Friday, February 17, 2012

Its time to wake up and the time is now..... (revisited)

Recently we read about Najib Wahab decision to quit his full time chess job and  return to 'normal' job.  In his blog post - 'Of Reviewing My Status', Najib mention that in 2003 he made a 'spicy' comments about Malaysia chess in Yahoo Group. For those who missed the article, you can read it below. 

Najib (Standing in the center) 

Its time to wake up and the time is now.....
 May 30, 2003 4:07 pm

Chess in Malaysia has not changed much in the past 15 years or so.
Once a while, we will have World Class Tournaments being held here in
KL, the latest being the World Age Group Championship that was
organized during the middle of last year. The only improvement that I
see is that we now have a chess office in Wilayah Complex, run and
managed by those who have the time to devote on chess. These are
voluntary individuals who love the game more than just playing it,
individuals who envisioned a future in chess, individuals who
continue to try to develop and promote the game where others have
failed… or given up. It never cease to amaze me that
their `voluntary' status has not changed in 15 years especially for
Hamid Majid who has been doing it – voluntarily – for all the years
that I have known him…

Chess in Malaysia, by any standards, is still very much unorganized.
After more than decade and numerous International Tournaments hosted
by MCF, our local chess scene has not improved. Losing the MSSM chess
circuit in 1998 (I only knew this a couple of weeks ago as I have
really lost touch with the chess community) was a huge setback. To be
honest, I would rather loose the office rather than loose the MSSM
circuit but alas, it just shows how badly organized chess in Malaysia
has become. How can we make progress if we can't even convince our
Ministry of Education to include a game that is intellectually
stimulating and cheap to maintain and/or play at school level? The
chess market in schools alone is more than enough to sustain our
sport for many more years to come, but the exclusion of chess at the
MSSM level has given us a little chance to tap that market, directly
hampering our effort to sustain the survival of chess community in
our beloved country. While we may have a slight advantage now that
Chess has been included as an event in the SEA Games (and ASIAN
Games… I think), it is still not an easy task to convince the Board
of Education to reinstate chess in their MSSM activities. The fact
that chess is a cheap game to maintain – after all, sets and clocks
can last a few years, and there is no need for jerseys, and big
arenas for the sport – should give us a good marketing angle to put
some sense to the Board. And MCF must muster its strength to put up
the fight to ensure the popularity of the game does not fade amongst
the younger generation. And as chess players, we must do whatever we
can to help but failing that, what should we do then?

I was told by someone that some local chess players are now
conducting private lessons to young children with fees that can go as
high as RM 400 a month. Well, if the chess player is good at the game
and sees it as an opportunity to make extra money, so be it as it is
a way for him to survive or make extra money for himself. If an
official gets called to do an event, locally or internationally, and
gets paid for it, the same rule applies… he is merely doing what he
must or can do for him to earn extra money to survive. What about
MCF? What is MCF doing to ensure its survival in the years to come?
Are we surrendering to the fact that we has and will always be
beggars for sponsorships to enable us to survive?

A lot of messages that I have come across in this website concerns
more on sponsorships. How do we get sponsorships for this event, or
that event? Almost nobody has talked about how MCF should stand on
its own and start creating opportunities for itself, to be self
sufficient, efficient and proud organization. Sponsors come and go
and we should look at sponsorship as extra income for the MCF but not
as something that we must have or should depend on. While we have
Dato Tan Chin Nam who has generously donated money (and effort, and
time, and energy, and ideas, and etc…) towards chess in Malaysia, we
have to realize that he will not be there to help us forever. And to
see another business tycoon in Malaysia who is as devoted to the game
of chess as Dato Tan has and will always be, would only be equivalent
to seeing a fool's mate being done twice to the same opponent!! It
would probably never happen again. In an article from a 1995 chess
magazine that features Dato Tan Chin Nam, the writer has stated that
Dato Tan has – since 1974 to 1995 – donated almost USD2 million for
the cause of chess (I believe it is in USD because it is an American
magazine) and by now, I can safely say that he has easily added
another USD 1 million to top that figure off. While Dato Tan has
admittedly says that it is one of those `stupid things' that some
people are just inclined to do, I sincerely believe it was not. He
loves the game and his love for the game is at a level that none of
us may possibly be able to comprehend. And after 30 years of getting
himself involve in the game, investing time, money, energy and
effort, he is still waiting for his returns…. He almost got it in Mas
Hafizul – our hopeful Grand Master candidate – but that may take a
while longer than expected. I would assume most people would probably
have quit by their 10th year of involvement (considering the amount
invested) yet Dato Tan has stayed with us for 30 long years! While I
hope that he will be there for another 30 years, I think it is about
time to prove to him that his investments were worth it. It is time
that the Malaysian Chess Community should learn to stand on its own
feet and be prepared to survive on its own. While we may still need
continuous help from Dato' Tan, we should take steps to minimize it
and increase measures to develop chess in the country. And for that,
we must learn how to survive…

