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 as 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 Ches 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 where as 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 whistleblowing 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.

Topics: dress code, Malaysia
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drcloak drcloak 5/9/2017 06:07
@A7fecd1676b88 Seriously? Its a board game, not a wedding, not a funeral, and not a church sermon. God, you guys act like you're curing cancer or something...
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 5/9/2017 05:58
AlexYermo -- agreed...Dress classy if you can afford to. Show some culture and sophistication apropos our "game of kings".
drcloak drcloak 5/8/2017 06:45
@Joseph Toh You talk about FIDE they are some kind of big deal. Well, they are not. They are unfair, biased, corrupt, deceptive and old/obsolete organization that operate more like the Mafia than a real institution of integral values. So remind me again why I should care what licensed FIDE officials say or do; let alone what they have written in their little documents? Get a grip.
Joseph Toh Joseph Toh 5/8/2017 10:32
It is quite unfortunate that the general lay people and to some extent a large number from the chess community had missed the forest for the trees. The real issue of the incident was actually THE WAY the arbiters, who are all licensed officers of FIDE, carried out their duties.

In the Prospectus & Regulations for the event (FIDE Standard),

" 8.5 Players are requested to note the requirements of FIDE Regulations C.01 (Article 8.1) in respect of their dignified appearance at all times during the matches. The Organizer may provide a dress code for the event and players and officials shall comply with the dress code. "

which was culled from the regulations of the many FIDE events all around, we can see that there were no specific dress code of any kind implied as long as it meets the FIDE requirements of 'dignified'.

Now, here comes the sucker punch;
Reportedly the arbiters INTERRUPTED the ongoing game in the second round to convey a certain displeasure regarding the attire.

Arbiters' Manual 2016 - FIDE Arbiters' Commission (

Under Article 12: The role of the Arbiter

" 12.2 (d) The arbiter shall ensure that the players are not disturbed. "

" 12.6 The arbiter must not intervene in a game except in cases described by the Laws of Chess. ... "

More are said from page 217 onwards, 'The Role of the Arbiters and their duties'.

An arbiter's scope of duties is to focus their attention on happenings in relation to what is on the chessboard and not be distracted by something else. There can only be three possible scenarios that allows an arbiter to intervene into a game;

(1) An infrigement during the play
(2) An extreme case of floating the tournament rules
(3) An emergency

All else can wait and be dealt with when the game terminates.

It is very clear that none of the above applies to warant the arbiter/s to interrupt the play.

Then, we now come to...

Annex 19A
Disciplinary Regulations for Arbiters (

Under Article 1 (Penalties)

" 3.(i) The verbal or by acts abusive, indecent, inappropriate behavior towards members of the governing bodies of all kinds of chess and arbitration, to the players, coaches, other persons involved in the games and the spectators (disqualification for 3 to 12 months ). "

