Friday, July 2, 2010

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.


  1. Just like Jimmy put it, our support system supports mediocre result and some even goes to the extreme to defend it and clamoring on progress has been made.

    R u aware that parents (major shareholder in the support system) of most country rep. think highly on their children chess. Why r v not good after U12? I've answered it in one of your articles. My prediction in 5 yrs time, v r not good after U10 IF nothing is done to chance the perception on chess among the support system. Why? I'd not divulge into more reasoning. Malaysian public will find out in due time.

  2. I am hoping that people like you and Jimmy can give solid suggestions rather than just saying that the system is rotten. We know that. We need ideas to improve. Suggest a possible way forward. Even one good idea is more than we have now. Just like chess.

  3. U r doing well in ur article.

    As u put it, v cant change the player, so trainers just hv to find way to adapt them.

    The same goes to V cant change the support system, just find a way to adapt into it. Why try to find ways to change/improve the system? The same analogy, right!

  4. Trainers need to understand that it is their job to nurture young talents not blame them for their own shortcomings.

    In any system there are things within your sphere of influence and things outside it. We need to know which is which.

  5. Trainee is weak, v can't blame them - who to blame? The parent who didn't give enough chess knowledge (either didn't know how to or is it neccessary), the trainer who didn't know how to get the message across (but some didn't even hv one in the first place), the organiser who allow them to take part and finishes with a ticket to ASEAN/ASIAN/World.

    Why a young child wants to rep. Malaysia when not ready? Very likely it comes fr parent's influence. Parent has high expectation on so called intensive/preparation training and set unreasonable expectation. When reality check-in after the event? All hell broke loose.

  6. "Even one good idea is more than we have now. "

    As I said before many people in the past had talked about it, but none actually pen it down.
    The chess community at large may not realise that how important r ur articles to create public awareness on what it takes to be successful in chess. Ur articles will go a long way into Malaysian chess history and hopefully u'll be remember for these efforts. Malaysians in general do have short memory on things.

  7. I agree that some minimum standard has to be agreed for International participation. But in my opinion only top 4 creates too much of a bottle neck. We know from experience that some will just automatically drop out since chess is a marathon and not a 100 metre dash. This is a load that MCF has to carry, is supposed to carry. But recent statements like they do not need to consult anyone ie any stakeholder is worrying. They dont do what they are supposed to do, interfere where they have no right to interfere.

    So they now become the major obstacle to future development. And they are quietly busy making sure they can never ever be removed from office. So now what?

  8. "But recent statements like they do not need to consult anyone ie any stakeholder is worrying. "

    Can u enlighten us, which official had made such statement. If u don't which to go public, u can email to

    "...they are quietly busy making sure they can never ever be removed from office. So now what?"

    V can't do anything, isn't it? Just hv to leave with it. Chess is not everything......

  9. Sorry, cant do that. This should not be personal. I used that example to establish a principle.

    As for the other point, yes, it does seem that way. The COS structure can mean we will have to deal with the same officials till they get so bored they leave or something else happens. I have no ideas on that. But maybe someone else has. We need something where we can weed out the ones that do not perform.

  10. Raymond,

    The issue is in 2 parts.

    a. The players

    b. The training program

    I shall not make any comments on the system as it is an internal matter.

    I did in my earlier comments state clearly that it is important to identify who are the talents and focus on them. Getting the best 3 of each age-group is a start. The next criteria would be to interview these players and find out how keen they are about chess. Can they spend at least 2 hours a day on it, playing or studying? If not, then the talent can only go so far. Get a good crop first to work with. Otherwise, it is not fair to expect works of art from poor materials.

    b. The training program should be tailored to suit the needs of each individual player. It is not good to have a 'one-program-fits-all' approach. Chess is an individual game where each person sees the game differently. Hence the coach needs to analyse what are the strengths and weakness of each child before deciding on a program to tackle the weaknesses.

    My experience with CTEP for CAS from 1996-2003 with the best juniors in Malaysia reap good benefits because I do have a good crop and suggested the right program after reviewing their games.

    Though mental strength is important, what should come first is technical preparation. Only when the player is ready in the chess-playing department, we can then tackle the mental and emotional aspects. Let's do it one thing at a time.

    I can understand why Jimmy feels 4 days of training cannot draw fair conclusions of the player's performance. To me, the 4 days serve to give all players a GUIDE to what is required for international competition and what areas of the game each player should work on. There is still a lot of work to do by the player's themselves. Chess training is not like taking a wonder pill such that the student would immediately understand what's the right thing to do. It takes a lot of mental programming by the player to do as the coach asks. Plus, the player must TRUST the coach to BELIEVE what he says is right. Without a good student-teacher relationship, nothing fruitful can come out of it.

