15 August 2014

Tromso R11: Malaysia lose 4-0

An all-GM Norway team was really a bridge too far for the young Malaysian team. losing on all 4 boards. This loss finally broke an amazing 6-match unbeaten run by the Malaysian team which included draws with 51st-ranked Switzerland in Round 10 and 56th-ranked Tajikistan in Round 9.

Still, the big 4-0 loss only caused the 2014 Malaysian team to drop to no. 72 in the final ranking, which in itself is evidence of how well the team had been doing. Norway finished ranked no. 29.

With 3 Olympiad rookies on 3 of the boards, nerves was really an issue as Malaysia was playing against the home team in the final round. It was one individual table for each game with TV cameras pointing at the players the whole game. Just compare this to the relatively obscurity of the lower tables in the previous rounds. At Table 3, the Malaysian players were surrounded by the world's best players (with only Magnus and Anand missing). Grandmasters that, until the young Malaysians arrived at Tromso, were players they only read about in the news.

The nerves really showed when none of the Malaysian players managed to perform at anywhere near what they are capable of. The positives that we can take out of this is the experience gained by the players. No other Malaysian team, ever, has got to a position where they faced an all-GM team in the final round of an Olympiad. Until the final round, the 2014 team still had a chance, in the (unlikely) event they beat Norway, of getting into the Top 40.

In the past, Malaysian teams generally played weaker teams in the final round that Malaysia beat with a (big) margin to climb up to a more respectable final ranking. To put it into clearer perspective, in Istanbul 2012, the Malaysian team was so low in the rankings (94th) that it needed 2 big wins against even weaker teams in the final 2 rounds to secure a no. 64 final ranking, viz.

1)  3-1 against 123rd-ranked Japan in Round 10, and
2)  3-1 against 101st-ranked Thailand in Round 11.

So, from that perspective, it had been a commendable tournament performance by this young 2014 Malaysian Olympiad team in Tromso. A big congratulations and well-done to the team members.

In the next post, I'll review the 2014 Malaysian Men's team tournament performance against the preview that I posted before the start of the event.

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