Helping A Friend – This time around, it’s a BIGGER event!

The last time I helped my friend Herosifu to run his tournament, it was an online event. It started off with just one event but, with the good response that he had received, he decided to do a second event. The response for both events was very good – with IM Mashafizul taking part in the first edition, and IM Yeoh Li Tian in the second edition making the event series two of the strongest online events in the Malaysian calendar for 2021. This time around – with the government easing the restriction for physical activities, Herosifu decided to up the ante and conduct an Over-The-Board event, and again, it will be an honor for me to help him out. While Herosifu may have organized an OTB event previously, this time around, it will be on a grander scale. So, here we are – at the onset of organizing and managing the grandest ever Herosifu Chess Academy Rapid Open Chess Tournament 2022, and what a big bang this would be!

Held at Hotel Tenera Bandar Baru Bangi, with a prize fund of more than RM6,300 and a running budget of more than RM20k, it will be one of the more anticipated events to start off the 2022 chess calendar in Malaysia. If this were to be used as a gauge for what is in store for the rest of the year, it will be a tough challenge for many of the independent organizers out there to match – the prize fund, the location, and the officials involved. For this event, Herosifu has decided to go with the most knowledgeable and experienced IA in the country – IA Abd Hamid Abd Majid as its Chief Arbiter.

The event is catered to attract 300 players and to date, a few of the top players in the country have voiced their interest to participate. Don’t be surprised if both our IMs at the Online edition will turn up to take part – a mouth-watering encounter it will be between the seasoned master and the young challenger! And to top it off, words also have it that even one or two “VIPs” have shown their interest to try their wit and prowess at the event which will make it one of the more colorful events to start off the calendar year!

The set up for the event will be similar to that of the Queen’s Gambit movie – players will play alongside the hotel corridor, foyer, and lobby, making it viewable from many angles. But of course, SOP for social distancing and crowd control will be enforced at all times. But with a bigger area for players to move around, the event has been set up so that it will not be too crampy or crowded to allow for good circulation and distancing.

More information for the event can be found by downloading the event brochures HERE. Those interested to play are advised to register early by CLICKING HERE. Entry fees have been set at RM100 for all Rated Players, and the closing date is 1st February 2022 (or once the registration hits 300 players) in order to comply with COS and KBS requirements.

Inquiries about the event can be forwarded to najib.wahab@hotmail.com/016.338.2542 or herosifuchess@gmail.com/016.698.1802.

Come and join us!

HELPING A FRIEND – Herosifu Chess Online Tournament (2nd Edition)

I am practically amazed at how Ezmi – fondly known as Herosifu, managed to attract all these good players to his tournament. And for the second edition, Malaysia’s top two players in the country – our numero uno IM Yeoh Li Tian and FM Wong Yinn Loong, decided to jump into the tournament. And with the top two heavyweights in the event, it also attracted FM Lye Lik Zang (#4) and FM Lim Zhuo Ren (#6). And a few more outside the top 10 like Evan Timothy Capel (#12), CM Tan Jun Ying (#15) and Poh Yu Tian (#25) who is also the top ranked U12 in the country. It was definitely a tournament to be in, and it was fun!

While the U12 may not attract strong players to join the fun, it managed to garner more than 140 players to participate in the weekend event with another 70 players playing in the U18 event. Many top Junior players like Poh Yu Tian and Tan Jun Ying – although they are able to play in their respective age group, decided to go for the more challenging and attractive Open section.