Sadly, as lincensed officers of FIDE, the arbiter/s involved had breached the ethics and failed to uphold the integrity of the organisation they represent.
offpister offpister 5/7/2017 10:20
Reading these comments is like watching a car accident. This is such a painful incident to read about. The idea that an arbiter would approach a 12 year old child and say such a thing is uttery reprehensible. Deliver your backward views to the parents but to direct them to a 12 year old, directy? He should be jailed. But most painful is knowing that FIDE could care less about such an incident and will do nothing about it. These countries are the very ones that FIDE leadership cow-tows to to maintain its power. This has nothing to do with culture, or dress codes, or having to play bare-chested men if there are no "rules". This is pure and simple the subjugation of women to men in certain societies and the perogative that men fee in such societies to arbitrate over the lives of women. This also has nothing to do with Islam just as burning witches at the stake has nothing to do with Christianity. Sometimes I wish Chessbase would just do away with the comments section just so I can preserve the illusion that chessplayers have more common sense than others. Of course we all know this is nonesense. Please please @benedictralph do the world a favor and try not to express your views again. If I have to pound my head into the wall one more time I'll drop dead.
turok turok 5/7/2017 04:15
@ AlexYermo now please tell me where dressing in flip flops is not good chess attire? You have your thinking and they have theirs. if you had played Fischer in flip flops do you think he would have fared worse or even cared for your opinion-no-he would just whoop you. I understand if in top professional events there are dress codes but in a normal tourney dress how you want female or male. If a female dresses provocative and it distracts you then you are weakminded. Same if you are distacted by flipflops. It means you will let other things get in the way. So IMo this dress code is ridiculous and if in other countries you learned to play in a suit and tie then so be it.
AlexYermo AlexYermo 5/6/2017 08:38
I don't care much for what happens in Muslim countries, but no amount of whining will change their ways. Banning them from FIDE is counterproductive.
Here in the U.S. we have a lot of people who don't know how to dress for chess tournaments. Beach/gym wear does not belong in a tournament hall, and neither do cocktail dresses. When I see my opponent wearing gym shorts and flip-flops I have no respect for him whatsoever. I will win the game and there will be no post-mortem.
The used to say you graduate from high school and you have two choices: either you put on a suit and wear it to work every day for 40 years or you choose to be a bum and you can dress any way you want. Your call.
lagerstein lagerstein 5/6/2017 12:04
As with most issues that stem out of a religious perspective so many people blame the religion rather than those who take it on themselves to interpret it.
I agree with “Kernard”. I think having a dress code is fine and it should be made abundantly clear to all players before a tournament. It does NOT matter if said dress code is based upon Islamic philosophies (where females should & must practice modesty), it is irrelevant. If you do not like the dress code. Do NOT play.
However there was a time and place for things to be handled correctly and discreetly so the modesty (and dignity) of the young girl could have been preserved as per the aforementioned Islamic tenants.
Augusta2022 Augusta2022 5/5/2017 11:58
Well put adp.
adp adp 5/5/2017 11:15
I have been playing competitively against women and girls for 50 years. Most of these arguments regarding "distractions" or immodesty are merely excuses for a backward culture. Countries, venues, federations, and organizers indeed have the right to dictate any code of behavior they wish as long as it conforms to local law. That is not the point here. The point is that FIDE, being an international organization supposedly representing the world's chess players, is under no obligation to conform to these bizarre requests. Yes indeed, if you don't like Indonesia, the Gulf States, Iran or Libya, to name the four worst offenders in memory -- does anyone notice what these countries have in common? -- you shouldn't go. Embarrass FIDE's spineless leaders and the venues. Stay away. That's the only thing these quislings will understand.
Augusta2022 Augusta2022 5/5/2017 04:38
As I said, in this case you have no choice. You must defend the kid.
Tell me, all wars in the world, all rapes, most crime, not the effect of mens wrong doing?
I'm not saying the arbeiter is guilty but in this case if you have any moral what so ever you must take the kids side until proven otherwise. There is no more room for discussion. PERIOD.
benedictralph benedictralph 5/5/2017 04:37

"In my opinion, men are usually the wrong-doers."

So much for a man being innocent until proven guilty. I'm no fan of Islam myself but I'm well-traveled enough to know that in many parts of the world, women aren't allowed to dress "as they please" in the presence of other male children and men. You might be surprised to learn, as the real story unfolds, that it may actually have been other *women* and *girls* who complained to the arbiter about the girl in this article.
Augusta2022 Augusta2022 5/5/2017 04:30
@benedictralph, in my oppinion, men are usually the wrong-doers. Also in this case you have no choice. You either defend a grumpy religiously biased arbeiter who intervenes in the middle of a round and complains about a dress must or you defend a 12 year old kid.
Taking the arbeiters side is clearly not a very clever choice.
I'd love to hear what the arbeiters says, but I don't think he will respond and his answer will just confirm the root cause of these evil accusations.
uggebai uggebai 5/5/2017 08:11
Does anyone dare to mention the word "Islam"?
albitex albitex 5/5/2017 07:31
The sense of shame is not the same in the whole world. Eastern countries have a different mentality from ours (different from occidental). Of course a 12-year-old girl is curious ... But chess judges should do courses on human sensibility, and not just chess rules!
Paulstronghold Paulstronghold 5/5/2017 05:14
What is appropriate/inappropriate mode of dressing does this Malaysian Federation had in mind? If they cannot live up to the present fashion trend where only conservative Muslims do not adhere to, then stop such foolish tournament and instead concentrate on homegrown chess players of their own where they can dictate the manner they're supposed to dress up during the tournament. In the same manner, their players should also refrain joining outside competition sponsored by liberal and permisssive chess Federation outside of their juristidiction. So pathetic
benedictralph benedictralph 5/5/2017 04:27
@Rama: I understand and totally agree with you. However, in many cultures and societies (typically non-Western), the "sport" is not the most important thing. Religion, culture, tradition etc. all trump that. An analogy in the West might be an otherwise skillful and intelligent man (in any domain) who happens to say something unacceptable about women or children, for instance, and that could spell the end of his career. All his contributions suddenly are meaningless. Likewise, in this case, the "seriousness of the sport" was virtually a non-issue with regard to what was considered inappropriate behavior by a female child in a public place.
Rama Rama 5/5/2017 03:27
I think that all organizers have the right to determine dress code. However interrupting a game already in progress - especially a game involving a child - and claiming the violation of a dress code which was not clearly delineated before the game began would not be accepted in ANY serious sport and so all people who want to see chess taken seriously have the right to speak out.

