With a lot of time spent at home due to the current MCO #StayAtHome enforcement, it has provided some time for me to continue my study on the growth and improvement (or not so improved) standards and wellbeing of our local chess community against countries within our region, and where we stand globally. While the numbers and trending may not provide a conclusive summary of our development or future direction, it can provide some eye-opening facts that we can study for further improvement.
Please take note that this is my personal view through years of data collection and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or findings that of the Malaysian Chess Federation. The data was collected from FIDE rating data which can be found via www.fide.com
WHERE ARE WE?
Back in May 2010, Malaysia only had 764 players registered with FIDE. 7 years later, the numbers went up to 4,228 players – growing at an average (but steady) rate of 41 new players registering with FIDE each month. In 2010, we were ranked as the 49th country with the highest number of FIDE registered players in the world and in 2017, we climbed fifteen notches to become the 34th country in the world.
Malaysia’s FIDE population has increased tremendously since 2017
From then on, the numbers took a drastic turn and by February 2019, the numbers had more than doubled to 9,855 players and we better our ranking to 17th most populated country in the world with FIDE registered players. In the 21 months from April 2017 to February 2017, we had an average of 268 players registering with FIDE per month – a far cry from the 41 players on average that we did in the prior years. While the numbers continue to grow, the growth rate has declined to an average of 162 players per month from February 2019 to September 2019, and decline further to an average of 124 players per month from September 2019 to April 2020 to end at 11,863 FIDE registered players and a current ranking of 16th most populated country with FIDE registered players.
The surge in the numbers of FIDE rated players was understandable as Malaysia removed the National Ranking system in favor of the more internationally used FIDE rating, and with the National Rating being abolished, organizers have little choice but to use the FIDE rating system. While it may be good to maintain only a single rating system for the country, the setback is that the competitiveness of FIDE events (and its challenges to organize a FIDE rated event especially with classical time control) may eventually left Malaysia with a lot of inactive or unrated FIDE registered players – an impressive quantity which may lack quality.
Based on FIDE global numbers, the average monthly growth rate from May 2010 to April 2020 is recorded at 2.9% and Malaysia is growing at 12.1% which is more than 400% of the global rate. Currently, the country with the most FIDE registered players is India with 95,466 players beating Russia in second place with 93,466 players. In 2010, India was 5th in the world and Russia was 4th. Surprisingly, the country with the highest number of FIDE registered players in 2010 was Spain with 20,322 players followed closely by German at 20,112 players and France with 19,399 players. By 2020, Spain dropped to 4th placing with 56,044 players, France climbed to 3rd place with 67,402 players while German dropped to 7th place with 39,541 players.
While those countries may not register the same growth that we see in Malaysia, they continue to produce more GMs and IMs throughout the 10-year period while Malaysia continue to struggle despite the higher population growth compared to these countries. India and Russia continue to produce at least 4 GMs in a year between 2010 and 2020 while countries like German and Spain producing at least 2 GMs per year between the same period.
Ranking of Countries with the most GMs and Titled PlayersMalaysia is yet to produce a GM albeit having increase its total FIDE population
Surprisingly, China is ranked 53rd in the population race with only 3,742 players registered with FIDE (even lower than us) but China also has one of the highest GM ratios per player with 67 GMs (and WGMs) compare to its small population.
Although Malaysia may have one of the highest number of players registered with FIDE, the actual number of players that has a FIDE rating is only 16% out of our total population. On average, the top 20 countries have an average of 37% of its FIDE registered players having a standard rating which is also in line with the global average. In summary, it can be concluded that many Malaysians may have registered to participate in a FIDE rated events but, are not active or do not pursue their participation to a higher or more active level.
The Top 10 Most Populous Country with FIDE Registered Players – Malaysia at 16thMalaysia has a sizeable population of female chess players at 28% from the overall population
In terms of strength, at an average ELO rating of 1477.7 (for all players), Malaysia is ranked 172nd in the world out of 197 countries. 10 years ago, our average rating was much higher at 2001.0 with an overall ranking of 99 out of 166 countries. As the FIDE rated population grows, it is not surprising that the average rating of all countries showing a decline with every country experiencing a drop in average rating performance. However, Malaysia experienced a slightly higher performance reduction of – 27% against a global average of -17%. Do take note that the methodology used to calculate the rank in this presentation takes into account the average rating of all players in the country whereas for FIDE ranking, it only takes the average rating of the top 10 players in the respective country to be used as the ranking system.
With a lot of activities aimed at grooming the juniors to take up chess as a sport, it may not come as a surprise that Malaysia is currently ranked 14th in the world with the highest percentage of Junior players (below 21 years old) against its total FIDE population. Based on FIDE figure of April 2020, Malaysia has 7,502 players – or 63% of its FIDE population, who are below the age of 21. (The earlier reported figure of 44% was an error) India – one of the more aggressive country that has a knack of producing promising junior chess players, is currently ranked 32nd in the world with 54% of its population are made up of younger players. The global average stands at 42% of the entire FIDE population around the world that is made up of players below 21 years old. Interesting to note that another country that may have similarities with Malaysia’s rate of growth is Sri Lanka – currently ranked 13th most populous FIDE rated country, which has a Junior population of 74% (higher than Malaysia), and similar to Malaysia, is the only other country in the top 50 most populated FIDE rated players that does not have a single GM or WGM.
While the hard numbers may look good, on the quality side of the spectrum, only 13% of Malaysia’s junior population has a Standard FIDE Rating – which is the lowest among the top 20 countries with the most FIDE population. So, while the numbers are there, the quality and performance does not seem to align with the growth rate – something which we may need to ponder.
For the U12 population, Malaysia has 2,504 players who are registered with FIDE but only 229 (9%) of them has a FIDE rating. In terms of strength, we have an average ELO rating of 1241.2 and currently ranked 64th in the world
For U16 population, there are 2,809 FIDE registered players with only 415 players (15%) are FIDE rated with an average strength of 1285.5 ELO rating.
For the U20 population, Malaysia has 2,189 players registered with FIDE but only 334 players (15%) of them has a FIDE rating. Our average ELO rating for the U20 group is 1403.1 which ranked us as 136th country in the world.
Based on the 3 tables shown above, it can be concluded that Malaysia has a great potential to attract more Junior players to pursue chess as a sport but, a proper development program needs to be introduced to improve the players strength in order to make an impact on the world scene.
Next article – How do we fare in our ASEAN Region?