Round 1 of the 2014 World Chess Olympiad will be starting in a few hours with the Malaysian Men's team meeting the 17th seeded Spain team.
The Malaysia Men's team is represented by IM Lim Yee Weng, Aron Teh, Fong Yit San, Fadzil Nayan and Sumant Subramaniam. Yee Weng is the veteran in the team, playing his 7th Olympiad since his debut in 1996. He anchors the team at Board 1 and expected to stabilise the team although being relatively inactive at chess the past few years.
Aron, Yit San, Fadzil and Sumant are making their first appearance at the Olympiad. Aron has been doing the European circuit the past 2 months and I look forward to a good performance from this young man. Yit San, Sumant and Fadzil qualified for the team after going through a grueling qualifying process which started by finishing in the top 3 places at this year's National Championship.
So, what should we be expecting from this team with 4 debutants?
This preview looks at the results of Malaysian teams at previous Olympiads to look for indications and expectations. To see how the 2014 team compares with previous teams, I have constructed the table below using information from Olimpbase.
Malaysia at the Olympiads
Table constructed based on information extracted from www.olimpbase.org
Information from 1992 is used as that was the year Russia made its first appearance at the Olympiads together with other ex-Soviet and ex-Yugoslavia states.
Rating Average and Seeding
Team seeding is based on the average rating of the 4 highest rated team members. The team average rating of 2221 places Malaysia at no. 103 out of the record 177 participating teams. This is not the lowest ever Malaysia has been seeded. That distinction goes to the 1994 team which was seeded at no. 108.
The 2014 team is also not the lowest rated. In fact, far from it. The 1992 (2171), 1994 (2051), 1998 (2075) had lower ratings. However it is the lowest team rating since 1998 and lowest seeding since 1994.
Playing to Seeding
I have never been an advocate of using seeding (or starting rank) as a target. Players should have national pride when playing for the country and playing above themselves is only to be expected. So finishing above their seeding is the absolute minimum. Going by this, previous Malaysian teams' performances usually outstripped their respective seeding. Exceptions were the 1992, 2008 and 2010 teams.
So 103rd place is the absolute minimum although we should expect much better.
Breaking records can be a good or not so good thing depending on which record. Since 1992, the highest final position by a Malaysian team is no. 64 achieved by the Malaysian teams in 1996, 2000 and two years ago at Istanbul. Now finishing higher than 64 would be a good record to break but I am not expecting that. But then again, I am hoping.
On the other end of the scale, the lowest final position of a Malaysian team is the 96th placing of the 1994 and 2008 teams. Now that is an unwanted record and not something the 2014 team would wish to break. Thus the minimum target moves from no. 103 to no. 96. However I expect the team to do better than that.
The players would also be playing for themselves, to increase ratings, achieving norms and titles and board prizes. These are opportunities unique to the Olympiad. I am looking forward to some individual achievements Malaysians can be proud of.
So here's wishing the 2014 Malaysian Olympiad team great success. A truly Malaysian team doing the nation proud.