After the smoke cleared, IM Yeoh Li Tian scored a point clear from all his contenders – drawing with Lik Zang and Zhuo Ren but securing full points on the other 7 opponents, to snatch the RM600 first prize. Evan Capel came in second followed by Eng Jia Qian, Wong Yinn Loong and Lim Zhuo Ren. The top Veteran prize went to Taulani Tukiran with Sim Jia Ru bagging the Best Lady. Best Para player went to Adrian Syah Muming of Sabah

Ravind Kumar secured the top U12 performer followed by Wong Rui Yang and Shen Ree Herng with Wan Zayn Zara securing the best HCA Student for U12. In the U18 section, Nik Omar Heykal Amir Azhar snatched the RM300 first prize followed by Faris Wajdi and Muhd Hafizuddin in 3rd. Best HCA student for U18 went to Airell Ikhwan Adnan. Full report for the events can be found at http://chess-results.com/fed.aspx?lan=1&fed=MAS

Open Category
U12
U18

As part of the organizing committee and crew that manages the Herosifu Online Chess Tournament 2021 2nd Edition (and the first edition), we would like to thank En Ezmi for the trust and confidence in allowing our team to manage the event. And of course, to all the players, parents and followers that have been playing, supporting and promoting the event – either directly or otherwise. Thank you thank you thank you!

#staysafe #stayhome #kitajagakita

HEROSIFU CHESS TOURNAMENT 2021 – Helping a Friend…..

I have known Ezmi Mahmood (dubbed Herosifu) circa 2009, when I was an active organizer and part of the management team at DATCC – the Dato Arthur Tan Chess Center, in Wilayah Complex. Then in 2013, I joined the same company as Ezmi ‘s and after a few transfers between department, we ended up working in the same department and at one time, even on the same floor. Throughout the years, we have had our differences but, we managed to put that aside for chess (and work – since we are in the same office) and continue to foster good friendship. And as funny as it may seem, Ezmi decided to quite his job in 2019 and a few months later, I also did the same thing. And we both quit our work for the one thing that we are passionate about – and that passion is CHESS…

While Ezmi took the path of opening up his own Herosifu Chess Academy, I ended up in the Federation. But many of our views about chess in Malaysia are similar – we wanted a more organized chess structure in Malaysia, quality over quantity, proper over haphazard, and of course, our dream of having a beautiful chess establishment that will be a one stop chess center. But of course, that would need money to run and as of now, it remains only as a dream.

When Ezmi called me to help run his event, I am more than happy to oblige and with that, I am calling upon friends and the chess community to support this inaugural online event that he is embarking on. For this event, the main objective is to foster camaraderie and friendship, and while the prizes are lucrative, we should also take note that chess is also about having fun, a few laughter between friends, and not getting worked up just because we are not able to play well. Its not about losing but its about learning to improve.

The Herosifu Chess Academy Online Chess Tournament 2021 is set to be held on Saturday, 26th June 2021 and will cover 9 rounds of play using 10 minutes + 2 seconds time control. More than RM2k is up for grabs with the winner setting to earn a cool RM500 for his/her effort. Entry fees are more than reasonable and prizes are a plenty. Come and join the event!

Click on the following to go to the registration page : https://forms.gle/yL9Ru6vQ2fjVHi6P8

Catur Online di era COVID 19 – Bahagian I

Ekoran pandemik COVID19 yang melanda dunia sejak Februari lalu, hampir kesemua aktiviti dan progam sukan yang telah diatur perlu di tunda, disusun semula atau terpaksa dibatalkan sama sekali oleh pihak penganjur atau badan sukan yang mengendalinya. Walaupun ramai pakar perubatan menjangkakan keadaan mungkin mampu untuk kembali seperti sediakala mulai Jun atau Julai tahun ini, ramai yang tidak mahu mengambil risiko tersebut. Tambahan pula, persediaan untuk menganjurkan sesuatu kejohanan besar memerlukan tempoh persiapan yang memakan masa sekurang-kurangnya sebulan atau dua sebelum ianya diadakan.

