22 March 2012

Malaysia FIDE Rating Project: The Beginning

In the period between 1998 and 2002, there was no opportunity for an unrated Malaysian chess player to obtain a FIDE rating (provisional or otherwise) locally. There had not been a single FIDE-rated event locally for unrated players. The very few newly rated players from this period were those who obtained their rated games outside Malaysia, especially from the Olympiad and World Youth. Up to their respective 2001 editions, the two premier local events, the National Closed and the Selangor Open were not FIDE-rated.

I had the view that a FIDE rating would boost the confidence of a player. In international events, the rating leads to a higher seeding and more favourable pairings. All-in-all, I thought that having more FIDE rated players can only be good for Malaysian chess in the long run.

It was sometime during the year 2001 that I was pestering Hamid, then the Secretary of MCF for the National Closed to be FIDE-rated. Hamid’s response was that there was really not much point because of the very few rating results, only 2 or 3 each time, if any, due to very few rated players playing. It was not worth the cost and the effort to FIDE rate the National Closed.

It was also around this time that I got to know better Ahmad Shafruddin , then the Deputy President of the Chess Association Selangor. I brought up the matter of having the Selangor Open FIDE-rated. The response was that this matter has not really been brought up at CAS meetings during his, until then, relatively short time with CAS and we had many discussions on the benefits of FIDE-rating the event.

However, the basic problem of having too few rated players playing has to be resolved. It was thus in late 2001 that I told Hamid that I would give him the FIDE-rated players he wanted in order to consider FIDE-rating the National Closed. I broached the idea of a round-robin with unrated players. Such an event with mixed rated and unrated players had not before been done in Malaysia and there was skepticism whether FIDE would approve. MCF could not give clear guidance (and approval) and I resorted to writing to FIDE myself. FIDE confirmed all my earlier findings and conclusions, and FIDE’s response was duly forwarded to Hamid. I soon received MCF’s approval to go ahead with the event albeit with some conditions.

Hamid kindly offered the use of the facilities of The Chess Network which was opening at Kompleks Wilayah. This FIDE-rated tournament would have been the first event to be held at that new chess centre. However stubborn me declined as I wanted to hold it in Perak in order for Perak to be associated with this ‘momentous’ event. This was notwithstanding the fact that doing so comes with more difficulties in terms of sourcing players and arbiter, arranging venue and equipment, substantially higher costs and the ‘small’ matter of overcoming ‘political differences’ at the PICA level.

Mind you, the technical difficulties too were not insubstantial. Time was of the essence as the Rating Report had to be prepared quickly and submitted to FIDE in order for the unrated players to be rated on the next rating list (on 1 April 2002), and be available for the coming National Closed (and Selangor Open). The reporting deadline was 28 February 2002, 4 days after the scheduled final round.  (In those days, reporting deadline was one month before the publishing date of the FIDE Rating list).

Those were also the days before Swiss Manager, and the FIDE Rating Report had to be prepared ‘by hand’ with rating calculations, cross-tables, etc. So in the days before the event, I developed a spreadsheet model that automated rating calculations and updating of the cross-table. This spreadsheet model allowed me to complete the FIDE Rating Report almost immediately after the final game result is known.

All obstacles were duly overcome and the ‘Perak FIDE Rating Tournament’ went ahead at the library of Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman (STAR), Ipoh. 12 players played 11 rounds over two weekends in February 2002. The 4 rated players were Ismail Ahmad, Julian Navaratnam, Mohd Jamil Yahaya and Hussein Jamil. The unrated players (‘the candidates’) from outside Perak were Hafiz Shafruddin, Fariz Shafruddin, Thaw Chee Yin and Johan Iskandar Foudzi while the Perak players were Mustapha Kamal Zamhuri, Sit Seng Yaw, Ooi Chong Hean and myself.

The FIDE Rating report was duly submitted and accepted by FIDE for the 1 April 2002 rating period.

Suddenly Malaysia has 8 new FIDE-rated players when the 1 April 2002 FIDE Rating List was published.  The next step was of course to get the National Closed and the Selangor Open FIDE-rated, and hopefully create a snowball effect as the number of FIDE-rated Malaysian players increase.

I got the impression that Shafruddin, who was Deputy Arbiter for the event and soon to have two newly FIDE-rated sons, and Hamid who was the Chief Arbiter, were by the end of the Perak FIDE Rating Tournament, firm believers in the Malaysia FIDE Rating Project. I was pleased no end when the respective 2002 editions of the National Closed and the Selangor Open were for the first time ever, FIDE-rated, with 4 of our newly minted FIDE-rated players participating.

As the saying goes, it was just the beginning, only the Open Section of the National Closed was FIDE-rated. The Women's Section was still not rated until 4 years later, but that is a story for another rainy day.


  1. tahniah kepada mr eddy fong kerana majukan sukan catur di malaysia.

  2. Thanks, Fadli. Anwway, those events took place a long time ago. The article was written more as a memoir than anything else.

    Also researchers may have noticed the jump in FIDE-rated Malaysian players over the last 10 years. Najib even wrote a long research article on this phenomenon back in January last year. Hopefully, my article will provide a context to his observations.

  3. mr eddy fong,

    it is a very valuable walk down memory lane. part of Malaysian chess history. hope you will write more.

  4. Thanks, Saleh, for the encouraging comment. I'll try to post at least an article every week on various matters, or as available time permits.