A ton of unresolved questions
The SCF will be holding its annual AGM on 3 July 2017, 8pm at the Cairnhill CC. It is also election year, and so members will have the opportunity to appraise how well the current Exco has done for the last 2 years in terms of serving the local chess community. I've been representing the country for over 14 years, and given my experience and knowledge when it comes to matters of selection and training, I thought I am qualified to share my thoughts on areas where things have or have not been well managed. I have decided to do this via an open forum given that the SCF President has repeatedly chosen not to respond formally to my queries which were sent via email and copied to certain members of the Exco and Sport Sg.
Before I continue, I think I should first debunk a few common myths that I've heard circulating on social media:
1) I have no interest in holding any office within the SCF Exco in the near future. This is because I see it as my responsibility as an active chess player to continue my training and my pursuit of my final Grandmaster norm. However, I have always taken a keen interest on the topic of quality training. Singaporeans, being Singaporeans, are limited in so many ways and there will be a day when I think it's time for me to share my experience on a larger platform.
2) The National Championships was never used as the only criteria to select players for the World Chess Olympiad. This was the initial prerequisite that was determined by the HPE Committee in 2016 (then led by John Wong), which was then revisited after appeals from GM Zhang Zhong and me. During a sit-down meeting with the SCF & Sport Sg in mid-June 2016, there was a promise to review the selection criteria and the new selection criteria was only very recently published here.
3) I had not, and will never demand a place on the Singapore team in any event based on my past accomplishments. What I disputed was the fact that the initial criteria was deeply flawed and immediately excluded GM Zhang Zhong (currently based overseas) and me from the team. We were then the top 2 players of this country and I questioned the rationality and objectivity of a selection criteria that was not only published late but also extremely exclusive. I laid my arguments in a reasonable and logical manner during a dinner with Leonard Lau and John Wong, and while the latter admitted that "the timing of the criteria was not ideal", he refused to change the team composition and "he can only apologise". This drove me to seek intervention from the higher authorities and after a protracted and stressful period where I had to go back and forth with the authorities, my place on the team was deservedly reinstated.
During the Olympiad itself, I uncovered a few oddities while conversing with my teammates and I raised further queries to the SCF President after the event. His response was not satisfactory and I will elaborate in a future article. For now, I have a few questions for the SCF President which I hope will be answered during the AGM:
1) In Annex A (Minutes of the AGM 2016), para 6.4.4, it was written that the "final selection was ultimately done by the National Coach". My understanding that the initial team composition of the Baku Olympiad (Enrique Paciencia, Tin Jingyao, Benjamin Foo, William Woong, Ravindran Shanmugam) was determined by the HPE and not the National Coach (GM Buenaventura "Bong" Villamayor). This is because GM Bong had told me personally that he would like me to be in the team and was surprised that I was not in the initial line-up. Please clarify.
2) Under the SCF Selection & Training Guidelines, para 3.4.4, it was written that "the top 2 ranked players from the past 2 Nationals will be selected for the team, and the remaining positions shall be decided by the SCF on grounds of form, consistency and potential." In my opinion, this selection criteria is once again fundamentally flawed due to the following reasons:
- 2 years is a long time, and, as an example, selecting 2 players for the 2018 Chess Olympiad based on the results from a tournament that was played in December 2016 does not seem particularly rational.
- This criteria potentially takes away 4 out of 5 places on the team (assuming different people had finished in the top 2 positions for that last 2 years) and essentially forces players like me to play the Nationals. I would like the SCF to clarify their position with regards to players who are based overseas, specficially GM Zhang Zhong, who is a Singapore citizen, a player who has represented the country since 2007, who has overseen the development of promising juniors such as Tin Jingyao who made his IM title during his tutelage and most importantly, the undisputed number 1 of the Republic. Does the SCF expect overseas-based adult players to take their own annual leave and incur their own expenses to participate for a "qualification tournament" even though he or she may be the undisputed number 1 player in the country?
- By "SCF" in the above para, can I clarify whether "SCF" refers to the "SCF Exco", or the "SCF HPE Committee"?
3) There was a recent article published by John Wong on chessbase on 22 February 2017 with regards to the fact that GM Zhang Zhong was not allowed to participate in the 2017 Zonals. In an elaborate and detailed response, GM Zhang Zhong has responded via a Facebook post and this was replicated on Chessbase here. The Association of Chess Professionals, led by GM Emil Sutovsky has expressed their concerns here.
This saga has brought disrepute to the Singapore Chess Federation and I have had many friends from overseas asking me why the SCF is depriving our best players a chance to compete at the World Cup. There were also many inconsistencies with SCF's official representation with the supporting documents that GM Zhang Zhong has attached in his Facebook post. I will like the SCF President to address GM Zhang Zhong's claims and to clarify the Exco's position with our top player.
4) During a recent event, I had enquired with the SCF Vice-President, Christopher Lim, on SCF's policy in terms of support for adult players to which I have yet to receive a response despite multiple reminders and Sport Sg's intervention. I have a couple of questions here:
- What is the SCF's policy in terms of response to queries from their top players/life members?
- Can the SCF pls clarify its policy in terms of support for adult players who have sacrificed their time and resources in pursuit of excellence?
I hope that members of the chess fraternity can take these issues seriously.
IM Goh Wei Ming, Kevin
24th June 2017
P.S I shall not be attending the AGM as I've got a flight to catch that very evening. Here's a screenshot, for you cynics out there