    Simple example: Imagine that I ask students to close their eyes and tell me the colour of a square I choose. Can they get it right everytime? How about moving a Knight on a square to any legal square without looking at the board? Many would ask what's the purpose of doing this and refuse to continue. But the ones who obeyed end up calculating their moves without the need for a board.

    Some of these things are not fun for U-10 year olds but there are ways to inject fun into this exercise if the trainer knows how.

    So its time to stop the witch hunt. All I can say is that I commend you for a good effort in galvanising the players,parents and trainers to strive for results. It is a good model, however fine-tuning the program and syllabus is necessary.

    I believe Najeeb is in progress in the National Development Program - hopefully he can deliver the program which will bring benefits to all who seek good results from it. Then everyone can work together - you bring the sponsors, he administers it, set your objectives at the World Youth next year and see where this leads to.

    I wish you the best.

  11. Raymond,

    I can understand why the focus is shifting to the non-technical aspects of preparation.

    My view is that players generally cling on to opening variations and lines in an attempt to follow the trends in opening analysis and try to ape the winning ideas. This is in principle not correct as pointed out by many top Russian trainers. It takes hours and hours of reviewing games played by grandmasters to know why ideas work or fail, sometimes the refutation goes deep into the endgame. How many of the players can really execute that win if the position arises?

    What U10 and U12 children should do is to learn how and what to think about in selecting a move. Many are not shown how. If the move selection process is random, then their good and bad moves are chosen at random. Against weaker players they may win, but definitely not against stronger players who will punish them for any wrong moves.

    Board vision determines if they are able to see moves for themselves and their opponents accurately without making mistakes. This is only possible if their though process is correct in picking the right responses. Most young players blunder due to insufficient concentration on the board, not asking what each piece is attacking or defending. They tend move a piece that's defending another,leaving it undefended and lost material.

    Board orientation is also a skill that trainers should impart to students - the ability to sense what's coming by examining the opponent's moves. One should not castle into a position and then open the file for attack, or continue to exchange pieces after losing material. Such is common sense you'd say, but then many young players lack even that. Why? Mainly because they do not know what else to do. (Again due to poor thought processes..)

    Hence, my view is to work on concepts rather than specifics. Let's give the players a correcting though process to select their moves, teach them to visualise a position 3-4 moves later with clarity, give them a sense of danger when they look at their position by warning them to think more during such positions (especially when there are multiple captures or threats by the opponent).

    Qualities like patience, concentration, mental toughness, time management during the game will follow after these issues are tackled.

    FIRST THINGS FIRST - Stephen Covey

  12. This two comments longer than many of Raymond's posts :)

    Good advice from an experienced trainer.

  13. Wow...many comments..
    Well, I read from the book like I said. It seems good idea too, not sure about others.

    1. Study 1 Master game per day
    2. Have GMs evaluate the child's previous tournament game for assessment.
    3. Study ABC's in Chess (Alekhine, Botvinik and Capablanca)

    What u guys think about this method?

  14. I tend to agree more with John. Particularly with regards to Juniors. We need to make the learning more fun for the kids and new fun methods to teach them concepts rather than dry GM's games. With the right person to teach them.

    I think if that approach is followed we will have less drop out rates. Still more gravity needs to be placed on preventing burn out. I emphasize on that simply because that is the major neglect in Malaysian chess and I feel it deserves more recognition. I once asked Sumant what percentage of his games are lost because of failure in technical understanding and what percentage due to anxiety or other emotional aspects. And he gave a high number lost due to emotional reasons. I cant remember the exact number but its a big number in a high pressure tournament.

    To me those are the missing points that make the Champion.

    John, there is a refreshing openness in the way you share. Speaks alot about you. Thank you.

  15. Actually, after some more consideration, nurturing the fighting spirit is to me, more important than the technical aspect of the game. Why? With fighting spirit, I believe it's a question of time before they achieve their goal. So some may move faster at first but it's a long race. But if the fighting spirit, the sense of curiousity etc. is lost, they will falter. And worse, it infects almost every other aspect of their lives.

  16. Fighting spirit is important. No doubt about it. However, a person with super high FS but lack technical skill will leads to the person running in a circle, may be just running in a bigger and bigger circle as the day, weeks, months passes by with the hope of reaching the ultimate goal.

    Sad to say when they finally realise they r running in an enlarge circle, years have passes by. FS enthusiasm also reduce overtime. Do u know that majority of better juniors that u r seeing today actually fall in this category? Some realise and start to put in serious effort in reading, many (90%) just give up on the game eventually.

