Monday, September 6, 2010

51st NATIONAL INTER - SCHOOL TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

Another year has passed, and going by the records in the Primary School Open, Under 11 and Under 9 sections, Nanyang Primary has done well again. At a glance the winners  in each Primary School category:

BOYS
                  1st                           2nd                     3rd
Open       Nanyang Primary   North View Primary   ACS Primary A
Under 11   Nanyang Primary   ACS Primary A          SJI Junior A
Under 9   Nanyang Primary Tao Nan School A        ACS Jr A


GIRLS

Open       Nanyang Primary       Northland Primary A   Nan Hua Primary A
Under 11  Kheng Cheng Primary  MGPS                     Northland Primary A
Under 9   Northland Primary       Nanyang Primary A    RGS Primary A



The Nanyang teams were at least 2 game points over the runners-up, which indicates their strength and dominance. With a school system that's highly supportive of the game, plus a dedicated pool of parents willing to accomodate their children's schedules for chess learning, it is little wonder that they are dominating the school chess scene. For the U-11s, the team did not even need the services of FM Tin JinYao.

However, we see signs that the other schools can pull up their socks and give a better showing, eg ACS Primary ,Kheng Cheng Primary and SJI Junior. I would say that the chief factor that separates the boys from these schools to their Champion counterparts is the committment to playing rather than the amount of chess training received. My perception is that chess is exalted as a intectual game in NYPS while other schools see it as another CCA. What a major difference in motivation and morale! My fear is that in the following years to come, it may be well a foregone conclusion as to which school will yet again win the Primary Schools section. When that happens, many of the other schools may not see the point of taking part in school chess competitions should they end up as passengers year after year.

So can the playing field be levelled? Here are some of my ideas:

 HAVE  2  DIVISIONS

Like in football, why not have 2 divisions whereby the top 7 teams can play in Division 1 and the others in Division 2? The top 2 winners of Division 2 may be promoted to play in Division 1 and the bottom 2 of Division 1 can also be relegated to Division 2. 

This system in my view beats the Zonal system of prize allocation because it is based on merit and not location. It also allows the Division 2 and 3 teams some chance of garnering accolades which is also important for the schools that may be good but not reach the top. It will also encourage more teams to join as we can expand the number of teams in the top 7 if need be over 2 weekends instead of just 1. The main logistics are tables and chairs and equipment plus arbiters and helpers, not insurmountable issues in my opinion.

SCHEDULE THE COMPETITION IN END-JULY

This competition was traditionally scheduled during the last weekend of July or 1st weekend of August as long as I can remember. Over the last decade, it is now staged in end August or September. Why should it be changed? Setting the competition in September is totally unfair to schools with the majority of players who are in Primary 6 and would have to compromise their PSLE studies in order to prepare for it. Is the late staging really necessary?

If it is a question of finding a suitable venue, surely 1 year is long enough for the organisers to search and confirm a centrally located school for the purpose of hosting the competition, or in the last resort, pay for a sports stadium to host it. I am sure that the Sports Council will assist in whatever way to secure a venue.

With an event date that  is tailored to suit the needs of  teachers and students, there is no reason why there can't be more teams taking part and therefore more divisions which will see more teams taking honours, though it different categories. This will entice more schools to have chess clubs and aim towards excellenc, step by step from the lower divisions and moving up.

LONGER TIME CONTROLS

To decide a scholastic tournament on a time of control of 25 minutes per side seems ludicrous. In my time as a student, it was 1.5hrs per side and spread over 3 weekends. Now that's tough by today's standards. So what about 6 rounds, 2 weekends, 1 hour per side? The Secondary and Tertiary can take place on 2 Saturdays and the Primary sections over 2 Sundays. The Under 9s can have theirs in 25mins but certainly not the U11s and Open sections.

We need to make the game a little more serious at the school level or else, school principals may wonder why they should spend on chess training when much of the game can be decided less on strategic planning but more on tactics and luck? Is it any wonder that our students cannot match up with the rest of Asia when it comes to playing longer time-controls as we simply do not inculcate it even at school level?

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