Let us review how our U16 population sizes up to our neighboring countries in ASEAN, Are we improving the scale as we continue to the higher age group within the region? Is our U16 players better than our U12 population?
Similar trend can be seen for the U16 population with Malaysia again leading the pack in ASEAN with the highest number of FIDE registered players at 2809. And again, Philippines and Singapore came in 2nd and 3rd placing with 877 players and 689 players respectively. In 2010, Malaysia only had 21 FIDE registered players who were U16 years of age and in the last 10 years – similar with our U12 population trending, we grew by more than 275 players per annum to be where we are now. In 2010, Singapore had the highest U16 population with 88 players followed by Vietnam with 49 players.
And again, although we have the highest number of U16 players within the region, the same cannot be said of our playing strength. We seem to fare even worse in the U16 category by taking the lowest spot against our ASEAN neighbours – less Cambodia and Laos as both countries do not have any U16 with FIDE rating.
Malaysia suffered the most point reduction among all ASEAN countries going from 1893.3 points in 2010 to 1285.5 in 2020 whilst Indonesia had the least change losing only 218 points during the same time span. In contrast to the U12 rating performance, the gap in 2010 between the top country Philippines and the lowest country Singapore was only 171 points but in 2020, the gap increased to 381 points between top ranked Indonesia and bottom of the table Malaysia – a significant gap between the opposite end of the tape.
In terms of rating distribution, we fare slightly higher in the U16 category with 15% of our player population having a FIDE rating. While this may be higher than our U12 pool, in terms of regional ranking, we are at 7th spot with Indonesia leading the pack at 32% of its U16 population who are rated. Again, Indonesia is able to balance its small population of 271 players with a high average and with a good percentage of rated players.
While we can consider ourselves as contenders for the U12 FIDE rating race, the same cannot be said for our U16 players as we are drifting further apart from the leading pack. But we also need to remember that the age group is not a stagnant lot. In the next 3-4 years, most of the players in the current U12 segment will gradually fill up the U16 population with additional new players filling up the numbers. If the correction is made at the younger age group, the older age group should benefit in the long run as players climb up the age rank. While the game plan for the U12 population is to develop their fundamentals and basic understanding of chess playing to keep them competitive, sustainability and keeping the interest afloat is perhaps the better way to develop and improve the U16 population. At that age group, a lot of things are happenings in the life of a teenager – other physical sports, new habit and hobbies, peer pressure and opposite attracts will be the common interest (or distraction) that needs to be monitored.
Next segment – Looking at our U20 group of players.