Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Culture of Success

Anonymous asked about what success would entail.

From the choices you listed, the answer would be all of them, and none of them. As strange as it may seem to you, Malaysia as a country has always committed the mistakes of having "absolute" goals. When you set targets like, having a GM, becoming a top ASEAN country, having X number of chilren play chess, etc., you are making a mistake of being myopic. Why? Simple, because once you achieve them, the question is, what next? Everything will stop there. You have to create new goals and so on and so forth. You may ask, what is wrong with that? The problem with these goals is that, they are very superficial and can be attained through artificial means. We do not just want to achieve quantitative achievements, but quality ones as well. Let me explain.

If your target is to get a GM, it can be obtained through many ways, some good and some bad. For example, in some way, Malaysia has made this mistake. They threw a lot of money on just one player in hopes that he becomes a GM, which he failed. This means that all the resources have been wasted. Compare this to implementing an incentive-based system where every player who reaches 2400 in rating is given RM2,000 travel allowance for each tournament, and players with 2500 in rating will get full sponsorships in tournaments. This kind of system creates a more competitive environment to fish out a GM. This is not to say, I agree with you that getting a GM can be considered a success. My point is this: You can set goals, but how you get there is at least as important as where you want to go. The quality of success is important. Compare the 2 methods above. The first method, if that chosen player fails to get his GM, then all the money would have been wasted. In the second method, the incentive-based sponsorship will at least create a chess environment that is full of strong players even if we fail to find a GM.

That's why to me, I consider Malaysian chess a success when we can implement a system that encourages sustainable improvement. So the goals that we set should be goals on periodical improvements, rather than absolute goals. For example, the target is to add fifty 2200 rated players a year, twenty 2300 rated players a year, and five 2400 rated players a year. This way, when we can achieve these goals we provide a strong sustainable base for success. If you can add more and more strong players every year, the pyramid will build itself. You will keep pushing the strongest players upwards. Of course, this has to be combined with a merit-based system where the best player is rewarded the most. There is no room for cronyism. This is the kind of system that can ensure long term and sustainable success. All the other goals like being the best in ASEAN, getting a first GM, etc etc etc will come automatically. You don't even have to worry about it.

However, the caveat is this. It is not what I think that matters. What I proposed above is just one idea. The important takeaway from this is that our goals must build on the quality of our success.

That is why, if you look at the Singapore Budget 2010, the Singaporean government has targeted a productivity growth of 1.5% per year for the next 10 years. Then you compare with Malaysia's Budget 2011. Malaysia only knows how to target an income per capita level of USD16,000 by 2020. The important way to get there is to through productivity gains, but Malaysia is on its way down the downward spiral by trying to implement mega-projects all over again. This difference will be even more distinct in the next 5-10 years. Singapore's ingenious leaders have long understood the importance in the quality of its economic growth. Malaysia is only interested in the quantity of growth. If you want to increase GDP by RM12 billion, it is easy. Just build a crooked bridge to Jawa, no matter how useless the bridge is.

Remember, it is the quality of your growth that counts.


  1. You are sounding more and more like Raymond Siew with your recent postings. You make suggestions and proposals that are next to useless and demonstrating ignorance of significant issues (which I do not care to elaborate). All philosphy and no concrete practical plans that you yourself can implement immediately. You only have suggestions for other to implement but no action on your part.

    Even the phrases and style of writing is becoming similar to Siew's. I won't be surprised if it is due to osmosis from reading too much of Siew's nonsense. In fact, if not for attacks on fgm in your earlier postings. I would think you are actually Raymond Siew based on just your recent positngs.

  2. You assume there is no action on my part only because you don't know who I am. But it's OK. Like I said before, my goals are to raise awareness here. What I do in the chess scene is a separate thing.

    You sound more like Raymond than I do. You bring up something but you choose not to elaborate it and what's next? I should go join the dots? If I am so ignorant, do you not care to enlighten all of us? If I am missing something crucial, please share. This is what this is all about. I am not going to be like Raymond and shut everyone up just because they don't agree with me. Enlighten me! Or am I too hopeless for you?