    That's why John's method is better. FS can be built over the period of longer run after the technical aspects and concepts are well in place.

  17. That is the crux. Actually that is the problem in Malaysian chess. FS is everything. It must be nurtured along with Technical. I have seen so many gain in technical but lose in FS. Do not blame the players. The players are traumatised by the negative system and bad trainers. Then with all the technical, they still cant play under pressure. Open your eyes.

  18. Agree that FS must nurture alongside Technical. It is just when a player gets stronger technically and seeing beter and better result, then the player / trainer zoom in even more into this aspect and forget about FS altogether. When that happens, what u said will happen and also 90% or more can't reach the Ultimate goal.

    However, r u aware that many other result-oriented players actually use the FS path to get the result with the same zoom-in logic until reaching a level FS can't help the player move higher. Now what, then my comment in the previous section happens. 90% from this group just give up chess.

    It is sad so far no one seems to be able to balance these 2 aspects.

  19. Thanks Jimmy for your insighht.


    Much of what I say can be found in the book by New-In-Chess called "Chess Instructor 2009".

    Parents often can intefere too much out of their good intention. Hence it is often better to leave the training aspects to the experts and deal with the logistics.

    Fighting spirit is a character trait, not easy to develop. If a child is non-confrontational by nature, it will be very hard to urge him to fight. What they need is to see real-life examples (like Yeoh Li Tian) who can escape from near-defeats because he gave the most problems when losing. I am sure there can be many games from the Malaysian top players in this respect.

    As a coach, my advice to the player is to work hard at the board when winning, but work even harder when losing.

    Next is the fear of playing higher-rated players. The only way to conquer this is to tell oneself "Sure, my opponent can beat me but I do my best not to make mistakes, it will be very hard for me to lose". Losing a game is no big deal but one must draw lessons from every loss. I am shocked when I see parents telling their children " It's ok, never mind" after they had lost a game. This is fundamentally wrong as it condones failure.what parents ought to do is to remind their child what went wrong and find out if they don't know. Every defeat is a valuable lesson in itself.

    For more of this topic, do read the latest post by Dan Heisman in called " The self-fulfilling prophecy".

  20. I agree parents can interfere when they shouldnt. Also you must remember that not all parents are conversant with chess. For that matter not many technical trainers are conversant with counselling or coaching. And when to use which. I differntiate trainers from coaches. Trainers teach the technical game and coaches get the best out of the players in Tournaments.

    And my point about fighting spirit is that many already had them when they started out in chess. But it was not nurtured but squashed. That is the worrying trend. And the sooner we see that and get that fixed the better we will be.

  21. Well, the rule of the jungle in this case should apply. Those who can withstand the harsh conditions and survive will emerge, those who can't will fall abd die.

    Is it a failure or loss of face that a parent is concerned when faced with the reality that the child does not have what it takes to reach the top? Hardly. The process of the struggle will teach them valuable lessons. Many will apply for the GM post but very few will have what it takes to be 1. For those who couldn't, there is no shame if you had tried. One must acknowledge the fact that it is a very difficult journey and cheer for/help those who are near the top. That is the spirit we should have.

    I have always subscribed to the notion that good coaches and trainers must be players who have no more aspirations to their chess goals and devote their time to helping those who can. Active players seldom make good coaches.

  22. I think you are still missing the point. Read my latest post, the start of a plan. What we need is a team that can see what is important. That can do work with the end in sight.

  23. No, Raymond.

    I would not subscribe to a team of parents running the Federation or even a chess-training company, if there are vested interests especially if the subject happens to be our own children.

    Why? Because as parents we make excuses or try to protect our own kids from failure, try to shield them whenever there is adversity as you've pointed out.

    I say again, if one is going to do chess work, one must want to do it for the whole chess community at large and not just for one's son or daughter. So far I have yet to see one parent,whose child is involved in chess, be so magnaminous. Dato Tan can do it because he has no vested interests in sponsoring chess - certainly not because his children are good players. Quite the opposite in fact. For this, my hat goes to Mrs Jackie Wong who volunteered her time and energies to chess though her kids are no longer actively playing. Truly selfless.

    Players like Jimmy and Christie in the generation before owe it to themselves to work on their chess. They did it out of passion. In my case, my father threatened to throw me out if I continued to play chess as he sees no benefit from spending time on it. Yet we all matured, became good players inspite of all difficulties and became tougher as a result.

    Back to the rule of the jungle. Of course this comparison is harsh but real. The lioness would identify its own weakling and kills it before it dies from its predators or other animals who can sense its weakness.

