Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 SEA Games chess shame (Part two)

International Chess

Our representatives were drawn from the National squads. For the men it was the top eight finishers from the Malaysian Masters. A blitz selection was held during the Malaysian Open in August this year to determine who will be the representatives in SEA Games International blitz. Read here.

All seems good but lets think a little outside the box. The Malaysian Masters was a standard time control tournament. Then the top eight (men's anyway) played a blitz to determine the top two. (Actually only five competed since IM Mas, Aron Teh and Lim Zhuo Ren were not present).

Let's look at a little analogy. We want to choose two runners to represent in an important 100 metre dash event. Let's hold a long distance run and see who are the top eight runners. Then from these eight put them in a 100 metre race to find our best two runners to represent us. Is this a good way to select? After all, a long distance race is very different from a 100 metre dash.

I finished last in the Malaysian Masters but my blitz is pretty good. Just after the 2011 National Championships I handily won a very strong blitz event attended by most of the participants plus IMs Mas and Mok. In 2012 I qualified from the online World Mind Games qualifier.  In a recent blitz tournament, I finished second to Yeoh Li Tian ahead of Ronnie Lim, our SEA Games blitz representative. Standard chess and blitz chess are different.


Of all the non International Chess events, this is the closest to International Chess. The random starting position of the pieces renders opening theory unuseable. This is "real" chess in the sense that players have to start calculating almost from move one. Chess960 have its own chess "patterns" that you will hardly find in International chess. You need to play a lot of Chess960 to become proficient.

Our representative, Lim Zhuo Ren, came close to a medal.

Traditional and ASEAN Chess

The year was 1985, my wife-to-be came to Malaysia on a social visit pass. In order to extend her stay we had to leave the country and re-enter it. I had relatives in Haadyai, Thailand and we decided to go there for a week and return. The first evening there, one of my nephews who knew I am a chess master challenged me to chess. OK, let's humor him. He brings out a box of chess set and it is nothing like the chess I know. This is Thai chess known as Makruk. I tried to back out but the boy was insistent. Here are the rules on the box, it is easy, he said. Not to disappoint the boy, I had no choice but prepared myself to be humiliated. The board and pieces are set up, the pieces looked all alike and I had difficulty differentiating them from each other. I duly lost the first game.

Soon, I found it is a different game but it is still tactics , calculation and some basic strategy. My training and experience in chess started kicking in. I started getting better and by the end of the evening, my nephew could not win any more games.

The point I want to make is that a good International chess player can pick up the Traditional and ASEAN chess and with practice and training can become a fairly accomplished player in a matter of months (though not a master or grandmaster by any means).

The Thai and Myanmar players are masters (I am told one of them is grandmaster level) at these type of chess. The Thais won four golds out of the five available in ASEAN chess. In Traditional standard, an Indonesian won silver ahead of three Thai and Myanmarese players. Indonesian IM Taufik Halay won bronze in the Traditional Blitz and he said he thought he had a chance after studying this chess for two months.

Other countries like Philippines and Indonesia trained and sent their best International chess players for these two type of chess. Philippines team included Eugene Torre, Darwin Laylo, Paul Gomez , Rogelio Antonio, all grandmasters in International chess. MCF on the other hand basically sub-contracted out the Traditional and ASEAN chess events totalling thirty-three (33) medals to a third party. Thus, MCF washed its hands where these two types of chess were concerned.

There is only one strong International chess player in this team and he is IM Mok Tze Meng. The only reason we won a bronze is thanks to him. He won an important game against the Laos team to help the team to bronze.

Even this bronze is almost a gift. There were only four countries participating, for some reason Philippines and Indonesia did not take part in the Traditional Team Rapid. The Vietnamese totally boycotted the Traditional and ASEAN chess. Malaysia only had to best Laos to win bronze. And Laos had no strong players in all the contested events and finished medal-less.

The team did do regular training to prepare for the games. However, they could not prevail against experienced chess players from the other countries with the exception of Laos.

Transfer Chess

As I said above, I informed Gregory that I wanted to take part in this chess. Transfer chess is derived from Bughouse Chess also known as Double Chess. Back when I was still residing in Penang, we used to play a lot of this chess in the Penang chess club (the tradition seems to survive as I see a lot of Penang players who likes to play Double Chess).

You can play this type of chess on the Free Internet server . I have been playing this for a long time and my total games played is over twenty-two thousand (22,000).

