SINGAPORE - By his own admission, chess grandmaster Kevin Goh did not expect his #ChessAgainstCovid charity initiative to receive an outpouring of support.
But thanks to help from a group of young chess players and other volunteers from the local community who threw their weight behind the initiative, the drive has raised over $31,000 in just over a week since it began on April 11.
Goh, who earlier this month became the first Singaporean grandmaster since 1999, told The Straits Times on Monday (April 20): "I was extremely, pleasantly surprised.
"I know some of the boys (who volunteered) since they were 12, and they are now either in school, doing their National Service or are waiting to enlist, but all said they can spare some time to help... and they've been very helpful."
#ChessAgainstCovid hopes to get individuals to participate in chess events with a goal of raising $100,000 for Lakeside Family Services' Caring Amidst Covid-19 Fund, which offers assistance to needy individuals and families adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the events that have taken place are exhibition matches and live analysis of games, which are streamed online on platforms such as Twitch and Lichess.
Because of the support he has received, Goh has upped the frequency of events from only the weekends to once a day.
Also in the works is an "Age Group Battle" series of exhibition matches between the top young players from Singapore and Kazakhstan - from Under-12 to Under-20 - that is scheduled for May 3.
Goh said a donor, Zhang Changjie, has pledged to contribute a further $1,000 for every Singapore match win and $250 for each draw.
Zhang, who is the chief executive officer of trading firm Theme International Trading SPC, said he used to play a lot of chess during his school days and believes the lessons the game taught him have helped him in his career.
"I have been wanting to give back to the chess society for many years, and when I saw the #ChessAgainstCovid initiative, it struck me that I could further motivate young chess players in Singapore to improve their game, and for the purpose of charity," he said.
Goh decided on Lakeside Family Services as the beneficiary of his charity initiative because he lives near its Taman Jurong centre and some of his team members had previously volunteered there.
Teo Tee Loon, executive director of Lakeside Family Services said they were very appreciative and grateful to Goh and the Singaporeans who donated.
He added: "In these times, the sentiment for some might be that they are not so willing to give because they are unsure of their own situations, but certainly this is not for the many Singaporeans who have helped. We are very heartened."
Goh noted that his initiative is still two-thirds away from its $100,000 goal, but is hoping local companies will also come forward to help.
"I believe there are opportunities to partner with corporates, who may want to link up as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) work, and do some events together," he added.
Donate to the initiative here.