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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.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Of Running Another Malaysian Chess Championship...

If my memory serves me right, prior to 2015, the event was called The National Closed Chess Championship. Since 2016, the name somewhat took a different path and since then, it has been known as the Malaysian Chess Championship. In 2011 and 2012, DATCC hosted the event at its previous venue in Wilayah Complex as it was the only place in town big (and cheap) enough to host the event. For the 2011 edition, I was both the Organizer and Chief Arbiter with a total of 99 players taking part -  66 in the Open section and anothr 33 players in the Women section, the highest number of women participants in recent years. In 2012, MCF decided to allow the ladies to manage the event and for the first time in the event's history, two women were appointed as Chief Arbiters - Khairunnisa Wahiduddin managed the Open section while Haslindah Ruslan the Women section. And with that, I decided to try as a player and played in the event after a 19 year absence. The last time I played in a National Closed event was in 1993 when Yeoh Chin Seng was crowned the Champion and I had the opportunity to beat an up and coming youngster by the name of Mas Hafizulhelmi Agus Abdul Rahman - I played the white pieces in a KID Seamisch Opening.

In 2013, the event used its Malay equivalent title dubbed the Kejohanan Catur Tertutup Kebangsaan 2013 and Terengganu became its host with Mok Tze Meng appointed as the Chief Arbiter. It had the least number of Open players with only 46 entries and another 18 entries in the Women section. In 2014, the event's name was changed again to National Championship (the word "chess" was dropped) and again DATCC became the venue with Abd Hamid Majid returning as the Chief Arbiter. In 2015, the event regain the name National Closed Chess Championship with Hamid once again maintaining his role as the Chief Arbiter but the event shifted to Olympic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The event had the most number of total players playing with 76 players in the Open section and 28 players in the Women section.

The event created history in 2016 when for the very first time, Sabah decided to host the event in Kota Kinabalu and local Sabahan Charles Lucas took the helm as the Chief Arbiter. Although many had to fly to Sabah to participate in the event, it managed to attract 68 players in the Open section and 29 players in the Women section - which is not that bad at all! This is the first year that MCF began to adopt the new name of Malaysian Chess Championship instead of the usual National Closed Championship.

From then onwards, the venue has moved to Kota Baharu in 2017 and took the name RISDA Malaysian Chess Championship (as RISDA was the main sponsor for the event) with Lim Tse Pin acting as the Chief Arbiter. In 2018, Perak hosted the event at UPSI with Hamid returning once again as Chief Arbiter. 

For this year's edition, Pahang has agreed to host the event and after an 8 year absence, I have returned as the Chief Arbiter for the event - the last one being the 2011 edition. And for the first time, the event is scheduled during fasting month and very close to the Hari Raya holiday week. The event also marked the first time that it has to be postponed by a few days as a mark of respect due to the passing away of Ayahanda Paduka Tuanku Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang. But nonetheless, despite the obstacle and the changes in the event's schedule, it still managed to attract a decent number of entries with 68 players in the Open section and another 18 in the Women Section. 

The top boards
Event Backdrop
For this year's event, Looi Xin Hao of Penang is the number one seed for the Open Section (after Lim Zhuo Ren pulled out due to a personal schedule that he had committed) whilst Nur Najiha Azman Hisham for the Women section. For the Open Section, other notable entries were FM Ismail Ahmad, Yeap Eng Chiam, Mohd Saprin and son Ahmad Ghaazi, former champion Mohd Kamal Abdullah, his fellow Johorean Abdullah Che Hassan, veterans Joseph Toh and Jax Tham, and Nithyalakhsmi as the sole Women entries in male dominant section. For the ladies section, Nur Nabila will definitely challenge her sister for the top position with another pair of sisters, Puteri Rifqah and Puteri Munajjah eyeing for the same spot. Other notable entries are Chua Jia Tien and Ding Dao En.

On the first day of the event, all the players were treated to a Buka Puasa hosted by Pahang Chess Association with Dato Sri Effendi Abdullah officiating the Opening Ceremony, representing YB Dato Sri Ismail Mutalib, MP for Maran and Chess Advisor Persatuan Catur Pahang, who could not make it to the dinner due to prayers session at the Pekan Palace.

Some of the more familiar and unfamiliar faces taking part in this year's event.

