Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thoughts on MCF Selection

To recap, Malaysian Chess Federation has decided on the selection criteria for 2011 Asian Team Championship. Both IMs Mas and Mok plus the top eight positions from the recently concluded National Championship will be short-listed. The final team will be decided from these ten players, perhaps through a training round-robin tourney.

Firstly the decision not to subject Mas and Mok to qualifications is a no-brainer. These two are the highest rated players and shown good consistency in team events. They are amongst the four Malaysians who have breached the 2400 ELO barrier - the others being Nicholas Chan and myself. This is not easy to achieve. So no question about this decision.

Personally I think it is a good move by the MCF to select players from the nationals. This might draw in other top players who might harbour ambitions to represent the country and thereby give the event some prestige. Unfortunately this did not happen.

Now, a Swiss tournament to select eight players is not ideal. The Swiss is only accurate to determine first place and perhaps second to fourth. After that it is a bit of a lottery. The top eight are:

 No.  Name  Elo    Points    TB 
 1  Lim Zhuo Ren 2080   8  52.5 
 2  Subramaniam Sumant  2065  7.5  46.5 
 3  Liew Chee-Meng-Jimmy  2302  7  51.5 
 4  Fong Yit Ho 1995   7  38 
 5  Yeap Eng Chiam  2140  6.5  56.5 
 6  Loo Swee Leong  2141  6.5  53.5 
 7  Fong Yit San 1945   6.5  47 
 8  Lee Kah Meng Elgin  1904  6.5  43.5 

Let's look at the tie-break (TB) column. This tie-break score indicates the level of opposition that the player faced. Four players have TB over 50. Sumant and Yit Ho has the lowest tie-breaks. They even lose out to those players who have half a point less than them! If both had not won their last game, they would be out of the top eight on tie-breaks. The unfortunate victims were Edward Lee and Yeoh Li Tian. Both needed only a draw to qualify. Both also had tie-breaks over fifty and were always amongst the top boards which means they had to play the strongest players. Unfortunately they lost the last round against determined opponents. It is a pity that these two will not have a chance to make it into the national team this year. However we cannot fault the others for the imperfections of the Swiss.

Still there is only five places on the team. In my opinion the current national champion should always have an automatic spot. Therefore, Zhou Ren should join Mas and Mok in the final team and eventually five of the remaining seven will be disappointed to be left out.

At least there is a chance for those with potential to show what they are capable of.

I have to agree with MCF on this one. Having said that, I have to say that some of these players are not yet ready to take on the other Asian opponents in a major tournament at this point in time. But we all have to start somewhere, who is to say that they will not be our future IMs or GMs?. MCF has mentioned training camps and hopefully these players will use that opportunity to improve their readiness.


Eddy Fong said...

Jimmy, you failed to highlight that the first tie-break is points scored. Buchholz is only the second tie-break if points are tied. As it is, all 8 players qualified on points. So Buchholz score is irrelevant and academic at best. And Buchholz like for any other Swiss tie-breaks based on opponents' score, is a lottery as no player can control the performance of their opponents.

On your point about Li Tian and Edward having to play the 'strongest' (I think you mean highest-scoring), you again missed the point in that the competitive criteria is not only playing but beating the player in front of you.

So there is not much point in saying you met the "strongest" players when you lose to them. You still get an 'egg' for the score.

So in Yit Ho's case, the critical factor that should be highlighted is that he scored one whole point more than the 9th player who did not qualify. His low Buchholz score is only relevant to the extent that he lost 3rd placing to you on tie-break.

And if LZR had played on against you and actually converted the winning position into a win, Yit Ho would have gotten 3rd placing and the RM200 that comes with it.

Looking at Yit Ho's progress in the event, an analogous badminton game would be that he lost the first set, 5-21 but came back to win the next two 22-20, 22-20. So what if overall points scored is lower than his opponent, he won two sets to his opponent's one, and thus won the match based on the rules of the game.

And all this is before mentioning that he finished with two wins where he completely outplayed two tough and higher-rated opponents in Masrin and Li Tian. Just look at the games and you will see what I mean.

I do not normally write this frankly, but I have the sensitivities of a parent when you highlighted Yit Ho's low Buchholz score which I felt was in a negative light and not fair. So I hope you will excuse the tone of this comment.

Anonymous said...

From your opinion, is Zhou ren ready to take on other players from other countries in major competition? I mean something like the olympiad level.

Jimmy Liew said...

Eddy, it is a given that whenever I write something, there will be opportunities for stepping on toes and I accept that.

I did not meant it in the "negative light", you are just being sensitive and jumped to a conclusion. I merely mentioned the Bucholz to show that he had to win whereas Li Tian could afford a draw and also that the Swiss is not ideal for ranking players below a certain position.

If Yit Ho had drawn he loses out through no fault of his own. He did not get to choose who he plays with. That was also one of the points I tried to make. I do try to be careful with the way I write. If it was taken in the wrong light, I apologize.

However your badminton analogy is not accurate. The correct analogy is that Yit Ho had an easier path to the final. Li Tian was always on or near the top boards. That is also a fact.

I'm sure you are very proud that both your sons made it to the top eight. You did a good job.

Jimmy Liew said...

Anonymous, he needs to discipline himself first. Then yes.

Eddy Fong said...

Ok Jimmy, no need to apologize. we have known each other long enough, probably longer than we care to remember.

As for being proud of the top-8 finishes by my boys, that is not really true. Feeling thankful and now confused is more like it. The boys played without any expectations and certainly we did not talked of a top-8 finish until after the Round 9 pairings came out. It was only then that we realised the boys could finish top-8 if they win their Round 9 games.

