Now that the Malaysian Masters and MCF Selection are over and the team for Tromso Olympiad decided, it is time to reflect back on what was done and what was done wrong.
Initially, I did not intend to write this post but a number of readers and friends were asking me about this very subject. This is what I found out and also my personal views.
Before I start let me state that there are no conspiracy theories. There are no collusions amongst the MCF officials to favor or to deny any players. For those who love such theories, you can proceed to the poison blogger's site. If you are more interested in facts, then read on.
Everything that I have written here was gleaned from speaking to an MCF official and using some common sense. Getting it from the inside is better than making up stories to fit your agenda, yes?
Also, I am not an mouthpiece for MCF, so everything written here are my own opinions.
Qualification into Olympiad team
It was widely announced that this year's olympiad team would consists of the top five players from the 2014 Malaysian Masters. The composition of the Masters :
- Highest rated player on the active FIDE rating list
- First eight players from 2013 Malaysian Masters
- Top three players from the current National Closed
It seems that the chess community only knew that something was not going according to plan when Haslinda quietly posted this on her blog. The rule was changed and instead of the top five, only the top three from the Masters would be picked for the Olympiad team.
Then what about the remaining two spots? Now we have Lim Tze Pin announcing on his own blog how these two will be selected. The last three players from the Masters will join IM Lim Yee Weng to play a four player selection to decide the two spots.
Aside: I found it quite fascinating how MCF does not announce any of these important decisions on its own official site but rely on others to publicise it.
1. Why only six players for the Masters?
What MCF did not foresee was the number of players from last year's Masters who would decline to play this year. The 8 players are -
- Lim Yee Weng
- Aron Teh Eu Wen
- Mas Hafizulhimi
- Lim Zhuo Ren
- Wong Jianwen
- Ng Tze Han
- Fong Yit San
- Ronnie Lim Chuin Hoong
Only Aron Teh and Ng Tze Hand accepted the invitation while Yit San also qualified through the National Closed. Even the qualifier from the rating list , Nicholas Chan, declined his place. The next highest rated player was Mas who was in the previous Masters so this place was given to Yeoh Li Tian who was the next highest rated Therefore MCF "lost" six players from the previous Masters. The main reasons were work and study commitments
2. Why not make up the numbers to make the intended 12 player or even a 10 player Masters?
MCF wanted to stick to the announced invitation criteria. For example, Yit San already qualified as he played the previous Masters and he was also the top in the National Closed. So MCF could have chosen the another player from the National but did not do so. Here, MCF is showing that it is very principled in its decisions. Three will come from the Nationals and three it is.
If more players were needed, MCF could choose from the 9th and 10th player (full disclosure: I happen to be the 10th) from the previous Masters. Or it could choose the next highest rated players in the FIDE list. And finally it could even pick the next best players from the Nationals. But MCF decided not to do so.
I think MCF made a big mistake here. The Malaysian Masters was conceived as a premier event in the chess calendar which is why it is by invitation only and a round robin tournament. By having a six player tournament playing only five rounds, it has become something of a joke. Even a rapid week-end Swiss has more rounds than this.
3. Why did MCF change the qualifiers from five to three?
After they found that only six players were willing to play the Masters, MCF looked at the composition and decided that any team formed from these six would be too inexperienced for a major tournament like the Olympiad. From past experience, I can say this is a real concern. The team needs a strong and experienced player as a stabilizing force.
A more disturbing factor; with five places in the team, each of the six players had a very high certainty of representing the country just by "showing up". The image of the Malaysian Masters as a selection tournament was in jeopardy. Of course, this was the fault of MCF, basically they painted themselves into a corner by being "principled".
4. Why include IM Lim Yee Weng in the MCF Selection when he did not want to play the Masters?
Yee Weng did not reject the Masters but he just could not take the number of working days off to play. We must not forget that anyone who makes the team will also have to take over two weeks of leave to go to the Olympiad. With these considerations , he decided he would play only on week-ends.
So the MCF committee came up with this idea of a selection over the week-end with the non-qualifiers from the Masters joining Yee Weng (the only player who did not decline to play) to make up a four player tournament.
Now, this is where I found the decisions puzzling.
- Firstly, the three players had already failed to secure a place, why are they given a second chance?
- Secondly, they are fighting for two places which two of them should already have won if MCF had not changed their own criteria.
- Thirdly, they are now competing with a very strong candidate who is almost certain of taking one of the spots.
5. If an experienced player is what MCF wanted, why not just pick one as a wildcard?
Why not reduce the qualifiers from the Masters to four and just include the player with the experience that they sought? Again, MCF sticks to principles and did not want to just pick a wildcard without going through a selection. Whatever the reason, the result is that Yee Weng qualified for an important team event by playing just three games.
The Tromso Olympiad team will be (in no particular order) :-
1. Yeoh Li Tian
2. Ng Tze Han
3. Aron Teh
4. IM Lim Yee Weng
5. NM Fong Yit San
This is a good team representing experience and youth. Li Tian and Aron are the best youngsters we have. I predict they will do very well. We also have an IM , Lim Yee Weng, who is very experienced , showing good results and also have played in six Olympiads. We have the current National Champion in Yit San. Finally NM Tze Han is a former strong junior and national champion who has also played in one Olympiad. Since his return to active chess he has good results in the Penang Opens and also last year's K.L. Open.
The next question is - who will take the first board? Yeoh Li Tian who has the highest rating on the team or Lim Yee Weng who has vast experience in this event and a great team player?
I think this is an balanced team and look forward to seeing them in action in the coming Olympiad.