Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is the future of Malaysian chess? (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here

In the 1970s, the Penang Chess Association members met every Sunday afternoon at the Hooi Lye Association in Kimberley Street. I remember one afternoon in the year 1974, Mr Gong Wooi Mau (a senior PCA member) coming up to us and announcing that PCA was organizing the very first Asian Team Championship in Penang. He asked for volunteers to assist in the tournament. My hand shot up immediately.

My job was to record the moves played on two boards. This meant I had a ring-side seat just three feet away from the boards. Imagine a sixteen year old boy who just started learning chess and I was in the midst of chess gods. At least that was how I felt. I was so near to the players, I was actually afraid to make any sudden move, in case I distracted them. At that time, the time control was forty moves in two and a half hours. Some games could go the full five hours and I would not move from my seat for the whole time.

Once I was peering at the other games around me, I missed the move being played on the boards I was assigned. I had to stand up and try peeking at the player's scoresheets while trying to remaining inconspicuous. After a while I was a couple of moves behind. On noticing this, one of the players, a New Zealander, offered me his scoresheet with a smile.

I saw some bad behaviour too. I watched as another New Zealander, a boy even younger than me, sweep the pieces off the board after losing a game. This is none other than Murray Chandler, now a British GM and owner of Gambit Publications, a publisher of chess books.

One of the members of the Malaysian team is none other than The Star chess columnist, Quah Seng Sun. I think he is the only one left in the team who still maintains an interest in the game to this day.

Why am I telling all these? In 1974 the participating countries were Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia. China did not participate though they sent an observer. It would take them another 3 years before Chinese players ventured out of China and joined this tournament. Where is Vietnam? It will be another 17 years before Vietnam joins this tournament, interestingly also in Penang in the year 1991.

Altogether, thirty-six years have passed since this event. Vietnam now have a couple of grandmasters. Their top player, GM Le Quang Liem is rated ELO 2647 and probably in the top fifty in the world and rapidly progressing. The other Vietnamese GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son rated 2616 and have not reached his peak yet.

I acquired the international master title in 1985. As of end 2009, we produced another four international masters. If I use simple maths, Malaysia produced one IM every six years since. Hardly a success by any measure.


S said...

It took about 11 years for you to secure IM. How much hours in a day did you spend for learning Chess (playing and studying) then? Thanks

Jimmy Liew said...

Early years, I did not spend much time due to studies etc. During my chess intensive years, I probably spent something like ten hours a day on chess.

Ramone said...

Hi Mr Jimmy

Based on my calculation, you obtained your IM when you were 27 years of age.Currently I am 20 and I do not have a chess title yet.Just like you, I was born in Penang. I represented my school in 2005,06 and 07 but my success was more to the team events(1 silver,2 bronze,2 board prizes)

However, due to academic and family obligations I took a step back in chess. My dream is to be a National Master for a start. I know most players start younger than me and are enjoying much greater success than I am. I know I did not win MSSM or any open but i feel chess belongs to part of my life.

I hope to be a master one day.Maybe IM? GM? I am ready to work hard. I want to achieve my dreams. I might not be a World Champion but I want to make my country proud and make chess well known di tanah airku.The most paramount thing is to realise my dreams. I am at the moment self training but hope one day I would have enough resources to get proper guidance.

Good post by the way.Russians look up to Kasparov. Americans idolise Fischer.Indians stare at awe at Vishy Anand.Malaysians look up to who? We are bleeding from the narrow mentality that we cannot get our first GM. Thats why we are stagnant.We dont have chess "idols" to motivate and inspire our young generations. First class infra but third world mentality.Edu minister should look into putting chess as a subj curriculum.Most players are contented with what they achieve. Some think its great by malaysian standards but its the global outlook perspective that we need to dwell upon.

Food for thought.


Jimmy Liew said...

Keep your dreams going, we need more people like you.
The last two sentences are my exact thoughts over the last ten years. we need to cultivate a champion mentality opposed to a "its good enough"
I will have more to say in the next few posts so come back again

Bad Bishop said...

Nice article.. i am not a strong chess player anyway but i really love this sport.. and the fact that Malaysia still not able to produce a single GM makes me wonder what went wrong...

We really need an eye-opener article like this.. we have to be open to constructive feedback and comments...

the fact that the article came from someone who already recognized in Malaysian chess community make the impact even better...

Keep up the good work...

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