Malaysia's Most Celebrated Coach - Ezmi Mahmood
Hisyamiza Ismail
Up and Coming - Amir Ghaazi Mohd Saprin

Veteran Jax Tham

Former Champion NM Mohd Kamal Abdullah
Chess Entrepreneur Norazwan "Shin" Kamaruzaman
Tan Wei Ting
Local Pahang - Kamal Azmi Wahiduddin

Yeap Eng Chiam

Veteran Joseph Toh
WFM Nur Najiha Azman Hisham

Puteri Munajjah Az Zahraa Azhar

Mohd Saprin Sabri
Mohd Hafizul Ishak

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Of Understanding Our Growth and Progress - FIDE Rating

I like to write hence the reason I put up my blog. And now that I am back in chess again – especially in MCF, I would probably have a better view about the progress and development of chess in the country. Aside from chess, I also like doing my job, something which I have done for almost 20 years now. I would probably prefer my previous task rather than my current one – it is still in the same department but with different focus area, as my previous job deals more with numbers compare to the current one which deals more with people and management. So, for this one, I am going to combine the two and hope it will make some sense. The focus of the topic will be related to FIDE rating but, to a certain extent, it also relates to other matters i.e. selection, National Rating, development, etc. But, let me start first and you can figure it out yourself later.

The general impression that many has is the fact that, with more FIDE rated events in Malaysia, it can help to develop the growth, quality and talent of our local chess community. We are proud to have many chess players who are FIDE rated, and many are generally happy that we are using only FIDE rating as our means of evaluating the performance of our players. And of course, we are also eager to send our children for FIDE events abroad. On the same, many parents are also eager to have their son or daughters to be FIDE rated as it means, our child achievement is recognized worldwide. 

So, is this the correct strategy to move forward with, to have as many players to be rated by FIDE and to continue having many more events sanctioned by FIDE in the country? And, in the end of this all, if we were to follow this idea, will it help us to become a better chess nation?

Let us look at the numbers and I leave if for you to decide.

According to the latest listing, there are 879,112 chess players currently registered under FIDE from 192 countries around the world. India is the leading country with 86,413 players registered with FIDE followed by Russia at 84,714 players and France at 60,001 players. But the surprising thing is that Malaysia sits at number 17 with 10,501 players registered – the highest in ASEAN, beating Philippines who is a distant second at 4,623 players. As a comparison, Philippines is the 40thcountry with the highest number of FIDE players but Philippines has 13 GMs to boast while we are yet to produce even a single one. Interesting to note that 18 of the top 20 countries with the highest FIDE population has no less than 10 GMs per country – the exception being Sri Lanka and Malaysia as we are both without any GM. And with that, Sri Lanka is the only country without GM who has a higher FIDE population than Malaysia at 14,900 players and they are ranked 13thcountry in the world. We can probably boast about our numbers but what about quality?

In terms of the number of players with FIDE rating, only 22% of our population has some sort of FIDE rating which ranked us at number 165thin the world. The only other country worse than us in the top 20 is Turkey who is worse than us by a mere 0.2%. Even Sri Lanka is higher at 24% and by comparison, German has 70% of its population rated and Cuba at 76% of its players rated, ranking them 5thand 2ndrespectively.
On the same, only 10% of our players (with FIDE rating) are active players whereas the balance 90% are either not active or active but without any rating making us the 154thcountry in the world with the highest number of active rated plyers. 

Our rating average (for all players regardless if they are active or otherwise) is 1497.3 – making us to be number 175thin the world but, we should not be disheartened because India is ranked 186thin the world at 1354.5 so by average, we are stronger than India. But, if we look only at active players, we are ranked 176thin the world at an average rating of 1403.2 – a drop of almost 94 points but India’s ranking improved to 183rdin the world at 1298 rating point, dropping only 56 points. 

For the Juniors below the age of 12, we ranked 88thin the world at an average strength of 1189 rating points. Comparing with our neighbors, Indonesia is ranked 11thin the world at an average strength of 1464 point and Vietnam is 25th in the world with an average FIDE rating of 1371 points. 

We fare even worse in the Under 16 category with a world ranking of 123rdin the world with an average strength of 1271 points. By comparison, our neighbor Philippines is 45thin the world with an average strength of 1443 points, Vietnam at 33rdrank with an average strength of 1485 and Indonesia is 2ndin the world with an impressive average strength of 1694 points per player.

From the perspective of growth, Malaysia does have a larger population of Junior players. We are ranked 19thin the world with the highest percentage of U12 FIDE registered players comparing against our overall FIDE population. In comparison, Vietnam is 10thin the world, Singapore is 22ndin the world and Indonesia 109thin the world. 

For total number of Junior players below the age of 20, we stand at number 12thin the world with 65% of our players population comprising of players in this age group. However, Singapore beat us to be at 8thin the world (at 68%), and Vietnam at 10thin the world (at 65%). Indonesia ranked 98thin the world and Philippines at 88thin the world.