Mengambil pendekatan yang sedemikian, tidaklah mengejutkan apabila badan catur dunia FIDE telah mengambil keputusan untuk menunda tarikh Olimpiad Berpasukan Dunia ke tahun hadapan walaupun secara amnya sukan tersebut hanya  dijadualkan berlangsung pada bulan Ogos iaitu selepas tarikh dimana pandemik COVID19 dijangkakan akan berakhir.  Antara kejohanan besar lainnya yang ditangguh oleh FIDE termasuklah Kejohanan Candidates yang bermula bulan Februari lalu di Moscow yang dihentikan dipertengahan jalan ekoran COVID19 yang semakin menular ketika itu serta tekanan dari pelbagai pihak untuk ianya ditangguhkan. Bagi komuniti catur di Malaysia pula, pelbagai kejohanan dan pertandingan catur telah dibatalkan termasuklah beberapa Kejohanan bertaraf FIDE yang telah dirancang oleh beberapa penganjur tanahair.

Dengan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakkan (MCO) di  kuatkuasakan, dan penjarakkan sosial di perketatkan, bukan acara catur atau acara sukan sahaja yang terkena bahananya. Malahan semua aktiviti perkumpulan seperti mesyuarat dan seminar, program keagamaan dimesjid , gereja atau kuil, aktiviti-aktiviti senaman serta program kekeluargaan seperti majlis perkahwinan, kenduri kendara dan sebagainya, terpaksa dibatalkan buat sementara waktu. Bagi sukan atau aktiviti yang memerlukan kehadiran dan penglibatan seseorang secara fizikal, memang tiada cara lain melainkan dilupakan sahaja perancangan tersebut. Bagi mesyuarat atau sessi perbincangan, ianya masih boleh diteruskan menerusi perantara internet seperti zoom atau skype, atau setidaknya melalui persidangan telefon atau teleconference. Sesi pembelajaran juga masih boleh diteruskan dengan menggunakan kemudahan internet bagi mendapatkan pelbagai bahan rujukan untuk di muat turun – samada secara percuma atau berbayar. Secara langsung, pelbagai aktiviti kini mula  memaksimakan keupayaan internet untuk kembali meneruskan program-program yang telah dirancang – sebaik dan senormal yang mungkin.

Walaupun terdapat kelemahan didalam sistem perantara ZOOM, ianya masih lagi popular dikalangan ramai pengguna

Persidangan menggunakan Skype juga antara pilihan kegemaran yang selalu digunapakai

Ramai yang masih boleh meneruskan pembelajaran melalui kemudahan internet

Sistem pesanan menerusi internet juga kini menjadi norma yang baru untuk ramai orang, dan kaedah penghantaran menggunakan Grab atau FoodPanda, adalah model perniaagaan yang dipilih ramai. Dan semua ini – secara langsung menjadikan internet sebagai keperluan utama yang diperlukan oleh hampir semua orang untuk meneruskan gaya hidup sehampir normal yang mungkin didalam era pandemik COVID19.

Penghantaran makanan dan pembelian menggunakan Grab Food semakin diminati ramai

Bagaimana pula catur dan internet? Adakah ramai pemain, penganjur dan entiti catur telah (atau akan) memanafaatkan catur menggunakan internet? Adakah anda – sebagai seorang yang berminat dengan catur, telah membuat perpindahan daripada seorang pemain “atas-papan” kepada seorang pemain “atas-talian”? Adakah catur “atas-talian” akan menjadi norma baru bagaimana permainan dan kejohanan catur dipertandingkan dimasa-masa akan datang? Bagaimanakan atau adakah pemain atau penganjur, atau persatuan, atau pegawai seperti Arbiter, atau pelatih dan pengajar catur, akan mendapat keuntungan daripada perpindahan ini? Atau adakah ianya akan lebih merugikan atau adakah catur akan kembali kepada cara permainan yang menemukan lawan yang bertentangan diatas meja?

Apa pendapat anda?
Pendapat saya – di coretan yang akan datang.

CONCLUSION – MALAYSIAN JUNIOR in ASEAN

THE OVERALL OUTLOOK

Improvement needs to be holistic and it cannot stop at just the U12 or the Junior population only. Of course, it is also unrealistic to ensure that the entire population progresses hence, a more strategic way is to have a structured growth to ensure that we have a healthy chess population – not just for the sake of economic scale.