  3. If we are to measure or quantify success in chess, then I would prefer to state some quantifiable targets. Even a chessboard in every home is a good target to aim for. This was Prof Lim Kok Ann's aim when he was heading the chess scene in Singapore.

    Quality of the goals is often good to have but hard to define and achieve. To talk about Singapore government aims of the Budget, while I applaud their pursuit of the quality of growth, there is always accountability. We are now questioning after 10 years of R+D in biomedical research, what are the quanifiable targets achieved?

    For sustainable growth, putting a structure in place is just 1 piece of the puzzle. That structure requires support to grow. Let's take an example. DATCC will be forced to operate as a business once Dato Tan withdraws support. Are Malaysian chess players willing to devote time and energy, even money to keep this centre alive?

  4. You are too hopeless for me.

  5. whatever someone try to suggest or propose some idiots definitely want to shoot it down

  6. This is understandable and should be accepted. We don't want to be complacent and ignore the holes in our ideas by shutting out criticism. If we can implement the criticisms to improve our ideas, why not? If we feel that the criticism adds nothing, or is pointless after thorough and honest self-evaluation, then we just move on. No need to shut our critics up. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

  7. Chess cannot progress without strong grass roots support. We are failing at the schools level.

    The MSSM is a ideal platform but this platform is not supported by MCF and state chess association.

    Chess compettion ar distyrict level are not professionally run and qulifying through the district is a lottery. 200 players fighting for 4 places in a 7 round 25 mins elimination.

    Those selected for MSSM goes through a one week training programme. Players of different playing strengths from 1300+ to 1800+ goes through the same programe! A sheer waste of time and resources.

    This is where the chess bodies and MSSM can work together. The seeds must be sowed at the schools.

    At the moment it there is no programm for talent serch and training.

  8. There used to be the CTEP for Chess Association of Selangor which was running fine from 1997-2006. See my blog for details.

    I still think that it was the best program for Malaysian Chess (never mind if a Singaporean helped).

  9. I agree with you John, The current group of juniors from Selangor and KL, 13 and above besides Li Tian were the result of CAS junior program. Every tounament attracted the best juniors and it also allows late developers like Tariq and Justin to come throght the ranks.Since CAS stopped these junior week end tournments, there is hardly any new talents coming through.

    KL and Selangor were trashed by Penang in the MSSM under 12.

  10. These are just cyclical phases. Even though Penang had no systematic program in the early 1990s, they did manage to dominate the MSSM. Something went wrong during the MSSM hiatus from 1998 to 2004 and Penang went down the hill from then on. 1998-2004 were the golden years of Penang, with no less than 5 players who represented Malaysia at some stage or other. Those of you who can remember, the Penang ranks included the likes of Ronnie Lim, Jonathan Chuah and Lim Cheng Teik (who beat IM Mas for the 1997 MSSM U-18 title).

    But I suppose you could blame it for the lack of structure. But Penang was a powerhouse without any proper training. The strength was derived from pure competitiveness.

  11. I have to disagree with your point about Penang chess lacking proper training program during the so-called "golden period". This may seem so on the outside, but just below the surface, there were a lot of activities at the school level due to very intense rivalry between the top 2 schools, i.e. PFS and Chung Ling. Both schools were very disciplined and determined with their training and development of junior players. Those names mentioned above were products of such environment. In spite of the competition, there was also a very high degree of cooperation and teamwork within each school, and they could also come together for the state at MSSM level.

  12. I would say that Penang's success basically came down to the very high level of peer support, junior-senior succession planning and support from the school. The PFS-CLHS rivalry extended even beyond school, with the alumni associations forming their own teams.

    In my opinion, these factors far more than compensated for the lack of training centres, major tournaments, in-house GM etc available in the Klang Valley. There are a lot of synergies that you can unlock from cooperation and teamwork that you can maximize results based on the resources that you already have.