I have been trying to get the boys to play in a way that I refer to as a 'master's' style. A certain positional style as a platform for their relatively developed tactical skills. I was just happy to see it all came together for both boys in the last round.

Yit Ho struggled, losing and drawing with much lower-rated opponents in the early rounds. He had to work very hard to catch up with the likes of Li Tian who already had the points in hand after easily beating lower rated opponents. So for a few rounds, Yit Ho had to win whereas Li Tian could afford to lose to reach the final (which I presume you mean their last round game against each other). Which is more stressful I cannot say, winning must-win games or losing/drawing games that you are not really expected/required to win.

The night before the final game, Yit Ho prepared like I have never seen him do before. How to win against Li Tian's solid Caro-Kann which he had used to draw with even IMs. My little contribution if any, was to say that the only way to win against Li Tian's Caro is to not try to win. Knowing Li Tian's bubbly and confident personality, he would try to win against the lower-rated Yit Ho. The Caro is of course, not something to play for a win with. The Caro is good for draws against IMs but not good enough to win against a solid 2000 player and the endgame skills that is Yit Ho's strong point.

The game plan was for Yit Ho to maintain or gradually increase the slight positional pressure from White's first move, and wait for Li Tian to overextend. And true to form, Li Tian sacrificed the exchange (when in a much worse, although not losing, position) for no real compensation and the rest was just technique. I am just proud that Yit Ho was able to demonstrate this ability so well in that game.

Although by no means a fluke, this is still only a one-off performance which only indicates potential. Indication of strength is only when he can consistently perform at this level and under the most trying circumstances.

As for the top-8 finishes, I consider these to be God-sent and be thankful for. I am personally confused as to how to proceed with this development. There is now an opportunity to play in a very strong (for the boys) selection event which, if nothing else, would be a fantastic learning experience. Hopefuly, though, it represents a major stepping stone on a still very long journey which we are not sure we can complete.

Anonymous said...

So, IM Jimmy, may I ask why is that Mas and Mok is included, while Nicholas Chan and you are not included automatically, without the need to take part to National Closed?

Anonymous said...

Read selection criteria again ;)

Jimmy Liew said...

Anonymous, Mas and Mok included because of their rating and and consistency. My own rating is too low, I never considered myself an automatic choice because of this. As for Nicholas, not sure. Reasons I can think of is
1. he may have already been consulted and he turned down. I know for fact that he was offered a place for last olympiad and he turned that down.
be available.
2. MCF did not want too many automatic choices in order to give others a fighting chance to prove themselves.

Jimmy Liew said...

Eddy, you are too modest. I agree with you on one point. I'm trying to impress on some juniors that they need to have a more classical - what you call master - style. In many instances, they choosed their openings based on their familiarity/experience rather than on what I would call a evolutionary need. I need to write an article on this later.

Very interesting to read the pre-game preparation - know your opponent as Sun Tze wrote.

I understand that last sentence.

Anonymous said...

it seems like junior players until certain age will improve despite their heavy academy duty, it's normal for Zuo Ren to improve over the years, and he's been in the top seats in the past few yrs too (if I'm not mistaken). Like Ronnie, Yee Weng, Nicholas - also improve over years, and I understand some improve a lot more than others.

Agree with JL that Li Tian sadly not part of the shortlisted 8, he has joined internation tournament, which may give him privilege for Asian Game, however, let other junior players had the chance also good, at least to prove you right / wrong. ;p

If Eddy thinks Li Tian need to win against all his opponents to deserve a seat in the 10-person list, well, look back at old days where Mas and Chern Ee were the top 2 highest rated players in Msia yet not getting their perfect scores in local tournaments against many lower rated players. Let the junior players - like Li Tian and Edward a chance to play in international tournaments may give them chance to improve.

Eddy Fong said...

Anonymous 2:07PM is putting words in my mouth.

"If Eddy thinks Li Tian need to win against all his opponents to deserve a seat in the 10-person list" ???!!!

Now where did that come from? I did not say anything even remotely near the above statement.

Anonymous said...

EF: "On your point about Li Tian and Edward having to play the 'strongest' (I think you mean highest-scoring), you again missed the point in that the competitive criteria is not only playing but beating the player in front of you." on March 23 the 1st comment.

Eddy Fong said...

To Anonymous 6:33 AM

I still cannot see the connection between my this statement:

"On your point about Li Tian and Edward having to play the 'strongest' (I think you mean highest-scoring), you again missed the point in that the competitive criterion (*grammar correction*) is not only playing but beating the player in front of you."

and your this statement:

"If Eddy thinks Li Tian need to win against all his opponents to deserve a seat in the 10-person list"

The context of my statement was in relation to final ranking i.e points scored is more important than Buchholz total. A point which I don't believe can be reasonably disputed.

There is no link at all to your assertion of Li Tian "needing to win against all opponents to deserve a seat in the 10-player list" which must be what you are thinking. It is definitely not something that crossed my mind.

Eddy Fong said...

Yit Ho-Li Tian game has been uploaded at

Jimmy Liew said...

Welcome back to the real Malaysian 1st GM.

That sac by Li Tian is incomprehensible.

Anonymous said...

Ther's a real Malaysian 1st Gm and a fake one? I'll give you a duck for thaT

Jimmy Liew said...

obviously u are not familiar with Malaysian chess history. find out more before making any comments

edfong said...

Thanks Jimmy for remembering. I have finished reconstruction of the blog which can now be viewed again at

Sumant said...

Chess is luck...luck only....nothing but luck! If you win a tournament its just because you're lucky! :P I was super lucky to get into top 8 n REALLY REALLY REALLY lucky to get selected for SEA games...and if I hadn't, someone else who gets selected instead would have been really lucky! :D

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