Of course, there are a lot more to look at, and of course, we need to focus more in comparing our performance against our regional neighbors. That will be the focus of my next writing and I am already seeing some interesting figures.

Based on these numbers, while we can brag about having the quantity, there is much to be improved in terms of our quality. For me, the argument that the more FIDE rated players we have therefore our quality of play will also improve, does not seem to jive. While we are promoting and eager to get our players to earn the title of “FIDE Rated Players” and to hold many “FIDE Rated events”, is this move doing justice to our players? Is it a true reflection of our strength and our so called growth? 

To me, growth is not about numbers or quantity, but it is about quality and strength. Development needs to be properly outlined and we need to have focus on the way we manage our younger chess population, and those who are eager to be known as “FIDE Rated players”.

I sincerely feel that having a National Rating would curb and control the growth of having too many FIDE rated players – who just seems to fill up the numbers but lacks the quality. And I also feel that sending players to International events need to be justified – again to ensure that the growth is in the right direction and to focus on quality and not so much of quantity.

My conclusions are mostly based on the numbers that I see and I am sure, there are people out there who may have a different point of view. So, what do you think?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Postponement of Malaysian Chess Championship 2019

"We can only plan but Allah will decide" 
                  Kita hanya mampu merancang tetapi Allah yang akan menentukan

As a mark of respect to the family of Duli Yang Maha Mulia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta'in Billah and family members of the Royal Palace of Pahang on the passing of Paduka Ayahanda Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah Al Musta'in Billah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, the Malaysian Chess Championship has been postponed to start a few days later on Wednesday, 29th May 2019.

The new schedule for the event shall be as follows:

Venue and Hotel for the event shall remain without any changes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Of Selecting National Players to FIDE Events

The selection process to identify players to International events has again comes under scrutiny from the local chess community. Apparently, a few parents have requested for their children to play in the upcoming East Asian Chess Championship in Bangkok but were not allowed due to MCF existing guideline set by the selection committee. Not only parents, but the organizer and Thailand Chess Federation also has requested for MCF to help support the event with as many entries possible. So, should we send?

The Olympiad selection fiasco last year was a clear indicator that the selection process was not followed but, why follow it now? If important event like Olympiad can be over ruled, surely MCF can over rule over a "less important" event? After all, MCF is not forking out a single cent for these players to go, so what is the fuss in stopping players from playing?

Some cited that in 2017, when Pahang hosted the Asean+ Age Group Championship, there were many local players taking part but we must look at this event in a different perspective. For me, the logic to have many local players taking part is because Malaysia is the host hence, the support of local players is crticial to make the tournament a success. I believe this is a common stand made by many countries as well - if a country hosted an event, they can and will allow as many players from their country to take part in order to make the crowd. But Thailand is our neighbor, and as a good neighbor, why not we send as many players as we can? One person mentioned that when Bangladesh organized a Regional event, many players from India came over and take part but, one thing that we need to look at is that the standard of chess in India (of its youngsters) is high because India is already producing IM and even GMs at such a very young age. We in Malaysia? Most of our youngsters can't even pass the 2000 ELO rating points. So flooding players from India in an event hosted by Bangladesh may elevate its standard but the same may not work for Malaysian players.

I can understand the logic behind limiting the number of players to don the National jersey at International level events - be it a Regional tournament or a Global one. To me, those who represent our Jalur Gemilang should have a certain level of competency. After all, how you perform at the event, will reflect the capabality of a nation as a whole. I remembered in the 50's when our badminton players were winning the All England Badminton Championship, and whenever we introduce ourselves as Malaysian, many British expect that we can play badminton well. Reflecting on chess, while having many of our chess players not finishing at the top of the table does not reflect that Malaysians do not know how to play chess, it does however create an impression that we have a poor "selection process" or poor "development program" as we are not able to send those who are worthy enough for the event. 

For one thing, I agree that MCF - as the governing body for chess in Malaysia, should exercise some means of quality control when identifying children who are keen to participate in regional events outside of Malaysia. But let us make one thing clear as well - having a child to play in the event is for the child's glory, or for the parents? Maybe it is for the children but, we cannot deny that for some parents, it would be more for their own ego as parents, for their own bragging rights to family members, neighbors, colleagues and friends, that my child is "a National Chess player". Of course, not all parents are like that. And on the same, how many of those young players who have played in these International events have actually pursue chess as their sports of choice, or for improvement? I never counted but it would be interesting to know 

But of course, there is a need to be fair and just. And the exposure may be good for the players and parents. As kids, let them have the moment in time, and as parents, they need to experience and feel if chess is the right activity for their kids. And in terms of money, MCF is not responsible for it so.... Put all these things together and we may have the answer.

