10 March 2012

A New Offering to Malaysian Chess

Registrations for the New Nagas Standard Chess Tournament next weekend have started to come in over the last few days. I look forward to more registrations over the coming week as we approach event day.

In this article and the next few ones, I shall be sharing this experience of organising this event, which is a mixture of old and new experience for me.

It feels good to be back organising chess events after some time out. Circumstances change with time, so I have to adjust to new circumstances. On the other hand, the basic organising work remains very much the same.

The most important factor to organising the event is the rationale. Why do we bother to do an event? This is important as this determines the motivation and enthusiasm of the organiser to see things through. Most people may say ‘making money’ is the primary motivator. True, but in such situations, first no event will be even started if it is estimated that no money can be made or worse still, the project will be abandoned (after announcements are made), if it appears that the required number of entries (to break even) are not forthcoming. In either of these situations, the event won’t take place.

The number of 1-day rapid chess events has mushroomed in Malaysia over the last ten years. A significant reason for this is that such events are ‘self-financing’ to the extent of even returning a surplus to organisers with minimal or no sponsorship. Having said that, organising such an event is by no means easy, and not everybody can do it well and over a long period of time. That is why I think that people like Fadli Zakaria should be given due credit. Fadli is very good at this work and he keeps improving with every event he organises.

However, 2-day weekend chess tournaments are relatively rare in Malaysia. I do not include here events where say an ‘age-group’ tournament is held on a Saturday, followed by an ‘open’ event on the next day. These, I regard as two 1-day events, where a participant can choose (if eligible) to play in either one or both events.  A 2-day competition is held over two consecutive days (over a weekend), and participants have to commit two days of their lives to finish the event. Due to the time requirements, an event using a time control of 60 minutes (or more) each with at least 6 rounds requires two days to complete.

I have proposed before to ‘prominent’ organisers that Malaysian chess needs regular long time control events for the general standard of our players to go up. However, the responses were always along the lines of:
  • ‘Lack of demand’. A 1-day event could attract 100 or more entries while for a 2-day event, less than 40 persons turn up.
  • ‘Players won’t pay higher entry fees’. Well-run 1-day events are nowadays self-financing, while for 2-day events, ‘a financial loss’ stares organisers in the face.
  • ‘Double costs’. For 2-day events, costs are doubled. Venue and equipment rental for two days instead of one. Arbiters and helpers have to be paid for two days instead of one, etc., but entry fees remains the same (see item 2).
The double whammy of ‘double costs’ and ‘reduced number of participants’, and the consequential loss have put off organisers from 2-day events all these years. Some quarters trivialize the matter by saying that it is organiser’s job to seek out sponsors to cover the costs. Well, that is easier said than done. I would love to see anyone who make such a suggestion to obtain sponsors themselves and organise such events on a regular basis. All these years, while waiting for these elusive ‘sponsors’ to appear, Malaysian chess has been falling further and further behind as our neighbours move ahead.

It is just too easy to ‘find fault’ with the current situation (and efforts of other people) but it is so much more difficult to put in the effort or initiate something ourselves. There must however, come a time when the talking stops and the work starts, to ‘take the bull by the horns’ so to speak.

The New Nagas event is an initiative by interested parties to introduce regular 2-day longer time control weekend events into the Malaysian chess scene with the hope of seeing a general improvement in the standard of Malaysian chess in the near term. This is the motivation. This is a new offering to Malaysian chess.

Any thought of financial surplus is secondary and cannot be the primary objective. The surplus, if it happens, will just be a bonus.

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