Monday, May 26, 2014

Lessons from playing chess in Malaysia.

This Friday my son Mark will leave the house and go to University in KL. This will also mark a big change in my life. For over 10 years I have traveled with him to each and every chess tournament as his Coach. I have seen him grow from the Perak U12 State Champion to the No.2 U20 National Junior to No.8 at our National Closed this year. And I have traveled overseas with him to represent Malaysia and for his training camps. And all of this was paid through my own pocket.

But much more than that, I have stood by his side when he was attacked by people in the chess fraternity who felt that winning can only come if you belong to the right camp. That playing strong chess and winning on the table in healthy competition is to be frowned upon.

And so I had to watch him struggle when he saw less talented players win by cheating and fixing the tournaments with the aid of chess officials. I saw him stumble once when he too accepted a point in 2010 that he did not deserve.

In all those years, I showed him time and time again that when you cheat your game stalls. So many of the top players that went down that road disappeared from the chess circuit. And so we played on knowing that they will cheat and use all sorts of devices to win. This year there is strong suspicion that they have even brought in chess engines to analyse. And that is an even more drastic form of cheating.

Over the years we have seen officials come and go. Before they come in they are full of fire to change things. After they are in they join the system. And so there has been no change apart from even further deterioration.

And so my son has been witness to all those shady people who come in the guise of angels. But now he knows who they are. And he also knows he does not need to cheat and deprive anyone of what is rightfully theirs simply by raising his own game.

To be happy with his results by being clean and to allow them to cheat if they must. We got what we got without cheating and we are content with the results.

I think he has benefited more from this experience. I think all of this experience has helped mold him into a man worthy of respect. I started out defending a frightened boy of 12 being bullied by adults of suspect character.

But I think this Friday, I will be watching a man of character and substance leave the house to face a whole new world. I wish him luck.

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