Reiterating the fact that Malaysia has the highest FIDE chess population in ASEAN (and 16th the world), we should reflect on the fact that in terms of strength, we are 9th in ASEAN with Laos as the only country behind us in 10th position. If we were to take the progression of our playing strength beyond our U20 population, we will realize that even Brunei can turn around its performance to beat us in the power game. Except for Singapore and Vietnam – the only two ASEAN countries with a reduced rating strength going into the Open category, they are still relatively better than Malaysia.

Malaysia drops further down the power ranking list to 9th place against its ASEAN neighbours

Conclusion

While Malaysia may boast of having (and will continue to have) the highest population boom within the ASEAN region and the World, we need to start looking at how to improve our power game. Malaysia needs to understand how countries like Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar continue to improve at a much higher rate as their players progresses through the age groups. We are progressing as well but, at a lower trending hence the power gap between Malaysia and these countries continue to widen as the age group progresses. My opinion – is that we should focus more effort on improving our quality/power game and reduce the need to increase the quantity.

I sincerely believe that one of the more logical explanation on the increasing gap is the lack of support to provide the necessary training and development program as the players jump from one age group to the next. As most players rely on their own resources to make the progress and improvement, only a minority group – the affordable and dedicated few, that can climb the ladder ranking and continue to progress. And those who do not, continue to play without putting in much effort – merely passing time and happy to be a part of the community. But, even if a development or training program is put in place, would the majority sign up for it?

Perhaps the better way to curb the growth of FIDE registered population in order to promote a better development structure, is to reintroduce the local rating system. Therefore, players can gauge their strength before registering with FIDE instead of the current practice of allowing everyone and anyone jumping onto the rating bandwagon. In short, Malaysia should adopt a mechanism that controls whether a player should proceed to having a FIDE rating or otherwise. With the local rating abolished, signing up as a FIDE player seems to be the only way for those who are interested to play chess competitively without knowing if they are prepared for it or not.

And when many organizers do organize a FIDE rated event, most Malaysians if not all, are cautious of the many Indonesians and Filipinos (without FIDE rating) who participated, knowing that they have the potential to cruise and runaway with our prize money. So, why are they – even without rating, are a better lot than our locals?

My theory is simple – these players are prepared for it. They may have played in the local circuit and understand where they stand against the more established players. And with that, they also know where and when they can strike most effectively, and only then they will participate to play in FIDE events. And unfortunately, Malaysia is their preferred ground because based on the rating distribution, we do not have that much depth in our players line up and our prize fund are relatively handsome. Further, I find it strange that powerhouse chess nations like Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam (or even Myanmar) do not have huge FIDE population whereas they have been in the “chess map” even longer than us, and still able to maintain a relatively better strength

From my understanding – Philippines (not sure about Indonesia) have their own rating system, as such, if they can do well in their local circuits – against their own FIDE rated population, only then they know that the timing is right for them to explore their capability. For us Malaysians, many resorted to having FIDE rating because they have no choice as the local system no longer exist. For kids, there is a good chance that it’s the parents who are eager to get a FIDE rating for their children in order to help the child to gain valuable extracurricular points, or simply to boast of their child’s “achievement” against other parents. Whether the child performs or whether the child is really into chess or not, that may be secondary. For organizers, it is about survival hence, getting players to be FIDE registered – because it is a requirement, is something that they need to do in order to maximize the income for their event.

Proper governance and management are also key ingredients to manage our chess population and strength. When a player really shows an interest to pursue chess as a sport of choice, they should be allowed to play in FIDE rated event and in return, the chess body should provide them the necessary support to go further. But if a player is into it simply because they want to “try” or because they “have to”, then perhaps we should caution them and request them to participate in local events to prove their worth. Noted that the income derived from having players registering for FIDE ID will help the governing body to raise the necessary fund to conduct its activities and programs but, I am sure there are other ways and means to make money. After all, money earned via FIDE ID is only a “one time earning” when it should be more consistent, sustained and grow. Personally, I feel we should not sacrifice quality in order to make money hence, a better way need to be found in order to raise the necessary fund to provide the support structure to help improve the community. And on that thought, the local rating system can also do the job – of getting the income, albeit it may not be as handsome, but it should be able to grow in the longer run.  As the saying goes, we can always find money – if there is a will, there will always be a way. Balancing everything is the best approach but, many of us are not jugglers and in the real world, money still makes the world goes around.