You may think that I am talking more about Dato Tan and his
contribution to chess rather than talking about chess development
itself. For one thing, I take my hats off to Dato Tan for his
continuous belief that chess in Malaysia will one day become a
respectable sport and gain recognition from all sectors. For those
who watch Matrix, it is something like Morpheus believing that Neo is
the One… Unfortunately, in Dato Tan's case, this is no Matrix, he is
not Morpheus and there is no Neo. At least not yet! Bottom line,
while Dato Tan can survive easily without chess (his business alone
is enough to keep him busy for eternity!), can chess survive without
the continuous support from Dato Tan? Or for that matter, can chess
survive without a benefactor or caretaker and be on its' own? First
we had Dato Sabbaruddin and now, we are lucky enough to have Dato
Rosli taking over the helm… What if we can't find another high
profile or well-known figure to become our MCF President? What do we
do then?

During the early and mid 90's, there was effort made to promote
chess, and/or tap the chess market. We had Chess Palace where players
gather every Thursday night (I think…) to play or learn about chess
but we had to surrender the place in 1991. We had Chess Magazines but
it sustained only until the 3rd or 4th issue and then it just died
off. We almost had the Rating System but it was shelved. And we had
the Arts, Culture and Tourism Minister to back us up to get
sponsorships as they can make wonderful deals with hotels and has the
capacity to attract the media. And then again, consider the following
years after that; we lost chess in MSSM, Kuala Lumpur Chess
Association became defunct, we lost MAA and Bank Rakyat as our
sponsors and at one time, we almost lost the Merdeka Chess package.
To top it off, Dato Sabbaruddin resigned from the Cabinet hence we
also lost the helpful hand from the Ministry of Arts, Culture and

Of course, in life there are always ups and downs, and the same goes
for MCF, for not all was lost. We bounced back (not higher than we
were before but bounced we did nonetheless…) and found a new
President in the form of Dato' Rosli from Bank Pertanian Malaysia
(whom I have not met but was told that he is very supportive towards
chess… He has to be!), thus we also gained the BPM sponsorship for
our National Allegro (it was previously sponsored by MAA). We also
have our so-called office now at Wilayah Complex (to replace Chess
Palace) albeit the lease is running out in a year's time, and the
latest one being the inclusion of Chess in the SEA Games. I must say,
chess had an adventurous decade and a half, a roller coaster ride
that can easily out performed the one that we have in Genting
Highland. One cannot help but to wonder what is in store for us in
the next few years to come? Only one way to sum things up… we must
gather our resources and ideas now to ensure that we will not fall
back to square one. Looking at things now, we are back at Qd2 from
Qd4. Hopefully, the Queen does not have to loose another tempo and
fall back to d1.

For the past couple of years, we have a new breed of chess organizers
albeit the fact that the old ones are still there. The one thing that
remains the same is that these people are still doing it on a
voluntary basis or simply put, free of charge. While excuses such as
not enough money or "if-you-can't-do-it, we'll-find-someone-else-to-
do-it" will work most of the time, what are we doing to improve that
situation? Mind you, this has been going on for the past 15 years,
hence the Million-dollar question: What are we doing to ensure
continuity? For those who have contributed and did not get any
return, is it going to be another one of those `stupid' things that
people do in their lifetime for chess? There is hope and the time is
Let us look at it from a chess game point of view. What are our
plans? How do we achieve the ultimate? Where are our strong and weak
points and how do we manipulate or strengthen these points? What
about our pawn structures? Are they healthy or are they weak? Do we
play it tactically or do we consider positional method? Do we attack
and be aggressive or do we lay low and play it defensively? It is
rather ironic that chess is a game where a player needs to have a
game plan, strategize and develop to win a game yet when in comes to
organization, these simple rules are not applied at all. And we call
ourselves chess players/lovers?!

Lets look at it point by point... What are our plans? Plain and
simple; to promote and popularize chess as a recognize sport in the
eye of the general public and in order to achieve it, we have to put
more effort and work together to ensure success. Our strength lies in
the few things that we currently have namely our generous `father' in
Dato Tan Chin Nam, our caretaker in MCF led by Dato Rosli and a good
mix of old and new faces in the committee. We also have a chess
office now (not much of an office but its a good start!) and chess
has been included as a game in SEA Games. We need to organize all
this and with proper planning, we should be able to get good mileage
out of it. What are our week points? We lost MSSM and our players and
affiliates are in disarray (the weak pawn structure!). We have also
lost a few sponsorships along the way and we need to develop a plan
to get them back, or gain new ones. We can start deploying our
strategies and strengthen our position before countering the weak
points or, we shall just approach the weak points and deal with it
immediately (with a gambit! something has to give in order to gain
tempo!). And since it has not moved for the past 15 years, playing it
defensively is out of the question. It must be done aggressively and

I am not saying that MCF has not done its part. It has but I belief
there is more that can be done. MCF should take the lead to raise its
effort, to reorganize and strategize its game plan. And players and
supporters must give a helping hand to assist wherever they can. It
is a team effort where all are involved. Just like in chess, a lone
queen will never be able to checkmate an opponent's king. Someone was
mentioning that MCF is like a locomotive that pulls the carriages
behind – the players, affiliates and all involved – and if the
locomotive does not move, how can the carriages move along. Well, its
time that the carriages starting to make the effort to push the
locomotive to move! It is about time that the carriages device its'
own engine to ensure that the locomotive continues to move forward,
crawling, running, rolling, flying or whatever way that it can be
made to move.

