23 August 2014

Assessing the Olympiad Debutants 2

Malaysian Teams to the Chess Olympiads prior to 2014 were generally hand-picked by the then MCF supremo. For many years, it was Hamid while Greg took over for the 2010 and 2012 teams. Their contention was always that they only picked the best available team, claiming they know who are the strongest Malaysian players.

If their team do badly, then the contention is that no other Malaysian team would have done better. They won't accept a team selected through a proper selection process; where every reasonably strong Malaysian chess player is given a chance to get into the team. The supremo won't accept that a team without certain 'established' players can do just as well or better. And until the 2014 Olympiad, the alternative was not allowed to happen so their contentions could not be challenged.

The 2014 team had 4 debutants who qualified through a proper selection process. This article compares the debutants' performances at Tromso with those of the 'established' players who played at recent Olympiads.

Reference links:

A summary of the data was included in my last post. The figures stated below are all obtained from chess-results (from 2008 onwards) and from Olimpbase (before 2008).

The Debutants

All of Aron, Yit San and Fadzil had Rp above 2220 with Yit San actually breaking 2300. Sumant was effectively the reserve player in the team with only 4 games played. His Rp should be disregarded as only Rp calculated with at least 6 games is meaningful. 

Yit San and Fadzil performed significantly above their ratings, convincingly proving that a 2100+ rated Malaysian player is more than able to perform at above 2200 and even 2300 Rp at the Olympiad.

The Old Guard

Mas played in 2008 and 2010 performing at 2405 and 2339 at the respective occasions. These performances are better than the 2014 debutants. If Mas stays active and maintains a 2400+ level, I believe he could be a significant member of a future Malaysian team making a play for the Top 50. He doesn't necessarily need to play 1st Board.

Mok was hand-picked to play at the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Olympiads., He struggled to achieve 2200 Rp in 2008 and 2010. I could easily name a bunch of Malaysian junior players who would almost certainly have performed better if given the opportunity in those teams. His 2008 and 2010 performances are below those of Yit San, Aron and Fadzil at Tromso.

Mok had his best ever Olympiad in 2012 with a  fine 2503 performance.  In fact, that was his only IM-norm level performance after failing in his previous 8 Olympiads where he could not get past 2400. In comparison, Mok worst Olympiad performance was a really low 2075 Rp  (scoring 2/7) back in 1992. 2075 is, of course, way below the performances of the three 2014 debutants mentioned earlier. With ratings deflation, 2075Rp in 1992 is probably below 2000Rp by today's standards.

Mok should be made to prove that he is better than other candidates through a proper selection process if he is interested to play in future Malaysian Olympiad teams. Who knows, maybe he can just make it next time although he could not even score 50% in the only proper selection event he played in more than 20 years (i..e. the SEA Games Selection in 2011).

Yee Weng is the youngest of the 'Old Guard', being one year younger than Mas, and played the Olympiads in 2008, 2010 and at Tromso earlier this month, where he did a commendable job as leader of the team. His 2300+ Rp at these Olympiads are better than the 2014 debutants.

Yee Weng played consistently well at past Olympiads and I would place him in the same category as Mas Hafizulhelmi as a potentially useful member of a Malaysian team targeting a Top 50 rank. However he needs to stay active and prove that he is better than other candidates. This might be difficult as he has to balance chess with a promising career as a lawyer. Something may have to give.

Jimmy is the oldest of the 'Old Guard' and was hand-picked to play the 2008 and 2012 Olympiads. With a below 50% score on both occasions, Rp was a low 2236 in 2008 and even lower 2190 in 2012. 2190:Rp is very low for a hand-picked player. I believe even Jimmy himself will agree that these were embarrassing performances. Again I can easily name a bunch of Malaysian juniors who would almost certainly have performed better if given a chance in the 2008 and 2012 teams.

Yit San and Aron at Tromso performed better than both of Jimmy's performances in 2008 and 2012, while Fadzil's performance was better than Jimmy's 2190Rp performance at Istanbul.

Jimmy should be made to go through a proper selection process if he is interested to represent Malaysia at future Olympiads. To his credit, he tried but failed to get into the 2014 team after crashing out at the National Closed this year. Jimmy also missed automatic qualification to the 2014 Masters after finishing rock-bottom on 10th (last) placing at the 2013 Malaysian Masters. Again who knows, maybe he can make it next time. As I recently read somewhere, when you are at rock-bottom, the only way to go is up.

