In a quandary
By Quah Seng Sun
More than any other chess event in Malaysia, the Merdeka Championships in Kuala Lumpur brings together all sorts of chess players from throughout the country.
In this tournament, you can find a broad spectrum of old and young, strong and weak, male and female, disabled and able-bodied chess player of various cultures, races and from all walks of life, pitting their skills in a common arena.
These are the professionals, specialists, consultants, educationalists, business people, office workers, factory workers, retirees, parents and students. Together, they make up a big happy family, an interesting mix, something you very seldom find in any other game or sport.
Unfortunately, there is now a question mark over the very existence of the Merdeka team chess championship this year. The championship is in danger of being called off this year because it has not been included as a programme by the National Merdeka Day Celebrations Committee.
Normally, at the beginning of every year, the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) would forward a working part to the Merdeka Day Celebrations Committee, outlining its proposals for the team championship and including a budget for approval. In February, like for the past four years, this year's proposals were submitted to the committee via the Youth and Sports Ministry.
According to the MCF, nothing was heard from the committee or the Ministry for months and late last month, enquiries were made to ministry officials to check on the status of the proposal.
What the MCF learnt was not very good news. They were told that the whole Merdeka Day Celebrations Committee had been ordered to revamp by the Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister. With the emphasis now on patriotism and cultural events, the ministry has decided that there would be no place for the Merdeka team chess championship.
This piece of news, coming just about two months before this year's Merdeka team championship, scheduled to start on Aug 31, is shocking. Firstly, I can sense the deep disappointment developing in chess players everywhere. Even if they are not involved with the tournament, I am sure that these players are just as interested and curious about the event and would like to see it continue.
Secondly, I do not understand why the Culture Ministry or the Sports Ministry had not conveyed this important decision to the MCF earlier. Does a tournament's long history and tradition count for nothing in this day and age? After all, the Merdeka team chess championship has existed for 19 long years and this year's event will be its 20th.
Instead of celebrating this landmark event, it will be a sad day indeed if the MCF is forced to discontinue the event without any attempt to finding a solution.
Fortunately, there may be one. In recent weeks, arising from discussions between the MCF and the Sports Ministry, it is learnt that the ministry has agreed in principle to sponsor this year's Merdeka event. A final decision is still pending.
Cloba wins appeal
Remember the technical dispute over the line-ups of the Chung Ling Old Boys Association (Cloba) and the Penang Chess Association Novices (PCAN) teams from the 10th Penang Dell Chess League, which I highlighted two weeks ago?
The appeals committee met soon afterwards to discuss this matter and I am glad to say that it made the correct decision to retain the original score of the match between the two teams, which is a 3-1 result in Cloba's favour.
But before I go any further, there are a few pertinent points that require some clarification in order to set the record straight.
Firstly, I have to mention that the Cloba team although late for the round, did not fully assemble untilsome 20 to 25 minutes into the round. Some had arrived earlier and were already seated at their boards within the first 15 minutes. PCAN's irregular line-up, meanwhile, was noticed by the Cloba captain about 20 minutes into the round.
Secondly, the PCAN's only winning point had come from the fourth board and not the second board which I had reported a fortnight ago.
Thirdly, PCAN's counter-appeal was lodged only after the round had finished and fourthly, there were some written and unwritten supplementary rules that governed this tournament in addition to the normal FIDE rules of chess.
By "unwritten rules'', I mean the additional undocumented rules that were agreed upon by the teams at the managers' meeting before the chess league started.
One of these rules had stipulated that in the event of an inverted pair of players, both would be disqualified. Thus, it was correct for the appeals committee to disqualify PCAN's second and third boards, while leaving the fourth board's result unchanged.
As for PCAN's counter-appeal, it was really irrelevant as the committee felt that it should have been lodged during the match and not as an afterthought after it had ended. This was entirely correct too. However, even if the appeal had been lodged during the match, it would also have failed because the supplementary rules in their totality would have overruled it.
According to the rules, if a team's line-up is not submitted before the start of a round, it would mean that the first four players are fielded automatically. However, the team captain could still choose to submit his preferred line-up if he agrees to a penalty deduction of 10 minutes from his players' times.
The PCAN captain, by referring to the first half of this rule without considering the second half, was therefore wrong in interpreting the supplementary rules selectively. Furthermore, the tournament arbiter himself admits to not enforcing the rules strictly in the rounds preceding this dispute.
This being the case, it would be highly inappropriate to penalise the Cloba team for their infringement. Like I told someone in the tournament hall when the appeals committee was meeting, I would have been unhappy if the committee decided to take some strong action against Cloba, such as docking their points.
Moderation is required, and the severest action I could see would be to issue a verbal warning, and let it serve as a notice to the rest of the teams that the next time the rules are breached, the arbiter's decision could very well be very different indeed.
When this technical dispute came to my attention, the first thing that struck me was that it was all about chess education. Chess is more than just knowing how to shift 32 pieces around the chessboard.
Knowing how to rationalise and deal with off-the-board situations is equally important. So here, you have two teams with diametrically opposite viewpoints of the supplementary rules.
I had presented the main facts of the case (though there were some minor inaccuracies which did not affect the general picture) so that you, the readers, could think and discuss the best way, in your own opinion, to resolve the matter.
Big Event in Johor
Chess players in the southern peninsula can look forward to the Bandar Raya Chessmaster 2000 Open chess tournament this Sunday which features the biggest prize monies so far for a local chess event in Johor this year.
The event, jointly run by the Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru and the Johor Bahru District Chess Association in conjunction with the Johor Bahru City Carnival, will be played at the Plaza Angsana in Tampoi, Johor Bahru.
Entry fees are RM30 for the open section, RM7 for the under-16 section and RM5 for the under-12 section.
The winner of the open section will receive RM1,000 and a challenge trophy. The other prizes are RM800 for second, RM600 third, RM400 fourth, RM350 fifth, RM300 sixth, RM250 seventh, RM200 eighth, RM150 ninth and RM100 for 10th. All winners will also get certificates.
There are also 10 prizes each for the two junior sections. The under-16 winner will receive RM150 and the winner of the under-12 event RM80.
For more information, contact Narayanan Krishnan 07-333 8215 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1995-2000 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)
Managed by I.STAR Sdn Bhd (Co No 422871-T).