Chess scandal over dress code in Malaysia

5/4/2017 – By now everyone, even those who are not primarily interested in chess, knows the story: at the National Scholastic Chess Championship 2017 in Putrajaya, Malaysia, a 12-year-old girl was warned by the chief arbiter because of the "improper dress" she was wearing, which was deemed to be seductive and "a temptation from a certain angle". The girl, fairly traumatized, withdrew from the tournament and all hell broke out in the press, with many thousands of reports appearing in the international news portals. Peter Long has harsh words for the Malayian Chess Federation.

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The Malaysian Chess Federation needs to get ahead of the latest dress fiasco

By Peter Long

At the start of the year — and a little over a month after the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) elections — I offered an analysis together with advice to the incoming leadership in form of a Malay Mail Online article entitled In search of excellence. In my blueprint for the MCF to move forward I noted that challenges faced by the leadership is that of a lack of expertise within the council which is seriously compounded by vested interests. As it stands today, MCF will require a paradigm shift in how it operates.

Given recent developments, they might do well give the article another read! After all, we have in the last week seen chess in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It all started with a Facebook posting followed by the response of the mother of the child, which drew a response from the Chief Arbiter who started it all.

Kaushal Kal writes: "At the National Scholastic Chess Championship 2017, in Putrajaya, one of my student, who is a 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL felt harassed and humiliated by the actions of Tournament Director and Chief Arbiter. In the middle of Round 2, (without stopping the clocks) Chief Arbiter informs my student that the dress she wore was improper and have violated the dress code of the tournament. It was later informed (by Chief Arbiter) to my student and her mother, that the Tournament Director deemed my student’s dress to be 'seductive' and a 'temptation from a certain angle far, far away'. We found this statement completely out of line! Please see attached photo of what she was wearing! Completely ridiculous!" The posting gives full details of what transpired.

The girl withdrew from the National Scholastics Championships because she felt traumatised by a comment about her attire. Naturally a social media storm broke over the incident with nothing less than full support for her. By now, everyone, even those who are not interested in chess, knows the story — there are many thousands of reports, world-wide in news portals and the broadsheets.

The Chief Arbiter KK Chan later made a statement saying the organisers disputed the version of events as published in the Facebook post and that there would be an investigation by the Appeals Committee. As for the Tournament Director Sophian A. Yusuf, he has filed a police report and a complaint to the Multimedia Commission about the “inaccurate” Facebook post, while at the same time claiming the girl’s mother had not filed an official complaint. In the meantime, arbiters and other tournament officials are beginning to take sides or been pressured to make statements in support of the organisers.

How could the Malaysian Chess Federation manage to allow the entire situation to reach this stage and what about the misinformation being put out by at least one of those involved? Let me explain.

This was the National Scholastics Championships which was organised by the Malaysian Chess Federation. Sophian A. Yusuf was the organiser, full stop. He also took on the role of the Tournament Director to provide hands-on oversight of the running of the event and also named himself one of the Arbiters. So there is no separation of roles or oversight. The buck stops with him.

As for the Chief Arbiter, Chan is a self-proclaimed World Chess Federation (FIDE) big shot. From what I understand, Sophian clearly tapped Chan to be Chief Arbiter to provide expertise that he did not have.

As a start, no competent Chief Arbiter would take a request from the Tournament Director to tell a participant she was inappropriately dressed without first agreeing that it was true, and actually it is not even his job to do so and a task usually assigned to a woman arbiter.

The statement by Chan purportedly on behalf of the organisers was beyond his authority which was limited to the conduct of competition proper and should not have been allowed by MCF as it was made in his private capacity.

Chan claimed that the Appeals Committee was investigating the incident but if there indeed had been one formed, then it would have been drawn from participants at the event to the sole purpose of hearing any appeals made against the decision of the Chief Arbiter during the event and so would have been disbanded with the completion of the event.

Wth the increased media coverage, Sophian even organised a private press conference where he claims he knew nothing! Chan also spoke to Malay Mail Online whereas usual he says he is looking into legal action, and will complain to FIDE etc.

Which brings me to my questions (appeal) to MCF: Please take charge in a clear and transparent fashion instead of allowing these individuals to continue like this with statement after statement to the press which just fuels controversy. Just apologise to the girl, make it right. It’s okay to make a mistake, to be wrong. But it is not okay to cover up, or worst to shift blame, and collectively pretend it is the solution. Do not victimise the girl, her mother or the whistle-blowing coach.

Do I have to remind us all that we are talking here about a 12-year-old girl here? I really want to believe that we understand the welfare of the child is of utmost importance.

Source: Malay Mail Online, reproduced with kind permission of the author. Peter Long heads the Institute of Chess Excellence which is also the Malaysian Chess Federation's National Chess Academy. He is an International Arbiter and Malaysia's first FIDE trainer. He is also a Project Manager at the Kasparov Chess Foundation Asia-Pacific which advocates the use of chess in education and facilitates regional chess development. Recent articles on ChessBase:

4/23/2017 – Kasparov Chess Foundation promotes chess education in Asia
In conjunction with the Kasparov Chess Foundation's 15th Anniversary Celebration, the Kasparov Chess Foundation Asia-Pacific proposed five activities as its contribution and four of them came together with a tour of four countries in Asia with the common theme of Chess in Education.

11/13/2016 – Chess in Myanmar
For a long time the country of Myanmar has been internationally isolated. But after the military junta, which had been reigning the country for decades, was dissolved in 2011 Myanmar gradually opens up. And the chess scene is lively. From 26th October to 5th November the 7th Asian Seniors Chess Championships were played in the city of Mandalay.

10/28/2016 – Hoogeveen controversy on final ratings
The Hoogeveen match between Nigel Short and Hou Yifan ended in a victory for the former World Championship challenger, who decided it after five of six games when he led 3.5-1.5. The sixth game was a contractual obligation, which Short played and lost. The organizers submitted all six games for rating, although the FIDE rules say that the last game should not count. That has led to a furious controversy, very aptly described in Malay Mail by Peter Long.



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