Going Forward
The obvious conclusion from all my analyses is that hand-picking is difficult to justify and should be done away with. You may get one or two picks right once in a while (e.g. Zhuo Ren in 2012). But get one wrong and the supremo-selector should be rightly and strongly condemned as an obstacle to the progress of Malaysian chess. And in the past Olympiads, there have been just too many wrong picks by both Hamid and Greg. This was clearly shown out by the impressive performance of the properly selected 2014 team.

It may be acceptable to keep one place to be filled by a President's but not hand-picking practically the whole team as was the situation prior to 2014.

It is better to have a proper selection process so that no matter how the team actually performs, nobody can be reasonably criticised. Because in that situation, all the team members would be properly qualified. If anyone thinks he can do better, then qualify for the team through the proper selection process and prove it. Don't criticise and sulk just because you were not offered an automatic place or failed to qualify.

With this, I end my analysis of individual performances of Malaysian representatives at the last four Olympiads. Thank you for reading.


  1. Zhuo Ren was a right pick in 2012 but Li Tian was a disaster in the same team.

  2. You missed out Gregory Lau and Peter Long.

  3. I think your generalisation about Mok's standard of play and his rating performance at the Olympiads might not be accurate because of ratings inflation over the years since you are comparing something that happened in the 1990s. So Mok's lowest rating performance of 2075 could essentially have been 2175 today. And vice-versa for the Tromso team.

    But I definitely agree 100% that all players selected for the Olympiads must have come from the National Closed tournament. But do take note that even many of the strongest national teams out there do not also select all their teams based on their National Closed tournaments or from a special selection.

  4. To Anonymous 1.51 pm

    You are really out-of date.

    The notion of ratings inflation at the 2000-2200 level has been statistically shown to be a fallacy. Ratings deflation is the big issue nowadays so much so that FIDE changed the K-factor which was effective just last month.

    Please refer to my post on this matter which is in the archives (July 2013).

    I was being kind to Mok. I could easily have said that a 2075 rating in 1992 is closer to a 1900 rating nowadays and still not be too far wrong. That is how drastic ratings deflation is at the 2000 level and 1992 was 22 years ago.

    Yit Ho has suggested that I do a post to explain ratings deflation so that readers are not misled by erroneous statements such as that (ratings inflation) made by you. I'll do that post when I have the time (and energy) to do it.

  5. Also to Anonymous 1.51 pm
    It is true that not all countries select their Olympiad teams from a National Championship or special selection event.

    However if we look at the more advanced countries (in chess), their selection is invariably based on recent performances at 'qualified' events, which are sufficiently strong national or international events. Past one year could be the norm for 'recent' (as in Australia).

    The stronger countries will have their GM players travelling and playing at GM events all over the world and such results are used to select their players. For sure, none of these countries will even consider a player who has not played a single FIDE-rated (which is acceptably strong) in the past one year.

    The 2010 Malaysian team had a player who had not played at least a national class event in 8 years and another who has not done so for umpteen years.

    Actually, this situation was covered in a selection proposal I submitted to the MCF Selection Committee Chairman and a VP back in January 2014. That a place in the Masters be allocated to any player who achieved an Rp>2300 in an international event in the 6 months preceding the National Championship. My proposal also included a President's choice in the final team on the condition that only a player who achieved an Rp>2400 in the preceding 6 months is eligible to be selected.

    Such proposals cater to players who may be based overseas or who is unable to take part in the National Closed for whatever reason but who could still be a useful Olympiad team member. To me, the selection criteria should have a bit of in-built flexibility so that we do not miss out on strong and capable players who can benefit the team.

    However I was told that my proposal was not even tabled.

  6. You have done a lot of analysis on this rating issue (I have to give that to you) and from your post it also seems that you have tried to do a lot over the years to get MCF to do your bidding with regards to selections for National Teams. But I think you need to reflect again as to whether your time spent over these long years were worth the effort or not because the end result was that you didn't manage to influence it all. So what is the point of being good at analysing all this when it was evident that you should instead have tried to influence it directly for example by getting into MCF and taking up the positions there to right the wrong things as you see it. Talking and shouting the facts are good but if you can't change the end result, then what use is that?

    1. You seem to have an agenda.

      Eddy's goal all along was to have a fair selection for the national team. So why would he have to reflect whether it was time well spent when his goal was obviously achieved? Your question boggles the mind. Since he was the only one campaigning for it all these years the logical conclusion to jump to would be that he obviously had influence in it. It would take the twisted logic of a certain blogger to come up with a conclusion to the contrary. Some people are happy when they see their goals achieved whether they receive recognition or not does not matter to them. Then there are people who would rather a goal not be achieved if they are not credited with it although it may still benefit others.
      You my friend seem to have the latter way of thinking.

