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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Race Is On Again .... And why I support Akhramsyah

As of last week, the MCF AGM is a GO but of course, we still have to wait until the last MCF meeting which is expected to happen tonight, to decide and confirm if the AGM will proceed as plan. On the same note, MCF would also have to clarify and finalise the eligibility of each nominees before confirming their status to stand for office. And when all that concludes, there will be no turning back. And with that, I do not seen any reason why the AGM should not continue as I see no solid reason for it to be otherwise. 

The MCF meeting session tomorrow will also mark as the last official meeting for the current MCF office bearers under the leadership of YB Dato Zahidi Zainul Abidin. Personally, it has been a chaotic but fantastic and memorable 6 months and 5 days for me, serving as the Assistant Secretary for the Federation. For this, I thanked my old friend of 30 years - IA Abd Hamid Abd Majid, for his believe that I am the right person to get the job done. And on the same, my sincere thanks to YB President who supported my inclusion in the Committee albeit it was a very short stint. While I feel and honestly believe that I have executed my duties the best way that I can - for the current committee, I am also hoping that I can continue to contribute my services with the new committee. Hence, for this upcoming AGM, I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope that I can convince the voters to support my nomination to be a part of the new MCF. But for now, my task at hand is to help promote and ensure that the right person will be voted and elected to helm the new MCF towards glory and accolades in the years to come.

But before that, with all sincerity and honesty, despite all the scandals and issues that have plagued MCF for the last 2 years, I truly believe that YB Dato Zahidi has done his part to contribute to the cause of Chess during his tenure as President. Despite the array of challenges and obstacles that he has faced, coupled with the diversities and differences that existed between the office bearers, YB Dato Zahidi has done an incredibly wonderful and exemplary job to manage the situation accordingly. In YB Dato Zahidi's tenure as President, he did manage to get RISDA to sponsor the 2017 edition of the Malaysian Chess Championship, and had also made a personal contribution towards helping IM Yeoh Li Tian to participate in the 2017 Zonal Chess Championship, and the many other contributions and donations that he has provided to MCF. My hats off to you YB Dato and I do hope that you and chess will cross path again sometime in the future.

Back to the matter at hand.... 

With the upcoming AGM lurking around the corner, it goes without saying that this will be the best opportunity for the chess community to select and elect a new breed of MCF officers to manage and shape the future of our beloved game. And for once, let's have a united MCF rather than a diversified team, and elect candidates who are qualified and genuinely passionate about improving chess in the country. Let's get those who understands and appreciate the pains and gains, challenges and obstables that the chess community has been facing to be reduced or eliminated, or avoided, and work towards improvement and development. Let us NOT have those who has personal vested interest to be in the committee, let us NOT have those who is only thinking about how they can make money when they are in MCF and let us NOT have those who tends to practice corruption and money laundering or swinddling in MCF. The President and the committee is supposed to think and formulate plans on how to ensure that chess continue to grow in Malaysia, and NOT to be overwhelmed by internal matters that are not supposed to exist in the first place. It would be sad if MCF continues to bicker about internal matters and issues (within the 15 committee members) when in reality, they should grow chess for the masses of chess lovers and followers in Malaysia

But to ensure that the committee moves forward towards the right direction, at the right pace and with the right plan, we MUST HAVE A STRONG LEADER at the helm, a charismatic and visionary president that can lead the pack towards development and improvement, a more structured management style, efficient, proactive and creative. And of course, that person must be someone that we can trust, someone who knows the chess community, someone who is not alien to the people on the ground, and someone who knows what the players (and parents, coaches, trainers, arbiters, officials, organisers, etc) need to make chess a respectable sport. And for me, the person to lead MCF into the future is none other than Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Tan Sri Sanusi. 

Akhram with IM Yeoh Li Tian and IM Mok Tze Meng
having some light moments at the Malaysia Chess
Festival yesterday.
For many chess players and organizers, Akhram is not a stranger to chess and albeit his busy schedule pursuing his professional and political ambition, he can still makes time for chess. This had already started even when he was working with a global oil giant many years before - attending chess events for his kids and minggling with other chess parents, and getting to know the chess community. Hence, he has a good head start having to listen to the countless woes, dissatisfactions and challenges voiced by the parents, voiced by those who pursue chess as more than just a game, voiced by the overall chess community. And if the requirement of an MCF President must be someone that holds an important corporate position, Akhram is the Chairman of MARA Corp hence, what more of an advantage that we need to have in a President? And to top the icing on the cake, Akhram is also a member of the current ruling party as such, making his ways around Ministries, Government agencies, contributors and sponsors would be much easier and better in order for chess to earn valuable mileage towards recognition and assistance.

By now, I believe everyone has already know who Akhram will be facing for the top position BUT..... while I have heard good (and also bad) things about the candidate, my main concerns are: 1) the distant between him and the community - since he is very new to the National chess scene although he maybe active in his home state, and 2) and the challenger being a member of the opposition party - which may further distant chess from the main stream. 

Aside from the publicised issue that is being talked about - which is beyond our jurisdiction as this is for the authorities to decide (but something for us to think and ponder), the 2 main concerns is enough for me to wonder how would he manoeuvre his way around the colourful and demanding chess community that is screaming for improvement? And in order to mitigate this setback, would he then bring in "advisors and enforcers" to help him manage the community that he has little knowledge of and create another "behind the scene generals"? And not knowing the community, would he be able to address sensitive and troubling issues correctly that has been plaguing MCF without outside help that may have vested interest on the course of action that needs to be taken? 
Akhram at the recent MSSM event in
Putrajaya. Pictured here with Abu Bakar
Martin from Perak, who was the Chief
Arbiter for the event.

