if you can spot the ones that come from ego and the ones that are looking for results.

Hint: The ones that want results offer some suggestions to improve.

When we want results, we try to deeply understand the problem. We test out little models. We ask questions, not form hasty conclusions. With sufficient facts, we make evaluations and finally decisions towards the desired outcome.

So lets look at this problem. We know that it costs money to go overseas to play in competitions. And we know that many cannot afford it. And a few deserving cases are in need of sponsorship.

One possible solution is to allow more players to go to International competitions; those that can afford it. Use say the Singapore's model and allow all those who achieve more than 50% in select tournaments to represent the Country. After all they are paying and not MCF.

You then select certain International tournaments that have a higher chance of medals and encourage them to go there. You can even prepare them by having them go for paid training. After all these are people who can afford it.

With the medals come the sponsors. When there are a few good sponsors, you say to them, hey look, there's this one kid. The family doesnt have much money. But if you sponsor him/her then you can get milleage out of it etc. etc.

Things work in process, one step at a time. Thats just how things work.

I said earlier that ego acts in defence against admitting failure. Ergo Fear. Now you want everything at once. You want money without giving value.

Ego also doesnt want to understand and ego makes knee jerk self serving statements, actions. When ego is involved a simple thing can become very very complicated. Have you any personal experience?

So we dont have a problem that requires rocket science to solve, we have a problem that requires the leaders to manage thier fears and reduce their egos enough to get to a solution.