Monday, August 18, 2014

Lessons from Tromso.

Ref: Here.

We have achieved one of the best results in recent years. Allow me to give my perspective as well as a little history. It may not be apparent but I believe this is the fruit of implementing written selection criteria for the first time in 2009. The very first actually appeared on this blog after I was privately passed it via a parent. My reason for publishing it then was that selection criteria should not only be known by a few privileged people but available to all that will be participating in the competition. Too often the goal posts  have been moved in the past because it was inside information only. Matters snow balled from there.

So Tromso, is the first Olympiad where there is some semblance of a written selection. The previous teams were available only to the back door boys. And the culture then was a play in perception for qualification to the senior Malaysian team. Methods used were threats against players who dared to compete, playing select tournaments to give perception of strength. Claiming to be a "Master" although afraid to play in tough tournaments etc etc etc.

But today's games are different. We can see in real time and analyse how our players are doing. So there is nowhere to hide. So we see that a few players who applied the methods mentioned above are no longer playing in our national team.

And so we have progressed a little for the first time in many many years.

However I hope this is just the beginning of our resurgence and not just a temporary glitch and we go back to the old days of the back doors. We need to continue to tighten our selection criteria even further. This year there was the suspicion of chess engine usage raised. I hope that next year MCF will cut off that loophole as well. There is also another matter of point passing on the top tables. This is very serious but not easy to solve. If MCF can find ways of identifying those that practices this and then levying penalties then our future will be much brighter.

Chess is a competitive mind sport. If our players cannot perform here without cheating then they will not do well overseas. If they try cheating overseas then they will be a national embarrassment if they get caught.

Still I want to give acknowledgment to the committee members within MCF who have heard our complaints and have taken action to improve. We have improved. No doubt about that. A lot of the deadwood who cannot play competitive chess anymore but still want to play for Malaysia are gone.

It has been a hard struggle to improve given the resistance of the people who wanted the back doors retained but I think it has been worth it.

So kudos to those committee members within MCF who has fought the good fight. My deepest appreciation and heartiest congratulations.

And my congratulations also to the players of the senior Malaysian squad who earned their place in clean competition. You know who you are.

We have the talent and we have the resources to become a great chess nation. But only if we keep going forward.

Malaysia Truly Boleh. But we must also believe that deeply in ourselves.

All my best.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reply to Wai Leong and Kim Yaw.

Ref: Here.

Wai Leong,

Thank you for your honest comment. I believe you have come to the correct decision in abstaining from match fixing but allow me to tell you here my own thought processes and approach to it. The first thing is that match fixing stops your development. Why? Read below first.


Let's be honest. Very few if any has the drive and ambition or resources to become a GM. But almost anyone can benefit from the lessons of chess. And that benefit as explained in the link above comes when we learn to compete without cheating. Can you see that? And that is not an easy lesson to learn. Take for example Mark's own journey in the one time he "cheated". He broke under the intense pressure of the NJ Championship in 2010 where he almost became Champion. To cut a long story short he accepted a point he did not deserve but chose to come clean when confronted. So enough pressure can break anyone. But once that becomes a habit then you stop learning. The real benefit comes from analyzing how the pressure got to you and to find ways to become stronger next time without cheating. Clearer?

We have encountered match fixing almost every year since 2005 when Mark became Perak U12 Champion. This year we suspected the use of chess engine during National Close. Our approach is to now find a way to beat the use of chess engine usage in tournaments without cheating ourselves. So we need to learn even more. That is my approach. It is always about learning. And you don't learn if you cheat.

So my approach to chess is different from the approach taken before. I focus on competitor analysis and strategy and not merely the technical aspect of the game.

Let me also correct a misconception on your part. Mark was already a 1900 in 2009 when he got his first Fide rating. 1500 is around MSSM level. What we learnt from Norlito, Paulo's father, were refinements in our technical knowledge to enable us to breach the Master level. But Mark's playing strength was already above 2000 by then. Another point which may have escaped your attention is that we do not play most tournaments to win or for ratings but to learn. This is so that we can apply what we have learnt in the tournaments that count.