While we have had numerous International and National championships
organized in the past 15 years, it has not been able to lift the
chess playing standards of local players. Tournaments held only
created interest and opportunity for the players and chess lovers to
experience a higher level of chess event, and it remains at that, not
more but perhaps less. As mentioned earlier, we also came very close
to producing our first Grand Master in Mas Hafizulhilmi (there is
still hope for him I'm sure…) but is he the product of MCF? Mas
Hafizulhilmi became a good chess player through the guidance of his
own father, Cikgu Rahman, who devoted his time, money and effort, to
see his son becoming a successful chess player. Getting sponsorships
for Mas to go abroad and play chess is not the kind of contribution
by MCF that I am referring to. After all, being a Malaysian, and
having to get MCF's approval to play in international tournaments
(Mas has no choice as he needs to get the blessings of MCF), I do not
think that this should be considered as contribution in its actual
sense. Even if you may want to call it contribution, it would
probably be no more than 25% of what he has become now.

To put it simply, MCF should be run as though it is a business
venture where everyone is a shareholder. I envy CAS for it has done
just that and it is one of the better organized and successful chess
clubs (or affiliate) in Malaysia, better than MCF itself for that
matter. But mind you, the whole concept behind this idea is not to
make profit but merely to survive. If in its effort to survive MCF
happens to make money, so be it but the main aim should not be to
make money. It should not divert from its main reason by becoming a
monopolistic business `empire' but more towards surviving in the
years to come. The one thing about money is that it is like sugar
that attracts ants. But let us tackle the issue one step at a time.
Prioritize. First things first and that is to survive! Further, if we
trust responsible people to run the organization, I'm sure money will
never be a major issue. And if we do make money, it is a cake that
everyone can have a share at. Imagine having properly organized and
recognized chess classes that issues certificates and ratings,
properly rated national and international tournaments, libraries to
read, borrow or buy books, paraphernalia, seminars, etc, a few of the
activities and items that will make chess a more interesting
organization for anyone to be associated with.

All said, I am sure that some of you out there would probably see all
this as a far fetched idea. I believe everyone is entitled to his/her
own opinions and this is something which I have thought about at
length some 8 years ago (and nobody seem to buy it or wish to pursue
it). I also believe that there are people out there who share my
views and ideas, maybe not in total but at least in part. For that, I
am thankful. What I would want from all this is to get feedback from
you who are a part of the chess community in Malaysia, to know what
you feel that can be done or needs to be done. Perhaps you also have
an idea(s) that is/are worth trying and/or implementing. Together we
can help chess to grow and develop in Malaysia and made our ideas
known to others especially chess players, associations and MCF itself.

The one concern that I have not included is the political weather in
Malaysian chess. Politics in chess was fierce at one time especially
during the years when MCF was headed by Dato Sabbaruddin (What do you
expect? He is a politician by nature…) but I think the fierceness has
subsided in recent years. Not that it was all that bad because for
all purposes, chess gain quite a level of popularity when Dato
Sabbaruddin was at the helm and he did contribute a lot to chess
during his time. Whether or not the political weather is still
blowing hard within MCF nowadays, I can't help but am incline to
belief that politics in chess has and will always be the deciding
factor whether an idea is accepted or rejected.

Whatever it is, my main interest is to see that chess in Malaysia and
Malaysian Chess Federation (and all who are affiliated to it)
becoming a more organized, proud and prosperous organization. My
contribution was and never will be as great as those shown by Dato
Tan and this may end up as another one of those `stupid'
contributions that I am continuing (and willing again… guess I never
learned from mistakes huh?) to give to chess. But at least I tried
(been there done that…) and if this remains as `one of those ideas
that is impossible and ridiculous to implement or try', I will
probably look at it as another futile attempt to wake up the sleepy
(at least not lazy…) chess community of Malaysia. Well, looking on
the bright side, there is always the year 2020 to try my luck again.
Perhaps then, I will have a better idea than the one I have now….

By the way, this lunch is on me….

Najib Abdul Wahab

source:  Yahoo Group Chess Malaysia


morphyanderssen said...

Even Malaysia Chess Yahoo Group nowadays seems to be defunct.And i noticed that had happened for years, probably 4-5 years. What an irony.

Captain Planet said...

thousand thanks for copy and paste this post...i really appreciate it... keep up the good work sir!

Dr.Bahsha said...

Dont stop..go ahead with your noble job by keeping chess alive in malaysia especially to younger generation...
May Allah bless you....

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