    Becoming a GM consists of 2 parts, the technical and emotional. Once again, I say that for anyone to spend hours and hours in chess to become a GM, let him/her examine himself and prove to himself/herself that he/she HAS WHAT IT TAKES to be a champion. Those who have will emerge regardless. Making things easier may not help at all.

    Bobby Fischer did not have anything in terms of the system to help him - his talent outshone every obstacle, he succeeded.

    My money is in Yeoh Li Tian and Nicholas Chan at the moment. As for the others, they should seriously start to ask if they should gracefully bow out before anymore disappointment awaits. Though I speak like a Simon Cowell, I hope you do not mind my frankness because at the end, children should find their passion and talent to pursue their interests. To succeed as a GM, passion alone is not enough. Talent is the one major prerequisite - and for those who do have it, they earn the right to work harder than those who don't to succeed. For those who don't, we can still enjoy the game as enthusiasts and fans. Indeed, it would be to the country's advantage to have millions more chess fans rather than 1 GM.

    We have 3 in Singapore. Does that propel the interest of chess in my country? Look at the number of blogs and you be the judge.

  24. No, I do not mind your frankness. But yet again you have come up with something I never said or intended. Lets try an exercise here. Locate where I said parents should run the Federation.

    As for the law of the jungle, I disagree. Too many of our saplings are killed off before they have a chance.

  25. "Locate where I said parents should run the Federation."

    Ray, u may not hv said it. However, u did imply that those in MCF who r not contributing / sabotage / similar like should give up their post / give way to others who r willing to do the work.

    Let me ask u, where to get those people who r willing except from the biggest stakeholder i.e. "Parents" group of people.

    Btw, I'm long enough in the scene to tell u the willing people in whole country without any major vested interest r not more than one hand fingers. On the other hand, there will be around 1 dozen of parents (whole country) who r willing to work for their own children and other people children at the same time. Many dozens others r there just for their own children.

    For MCF to be a workable team and strive things forward, then this 1 dozen parents must be on the MCF Exco. That's where John's perspective comes in.

  26. You see it as an implication. But it's not. Try not to see things in still frames. Try instead to see things as a movie. There is always the possiblity that good people can come in if the bad leave. Right now nobody good will go into that cesspool of vipers. I also said understand the problem first. Can you try not to drop that ball?

  27. "The lioness would identify its own weakling and kills it before it dies from its predators or other animals who can sense its weakness."

    Somehow that image disturbs me :)

    More so when used as an analogy to chess ;)

    Lighten up, guys.

  28. Firstly, the system did not accomodate "There is always the possiblity that good people can come in if the bad leave." possibility due to COS structure. Can u influence COS to change the whole sports structure in Malaysia. The answer is obvious.

    "Right now nobody good will go into that cesspool of vipers." - Again from experience, the ones who are waiting next in line and finally get a chance to replace the outgoings (who volunteered to do so) are not up to the level of wanting / able to do major changes. Remember, the Exco majority is still ruled by people from 1970's and 1980's. A complete overhaul is needed. Btw, most if not all newbloods into Exco are deemed as friendly party to the existing Exco members. Changes? At what rate, if any?

    I'm already seeing it as a movie, not still images.

  29. In my opinion, do whatever v can without MCF in the equation although at one point or another MCF must be ready to embrace it for the whole thing to work.

    It will be better v get ourselves ready first rather than think on ways to improve MCF structure (which beyond our limit), educate MCF Exco (which beyond our control), instigate public against MCF (which serve no positive karma), etc.

    Maybe one fine day the whole Exco wake-up simultaneously on the right side of the bed to embrace the issue. Till then, v just do our little part in the roadmap.

  30. What do you think will happen if a parallel organisation is to exist and it can produce results? I am not saying we do not need MCF. All I am saying is to leave them be. First GM will not put in any more resources, if we cannot be assured of results and teamwork. What happens if energy is pored into a vehicle that can produce results. Could that be better than putting more wasted energy into MCF? Would the new vehicle speak louder? Would that be a better way to get them to change? When they see that they are no longer relevant. Just thinking outloud.

  31. Last message from anon came in simultaneously as i posted. Yes, agreed. We are looking at ways to identify a properly thought out roadmap and a structure that need not conflict with MCF. There is no need to fight them but there is a need to publicise what they are doing if only so that we learn what not to do.

  32. Why waste more energy in putting up a parallel orgainsation? In the end, the gov't through COS / OCM only recognise MCF.