For me, the issue is a very straightforward one.... The President must be able to adapt quickly and having a head start like what Akhram has, will definitely give us that short runaway to improve things quickly and effectively. And this my fellow chess friends, is what chess needs in this troubling times. 

On a personal note, I would love to be a part of this new exciting transformation era that MCF will go under the leadership of Akhramsyah. It will definitely be an interesting journey. Akhram himself has personally discussed matters with MOE and KBS on how MCF can work together with the ministries - and of course his own MARA Corp, on how they can help to elevate chess popularity and acceptance. 

Come 18th August 2019, we will vote for the new MCF... Let's make it correct this time around. 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Akhram for MCF President - Deliver Growth

MCF Presidential candidate Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah TS Sanusi coming up with another message - this time in English, on his views and vision in driving MCF towards a better future. With a few more days before Election Day, Akhram is sharing more and more of his thoughts and direction on how he plans to steer MCF towards GROWTH and INTEGRITY. In the past, it has been very rare (almost unheard of) that the Presidential Candidates share their plans and what Akhram is doing here is definitely an eye opener, something new and very refreshing. The effort really shows that he cares about chess and that his heart is sincere in helping to lead the community. And if Akhram is willing to share his passion, vision, aspiration and determination on how to make chess great again, I am very confident that this is the kind of leadership that we need in MCF to help carry us forward. #AkhramforMCF

Read his statement - from his heart....

Assalamualaikum and Good Day. As Chess is an international sport, I choose to also share with you my vision for MCF in English.

We have many dreams and aspirations for Chess in Malaysia, but the issue is not whether any one leader can promise this or that to improve the game, but whether we can DELIVER on the GROWTH of Chess together. DELIVER GROWTH is hence my next Vision for MCF should I be chosen as MCF President.

This Vision also comprises of 2 axes, DELIVER and GROWTH, for which I consider the former to be something that we can certainly improve on. Rather than talk about DELIVERing by saying I am friends with this or that Minister or VVIP, I would rather speak of my track record.

How do I as a new candidate for a position in MCF have a track record in Chess? Now, I am not talking of my kids' performances as a Chess parent, but our efforts to send Myanmar and Asean Chess players to the 27th SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar in 2013.

The idea was brought to me by IM Mok Tze Min at the conclusion of the 2011 Sea Games. By 2012, with support from TS Ramli Ngah Talib who led MCF at the time, we began training a small group of kids, with local coaches like IM Jimmy Liew and also coaches from Myanmar. 

By early 2013, with assistance from the late TS Halil Abdul Mutalib, who was then VP of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), we attained agreement for an expansion of the Chess contingent with no additional budget from OCM, and a few players went to a pre-Sea Games tournament in Yanggon.

Some details of the heady early days of the contingent during the SEA Games itself are recorded here in my old Blog: http://thoughtsintangents.blogspot.com/2013/12/mencatur-kejayaan-di-myanmar.html

The ASEAN and Myanmar Chess players and entourage to the 27th SEA Games were all privately funded by the players and/or their parents and a few sponsors we managed to attract. This paid for coaching through to flights, accommodation and meals.

We have some fond memories of achievements of the contingent - the Malaysia Men's Myanmar Chess team won Bronze, the only SEA Games medal won by the Malaysian Chess contingent in 2013. My son Aqil, who was 10 then, drew with GM Eugene Toray in the Standard Myanmar Chess event! (The GM still remembers!)

But in the context of this MCF Elections, I DELIVERed on the promise then to bring a larger Chess contingent to the SEA Games in Myanmar to play and contend for medals in Chess variants not usually played by our players. Hence I believe with your support, MCF under my leadership can DELIVER on the axis GROWTH.

And what is the GROWTH that I mean here? I see GROWTH in Malaysian Chess to be over 4 elements:

1 - GROWTH of player quality which is intimately linked with GROWTH of Coaching and FIDE Rated Tournaments in the country. Besides aspiring to have FIDE Rated Standard, Rapid and Blitz events in Sukma, we should aspire for more across our State Chess Associations' events, state level school tournaments and universities.

I am have already spoken to Syed Saddiq and Dr Maszlee Malik on this, and they are supportive.

2 - GROWTH in the Support Structure for Chess, which includes support for Coaches, Arbiters and Tournament Organisers, especially in states where Chess is less developed. MCF should do more in this area and it will under my leadership.

3 - Linked to the above, GROWTH through better infrastructure for Chess, which I can begin DELIVERing as soon as I am elected MCF President. I aim to revive MCF's MOU with MARA, giving access to Halls in MARA institutions for use in tournaments and Chess activities. This will just be the beginning.

4 - Finally, MCF under my leadership will revive another old association long forgotten; reminding Tun Dr Mahathir that he is the Patron of MCF, hence leveraging on his good name to DELIVER GROWTH to the game for benefit of the entire Chess Community in Malaysia.

I look forward to your support and feedback on my Vision to DELIVER GROWTH, our second Vision with 2 new axes following the INTEGRITY TOGETHER vision shared before.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Akhram For MCF President - Integriti Bersama

Assalamualaikum dan Salam Sejahtera. 

Pertama sekali, izinkan saya mengucapkan terima kasih kepada Persatuan2 Catur Negeri2 yang telah sudi mencalonkan saya ke jawatan Presiden MCF. Terima kasih juga kepada pemimpin serta para perwakilan negeri2 mahupun ahli2 AJK MCF yang sudi menyatakan sokongan awal kepada saya.

Tanpa adanya sokongan demikian, tak mungkin saya tersentuh hati untuk menerima pencalonan ke jawatan yang cukup bermakna bagi saya sebagai seorang lebih dikenali di dalam komuniti catur Malaysia sebagai seorang 'Chess Parent'.

