15 August 2014

Malaysia@Tromso: Tournament Review Part 1

My review of the Malaysia Men's Team at the 2014 Tromso Olympiad shall be in 3 parts as follows:

Part 1 focuses only on Malaysia's performance at the 2014 tournament itself.

Part 2 reviews Malaysia's performances over the last 12 Olympiads.

Part 3 reviews Malaysia's performances over the last 4 Olympiads.

Malaysia at 2014 Tromso Olympiad

Final Rank:  72

Match Points: 12

S-B Score:  214.5

Game Points: 23.5

Starting Rank: 103

Using Final Ranking:
The final ranking of Malaysia's opponents is used for the analysis. The final ranking shows the relative strengths of the participating teams over the duration of the event itself. It is thus appropriate to use the final ranking in a post-tournament review where the rankings are already available. The starting rank is based only on historical information and used primarily for pairing purposes although is may be useful in a preview before the start of the event.

Categories of Opponents:
I have categorised Malaysia's opponents into 3 categories, namely:

Category A: Teams in the Top 50 Final Rankings. The Top 50 is where I think Malaysia should aim at, a target to work towards, in future Olympiads.

Category B: Teams from 51 to 99 in the final rankings. This region is where Malaysia is currently at based on the range of 64th to 96th final rankings over the last 12 Olympiads.

Category C: Teams finishing 100 and below in the final rankings. Teams that Malaysia should win against.

Chronology Perspective
From a chronological perspective, Malaysia did not do well in the first 4 rounds , losing to 2 teams at the lower half of Category B, South Africa and Guatemala. Even the win against Category C Kenya was not convincing. 

I would attribute the poor results in this first phase to jitters due to the inexperience of the players, especially the 4 debutants. The team struggled to find its footing.

In the 2nd phase from Rounds 5 to 7, Malaysia met 3 Category C teams, Saudi Arabia, Namibia and Nigeria. Playing against the weaker teams allowed the Malaysian team some breathing space to learn and get hold of themselves. We could not really tell from the big wins whether the team has improved as these were opponents we expect to win, However the winning margins were impressive indicating Malaysia had a pretty well-balanced team on this level.

The next three rounds, Rounds 8 to 10, gave a glimpse of the real Malaysian team playing against increasingly stronger Category B opponents. A very decent Pakistan was impressively disposed of in Round 8. Draws with Tajikistan and Switzerland from the upper end of Category B showed that this Malaysian team, on its day, can get a result against teams of this level.

And finally, a collapse in the final round against Norway showed that this Malaysian team is perhaps not ready to go toe-to-toe against a Top 50 team. It can be blamed on inexperience, but experience and ability to handle competitive tension are part and parcel of the competitive profile of chess players, an important factor in the evaluation of chess strength. This team was not ready but the next time around, the same players would already have the experience, gained from this event.

The final ranking of No. 72 is a fair indication of where the 2014 Malaysian team stands in relation to the other participating teams in this event itself.

Maybe the final ranking could have been higher if the team had lost to Switzerland in Round 10, get a winnable pairing in Round 11 and finish higher (on 13 points instead of 12 points). But that is another branch in the space-time continuum to which we do not have access.

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