    When MCF comes out hard to weed off parallel org with the support from OCM / COS. Then, what? More energy throw in to support parallel organisation to fend off the attack. More political dramas, resources down the drain, casualties, undone all the goodwill develop. Is it a wise choice?

    Btw, ur suggestion is an old idea. 20 plus yrs ago, PCMM is the parallel organisation. Look no further and c it urself on the extended damage on the tussel between the 2 organisations had done to Malaysian Chess today. Instead of riding Jimmy's IM phenomenon, we r sowing the result of the tussle.

    My advise - Forget about parallel organisation. Just do ur part in a little way like the rest of us.

  33. Fyi, PCMM won the tussle where most of the key personnel from PCMM r in today's MCF.

  34. After sitting in MCF, they no longer c themselves representing PCMM but as individual with executive power in MCF, rope in more PCMM members into MCF exco.

    At one stage from late 1990 to early 2000, at least two-third of the MCF Exco came from PCMM. What u seeing now r leftover key personnel from PCMM in the past who disguise as Individual with excecutive power to self-vote [as permitted by constitution] since PCMM was deregistered by ROS many years ago.

    While others ex-PCMM members just left MCF for good which allows representatives from other states to join the fray. Nevertheless, whoever been "elected" r deem as friendly party.

  35. Sponsorship is an old idea. But we did the sponsorship via First GM, a new way. If we had taken your attitude and your advice, nothing would have happened. You need to see things from a wider perspective and not stuck in the past. There is a saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Dont be offended. I am not saying you are insane. It's just that there are many ways to do something. If others can produce a GM so can we. But not doing it the same old way. Thank you for the heads up anyway. We'll try not to make the same mistakes.

  36. "Sponsorship is an old idea. But we did the sponsorship via First GM, a new way."

    U must be kidding me. From my sources, CAS CTEP used the same method like FGM, and they had done it since 1996.

  37. Thank you for the information. Will try to learn more.

  38. "If we had taken your attitude and your advice, nothing would have happened."

    I think u misunderstood my statement. What I mean is (To do ur part in ur own little way), but (no need to SETUP a parallel organisation to MCF and make MCF irrelevant).

    The (former) is positive contribution, while (latter) can be harmful if MCF reacts negatively on it.

  39. Question. Do you think MCF can lead the way? Do we still want our own GM? Do we want our own GM enough to do something positive about it despite the obstacles? MCF is now the biggest obstacle. Do we just sit down and resign? Is that the way to that GM?

  40. Well Jimmy, we are indeed talking about being a GM, a title that eludes most of us because we know how difficult the path to GMship is.

    My example is to show that even in nature,reality sets in very early to weed out those who cannot make it. If there are 1000 players who try and only 2 have the potential, better I believe to let the 998 know that they can do something else with their lives rather than venture on a cause that will not bear any fruit.

    As to the parents issue, my chief fear is that the intervention from them towards the chess federation's policies may soon urge them to take the matter into their own hands. When that happens, it is ok if they can see the big picture and promote chess for everyone, not just their own kids.

  41. John, try reading parents 2, my articles on imagined fears, and maybe step 1 to mental strength. Would be good to see your take on it.

  42. Do you think MCF can lead the way?
    No need MCF, that doesn't mean v must replace / kill them. Is it morally correct to do so? Just let MCF brags on the subject matter if u or others hv succeeded in producing a GM.

    Do we still want our own GM?
    Until a group of talented children willing to put in the real effort in chess studies and other related aspects, alongside with strong supporting characters.

    Do we want our own GM enough to do something positive about it despite the obstacles?
    Obstacle is a major driven factor to success. Need not waste time removing obstacle.

    Do we just sit down and resign?
    Irrelevant. All parties can contribute positively in own way.

    Is that the way to that GM?
    V should not overkill the situation. Not worth creating a GM at the expense of others suffering, create disharmony within the chess community, etc.

    Btw, what so big deal on being a GM in Chess. Chess is not everything in life! A GM may still end up suffering in life.

  43. Hmmmm, are you reading any of the other postings on this blog? Or just this one?

  44. This thread has gone off topic. We should take the comments to form a new thread or continue this under "Start of A New Plan".

    I will post my comments over there.

  45. Actually there is no need to kill MCF, they are doing a fine job on their own. But as I said earlier there is a need to publicize their misdeeds. Its about the culture. Right now its seems ok to lie, to sabotage etc. It starts at the top. To me that is a negative culture. One that kills creativity. The cause of the disharmony comes from MCF. And that affects all down the line.

  46. My ans to ur Q comes fr yrs of observation, interaction with GMs, documentation of successful formulas used in GM roadmap, etc.

  47. Perhaps you need to observe again since we have no results.