Di sini saya ingin memulakan perkongsian awal dan terbuka saya sebagai Calon Presiden. Kepimpinan MCF di bawah teraju saya jika tuan-puan sudi memilih akan berdasarkan beberapa paksi. Paksi pertama adalah INTEGRITI.

Walau Catur semakin berkembang dan maju di Malaysia sekaligus dgn peningkatan prestasi di arena antarabangsa bagi para pemain kita, terlalu banyak isu Integriti yang timbul tempohari. Sebagai seorang yang anak2nya juga hampir terkandas di Panjin 2 tahun lepas atas sebab ini, integriti dlm pengurusan catur amatlah dekat di hati saya.

Namun pada saya Integriti bukan tugas Presiden MCF mahupun AJK MCF semata2, tetapi haruslah dititik-beratkan oleh Komuniti Catur kita secara keseluruhan. Oleh itu, paksi kedua kepimpinan MCF jika tuan-puan sudi memilih saya adalah sifat BERSAMA.

Makanya INTEGRITI BERSAMA seharusnya menjadi visi MCF bagi membangun komuniti catur Malaysia.

Apakah ciri-ciri Integriti Bersama. Pertama sekali, saya mengesyorkan semua perwakilan ke AGM MCF untuk memilih calon2 yang berwibawa terutama berintegriti. Mungkin susah memilih antara yang baik, tetapi setidak2nya janganlah memilih yang diragui integritinya.

Seiring dgn visi INTEGRITI BERSAMA ini, MCF bawah pimpinan saya juga akan memperkenalkan:

1) Suatu Majlis Penasihat Presiden yang berahlikan semua Pengerusi2 Persatuan Catur Negeri2 dalam MCF untuk menasihati saya dalam lantikan2, bermula dgn lantikan Setiausaha Agung, Penolong Setiausaha Agung dan Bendahari Kehormat MCF.

2) Saya juga merancang untuk mengadakan forum terbuka dengan komuniti catur Malaysia sebagai sebahagian aktiviti mengiringi kejohanan catur utama anjuran MCF atau Persatuan2 Catur Negeri2 seperti Langkawi Open, Johor Open, Penang Open, Malaysia Chess Championship atau National Youth Chess Championship. Ini akan menggalakkan keterbukaan dan integriti dapat dipupuk bersama.

3) Jawatankuasa2 penting dalam MCF seperti Pemilihan Pemain untuk kejohanan utama antarabangsa dan Audit juga akan dimantapkan keahliannya dan diperkasakan. Majlis Penasihat Presiden juga akan dirujuk untuk membantu kepimpinan MCF dalam perkara ini.

Saya akan sambung lagi dengan Paksi serta Visi lain dan mengalu2kan maklum-balas tentang INTEGRITI BERSAMA.

Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Bin TS Sanusi
Calon Presiden MCF 2019

Friday, June 14, 2019

Of Going Into Nomination Day - Who Do We Want?

With only a few more hours to go before nomination closes, there is still a handful of affiliates that have not handed in the names of their delegates nor the nominees for the upcoming AGM. While the campaigning seems to have taken up pace - with states and individuals starting to find their alliance and common friends (and enemies), the main bargaining chip seems to focus on whether or not a seat will be given to a state rep if their "horse" wins. With 14 positions up for grab and 14 states available in total, the most ideal way is to give each state a seat, but reality may differ and at the end of it all, some state (or individual) may end up empty handed and disappointed, or even cheated. In some cases, one or two states may not want any seat in MCF at all as they may not be able to commit to the travelling and correspondenes required, not to mention the responsiblity. After all, being in the committee is more like providing charity work since there is no allowances for any of its council members simply because MCF is not a "cash rich" association like FAM or BAM. In the usual case, based on personal experiene, those in MCF may end up having to fork up their own money (and time) in order to be active and to contribute hence, the idea of becoming an MCF Council may not seem "sexy" to those who may feel the pinch. For those coming into MCF in view that they can make money, I sincerely believe that the "era of money making" is about to be over.

From a personal standpoint, there is no harm to have everyone and anyone in MCF. After all, as the saying goes, "the more the merrier". But, while affiliates and delegates are demanding for a rep in the council, there is a serious need to evaluate and understand if the request to be in the council is because the person wants to contribute and help chess to improve, or because the person wants it for their own personal benefit and "glamour"? For now, I want to believe that many want to be in because they want to contribute, and hopefully, what I belief and what will happen, is the same thing. Whether or not I am in MCF, with the believe and trust that those who are in there are those that want to contribute, I am confident that MCF should be able to take care of the welfare, progress and development of chess, and from then on, chess will continue to flourish and improve. 

For those who are supporting Akhram's presidency, the game plan is very simple - just make sure Akhram wins. And the idea is to allow as many deserving candidates to fill up the posts. The believe is that if Akhram becomes President, he will be able to steer MCF into a new and successful era. If MCF has an outstanding leader, everything else will definitely fall in place, and that is the message being sent to the community. Further, with Akhram already being part of the chess community, and he is active going to events and being seen to contribute towards chess, the chess community will only damage their future if they elect someone who has just appear, or is appearing for other reasons to help catapult their "personal" career. Let chess be handled by chess people - not some one who appears at the last minute and not knowing anything about chess. 

But let us look at the other posts that are up for grabs.