A healthy population growth is also needed but, if we were to become a chess nation, we need to have the proper program and activities to reach that goal. We are proud of having IM Yeoh Li Tian – our most promising player in the last 40 years, but I will be prouder if I can have 20 more players who are like Li Tian. Agreed – when Tian becomes a GM, chess will flourish but what is our plan to keep that fire alive? Our soon to be GM Tian will just be a lone hero trying to wrestle everyone else. Just like Avengers – having one Iron Man is not enough, we need Captain America, Hulk, Thor and the rest of the team. And you also need a Nick Fury to govern and hold everything together.

Quantity is good but we also need good quality and that is where we should focus next.

Note: This is a personal opinion expressed by the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of that of the Malaysian Chess Federation, its committee members or affiliation. Feel free to comment below. Thank you.

Part II: MALAYSIAN JUNIOR in ASEAN – U20

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?

U20

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.

Malaysia continue to win the population race against our ASEAN neighbours

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.

Indonesia and Vietnam have been able to maintain their performance as the top countries within ASEAN

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.

Malaysia is ranked 7th in the percentage of U20 players with FIDE rating

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.

Our improvement progress as we leap from one age group to the next is relatively minimal

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

Excluding Brunei due to its negative growth, Malaysia has the lowest improvement average within ASEAN

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?

Part II: MALAYSIAN JUNIOR in ASEAN – U16

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?

U16

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.

Malaysia’s U16 population is way above its nearest rival.

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.

Malaysia is at the bottom of the pile among all ASEAN countries as of May 2020

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.

Malaysia is 7th in the percentage race although it has the highest number 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.

Part II: MALAYSIAN JUNIOR in ASEAN

THE JUNIOR SEGMENT

Let us look at the Junior population of U12, U16 and U20 which will eventually add up towards our overall quantity and performance. If we do better in the Junior population, in the years to come, we will probably improve our overall achievement

U12

For the U12 population, we have the highest population of U12 FIDE Rated players amongst all ASEAN countries. Malaysia’s U12 population is so high that the combine population from all the other 9 ASEAN countries is still unable to beat our numbers. As of May 2020, we have a total of 2,504 U12 FIDE registered players in Malaysia leaving Philippines at a distant second with only 708 registered players and Singapore at 685 players. In 2010, we only have 12 registered players and by 2020, we have grown at a rate of almost 250 players per year or more than 20 players per month.

Malaysia’s U12 FIDE registered population is way above the rest of the ASEAN countries

However, in terms of average player’s strength, we are ranked 5th with an average ELO rating of 1241.2 points with Indonesia leading the pack at an ELO rating of 1402.4 points. Only Thailand and Singapore are lower than us at 1191.9 and 1171.1 ELO points respectively with Laos, Brunei and Cambodia not having any U12 players who are rated. In 2010, Malaysia was 3rd with an average FIDE rating of 1829.5 points

Comparing the average rating performance between 2010 and 2020, Malaysia dropped almost 600 points during the 10-year period. Philippines suffered the most reduction losing more than 700 points going from 2058 in 2010 to 1311.5 in 2020. Back in 2010, Philippines was the top U12 country in ASEAN but is now ranked 4th behind Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Looking at the overall picture for U12 in 2010, the good news is that the gap between the top country – Philippines, and the lowest – Singapore, was more than 330 points but as of May 2020, the gap has shrunk to 230 points between top ranked Indonesia against last place Singapore.

