Friday, 21 August 2009

Chess patriarch speaks out

My exclusive interview with Dato' Tan Chin Nam has appeared in the Lifestyle pages of StarTwo today, coinciding with the start of the sixth IGB Arthur Tan memorial Malaysia open chess championship at the CitiTel MidValley ballroom in Kuala Lumpur. Here is the story as it appeared online. I had recommended "Chess patriarch speaks out" as the title but the newspaper had other ideas. Also, the use of Datuk instead of Dato' is a house rule adopted by them:

IT’S been nine months since I last met Datuk Tan Chin Nam in Penang. That Sunday in November, he was still basking in the glory of winning the 2008 Melbourne Cup in Australia. It was an unprecedented and historical win for him: the only horse owner ever to win that coveted cup four times.

Prior to the Malaysia Chess Festival starting tomorrow, I sat down with him again and this time, it was at his office at Menara Tan&Tan in Kuala Lumpur. This time, instead of horses, he turned his attention to the other interest in his life, which is chess.

This game of kings has taken up much of his free time, effort, and money since 1974. In that year, he was elected president of the Malaysian Chess Federation. But despite stepping down in 1986, he could never get chess out of his life. He remains the main engine behind chess in this country. It is estimated that in the past 35 years, he has poured at least RM10mil into the game.

“People remarked that I am stupid to put so much of my money into chess when I cannot see the return from there,” he remarked. “They say that if I had invested this sum and the time I’ve spent on chess into my business, I would have earned back my capital many times over. Am I stupid? Of course, I’m stupid!”

Then, as he leaned forward as if to confide in me, Tan boomed: “But you know what? It’s not all about money. I did it because of personal joy. I enjoy chess just like I enjoy horse racing. But I’ve already achieved the peak in horses.

Grand plans: ‘I am embarking on the Malaysia chess project to take the Malaysian chess culture to a higher plane,’ says Datuk Tan Chin Nam.

“In chess, there’s still much to do and I like to see other people enjoy the game and succeed in the game. There’s the joy of watching a young child of seven or eight beaming when he succeeds. I think that chess is valuable to the community as an intellectual sport endeavour. It’s incomparable.”

Want to read the rest of the interview? Click here which will take you to my other blog, It's All In The Planning!

(UPDATE) Mmm...that's fast. It's only 10.45am here in Malaysia and halfway across the globe, I see Susan Polgar had already picked up the story for her widely-read blog.

Who's Susan Polgar, you may ask? Here's the entry on her in the Wikipedia:
Susan Polgar (born April 19, 1969, as Polgár Zsuzsanna and often known as Zsuzsa Polgár) is a Hungarian-born American chess player. She is also a chess writer and promoter and the head of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University. She was stripped of her membership in the United States Chess Federation on August 7, 2009, and thereby lost her seat on its Executive Board.

On the July 1984 FIDE Rating List, at age 15, she was the top-ranked woman player in the world. She was the first woman to earn the title of Grandmaster in regular competition. She was the Women's World Chess Champion from 1996 to 1999. In October 2005 Polgar had an Elo rating of 2577, making her the second-ranked woman in the world at the time, after her sister Judit Polgár. She has been inactive and has not played in official competition since 2004.


She was born and brought up in Budapest, Hungary, and now lives in Lubbock, Texas, having recently moved from Forest Hills, Queens in New York City, where she ran the Polgar Chess Center and the Susan Polgar Foundation, which gives chess training to children, especially girls.

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