For the VP posts - there are 3 positions to be contested and 1 appointed, the one point that should be looked at is the fact that IA Lim Tse Pin - a long standing MCF Council member, has decided that it is time for him to step down as he has been in MCF for almost two decades. Perhaps, the seat that Tse Pin has left vacant can be offered to one of the Northern or Eastern states like Kedah since Akhram himself is from Kedah. And the other VP seat can be maintained by a Central candidate.  On the same matter, current VP for East Malaysia - Muammar Julkarnain, has already agreed to rotate the the seat with his East Malaysia counter part Abang Mohd Reduan from Sarawak. Muammar has been in the Council since 2013 and similar to Tse Pin, Muammar feels that he has been too long in MCF  as well and that a fresh new blood should take his place in the Council. While I am not too sure if Rahim Shah will continue his pursuit to vie for the Presidents post, it is only right that his VP position for Women's affair, to be given to a woman. And with only a few women active in the state association, it would not be too difficult to find a suitable candidate. 

By far, the five (5) committee posts will be the most interesting positions contested by the candidates and almost everyone that I have met, agree that the seats should be openly contested by everyone and anyone who feels that they can contribute. A "free for all" contest based on who the AGM quorum prefers to be elected into the committee. If "balance" is the golden word for the new MCF committee, then perhaps the committee members should be made from a variety of candidates - old and new, young and experienced, the professionals and entrepreneurs, and from all the five corners of Malaysia. I mean, let us be fair about those elected, and those to be appointed.

But, while being fair and just are important, we also need to ensure that we have the right person in the Committee - be it the President, the Deputy, the VPs or the Committees. We do not want to vote a person in simply because of their "ego", or becuase we want their vote, but we also want them to be in there because we know they can contribute and make a difference to chess. The state of Chess in Malaysia has not improved for the past 30 years and there should not be anymore delay for us to start making things better. If the newly elected MCF cannot ensure our improvement and progress in the next 2 years, it means that Chess in Malaysia will suffer another set back in going into Malaysia 2020. So much damaged has been done to Malaysian Chess in the last decade, it should not continue to go to waste.

I am confident that Akhramsyah will be able to lead, and that the new committee will be very vibrant, energetic and geared for improvement - be it who ever in the committee. Having a good leader like Akhram, he will definitely be able to gel the team together and to ensure that the team can function well - regardless whose side of the fence the committee will be made of. Further, the most important thing that we need to remember, the President should come from the community, is close with the community, understands the beat and the pulse of the community, and knows what the community needs to thrive towards improvement. Else, we may go backward instead of forward and at the end of the day, its chess that will lose the game.

Vote well everyone!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Of Another Presidential Election - Here We Go Again!

In 2016, when Tan Sri Ramli decided that it was time for him to say goodbye to chess, the candidates vying for the post were two newcomers to chess; YB Dato Zahidi, an MP from Perlis, and Dato Nazifuddin Mohd Najib, the son of the then Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak. While I was out of action from chess at that point of time, I understood that the position was tightly contested but in the end, YB Dato Zahidi emerged victorious and has history put it, became the next MCF President to succeed Tan Sri Ramli.

Three (3) years on, here we are again at the same juncture to face another election to vote for a president that will lead us into the Wawasan Year of 2020. This year's election will be somewhat similar to that of 2016 as the current President - YB Dato Zahidi, has voiced his intention to not contest the 2019/21 MCF Presidential race, just like what Tan Sri Ramli did in 2016. And with him almost out of it, MCF will need to look for a new and capable leader to helm the Federation. But who do we have lined up for the post? And who will be the favorite to win it all?

For many, Akhramsyah Muamar Ubaidah Sanusi is the current front runner and next in line to fill up the hot Presidential seat. The son of former Menteri Besar of Kedah - the late Tan Sri Dato Seri Sanusi Junid, Akhramsyah is no stranger to the chess community. With his children actively playing the game, Akhram can be seen accompanying his children at weekend events in the local circuits and even at regional level events. Akhram is also well know for his generosity and his desire to help the community as he once aided the Malaysian squad to settle a "dispute" when the National Team was stranded abroad. From my point of view, once elected, Akhramsyah will be the first MCF President in more than a decade who rises to the top post from being a part of the community - the last being the late Dato Tan himself. No disrespect to the previous Presidents but Tan Sri Ramli does not play chess and YB Zahidi, although he plays a bit of chess, he was not a part of the community prior to becoming a President and only surfaced when he was vying for the top post. In both ocassions, neither Tan Sri nor YB Dato was a member of the community or were well known within the chess community except during the election period.

Akhramsyah has the right formula to bring MCF back to the correct path
For many who are involved in the Malaysian Chess Community, the traditional belief is that the President must be a person who is able to find money, and if he is able to do so, he is then a "good" President. For me, while it is good to have a rich President who can dig deep into his pocket - like Dato Tan, I find the logic very disturbing and apalling, that money is the main criteria to be voted into office. In all honesty, that sounds more like a Hindi or Malay drama plot which is so cliche and very unimaginative. Agree that money helps but, money is not everything. At this juncture, we need to find a President that can steer us into progress, development and improvement. We need a person with the right vision that can help catapult chess to become the sports of choice, and to be known for all the right reasons and not because of the many scandals, controversies and its lack of directions. While Akhram may not be as rich as Dato Tan and he is not a member of the Parliament like Tan Sri or Dato YB, Akhram still packs the capability to obtain resources for support in his capacity as a Council member of Bersatu - one of the country's leading political party, and as the newly minted Chairman of Mara Corp. But more importantly, as an experience corporate leader, Akhram should be able to shape the Federation and the chess community to become more respected, organized and developed through his visions and capability to lead. From what we have gathered, Akhram has already started his networking to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Sports on how to help chess gain visibility and recognition. And that is already a good start.

So, who else is there in the running for the top post?

