It is now 10 years since I kicked off the Malaysia FIDE Rating Project (in February2002). The number of Malaysian FIDE rated players have multiplied 6-fold from something like 60 (01/2002 FRL) to 369 on the 01/2012 FRL. And the number of active FIDE-rated players increased more than 10 times from less than 20 to 215 ten years later.
Sometime along the way, back in 2007, I had already noticed a defect in this ‘progress’ in that too many of the initial ratings of Malaysian players were below 2000. The increasing number of FIDE-rated players served to hide the fact that Malaysian chess had not progressed. It was just another ‘good-feeling’ statistic for some officials to brag about. (It was at this time I organised another FIDE-rated round-robin (MCF Feb 2007) for several of our top juniors from around the Klang Valley, hoping to correct the situation).
The FIDE rating floor in January 2002 was 2000 Elo. Thus, a more meaningful comparison would be to include only 2000+-rated players. The 01/2012 FRL had 149 Malaysian players with ratings of 2001 and higher. This is an increase of 2.5 times (60 to 149) over the last ten years. The balance of the sub-2000 players would not have been able to get into the 2002 FIDE rating list at their 2012 ratings.
And we may look even deeper by considering the number of 2200+ Malaysian players. The 2200 Elo level is generally regarded as the ‘master’ level. My view is that a person does not really know the game until he/she is able to play normally at above the 2200 level. (Of course, I am the first to admit that I myself do not really know the game since I have not been able to even smell 2200). And once you really breached that level (with your normal play), just your ‘understanding’ and command of basic skills alone should be able to keep you at above that 2200 level.
There were 20 Malaysian players in the 01/2002 FRL with 2200+ FIDE ratings. This figure dropped to 18 in the 01/2012 FRL. (For better comparison, I have excluded players who had not played a single FIDE-rated game in the intervening 10 years). The latest FRL has only 3 new Malaysian players, namely Anas Nazreen Bakri, Siti Zulaikha Foudzi and Yeoh Li Tian who were not there in 2002. (Li Tian having just broke through on the latest 01/2012 list).
This is saying that only 3 Malaysian players broke through and remained at the 2200+ level in 10 years. And considering that 2200 is far from being a high level internationally, the situation does not say much about the progress of Malaysian chess over the last 10 years. For the sake of completing this analysis, I shall add that during these 10 years, 2 other new players, Fairin Zakaria and Leong Mun Wan broke through the 2200 barrier but subsequently dropped below 2200. And finally, 5 players with 2200+ rating in 2002 had dropped to below 2200 by January 2012.
For Malaysian chess to progress, the general mass of our serious players needs to get better and move beyond the 2200 level. That will be a topic for a coming (akan dating) article.