Malaysia has dropped almost 600 FIDE rating points since 2010

With regards to the number of players who are FIDE rated, Malaysia is also ranked 5th with 9% of its population having a FIDE rating. Interesting to note that this percentage is slightly lower than the total ASEAN countries rated population which is calculated at 11%. Vietnam and Indonesia are both at the top making it two of the better countries within ASEAN that can keep a reasonably high number of rated players with a higher strength FIDE average within the region. At 229 players in the U12 category who are rated, Malaysia should be able to maintain its FIDE population growth, but it needs to focus more on developing players strength in order to climb up the power ranking.

Malaysia is ranked 5th within ASEAN in percentage of U12 players who has FIDE rating

Understandably, with many organizers focusing to cash in on children’s activities – especially under the auspices of the Ministry of Education in getting events to be recognized as National and International level, a lot of young players may end up unwillingly as a FIDE registered player. While it may create challenges in our effort to increase our FIDE rating strength, we should also take into consideration that we are only 160 points adrift from Indonesia and the figure is still realistically within our reach to equal or surpass their ranking. With a well prepared and structured development and training program coupled with a well-developed selection program – with an excellent administrative arm, we should be able to make a significant impact towards improvement.

While stopping players from becoming a FIDE registered player may not be the best method to curb our decline in rating points, having a more structured learning and development program is perhaps the better way to counter the downward trend. Based on observation, we have a lot of naturally talented young players who – with a little bit of training and guidance, can provide us the quick nudge that we need to climb the regional ladder.

Next Up – Is our U16 better than U12 in ASEAN?

MALAYSIA CHESS in ASEAN

Many people that I have met have different views with regards to the FIDE population boom in Malaysia. One person told me that, if we get more and more people to be involved in playing chess, we will eventually find one who will be above everyone else i.e. the volume game. In other words, if we continue to collect huge amounts of stones, someway (and somehow) along the way, we will eventually find a gold nugget. While I can agree that volume will inadvertently produce a one in a million local chess prodigy, I find the method a bit crude as it is not time bound and without any specific direction. In short, we are “hoping” that somewhere along the way, somehow and sometime, someone will emerge. When? Nobody knows. This is almost pure luck and without any tangible nor solid approach.

Another view is that, quantity can also be considered as growth albeit the lack of (or absence of) quality. At least, it is still something for us to boast and brag about but eventually, we may end up as the average guy around the block or at best, the “jaguh kampung”. But for the capitalist – the many chess organizers and entities out there in the open who thrives on getting hundreds and thousands of players to play in weekend events, it attracts good income and wealth. In short, if money is the endgame, then the more people play chess, the better it is for the economy. So, if I can survive and earn good income from the population, why should I care about the quality? I can agree to that as well. A lot more chess organizers can survive better now compare to when it was 10-15 years ago. While many may take up chess as a part time job to earn some side income, more and more people are jumping into a full time venture as it has the potential to generate a steady (and sometimes handsome) earnings every now and then. Aside from organizing events, the huge chess population also opens opportunities for chess trainers, chess officials and chess academies to strive (and survive) in the market. To each their own….

My personal believe is that – both quantity and quality need to go hand in hand. Too much focus on quantity and you will forego the quality, and too much focus on the quality, you may not be able to grow at all. And in understanding our local chess population, we may be able to understand how we can balance the two together. But of course, in order to pave our community to a better future, there is a serious need for good quality coaches, world class organizers, experienced officials, excellent support system and well-structured enforcement and management entity in order to bind everything together.

We have seen how we stack up against the global population. Of course, it will be tough for us to chase the global chess superpowers like India or Russia, or the many European countries who are traditionally well-known in chess such as Germany, Spain and Hungary. So, instead of trying to race and beat those who are leaps and bounds above us, let us reduce our scope to within our region and evaluate our situation. Perhaps from then on, we can understand our strength and weakness, and identify the areas that we can focus on for improvement and development. And as we slowly grow to conquer our region, we can appreciate and understand how and what it takes to bring it to the global level.