Rumours have it that the challengers going against Akhram are no other than the current MCF VP Rahim Shah Husin Shah and long time chess entreprenuer Mohd Fadli Zakaria. While Rahim Shah may be the current VP in MCF, he is still a new figure in the chess scene and is still learning the trick of the trade in managing the day to day running of the Federation. Prior to his appointment, not many in the chess community has heard off Rahim Shah or is aware of any contributions that he has made to chess. For Mohd Fadli Zakaria, although he is a well known chess entreprenuer, Fadli lacks the track record of managing the corporate world as he has always been involve in chess from as far as many can remember. For me, MCF is similar to a corporate set up and in its current situation, MCF needs a strong leader that can help to steer the Federation towards the right course. Fadli is more like the Sales or Marketing person in the Organization Chart but his Management or Leadership capability is questionable and unproven. No disrespect to Rahim or Fadli but, I sincerely believe that they need to convince the community better if they were to run for the Presidential post. But of course, both can probably put up a good fight against Akhram's camp.

Of late, words are abuzz that another candidate will be entering the Presidential race and while the candidacy is yet to be confirmed, it is believed that the candidate is a Member of Parliament who is involved as an advisor for one of the state chess association. 

In all honesty, while the MP maybe a popular figure in his state - and perhaps with excellent track records as a politician, I sincerely feel that the chess community must think twice ( long and hard) before voting him in as he is rather alien and new to the community, and would not know what is wrong (or right) with the Federation. For all purposes, the President (or the candidate to be President) should know the pulse and the beat of the players and organizers within the community, has been minggling long enough with the community to understanding and feel what the community wants, and the ability to address concern and issues faced by the federation and its members. Candidates who comes in from outside the community (and appear only days before the election), may find themselves too dependent on the advice and views of the existing officials around him rather than making decisions based on his own understanding that is just and right for the community. 

But all in all, no disrespect to any of the candidates but as a member of the chess community since the late 80's, the progress and development of chess has been very stagnant as such, there is a need to revive the situation to make it better and more progressive. And I believe with Akhram at the helm - and being someone familiar with the community, he should be able to fit into the position well and help steer Chess into a new golden era because he knows and have seen what the community needs

Akhramsyah Muamar Ubaidah Sanusi - Our soon to be MCF President? Hopefully so...
In any case, based on recent news from the grapevine, the "Akhramsyah for President" movement has already secured support from a few states that have expressed their support for him. But of course, nothing is confirmed until "the ballots are counted".

But all should be fair and square for all the candidates - be it those that are vying for the critical post, or those for the supporting role, and for me, while I would like to see Akhram at the helm, at the end of the day, be it Akhramsyah or someone else holding the position, we want to see improvement and development being paved for the community. 

Gens Una Sumus - We Are One Family

Can't wait for 29th June 2019!!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Of Another MCF Election Happening Soon....

Now that the 2019 Malaysian Chess Championship is over, the next big thing on the chess calendar is the MCF Election to be held during its AGM within the next 23 days – just slightly over 3 weeks to go. Based on a circular given to all MCF affiliates before the start of the fasting month, all nominations must be submitted to MCF Secretary (with copies to Assistant Secretary and President) before 11:59pm on 15thJune 2019. From then on, all nominees will have approximately 2 weeks to campaign to secure their post in the committee before election time at the AGM which will be held at MidValley Hotel on Saturday, 29thJune 2019 at 10:30am. MCF AGM usually lasts between 2 to 3 hours as such, we should know the new MCF Exco Team by lunch time on the same day. This is really REALLY exciting!

MCF prior to 2008
with the late Dato Tan as its President
Newly elected MCF officials in 2008
with YBhg Tan Sri Dato Seri Ramli Ngah Talib as its President
It is interesting to note that MCF did not hold any AGM during the tenure of the current committee although the requirement is clearly stated in in its Constitution – para 12: Annual General Meeting. While I am not too sure how that will work legally – although I am certain that the committee must have informed COS about this peculiarity, let us not talk about what was before in the past as we need to move on and look forward towards the future. 

While the notice for AGM was sent more than a month ago – the constitution only requires the notice to be sent no later than twenty (21) days in advance, only a single nomination has been received so far as of today. With so much time before the actual closing date for the nominees to be named, many are taking their time to ponder as to who will be suitable and for which post in the new committee. Further, with the closing date only a week away after Hari Raya, it is quite obvious that everyone has decided to get the Raya celebration over and done with before starting any serious discussions and talks about the AGM and the upcoming election. With the Malaysian Chess Championship 2019 being held just two (2) weeks before the nominations are closed, it is quite obvious that certain discussion have already begun to take place. In fact, news from the chess grapevine and several reliable sources, a few names have surfaces with a few pacts identified. There was also a supposed chess entrepreneur who has circulated a video of him volunteering himself as a candidate with promises of change if elected. I am not sure how that has developed but, let us see the other possible candidates before our final evaluation and judgement and from then on, for us to pick the most suitable candidate to lead us into the future. 

YBhg Tan Sri Dato Seri Ramli Ngah Talib in his second term as President from 2010 to early 2013
Zuhri (seated right) contested for the Presidential post in the 2013
but lost in a recount after a tie in the first round voting.
YBhg Tan Sri Dato Seri Ramli Ngah Talib's 3rd and final term as MCF President from 2013 to late 2016
During this time, MCF had the most number of Tresurers (5 persons were appointed but each left)
until Haslindah became the permanent Treasurer towards the middle of 2016.
With another week to go before the nominations close, I am quite sure that events will develop rather quickly within the next week or so, and by Sunday next week, we should be able to know who is in and who is not. The community – especially the affiliates and exco members, are already making calls and inquiries on the possible candidacy of several names for key positions in the Committee but, I am pretty sure that everyone will definitely be eyeing on the most important position of all – the President’s post. While it is clear that YB Dato Zahidi has mentioned that he will not contest to continue filling up the post, stranger happenings have happened before and things can still develop unexpectedly.