So I was quite sure that I could get medals in Transfer chess in the men's and mixed events based on my playing experience in Bughouse. Secretly I thought even gold was within reach , with a good partner. Few months before, I met Gregory together with IM Mok Tze Meng and the two of us  convinced Greg that Transfer Chess and Chess960 should be included  He seemed quite positive about it and agreed to include them in the application to OCM. He even asked who the best players in the national squad who could play Transfer chess and I named Lim Zhuo Ren and Tan Li Ting. It seems my recommendations are valued and both of them played in the mixed Transfer chess event. Zhuo Ren also partnered Mok Tze Men in the men's event.

During the blitz selection at the Malaysian Open, there was a Transfer chess "trial" as well where we tried partnering different players and get the feel of the game. It was clear that I was the best player there as well.

However in October I found that I was left out of the team named for the SEA Games. The reason given was the policy of (and I quote) "only national squad team members" can take part in the SEA Games.

Eleven events have been sub-contracted out to "non-national players" and MCF is worried about two Transfer chess events? In any case, Lim Zhuo Ren partnered IM Mok in the men's event. Now, Mok did not even play in the Malaysian Masters so for sure he is not "national squad".

As I said above I do not blame the players, it is not our fault we are selected or not selected. But MCF is totally inconsistent in making decisions and in this SEA Games made some horrible blunders.

Medal standings

The biggest shock is Thailand is tops in the medal standings , the first time ever, with seven gold, five silver and four bronze. All of their golds came from Traditional and ASEAN chess. The chess powerhouse in this region, Vietnam, could only come fourth. The other powerhouse, Philippines, came fifth and without any gold.

Thailand and Indonesia saw this golden (pun intended) opportunity and concentrated on winning the most medals in the non traditional chess events.

Malaysia came back with a solitary bronze, the same as in the last SEA Games in Palembang. But please count the number of players we sent to Myanmar. I counted twenty-two (22) which is one of the the highest amongst all the countries that participated.

From the table above it can be seen the magnitude of our failure.

The modus operandi of MCF is to tell players they are selected and they think that is their only job and responsibility. Did it ensure that the players attempt to prepare themselves and train for the tournaments? Maybe it is difficult and costs money to get the team to a centralised location to train plus some of them are overseas. How about thinking out of the box - let the players decide how they will train and get a weekly/monthly report from them on their progress. If the selected players cannot do even this, they do not deserve to go. Is that viable?

This is probably the biggest contingent we have ever sent to the SEA Games. Personally I think MCF needs to take responsibility for this failure.


Anonymous said...

MCF here is only Greg, Greg, Greg who make all proposal and decision.

Anonymous said...

r u sure its MCF not MGF? Msian Greg's Federation.. :)

Ilham said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jimmy... i am a bit surprise...aren't there suppose to be a Committee to select players to represent Malaysia? Hmm...Hope MCF can come up with explainations on this

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is a failure in that sense not to get any golds from playing these kinds of funny chess variants. It is a joke that there all kinds of chess variants in the Sea Games. If they wanted variant, it could just have been blitz, rapid and classical with open, women and team events there could be already a lot of gold medals on offer. Catering to these kind of different variant should be done in a proper way, meaning that the region should enjoy some kind of popularity before it is offered as a Sea Games event. So chill out Jimmy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks mr Jimmy for sharing your opinion, there are many good point that you tried to convey to the chess authority, hope they take note of this.

Anonymous said...

MCF is practicing MAGIC* Principle

*MAlaysian's Greg Is Chess

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Anonymous said...

Thanks Jimmy for an informative post. Recent SEA Games also shows that chess games and competition also evolve into different phase. This now make the game more interesting and challenging .Since chess rules and events also evolve, players should also adjust and be familiar (to get medal and be competitive) to this events. Currently, I hope more exposure and tournaments from non-traditional chess will be done and sponsored both by MCF and private organization here in Malaysia. And as I can see chess games here is not that popular compared to other countries (like Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines) and other sports (like football and badminton). MCF and other private chess organizer better unite and start first from the basic, master the game until the expert or GM level for all type of chess. This means more local chess tournaments should be done and open it to all (men vs women vs age group vs international players, etc) and local chess players mind set is to win the game and not win against the opponent. Maybe, suggest to start the normal and non traditional chess competition in your yearly school competition or inter company chess competition ? This will surely boost the chess competition popularity level. Politics is not good for the development of the games called chess.

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Anonymous said...

Hello, do you have the games of SEA chess (ASEAN rules like Makruk thai chess i think), it have a logic strategy like chess ? I play in play ok makruk or chess 960 in . Thanks a lot.

Jimmy Liew said...

No I do not have, I dont even know how to record the moves in ASEAN chess.

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