re: "...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..."
benedictralph benedictralph 5/5/2017 02:58
@k2a2: It was probably inappropriate by today's Western standards but there are cultures where it is perfectly acceptable for men to advise women on what the society and religion, in general, considers "inappropriate" behavior. Even more so if the women are actually children. In fact, in some places, it is expected because children don't know any better and often their parents don't either. Perhaps the United States or Europe should start a war there over this incident to straighten those people on the right and wrong ways to speak to women and children.
k2a2 k2a2 5/5/2017 01:50
Agree with Kenard.

If the arbiter had pointed out that there is a violation of dress code, it would have been a totally separate issue where the policies of Chess federations could be discussed. However, by labeling the dress as 'seductive', the arbiter has completely made it his own issue and a problem that goes beyond chess. If the arbiter thinks he is seduced by a 12 yr old's appearance, he needs to re-evaluate himself not the dress.
TMMM TMMM 5/5/2017 01:23
"By now everyone, even those who are not primarily interested in chess, knows the story" - Don't exaggerate. Most people interested in chess and not living in Malaysia probably didn't read about this before it appeared here.

As for the topic: does anyone know how other sports commonly deal with political/religious issues like this? What happens when professional female tennis players play in Iran; do they wear whatever they want? And I even recall the Dutch queen visiting a moslim country and wearing something like a nijab, so please let's not pretend that only FIDE chooses to avoid confrontation by enforcing national rules in the country of play.
benedictralph benedictralph 5/5/2017 01:18
I've been to Malaysia. The locals have a kind of saying. Basically, "if you don't like the way things are here, you can leave".
RayLopez RayLopez 5/5/2017 01:17
The dress was deemed: "'seductive' and a 'temptation from a certain angle far, far away'" but reasonable people will agree the only 'angle' this dress would be a seductive temptation would be a 'prone angle' where the viewer would be violating the law, that is, to make it clear to non-English speakers, the viewer was on the ground trying to look up the girl's dress.

