Does our U20 fare better than our U16 and U10 in the ASEAN Region? Which country progresses well as the Junior population reach its peak?
With Malaysia leading the population race for U12 and U16, it comes as no surprise that we also lead the population race for the U20 FIDE registered players population, leading the ASEAN countries with 2,189 players followed by Singapore and Philippines in 2nd and 3rd placing with 797 and 782 players. In 2010, we were 3rd behind Singapore and Vietnam with only 34 FIDE registered players. Again, similar with the U12 and U16 age group, we grew by more than 210 players per year as compared to our nearest rival Singapore and Philippine who did just over 70 players per year.
In terms of the rating race, Indonesia continue its dominance at the top leading the ASEAN countries with an average FIDE rating points of 1807.1 followed by Vietnam with 1711.7 points. For 2020, Philippines suffered the most points reduction with 666 points to end at 1650 points compare to their impressive 2315.8 points average in 2010. Malaysia also exceeded the amateur mark in 2010 averaging 2013.9 FIDE rating points but lost more than 620 points in the last decade to end at 6th place in 2020 with 1403.1. As point of reference, Malaysia was ranked 5th in 2010 hence in terms of strength ranking, not much has changed but the power points have reduced dramatically.
For U20, the gap between the top country and the lowest rated country widens even further separating almost 600 points between top ranked Indonesia against 9th place Laos. Even for Malaysia, our gap with the top ranked country is higher at more than 400 points for U20 compare to 380 points for U16 and only 160 points for the U12 indicating further deterioration compared to our ASEAN neighbours as we review the last Junior age group.
For U20 rated population, Malaysia’s is ranked 7th in the ASEAN region with 15% which is similar to our U16 population as well. Myanmar has the highest rated population at 35% followed by Indonesia – also at 35%. But of course, as we have the largest U20 population, we also have the highest number of FIDE rated players in the age category albeit our low distribution rate of only 15%. Only Singapore and Brunei have a lower FIDE rated population percentage than us.
Comparing the performances of all the major age groups – U12, U16 and U20, it can be concluded that we are better off at the U12 age group which may indicate that we have a large pool of naturally talented players. And, we may also have a better support structure to grow our U12 player population as a lot of chess trainers and coaches seem to have set a firm foothold at certain schools around the country. Further, most parents and teachers are accommodative in providing support to the younger children to develop their interest – whatever interest it may be. Whatever it is, we can pat ourselves on the back as we have managed to instil the interest of our youngsters to pick up chess as one of the preferred sports – as indicated by our population growth. A note of thanks must be given to the Ministry of Education (including to the Ministry of Higher Learning) for including chess as a sporting event at sports meet and national level events such as MASUM, SUKIPT and MSSM, and hopefully SUKMA. These programs – without a doubt, have contributed to the growth of chess in Malaysia at the Junior level.
However, while we have an excellent mechanism and support function from the educational institutions and the statutory bodies to help grow the population, at the end of the day, the onus to develop the sport still falls onto individual effort and the efforts of the chess community and organizations that exist within the country. The minority that can afford or those that are focused, will continue to invest in improving their chess prowess but those that are not, will remain as is if not worse.
The above chart provides a good indication of how Malaysia’s population is progressing from one age group to the next. Except for Brunei as the only country going on a downward trend, all the other countries are progressing upwards rather steadily as the population moves from one age group to the next. However, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Philippines seem to be improving at a better FIDE average point rate as the age group goes higher. Interesting enough, Singapore exhibits a significant power jump from its U16 age group going into the U20 age group. For Malaysia, the progress looks very slow and we have the lowest improvement average between the age groups with Indonesia having the best improvement rate going into their U20 population followed closely by Singapore – contributed by the significant improvement from U16 to U20 age group population
Based on the numbers that we have saw, we can conclude that Malaysia is well behind our ASEAN neighbours in the chess race within the region. We may have the quantity but the quality part of it is significantly behind. The worse part is that while other countries continue to progress upwards with their Junior programs, our progress has been minimal
Next to look out for – How do we progress beyond the Junior population?