In managing the situation better, perhaps we can take a middle ground by segmenting the event to World Level (only the champions can go), ASIAN Level (Only the podium finishers can go) or the ASEAN Level (now everyone can go!!). Or perhaps, we can allow for more event winners to be considered instead of using only the National Age Group as the qualifying event. Why not we add the Scholastic, the National Junior or even the best finishers who plays in the MCC or National Rapid events to be considered? For that matter, we can even use their FIDE rating and their standings in the local ranking as a selection criteria as well, or allow those who are very active in the local chess circuits to play becuase being active means they are serious about playing chess. On top of that, we should also have some kind of limitation i.e. only 5 players per category or something along that line to strike a balance between "quality, numbers and control". And different players for different events to open the opportunity. But for World and Asian Level events, let's keep it to those worthy only - money being the least important criteria.

Friday, May 17, 2019

I Am Back

5 years gone by.... And now, I AM BACK!

Based on the time stamp on my last posting, this would be just about 5 years 2 months since last I wrote in my blog. Based on the same date, I stopped writing in my blog just after a year after I came back into full employment. If memory serves me right, I tried to gave it a go to see if I can manage both chess and work at the same time but it was too challenging and too tiring, and one year was enough for me to decide that something has got to give. The choice was rather obvious! Between a chess business that has plenty of uncertainties to offer against a steady job that provides a steady income, it was a no win contest for chess. So the chess business folded, the weekend events grew lesser and the chess limelight that I used to enjoy gradually phased out. Chess took a quiet corner at the back seat although I still do ocassional events every now and then to keep myself current with the game. 

Recapping the 5 years since then, I would happily concluded that I enjoyed my times working at my current establishment as it has provided me the opportunity to make new friends, enhance my knowledge and provide a desire to advance in the corporate ladder. And I did just that - from a mere manager to a Head of Department in just over 2 years. My life was back on track and the future seems to be a lot brighter as the job that I have was something that I am good at. Having been in the industry for almost 12 years prior, and with a couple of National awards to boast, I know I am good at it! 

Without a doubt, work is all about our means to survive, to put food on the table, and not having to worry about how I am going to survive tomorrow, whether I am able to pay the bills or not, and worry about how to manage my daily household expenses. Comparing to chess because chess is passion, and in most cases, passion can't put food on the table, can't fill petrol in the car, and can't pay for convenience. But at times, chess has helped me to "provide and survive", but its just that it is not as consistent as I would like for it to be. Reflecting on this, I am quite amazed that many have ventured into full time chess - perhaps times are much better now than it was 5 years ago. There are plenty of chess events and this happens almost every week. And I can see chess organizers and officials and suppliers, travelling across the country (and sometimes going overseas) to expand their business wing. Kudos to all of you for making it where I have failed before. But as many more venturing into the same line of business, while the cake can be big, the portion may become smaller as time progresses.

In all honesty, I have always wanted to be a chess entrepreneur from as far back as 1990 when I first came back to Malaysia - having compared how chess is being managed here in Malaysia compared to the States. But chess is a niche market, small and expensive since most items and products need to be imported - and I believe it is true still today. In short, you need to have a strong capital to sieze the market, good networking, patient and the ability to run around across the country to fight your competitor, capture and expand your market.

But for me, I dont think I will have the energy to compete in the "supply and retail market" but perhaps, I would want to focus on event management, consultation, arbitering and writing. The former would be too hectic and exhausting for me as I would have to compete against the younger generations who will have plenty of time, immense energy and endless
cash flow. 

So does this mean I am ready to venture again into chess and seize some chunk of the "chess cake"? So, why do I want to be back in chess? What gives?

The first sign came last year when I have finally managed to overcome a personal issue that has bothered me for many years. The second sign is when my long time friend Hamid called me up to see if I am interested to help him as his assistant to which I responded with a yes - now that work has stabilised having climbed the corporate ladder. And of course, it is fun to be working Hamid again - a friend whom I have known for almost 30 years now. Although we may have disagreement at times - who does not, we are both very focused towards making things right for chess. And the third sign, with my work place undergoing massive transformation and restructuring, it sort of provided me with the final indicator that is it time to move on. I can always search for a new job but maybe, let us try give chess another go. With a bit savings that I have, new networking that I have forged and a more "relaxed and happier" approach towards growing older and wiser, this should be the right time to focus again on my passion. If it still does not give me the joy and the satisfaction that I seek, I can always pack my bags and "balik kampung tanam jagung" - have fun with my grandkids, and taking care of my parents. Its time to work for what I believe, my desire and my passion.

OK guys... Let's ROCK and ROLL!