For the purpose of this study, the 10 ASEAN countries that we will use as comparisons are:

  • Malaysia – of course!
  • Singapore
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand
  • Brunei
  • Laos
  • Cambodia
  • Myanmar

Looking at the list, we can still find certain countries within our region that can be considered as chess powerhouses such as Philippines (with Asia’s first GM Eugenio Torre and SEA Asia first ever Olympiad host), Vietnam (GM Le Queng Lim is ranked 31st highest rated player in the world) and Indonesia (GM Utut Adianto was one of the few Asian Chess player surpassing the 2600 ELO rating). In short, the ASEAN region itself is already a challenging platform for us to make our own mark.

 POPULATION

As the 16th country with most populated FIDE registered players in the world, it is not surprising that we are the number one country within our region with 11,863 players, followed by Philippines at a distant second with 6,111 players. Singapore came in 3rd with 3,267 players and thereafter, Vietnam with 2,685 players. Interesting to note that in May 2010, Philippines was the leading country with 871 players and Malaysia was in 2nd place with 764 players.

Malaysia is way above its nearest competitor in the race to increase the FIDE population

With Malaysia having the highest number of FIDE rated players in the region, it is also not surprising that we are also the country that has the most players with a Standard FIDE ELO rating at 1,949 players followed by Philippines with 1,293 players. But, if we were to gauge the population based on percentages, we are ranked 9th within the region with only 16% of our players having a Standard FIDE ELO rating with Myanmar topping the chart at 48% and Indonesia with 36%. Laos is the only country within the region that has a lower percentage of players than Malaysia at 14%. Do take note that in 2010, Laos had no FIDE rated players at all.

Malaysia is way above its nearest competitor in the race to increase the FIDE population

Although we have the highest FIDE registered players, only a small portion of our players are rated.

Comparing the countries based on the average strength of all its chess players, Malaysia is currently ranked 9th with an ELO Rating of 1477.7. Comparatively, our average strength in 2010 was 2001.0 – dropping more than 500 points in 10 years. The good news is that all countries in the world dropped their average rating including those within our ASEAN region. In 2010, most if not all the ASEAN countries has an average FIDE rating of 2000+ with Thailand being the exception with an average rating of 1983.7 points. In 2010, the 8 ASEAN countries – less Cambodia and Laos, had only 197.4 points separating between the top country which was Indonesia at 2181.1 points  against bottom table Thailand. As of 2020, using the same 8 countries as baseline, the points separating the 8 countries has increased by more than double to 414.0 points with Indonesia still maintaining its top position with 1891.7 points but sadly this time around, its Malaysia who is at the bottom end with only 1477.7 points. While all countries did reflect a decline in performance, Malaysia was impacted the most losing more than 500 points during that 10-year span – at an average rate of more than 50 points a year.


From 2010 to 2020, each country average FIDE rating has dropped by at least 190 points

Malaysia experienced the most points reduction in a decade

So, we had a good run of increasing our chess population from 2010 to 2020 to emerge as the busiest chess nation in ASEAN but from the quality and performance perspective, we lost the most. Perhaps the sudden increase in our chess population has impacted and flattened our national average – which is not surprising. Looking at the numbers, it is quite satisfying to know that we have a lot of players who are enthusiastic about playing chess but, are they prepared and ready to venture into the “real competitive world”? Perhaps, abolishing the National Rating created the ripple effect – with nowhere to go, willingly or not, players ended up playing in FIDE rated events. And with the cost to run a classical event can run in the thousands, many prefer to take part in one (or two) day rapid events which do not generate impactful results or contribution to our overall performance. To add salt to the wound, those who venture into FIDE events because they had “little or no choice”, ended up not pursuing further their chess ambitions thus further creating a downward spiral of our overall performance. Maybe I am wrong but, then again, I could be right.

Next up – What about our Junior population?

MALAYSIAN CHESS POPULATION AT A GLANCE

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.

U20/JUNIOR POPULATION
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?