Personally, while I am considered as part and parcel of the current team by many, I still feel slightly detached as I was only appointed as Assistant Secretary in February 2019 after the previous one went MIA. And prior to the appointment, I did mention jokingly to Hamid – the current Secretary, that I (and Emran – the Treasurer who was also appointed at the same time as me due to the previous Treasurer’s resignation) would be the shortest serving Assistant Secretary in MCF history. While I would like to maintain my presence in the committee, it will be up to the delegates to nominate me for a post, and up to the voters to vote me in. 

In the early 90’s, during the reign of Dato’ Seri Sabaruddin Chik (now Tan Sri) as MCF President, he did tell me that I cannot be nominated nor can I run for a post in MCF because I am not politically inclined. It does make sense because like it or not, in order to be voted in, a candidate needs to “be presentable”, able to “make promises”, “popular” and “knows who to team up with” in order to be liked and to be voted in. In other words, he told me that no one would vote for me because I am a worker who does things to make it happen, and I am not willing to associate myself with anyone – more like a lone ranger who fights his own war. Further, he also told me that I am a person who does NOT like to please other people just to be popular in order to get voted in because, according to his observation, I continously argue even with him on petty matters. Well Tan Sri, that was almost 25 years ago... 

MCF Committee 2016 to 2019 after winning the election with YB Zahidi Zainul Abidin as its President.
Since then, Secretary Gregory was replaced by Peter Long (2017), replaced by Sophian (2018) and Hamid Majid (2018). AndTresurer Haslindah Ruslan was replaced by Emran Mohd Tamil (2019).
I am not sure if this has changed over the years – age makes you wiser (or did it not?) because in essence, I would like people to judge me based on the work that I have done, not so much of the “popularity” and the “candy coating” that I can do. Nonetheless, let see how things develop. Even if I am not going to be part and parcel of the new team, I will and can still contribute in my own ways. There are many things to do and not being in the committee should not deter my desire to help. But if I am not needed, I can always take a break again from chess, do the things I like, and continue by blog and writing – on personal happenings and events in my daily life, or as a chess critic who wants to see the game to develop and to progress towards a better future.

So, mark your calendar – nominations closed on 15thJune, and D-Day on 29thJune 2019. Let the best persons and teams win!!!

Let’s hope for an awesome change in MCF.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Of Running Another Malaysian Chess Championship 2019 - And the winner is......

After 5 days and 9 rounds of gruelling chess using the standard 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment, two National Champions have emerged - one for the Open section and the other for the Women section. One is a first time winner and the other, an old time winner.

Another "work" completed!
Either my math is getting worse, or I am just daydreaming.... Someone pointed out that if NM Kamal Abdullah last won the title in 1989, it should be a 30 year gap and not 20 years as per what I have wrote earlier. Kind of embarassing that I was not able to do such an easy math but regardless, it was an incredible feat by NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah - who holds aloft the National Champion for the 3rd time, after a 30 year gap. Interesting to note that when he first won it in 1989, he was the youngest Malaysian Champion and now, he is the oldest National Champion. But his fight to the top was not easy - not only was he fasting, he also had to take care of some of his students that were with him for the championship as well. And along the way, Kamal produced some of the best chess of his life en route to an almost perfect score of 8 points from 9 rounds - no losses and with 2 drawn games. 

It was also interesting to note that despite being a fasting month, the fight for the top were challenged by those who were fasting - Abdullah Che Hassan on Board 2 (at 6 points going against Yeap Eng Chiam who has 7 points), and Mohd Saprin (at 6 1/2 points) against Mohd Kamal (at 7 points) on Board 1. Agreed that it was a fasting month and while it was a herculean feat to manage through the 9 rounds, it was also interesting to note that these players had overcome their obstacles and challenges to provide their best. 
Hard working officials!

In the game between Abdullah and Eng Chiam, the former had the advantage at one point during the game but somehow lost it as the game progresses and eventually, losing the game as well. On Board 1, it was an interesting match up between the two friends and Mohd Saprin for all purposes, did not expect that he will end up challenging for the top position. In all honesty, he was there at the National Championship to accompany his son Ghaazi but ended up playing so well that - after so many years of trying, is within a point away from the possibility of being a National Champion. In the end, it was not meant to be and Mohd Kamal maintain his fine run to notch the winning points from his opponent. And by virtue of the the tie break - as Kamal had beaten Eng Chiam in the earlier round, Kamal was declared the 2019 Champion for the 3rd time - 1988, 1989 and 2019.... An impressive feat and achievement indeed.

Arbiters at work
VVIP - Dato Sri Muhammad Safian
For the Women section, it was a walk in the park for Munajjah who was already 1 1/2 points clear of her nearest rival at the start of Round 9. So, it was only logical that she took the safe route out by offering a draw which her opponent accepted. And with that, Munajjah became the 2019 Women Champion for the first time - out scoring previous champions and sisters Nur Nabila and Nur Najiha who were the initial favorites to lift the title.

All in all, it was a good outing at the Malaysian Chess Championship 2019 albeit the event was postponed and the participants were reduced due to the unfortunate passing of Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah. The place was more than reasonable, the hotel pricing was cheap and the amenities and surroundings were excellent as food and eateries, convenience stores and businesses, are all within walking distance. And everything was run like clockwork under the watchful eye of Puan Hamidah who controls and manages her team well. And Persatuan Catur Pahang is already eyeing for another big event towards the end of the year, and perhaps the National Youth Chess Championship in 2020. 

