By QUAH SENG SUN
Sponsorship for tournaments in the balance.
TWO months ago when I touched on the state of chess sponsorship in the country, I wrote about the possible effects that the global downturn could have on the local chess community.
This would be a challenging year for chess. Money for organising events could slow down or dry out completely. It would be impossible for us to ignore the global downturn’s impact on chess.
Since then, I’ve been receiving mixed signals. Yes, without a doubt, there are still sponsored chess activities going on, like last weekend’s Klang Parade chess tournaments.
The Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) continues to be involved with their national age group chess championship and soon, we’ll see new events like the DATCC KL chess league and the national seniors chess championship.
A few days ago, I was given some rather mixed news and it concerned one of the country’s very active chess associations. It’s not totally disheartening news so we don’t have to worry yet.
The good news is that the Chess Association of Selangor (CAS) announced their annual state open championship for the end of next month. It’s the longest-running annual state championship in the country.
But the not-so-good news is that for the first time in 30 years, there’s no sponsor for the tournament. As a result, this event will simply be known as the 36th Selangor open chess tournament. “For the sake of the survival of the longest running chess event in Malaysia, (the CAS) made a decision to continue with the event for at least this year. We are digging into our reserves and expect to fork out about RM6,000 of the association’s money to keep this tournament going,” said CAS secretary Lim Tse Pin.
Lim added that last year’s tournament attracted more than 60 players but he hopes to get a greater turnout from the chess fraternity this time. “We hope to have at least 80 players coming to support the survival of this long-standing event,” he said.
I would like to see our local chess players respond positively to this gesture. For a long while, there have been remarks that some among our senior players seem to have a mercenary streak in them. I’ve heard that they pick and choose the tournaments to play. They would be interested to play only in tournaments that offer attractive prize money. If the incentives were not there, they wouldn’t want to play and waste their time.
Well, it is exactly times like this that we should be asking whether we play tournaments for money or for enjoyment. If we want to play for self-satisfaction where prize money is secondary, then please rally round to support the Selangor open when it needs us most.
It’s the oldest-running and the longest-running chess tournament in the land, surpassing even the national closed championship. All of us should be aware of the great tradition behind the Selangor open and play our parts to help the tournament succeed.
I should also mention that the days of good prize money may be over for now. In the next two years or so, be prepared for lower prize money as chess organisers try to pull through the difficult times. It’s either lower cash prizes or no tournaments at all, and the chess associations that adapt best to the changing economy will have the best chances to come out stronger.
In this respect, I’m a little surprised that the CAS had not made more drastic restructuring to the prize structure of this year’s Selangor open. Last year, the cash prizes totalled RM6,400 but this year, the association is even offering slightly more to the winners: a total of RM6,750.
Perhaps in a way it is to demonstrate to the local chess community that despite the challenges, chess life is still as close to normal. But the CAS knows that this cannot go on indefinitely. When the gravy train eventually stops, even they will have to adjust.