Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Harsh Reality

This is in reply to this and this.

Agreed. Let us also agree that we should not hide the harsh reality from the juniors. The obstacles that they are up against are brutally harsh. As if it is not enough that the competition is stiff.

The juniors need to understand that the local chess authorities are completely undependable. You should not expect ANYONE to support your chess "career". That is the harsh reality of the current situation.

Some of us may think that we are "protecting" our children by not letting them know about the harsh difficulties of life but that is going in the complete opposite direction. Frankly speaking, the juniors these days are "soft". I see parents accompanying them all over the place to play chess tournaments, including the MSSM. Now, the parents even book hotel rooms for the children during MSSM so that they can sleep comfortably etc. No doubt parental support is important, but if we keep protecting the kids from the harsh realities of life, when are they going to learn to face TRUE adversity?

Back in the day, most chess players HAVE to stay in the hostels with the rest of the team, and only 2 or 3 parents go along during the MSSM. The conditions of the hostels were shabby (probably worse than those at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi), but all the players grew from that hardship. There was only cold water in the common bathrooms. No fans in the hostels etc. Sometimes they would have to combat the bedbugs. This is what Chinese people call, "Eat bitter". When placed in such harsh conditions, these players would learn to find that other adversities are much more "manageable".

You can ask players in the olden days about who their coaches were. Many of them do not even have coaches. They all had to work hard on their own. Without the Internet, one of their main sources of chess information from the outside world was Quah Seng Sun's weekly article in the Star! Our children today are spoilt for choices in ways of helping themselves improve, yet they are not utilizing them. And whose fault is this? Whose fault is it that the children today only wait to be spoon fed by their so-called "coaches"? Somewhere along the way, we have developed a culture of dependence. If any of you junior players are reading this, why don't you do yourself a favor and go improve on your own for a little bit before you run to your coach again?


  1. In general, today's parents belong to 2 schools of thought:

    1 I've suffered enough and I don't want my children to follow the same path as I did

    2 I'm who I am because of the suffering - it has done me good so why shouldn't my children do the same? Suffering toughens them.

    Well, both schools of thought have their merits. I prefer that we take the best of both, ie teach the children to be independent but also show them how to fish so that their progress will be fastracked.

    The danger of over-rewarding is that it breeds complacency and dependancy. The main reasons why our neighbours like Vietnam,Indonesia and Philippines do better than us is mainly due to the hunger for success. We are fortunate in that we are more affluent, but then again its a curse too because parents will still tell their kids not to spend too much time on chess for fear of doing badly in their studies.

    However, I have examined most of the top players and I am proud to say that with good disciplined habits learnt in their formative years, they can excell in their chess and do reasonably well in their studies. Isn't that one of the chief benefits of playing chess?

    Coaches today ought to do more than just impart knowledge - I believe they owe it to the child and parents to also transmit good values like proper time management, self-discipline and most importantly, guidance in their approach to the game ( no short-cuts, hard work and consistency pays). They should also be good mentors. For that, they will have to lead by example.

  2. Good comment, John. But don't you think it might be useful to state where you come from? You have a habit of doing this repeatedly across various chess blogs, talking about "us" and "we" as if you are Malaysian. Why give people that false impression?

  3. John Wong is a well known Singaporean coach. Even I know that. Anonymous take the trouble to check b4 "accusing" john of anything.

  4. To answer that, let's just say that both my parents hail from KL. I am a second generation Singaporean, but my roots are from Malaysia.