Follow pictorial reports on events posted in this blog via Facebook. Click HERE

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Of Going Back To Work - Not Chess

Its been slightly more than a year that I have been concentrating on chess with DATCC being my home base and along the way, organizing or helping to organize other events with fellow organizers and officials. The year 2011 started rather strongly but it went on a quiet mode somewhere mid year, and the last part of the year has provided a rather mix outcome. There were some frustrating times that I had to endure, but equally so, the few successes that I will cherish for a very long time.The year end also provided a surprise package for me when I was offered a short term task (that potentially can grow to a full term package) to work with a friend - something that has got nothing to do with chess at all. So, here I am, staring at a crossroad between chess - engaging in something that I love and passionate about, and my professional work - something that am good at doing and can help sustain my living.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that chess can't provide a good income to those who dare venture into it. It did make some organizers (in the west) to rake in handsome profits each year and some chess players do make it big to earn enough money for them to sustain a comfortable lifestyle but, overall, the percentage of success stories - dollar and cents, is still very minimal. In Malaysia, it is almost zero. Well, no doubt that there are people who does chess on a full time basis but still, most of them continue to hold another job on the side either as tuition teachers or a car insurance dealer, or free lance computer programmer. For me, the year 2011 was almost 100% chess and it was just enough to survive and it was tough. Despite it all, I like it very much. I like the fact that I plan my own time, set my own schedule, go where I want to go when I want to and for most of the time, I am able to work from home when I want to. I like the fact that I was "almost" my own boss - and that chess community is my real boss because without them, I would not have survived.... :)

But But after a while, the surrounding and the people got me thinking, and the future on the horizon, looks a little bleak and dark. There is a light somewhere but you are not sure whether the light is from a spotlight or the the sun.

Worried about the future of chess and my involvement in the sport that I love, out of the blue, a job offer came knocking on the door so.... a second light appears in the horizon and its apparent that this source of light is a bit more certain and stable. But although the blessing in the form of a job came and land on my lap, I am still unsure what to do next and for me, my heart and mind are stuck between my love for chess and my call for work. Do I accept the job? Do I stay with chess? Maybe, I can maintain both.... right?

For now, I am accepting the job since it is just a short term thingy. The challenge for now is trying to adjust myself to working with other people, and working from 9 to 5. The possibility of continuing is there but it all depends on the client but as I said earlier, I will deal with the short term employment that is being offered and let that settle first. As for the longer employment term, I will revisit that when the time comes as I may get a different job offer that is much better than what it is now. But regardless, should I stay with chess or do I take a different course of action and forego this short term employment?

It seems good to finally earn a stable living that chess is not able to offer - for now. Whether chess will be very big in the future or not, that I am not sure. No one can foretell the future but of course, we can gauge. For me, it can become big but it all depends on what we do now. There have been aggressive movement from different sectors in the country to invigorate local chess scene but, these efforts are still fragmented and each is in their own little silos. Whilst most are doing their bit to promote chess - in their smaller scale events, there are also a few that are rather vocal in convincing the local chess market at large that they have huge sponsors backing them up, they have money, sponsors and so on and so forth. But let us not talk about other efforts as that will be a totally different tale to tell - but I bet, its much more juicier to talk about. I'll save that for next time...

On my going back to work, I applaud Mas for his courage and also to Khairunissa (of Setia Chess Center) for going into chess on a full time basis when I, on the opposite side of the track, going out of chess and back into working life. Its not that chess can't pay but, the basic truth is, it just can't pay as well. But putting money aside, part of the reason for me to go back to work is all about taking a step back, review and decide. So, going back to work is actually more of a reviewing phase. Its like playing chess - a player who always plays Queens Pawn suddenly decide to play King's Gambit, not because he does not trust the Queen Pawn but because he can also win playing King's Gambit. And during that time, the player can review both the Queens Pawn and King's Gambit, ponder and decide what is the better plan moving forward. The phase where a player thinks "Maybe I should try something else and see if it can work!".

The funny thing about being so involved in chess is that it becomes an attraction that is so difficult to let go. I remembered a friend who warned me (in 2007) not to get too much involve in chess because he said that I am too passionate about it and that I tend to get carried away with it. To a certain extent, it was true. My going into chess and with DATCC was partly because of "I have to" and not "I want to" but after while, the "have to" became "the want MORE to". But as I get more involved in chess, I also realized where and how the money can be made. But I also realized that everyone else also have the same idea so the one that will differentiate one with the other is one's innovation, creativity, public relation and most importantly "you-know-who".

But, as I move into the corporate world, I am inevitably being dragged back into chess due to "unfinished business" or commitments that I had made prior to accepting my work. Most of it are related to chess projects and events that I have agreed to doing, host and managed hence, for the past 3 weeks, I have been moving in between chess and work. Running from office to DATCC and rushing back to office from DATCC. But work takes precedent and by the end of the 1st quarter, all the chess stuffs should clear with only one or two outstanding. And by that time as well, I should also be able to decide whether I should return to playing Queen Pawn or keep my King's Gambit, or perhaps, I should play both. But of course, event this past 3 weeks, I experienced how difficult it has been to juggle 2 things at the same time (on a short term) because I will end up working 7 days in a week. Unless the return is really REALLY superb, then I might think about it but then again, I prefer to have more time to myself than money because we can find money whereas time, is something used and would not be recovered.