Keep in mind the Malaysia, following the UK tradition, they use defamation lawsuits to crack down on people, so Peter Long is taking a risk by even reporting on this issue, so kudos to him.
kenard kenard 5/4/2017 10:34
Having a dress code is fine. Enforcing a dress code is fine. Telling a 12 year old she is dress too "seductively" while in the middle of a game, UNEXCEPTABLE!!! A dress code needs to describe what is expected and what will be ruled as unacceptable attire. A dress code should never be the personal opinion of the arbitrator. What was the dress code? Was their even a dress code made available to the participant's? If the dress code was broken, the participant should have been informed before the game, or after the game, never in the middle of a game.
geok1ng geok1ng 5/4/2017 09:25
This will not end until we decide to put an end once and for all. The only "dress code" a chess tournament needs is "players should be dressed as they wish to". Chessbase is finally atoning from the hijabgate, when Chessbase made a beautiful set of photos showing how successfully Iran forced female players to wear what they wanted. Next FIDE congress should change the rules as follow:
1-No Player of any sex will ever be punished based on dress codes.
2- Every country that applies for hosting a FIDE event must guarantee that no local laws or rules will ever limit the dress freedom of chess players.
3- Chess players are free to use any outfit they want, including those linked to the players culture, religion and personal beliefs.
Augusta2022 Augusta2022 5/4/2017 08:31
Anybody really surprised by this, Malaysia after all being mostly an islamic country?
Once again islam shows how unfit it is for the 21st century.
Bertman Bertman 5/4/2017 08:09
@hariharansivaji9 - I completely agree. The problem is not the 12-year-old girl in a blouse and skirt, but rather the minds of those who sexualize her with comments of 'seductive' clothing.
James L Hankins James L Hankins 5/4/2017 08:04
It's good to see someone speaking out against this religious-based superstitious nonsense instead of the usual kowtowing to Islam and media paralysis when it comes to assessing how women are treated in these backward countries. Letting things like this go by without comment is the worst of things, and it should be rightly condemned publicly and openly so that the rest of the world can see it.
hariharansivaji9 hariharansivaji9 5/4/2017 07:43
I feel this TD and Arbiter have psychological problem, They are able to see 12 year old kid in sexy manner means, Just think about there thought and how they are dangerous to the society. It is better for us to stop traveling to this kind of country for any means. Even animals will not think like, what this TD and Arbiter thought.
adp adp 5/4/2017 07:17
FIDE, in its infinite wisdom, refuses to learn lessons from the past of what occurs when you accommodate bullies and fanatics. In 2017 there is no excuse for accepting tournament bids from countries that restrict participants on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or normal standards of dress. FIDE, however, seems to bend over backwards in seeking out these pathetic venues, perhaps to demonstrate that savages are not, after all, what they plainly are. It will take a major tragedy, as occurs regularly in Europe these days, for the chess politicians to wake up. Even then I wonder if they are capable of exercising what in other times would be common sense.
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 5/4/2017 06:07
What is the problem actually?

It is entirely appropriate to tell people how to dress at a social event.
I do not care to play against a shirtless opponent, for example. I would hope it would not be allowed by the organizers.

The problem is that the standard of dress desired by the organizers does not appear to be properly defined for the parents.
Seductive is too subjective a standard, and too dependent on the observer..
Better is to spell it out.... (as an example only) dresses must be cover the knee and not have a low cut neckline. Don't like it, don't play. But at least it is not subjective.

As the standard was essentially arbitrary and apparently not documented, except in the mind of the organizer, the standard should not have been enforced.
alamin9087 alamin9087 5/4/2017 06:00

VIRAL WORLDWIDE had probably already reached100+ odd Million Readers, who DISAGREE with the Nonsense and Trash assertions in the 1st and 2nd MCF media statements.

Tournament Director and Chief Arbiter chose to BULLY a 12 -Year-Old Girl and her mother.
Why didn't the tournament organising team focus on the Chess Game that is played on the top of of the table?

Why did these degenerate people chose to FOCUS on LEERING under the table to see the underwear of a 12-Year-Old Girl?

Who are these people in MCF Committe that endorse snd support the BULLYing and VIOLATION of HUMAN RIGHTS of a 12 Year-Old Girl and her mother?

Chess is a thinking game but unfortunately in M'sia, Chess Organisers prefer to Look Under The Chess Table to Seek, Choose and Focus to Peep at The Underwear of a 12Year-Old Girl.

The National Scholastics Chess 2017 is now proudly known as the UNDERWEAR-GATE SCANDAL.

It has put M'sian Chess Arbiters and MCF into Worldwide Shame and Disgrace and scorn.
basler88 basler88 5/4/2017 05:04
KevinC and turok I 150% agree with you, get FIDE has to start the get this BS our of chess and boot this kind of Federation out and don't give them any more FIDE approved tournaments. It's the 21th century, weak up!!
KevinC KevinC 5/4/2017 04:30
The arbiter and TD should both be stripped of their positions.
turok turok 5/4/2017 04:30
It is time to stop allowing the countries who devalue women to have chess tournaments from FIDe etc.
This is ridiculous.