    2. That's really not my point. The point I was trying to make was that, the root of the problem was that there were no proper selections. And why weren't there proper selections? Because the people in power didn't organise a proper one despite repeated suggestions by Ed. So logically since they didn't want to listen, effort should instead have been spent to try to remove them rather than just continue to "analyse" the situation (with ratings etc). That is all. Nothing of the sort that you are talking about. It is just very simple, nothing twisted at all.

    3. On this point, you should read his post more carefully. In the past, the people with power did not select from the national closed because they were afraid that the team would not do well. That is to say they only dared select from a select few to represent Malaysia. This is where all this analysis comes in. The point of the analysis is to show that a proper selection can yield players that can do as well or better than some of those hand picked players. The analysis is to show the errors of the past and to vindicate the strength of a proper selection process moving forward. On replacing the people in charge, it is not as simple as you think. Why else do you think politics has such a reputation. Each has his own way of dealing with a problem. A direct way is not always the most appropriate solution.

    4. I think you are sweeping it everything by saying that "replacing the people in charge, it is not as simple as you think", this is precisely the difficult thing that needs to be solved. If it can't be solved, then you will still have a repeat of the same situation even with all the analysis that Ed had done. That is what my point is again. Because even without all the analysis, many would agree that having a proper selection process via the National Closed etc. to select the national team is a no brainer. I supported this right from the very start.

  7. Selection of ALL players from the National Closed is FAIR but it won't bring out all the BEST players. If you believe in the "correctness" of fide ratings, the Tromso team was certainly not the best Malaysia could offer. There was certainly an element of luck in the pairings as a half point more or less at many stages could have yielded entirely different pairings and hence the final result could be different. Therefore, I see no real reason to say which Olympiad team did significantly better than the others. Also I see no reason to downplay the achievements of Jimmy or Mok. I did suggest the Tromso team play matches with other strong state selections and see what happened. The result could be interesting. Merdeka Team in September is a good occasion.

  8. I have a class of students. I think I'll pay all my attention to the ones who score high marks and forget about those with low marks. Because I want the BEST, whether i'm FAIR doesn't matter to me. Of course I believe in the correctness of FIDE ratings! That's why i'm seriously considering sending an inquiry to Russia asking why they didn't include Kasparov in their team when he's obviously the highest rated by far. I don't care if he hasn't played in a long time. I only consider fide ratings, other factors are not important.
    On a more serious note, why should we have to look at all the what if's when we have what actually happened right in front of us? . A loser makes excuses, a winner accepts the situation as it is and adapts. An interesting match up would be the Tromso team vs the Perak team. The result could be interesting.

  9. To Anonymous 11.47pm/3.39pm

    Thanks for writing in.

    1) I enjoy doing the things I do without worrying too much about other people's thoughts/reactions. Only important thing is that my conscience remains clear. Yes, it has been worthwhile. My analyses and writings are for the Malaysian chess public, to share information so that Malaysian chess fans are more informed. It is not only for MCF or any particular person to act on. You and I know very well that MCF/supremo don't make decisions based on just technical merits.

    2. As to my involvement with MCF, you know that I was fixed the last time I was in MCF. One of those fellas who fixed me was bragging about it in a chat forum some months later. Although the people have changed, I have decided long ago not to take up any position in MCF. I may change my mind but that is something for the future

    3. Not being in MCF is more relaxing. It allows me the freedom to say and do certain things at my leisure although I am careful about what I write publicly. It is not a secret that I am interested in only two things at the national/international level. One is working on getting the 1st Malaysian Grandmaster and the other is seeing a strong national team competing at the Olympiad and at Asian level. I am not interested in the other matters that you people discuss at MCF meetings.

    4. I am interested in MCF politics only to the extent of supporting people who are interested in furthering the two things that I mentioned matters to me. Hamid was hopeless in this respect. I then placed my hopes on Greg when he took over but Greg also badly disappointed. Peter was the only one who did anything significant along these lines which led finally to the proper selection of the Tromso Olympiad team. But you know better than me the problems Peter had with other MCF committee members some of which is of his own making. I have mentioned to several people that Peter did in 3 months what Hamid failed to do in 15 years and Greg could not do in 5 years. They did not like to hear that just because they can't stand that fella. Go ahead and knock him when he is out of line but you should also give credit for good work when you see it.