Since I became involved in the Malaysian junior chess scene some 11 years ago, 3 super chess talents have caught my eye. I think of these 3 super talents as the best candidates to become the 1st Malaysian chess grandmaster.
I have been in two minds over the last few days on whether to write this article and as to what form it should take. I would have loved to do a ‘no holds barred’ article with anecdotes, games, and analyses of how I arrived at my conclusions. However, there would be just too much sensitivity surrounding such an article. Addressing these sensitivities, which has mutiple aspects, would mean watering down too many things I wish to say. I have thus come to the decision to just do an article (and get it over and done with) without mentioning the names of these super-talents and giving broad hints (instead of clear hints) as to who they are and creating some sort of suspense. ...Okay, enough of the excuses.
It was in early 2001 that I first got involved with the Malaysian national junior chess scene when my three elder children started playing the game. In the 11-year period until the present, I have observed the progress and development of all the current batch of our top national juniors. However, three of these players especially caught my attention and I have paid more attention to their progress.
I rate these 3 players as super chess talents. I have known of them since they were playing at the under-12 level or earlier. These kids struck me from early on as ‘natural chess players’. They view the chess board and come up with ideas in a way that cannot be coached. They play (or used to play) with a naturalness (by feel) that can only be appreciated when compared to the ‘mechanical’ and ‘coached’ play of other ‘strong players’ of their age-group. Sometimes, it took time for me to understand what they were trying to do with their moves, which initially look like mistakes but turn out to be brilliant a few moves later as their ideas unfolded. They took on and beat much older and ‘illustrious’ opposition from a young age, and they play (or used to play) without fear of, and without being in awe of their opponents, whoever these may be. These are descriptions of the teenagers who I regard as Malaysia’s super chess talents.
Who are they?
No names, but of this group of three:
1. All are teenagers at the time of writing and thus are still within the junior ranks;
2. At least two have achieved notable results at international age-group events; and
3. At least one was described as a ‘chess genius’ by no less than GM Ziaur Rahman.
(Presumably GM Ziaur’s assessment has greater credibility and carries more weight compared to any that may be made by a ‘top Malaysian national player, past or present’).
But are these three potential grandmasters? It is hard to say as factors, other than pure talent, have to be considered. These include:
1. A strong desire (ambition) to attain the GM title, putting aside (or not accepting) other major demands on time and energy;
2. Access to good coaching and guidance to improve on technical and competitive aspects, as well as assist with technical and competitive decisions;
3. Competitive characteristics (ability to concentrate at the critical moments, will to win, emotional control or handling of nerves, etc.);
4. Health and stamina (ability to stay focused over a 4-hr game, two games a day, 9 games over 5 days, etc. against tough opponents (presumably tougher than any 'top Malaysian national player, past or present'));
5. Work ethic (self-discipline to make productive use of available time);
6. Ability to learn from mistakes (learning cycle: study, apply, review, improve);
7. Opportunities to compete at the appropriate events; and
8. Resources (financial or otherwise) to support the quest.
Whether these three are GM material can be considered only if these three are given the appropriate opportunities to progress. I, for one, am not prepared to declare them as so until a GM norm is actually achieved.
The Next 18 Months – 2250+
It is fashionable to say that it takes time to attain ultimate objectives. Often we hear of implementers saying that it takes 5, 6 or 10 years to realise a project. It may well be reasonable, but I am of the opinion that such long projections are more often than not, institutionalized excuses for failure. What is more important are the deliverables in the near term, the milestones to indicate that things are progressing well.
Returning to our 3 super talents, I am looking forward to seeing at least two of them achieving:
1. A FIDE rating of over 2250 within the next 15 months (by the 1 July 2013 FRL); and
2. At least an IM norm within 24 months (by 1 April 2014).
Wishing these three good progress and success in their GM Quest.