Now if you go back to that link again, you will also see that I wrote about setting realistic goals. What does this mean? Well in our case it means that we need to modify our goals according to realistic conditions. Mark has just entered University and so he must now adjust his priorities. Chess has to take a lower priority for the moment. It doesn't mean we have stopped. It just means that priorities have changed till conditions also change.

We are still moving but at a slower pace. We do not want to drop the ball.

I am still writing and talking more on my FB so you are welcome to join my page. I accept most chess players.

Kim Yaw,

We do a beginners package that can bring players to the 1500 level but Mark is in charge of that. So do ask him if you get the chance. I only come in as a Coach at the higher competitive levels where deeper strategies are needed.

However I am still continuing to see if I can bring up my Academy again. One of the conditions I have set myself is my ability to protect my players against threats. My inability to stop that is the main reason why I don't take any more students.

You see, the responsibility to stop match fixing and threats to players that want to play clean chess and learn from the game lies with the Associations and MCF. My responsibility is to train my players to be the best players they can be according to their own set goals.

I see some improvements in the selection this year but still some hanky panky. But at least some of the back doors have been shut. And the day MCF realises that almost all the back door players will self destruct will be the day I will play a more active role again. But I will continue to do what I can and improve my own knowledge in the meantime albeit in a smaller way.

Thank you for writing in. I hope I have answered your questions and given you some ideas on how to move forward.

In a nutshell I define competition as improving our skills and not in cheating in all it's many ways. Learning to improve ourselves will take all the energy we have and so there is none to spare in learning how to match fix, which is also very time consuming.

Ergo, you cannot learn all the things I said you can learn from chess and learn to cheat at the same time. And I believe my way takes you much further. All in due time. There is no rush.

All my best in your learning.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Goal Setting-The lessons from Chess.

I always start my chess lessons by saying that Chess as a game has 4 major components that determines strategy and affect results. Those 4 components are the time frame of the game, your opponents skills and weaknesses, your skills and weaknesses and what is happening in front of you ie the board.

But today let us talk about this from the perspective of goal setting. Can you see that goal setting has a direct relationship to the time frame available?

If you can then I think you will understand why I spend a lot of time to make sure that the goals are realistic within the time frame available.

Lets say you have infinite time to execute a strategy. Under those circumstances does it matter if you get lost again and again? Wandering for 40 years in search of the promise land.

But lets say now that you have a limited time frame or the opportunity may be lost. And lets say that we have decided together that you have a time frame of 5 years to achieve the stated goal measurable in milestones.

Now to achieve that goal in that time frame, do you not have to measure the gap between you and your opponent? Competitive analysis or comparative studies. Take your pick.

Since the agreed goal is now 5 years, does that not dictate the speed that you have to learn to have a fighting chance in 5 years? What percentage chance would you like to have? 50%, 70%?

And are those percentages also not affected by what is going on right in front of you. On the board. The question here is if you continue to make the right decisions would you increase your percentage chance? Before you leave this earth, before the game is over. And if you make the wrong decision, move by move, as you are overwhelmed by your fears, what happens?

I hope you can now see what a double edged sword goal setting is today. Get it right and you achieve your goal. If you are also willing to pay the realistic price that is.

Now do you also see why very very few are willing to set realistic goals? They would rather wallow in the self delusion that they have infinite time rather than strive daily to make the right decisions to get there. Yes? No?

You still have doubts about what I am saying? Lets look at our Vision 2020. What is happening there. Why all that deflection, all that raising of new invented issues that take us away from that goal? Was Vision 2020 realistic? Did we measure the gap and then set our measurable milestones to achieve it? Are we willing to pay the price of success?

Do we believe in ourselves?

Chess is but a tool to learning. It doesn't have all the answers but it is a good start to learning how to think. But only if used properly.

Note: What do you learn when you fix the games? What would that tell you about the state of our chess today? Why has that happened?

Has the model above shown us where we may be going wrong? So what is the goal? And what do we have to factor in to achieve results. Do you have a goal? Do you have infinite time?

Thank you for your time today. Have a good weekend.