For now, the mode is to steer slightly away from chess but at the same time, to keep all the options open - whether to attack on the Queen side or King side, or just to control the center. For now, its a wait and see phase while the chess cake (not cheese cake!) is being baked - see who the interested parties are, evaluate the decoration on the cake, the ingredient and people that will be served with the cake.

It will be an interesting cake but, its time to get back to work.... If you happen to be anywhere near PJ State area, call me up for tea! We can still talk chess.... and play a few rounds of blitz as long as it is done during lunch or tea breaks!


  1. Dear Najib,
    I read with interest your concern and your need to do a balancing act. Your crossroads has come. Yes, chess is a distraction or attraction. It has made me lost most weekends to chess but kept my mind busy with chess thoughts and many interesting chess moves.
    I guess, in a way,that is why Malaysia needs many, many qualified arbiters certified by MCF or FIDE and the system of chess training needs to feed on itself not relying on one person but instead on a system.
    The MCF needs to develop a whole cadre of arbiters, tournament organisers and maintain a whole spectrum of sponsors. Impossible it may seem but other countries are doing it well. Look at Turkey! I may know just a little drop of chess knowledge but everyone can learn and grow from their experience.
    Whatever you decide Najib, we wish you well. :)

  2. Dear Najib,
    I truly understand your dilemma in having to choose between continuing the good work you are doing and feeding yourself and family. Hence it is a luxury for some who have the time and resources to carry out this important organising work for chess. Not many have the fortune of circumstance to do it.

    However, I do urge you to soldier on balancing some part-time organising. The chess scene needs every man it can get in manning the various posts in order for it to function. Malaysian chess has been extremely vibrant for the last 5 years, thanks to your untiring efforts and those who have contributed by way of blogging, organising and tending to every detail. It is a thankless task and the reward comes in a job well done, a smile on every chessplayer at the end of the tournament and satisfaction in being part of it. Such feelings money cannot buy.

    Thank you for being a part of this scene, I look forward to having tea with you to reminisce on old times rather than wait for the annual Malaysia Singapore match to do it.

    See you soon

  3. Thanks for those kind words my friend John... Yes. Tea at a good time would be good - to reminisce some good times, and to forge many more ahead.

    Sam... I agree with your views but , in order to grow the arbiters, you need to grow the crowd/the players as well. An order to grow the crowd, you need to have a lot of people who is passionate about chess and who knows how to play the game - more so, the competitive chess players and then only, we can prosper and grow together. It has been an interesting journey and I would like very much to continue but, sometimes the challenges and uncertainties that I have experienced along the way, makes me wonder whether it was worth continuing.

    But, let us see how it goes. I might come back stronger, or leave and be contented that I have tried something.

  4. Well Najib, this came as a surprise to me though the good news is a chess comeback is always possible for you be it a part-time or full-time thing.

    All I can say is in any area you decide to venture, I wish you ll find success and happiness like you did in chess.
    Above all, I know you ll find your way,somehow.

    Ain't Life is too short for chess?
    Btw Najib, Merry Xmas & Happy New Year 2012.

  5. Hey Zaidan ... Thanks for those kind words. Yes, a come back is always possible. For now, its a wait and see kind of thing. With nothing concrete for 2012, everything is up in the air and in the interim, going back to work is the most sensible thing to do.... for now that is...:)

    Merry X'mas to you as well and have a blastful New Year!

  6. Hi Najib my dear fren,
    1. very sorry to hear about your decision as you have been contributing a lots to local chess in the past years.
    2. thank you so much for your kind efforts and sacrifices.
    3. wish you a good journey in your King's Gambit venture.
    best rgds,

  7. Hi Najib, you are one of the very few professional arbiters we have in Malaysia. I hope you will consider continuing in a part time capacity at least. Anyway whatever you decide, I hope 2012 will bring you success in your endeavours.

  8. Hi Raymond
    Thanks for the encouraging words. Yes, there are still rooms for "part time" work but, it is very difficult to maintain doing 2 job at the same time - and at the end of it all, one will have to give in... more like, cave in!

    I wish I can be full time in chess albeit the money is not that good but, it is something that I enjoyed doing. But, when conversing with so call the "movers and shakers" of chess in Malaysia, the words are not encouraging - you get the feeling that either you are not being appreciated, or they have someone else in mind As you know, it is not "you know HOW", its more the "you know WHO". Sometimes, you can do a wonderful job, people still say you suck! And sometimes, you do a "sucking job" but if your boss favors you, that part of it is totally "blinded".

    Chess is too dependent on many "other" factors i.e. Federations, Associations, Clubs (like DATCC), Officials, players, sponsors, etc. and to make sure that everything is in sync, and that "harmony" is maintained, is a very difficult thing to do. No disrespect intended to anyone but that just how things go. Everyone has their own ideas of how things should be and unfortunately, these ideas, somehow or the other, often goes in a different tangent going everywhere else but not towards a common goal.

    There is hope but for now, I will just stay on the sideline and observe... :)

    Hope you had a good New Year Raymond!

  9. Thanks Najib, I think a very important thing we need to learn is how to handle difficult discussions on difficult issues without it becoming personal and petty. If reason prevails then we will be able to move forward. Just like a chess game. I agree with you that there is still hope. I am looking for those signs as well, just like you. Take care.