All in all, I would like to thank all the players for making the Malaysian Chess Championship 2019 a great success with minimal management issues, the team of Arbiters that I have working with me like FA Azhar Md Said and NA Razman (of Pahang), and PCP Committee for their dedication and hard work. 

One thing for sure, MCF will definitely review the dates for MCC 2020 to make sure that the timing of the event will not clashes with fasting month, and considering that next year will be an Olympiad year, the MCC should be held earlier (perhaps in March) and the winner - by selection, should have the first choice to be selected to represent Malaysia at Olympiad 2020 in Khanty Mansysk.

Thank you everyone and hopefully, I will have the opportunity to run next year's MCC as well. Selamat Hari Raya - Maaf Zahir Batin to all Muslims (players or otherwise) and Happy Holidays to the non Muslims. Drive Safe and Enjoy!
Women Board 1 - FInal Round between Munajjah and Atheira
Xin Hao and Amir Ghaazi
The only rose amongst the many thorns - Nithyalakshmi 
FInal battle on the top board - NM Mohd Kamal and Mohd Saprin
Women's section winners
Open Section winners
Our 2019 Champions - NM Mohd Kamal (Open) and Puteri Munajjah (Women) with Chief Arbiter - Me 😇

Friday, May 31, 2019

Of Running the MCC 2019 - As the dust clears...

At the conclusion of Round 6 on the 3rdday of the Malaysian Chess Championship 2019, a sole leader has emerged from each of the Open and Women section as the main contenders to be crowned the next National Champions.

In the Open section, NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah is currently the clear leader with 5½ points after playing a convincing win against former National Junior Yeap Eng Chiam in Round 6 on the Board 1. Top seed Looi Xin Hao outplayed Abdullah Che Hassan on Board 2 whilst Mohd Ghaazi and Mohd Ali drew on Board 3. Two veterans facing off on Board 4 between FM Ismail Ahmad and Jax Tham – an encounter which favored the latter, and on Board 5, Mohd Saprin outplayed Yeoh Huan Hui to secure a valuable point. The only female player in the Open section, Nithyalakshmi Sivanesan continued her climb to the top of the table with a convincing win against Lee Care Greene on Board 6. Other notable games were Lim Kian Hwa beating Cheah Kah Hoe on Board 10, Iwan Schani Ibnu outplayed Mohd Asyraf Razman Board 11 and youngster Muhd Nur Daie beating his much higher rated opponent in Wan Mohd Azmie on Board 14.

In the next Round 7, the stage is now set for a showdown between former Champion and second seed NM Mohd Kamal against top seed Looi Xin Hao on Board 1. A win for NM Kamal would put him on track to win the trophy for the 3rd time after a 20-year gap from when he last won the championship in 1989 – an historical feat never been done by any other player before. On Board 2, Yeap Eng Chiam is paired against veteran Jax Tham – both with 5 points, and on Board 3, Johorean Abdullah Che Hassan will be playing against Teh Wee Zhun. On Board 4, Mohd Saprin Sabri will meet Mohd Ali Chor and on the next Board 5, Saprin’s son Amir Ghaazi will be challenged by Nithyalakshmi.

This will be a crucial round for the leaders to break away from the pack and for NM Kamal, a win in this round will definitely increases his chances to win the National title once again. 

For the Women section, Munajjah outplayed the more experience WFM Nur Najiha to gain a clear point lead against her closest rival – sister WFM Puteri Rifqah Fahada who drew with WFM Chua Jia Tien on the next board. On Board 3, Nur Nabila had little trouble to win against Athiera Fatneen and Claire Foo winning her game against Tan Wei Ting on Board 4.

Color sequence has avoided Munajjah to be paired against her sister Rifqah in the next round but wins for the sisters will definitely force their encounter in the penultimate round. For the current Round 7, Munajjah faces Claire Foo and the higher rated Munajjah should be able to hold her game well. On Board 2, Rifqah playing against Nur Nabila and on the next board, Penangite Divyadarshini will be handling the white pieces against Nur Najiha.

A win for Munajjah in Round 7 will definitely put her as the favorite to hold aloft the Tan Sri Dato Sri Ramli Ngah Talib trophy unless she bungled in her next game – possibly against sister Rifqah. After that, it should a walk in the park for Munajjah as there would be no more formidable opponent to stop her run.

Some photos from Day 3 of the Malaysian Chess Championship 2019.

Kelantan players - one for the album
Penang Power - Eng Chiam and Xin Hao
Munajjah patiently waiting - "Welcom to the slaughterhouse"
Abdullah Che Hassan
Iwan Schani Ibnu - the most dashingly stylish player on the field
Two friend facing off - Saprin and Ezmi
Johore NM Kamal and Abdullah, facing their Penang opponents Eng Chiam and Xin Hao

Xin Hao against Abdullah
NM Kamal Abdullah - He won the title 20 years ago
Tan Wei Ting
Puteri Rifqah with Nur Nabila at the background
Teh Wee Zhun
A rose amongst the thorns... And the rose can be deadlier than the thorns

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Of Running MCC 2019 (Day 2) - To Cough or Not To Cough....

There were a few upsets during the 3rdand 4thround but, the attention was more towards what happened out of the game routine rather than issues within the games itself.

For the very first time in my 30 years or so career as a chess player, arbiter and organizer, a player officially approached the Arbiter's table to lodge a complaint about a player coughing during rounds. But his comments make sense and of course, to substantiate his complaint, he cited a few rules within the FIDE handbook which – although it does not specifically mention “coughing”, it was enough to deem that the claim is reasonable and worth considering. While the player wanted those who coughed to be “removed and considered lost in the round”, I was not entire agreeable to the request as I need to have some kind of discretion to decide if the cough is genuine or it is used as a tactic to distract an opponent. Of course, I am not a doctor but, to provide a blanket rule that deems someone to have lost just because they cough, is a bit too extreme.

So, as the complainant return to his table to continue with his game, we decided to call the boy who was sick and ask if he is able to continue as it is quite apparent that he is coughing quite badly. After a chat with the parents – who confirmed that the boy was sick a couple of weeks back but had recovered, they agreed to provide a face mask for their son and gave him some cough drops to suppress his cough. While that part of the issue was managed, we did make rounds and offer face masks to those coughing whil playing their games. As a follow up to the request, I announced at the start of Round 4 that players who feel sick or unwell, should start thinking as to which is more important to them – their health or chess, and if need be, should withdraw from the tournament to avoid spreading virus and germs to everyone else. The organizer also agreed to provide face masks to those requiring it and some cough drops to control their cough. I even went on to mention that those who cough persistently and is clearly unwell, maybe expel from the tournament to ensure that it does not distract others playing in the event, not to mention the “pollution” that he or she is contributing to the hall environment. 

In a very enclosed area like hotel rooms and hall, such a situation – where germs can spread like wildfire, is not something new or strange or even illogical. It can happen and it will happen. Already in the 3rdday of the event and if my memory serves me right, there are more players sniffling and “clearing their throats” now compared to during the 1stday or even the 2ndday of the tournament. I believe the request made by the player is an excellent request but, it needs to be implemented in a justifiable and reasonable manner. Perhaps, we will also require a player – who seems to be sick, to get a doctor’s clearance to play in an event to make sure that whatever sickness he or she introduces in the playing hall is not contagious or harmful to the others. 

Now back to the scores starting with Round 3.

In the Open section, Mohd Kamal Abdulla drew with up and rising player Lee Care Greene from Penang on Board 2 but another rising youngster, Amir Ghaazi Mohd Saprin lost his game to the lower rated Brien Foo on board 4. Veteran Jax Tham – playing white, also took a tumble losing to youngster Muhammad Emir Rasyid on Board 6. The sole woman player in the Open Section, Nithyalakshmi Sivanesan played well to beat her local Pahang opponent and veteran Kamal Azmi Wahiduddin. 

In the Women section, it was a stroll in the park for WFM Nur Najiha winning against Puteri Rifqah Fahada but sister WFM Nur Nabila conceded her point losing to WFM Chua Jia Tien on Board 2. Puteri Munajjah also played well to overcome her opponent Ding Dao En, and in the lower boards, Fatih Nor Sahariah drew with Tan Wei Ting on Board 5.

In the afternoon Round 4, Looi Xin Hao was lucky to escape with a full point after having trouble holding his game handling Rook and Knight against his opponent sole Queen. NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah played well in a 7-pawn endgame to secure his point against The Wee Zhun on Board 3 and Abdullah Che Hassan winning easily against his younger opponent Muhd Nur Daie on Board 4. Mohd Saprin Sabri suffered a shocking defeat against youngster Lee Care Greene on Board 5 but son Amir Ghaazi did well to overcome opponent Wan Mohd Azmie after the latter blundered by giving away his queen towards the end of a marathon game – the last game to finish for the day. 

While Looi Xin Hao has managed to continue his billing as the top seed in the Open section, the same cannot be said for the Women section. Round 4 Board 1 saw a nail-biting encounter between WFM Nur Najiha and WFM Chua Jia Tien which ended in a draw after Najiha was unable to ward off continuous Queen checks from Jia Tien in a Queens and Pawns ending. On Board 2, Puteri Munajjah created a mini upset when she outplayed WFM Nur Nabila confidently to secure a full point. WFM Puteri Rifqah Fahada had little resistance to overcome Nurina Nayli on Board 3 and Claire Foo secured her point on board 4 after her opponent Athiera Fatneen misplayed the endgame which could have ended in a split decision.

For the Open section, at the end of day 2, two Penang players Yeap Eng Chiam and Looi Xin Hao – both with perfect score of 3 points each, will square off on Board 1 in Round 5 whilst Abdullah Che Hassan and Lee Care Greene – both half points behind, will face each other on Board 2. NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah, who is the remaining 2½ pointer, will meet Francis Tan with 2 points on board 3. Nithyalakshmi continues her good performance and will meet Yeoh Huan Hui on Board 5 – both with 2 points, and the winner of the match will definitely have a clear opportunity to eye the top spot. It will be interesting to see if Nithya can challenge the boys for the top spot and on the same note, the last female to play in the Open Section was WFM Camilia Johari who tried the feat in 2015 – ending in 32ndplace out of 76 entries.

For the women section, with only 18 players playing over 9 rounds, it will be a race to the finish for many of the players especially the top seeds – sisters Nabila and Najiha, sister Rifqah and Munajjah, and Penangite Jia Tien. With Jia Tien and Munajjah fighting it off on Board 1 in Round 5, the winner of the match will definitely have a slight advantage in their race to the finish line.

NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah
Abdullah Che Hassan
WCM Nithyalakshmi Sivanesan
Francis Tan - Back in Action
FM Ismail Ahmad (
Wan Mohd Azmi (Kelantan)
Future Generation of Chess Players on Top Boards - Nik Emer Hisham (left) and Muhammad Emir (right) 
New rising star - Amir Ghaazi, and former Junior Champion - Yeap Eng Chiam
Players on Lower Board.