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Friday, February 26, 1999


The numbers game

By Quah Seng Sun

TWICE a year, chess players around the world await the release of the World Chess Federation's international rating list with some impatience. For them, this list indicates whether the form of a chess player has improved or deteriorated over the past six months.

However this is an exclusive list because only those who play in Fide-recognised tournaments can hope to get listed. Even then, they must have played against a minimum number of Fide-rated players and performed reasonably well against them.

Since the start of last month, I had been impatiently waiting for Fide to announce its January 1999 rating list. After an exciting 1998, I wanted to see how the Malaysian players had fared. I was particularly curious to know how Mas Hafizulhelmi, Ng Tze Han and Wong Zi Jing stood in this list.

But for several weeks, Fide kept everyone in suspense. In early January, only an initial list of the top 100 players was released. But shortly after it was published on the Internet, something seemed to be amiss. For instance, Vesselin Topalov (Bulgaria) had played 22 games during the rating period but he was credited with having played 33 games; he believed that the Tilburg Fontys tournament might have been rated twice.

Within a week, Fide released two more versions of the January 1999 rating list. And a fourth revision came out a fortnight ago. This embarrassing state of affairs, of course, spoke volumes for Fide's accuracy and efficiency.

But in all these lists and revisions, Gary Kasparov (Russia) remained entrenched at the top with 2,812 points. Despite having played only six games in the previous six months, the former world champion was virtually invincible.

(Regular readers of this column are already aware of my stance with regards to Kasparov and the world chess title. By refusing to defend his world champion's title under the World Chess Federation's auspices in 1993, Kasparov had effectively relinquished any legitimate claim to this title.)

Viswanathan Anand (India) had been more active with 20 games but he did not gain from Kasparov's relative inactivity. In fact, Viswanathan's rating dropped a few points to 2,784.

Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) saw an even more drastic drop of 30 points to 2,751. Meanwhile, Alexei Shirov (Spain) rose several points to 2,726, which kept him clear of a vastly improving Alexander Morozevich (Russia) who added a hefty 98 points to 2,723.

Also in the world's top 10 list are Michael Adams (England, 2,716), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine, 2,714) and Peter Svidler (Russia, 2,713).

Anatoly Karpov (Russia) is now an embarrassment. His standing in the list and his rating of 2,710 does not speak well for his continuing position as the world champion. He lost 15 points on one poor performance in a tournament in Poland and is in danger of dropping out of the top 10 in the future.

Topalov's rating remains unchanged at 2,700 with a bad Tilburg being compensated by a good Olympiad result.

Nigel Short (England), Peter Leko (Hungary) and Boris Gelfand (Byelorus) all gained points and are on the verge of cracking into the top 10. Judit Polgar (Hungary) is still the world's top woman player with a rating of 2,677, far ahead of her sister Zsuzsa Polgar (with a rating of 2,565) who is the women's world champion.

Among players from the Asia-Pacific region, Ian Rogers (Australia) is rated at 2,618 while Alexander Nenashev (Uzbekistan) is at 2,625 and Utut Adianto (Indonesia) at 2,607. Vladislav Tkachiev, originally a Kazakhstan player but now staying in France, is rated at 2,634.

It was not until about three weeks ago that Fide finally released its full January rating list on the Internet. However, it was no longer available at the Chess Planet homepage ( but instead was posted at the Hellas Chess Club homepage (

I do not know why Fide had terminated its arrangement with Chess Planet. Neither did Fide explain why it chose this Greek site instead of its own homepage ( I can only surmise that after a hacking incident during last year's Chess Olympiad, Fide no longer has faith in the security of its own site.

There were a few surprises when I extracted information on the Malaysian players. For one, Fide relisted almost all the inactive players who had not lifted a single chess piece internationally for umpteen years. These players are: Chia Soon Keat (2,235), Francis Chin (2,275), Choong Yit Chuan (2,205), Paul Foo (2,210), V. Gregory (2,235), Christi Hon (2,235), Thomas Lam (2,105), Peter Long (2,350), Collin Madhavan (2,220), Ahmad Muzzafar (2,185), Ng Ek Teong (2,200), Phuah Eng Chye (2,205), Sabar Md Hashim (2,195), Seto Wai Ling (2,020), Ignatius Si (2,205), K. Vimalavathy (2,005), Audrey Wong (2,070) and Yeoh Chin Seng (2,195).

Some names are missing from this list. When Eric Cheah was taken off the active list several years ago, his rating was 2,255. Now, his name does not even appear in this list!

This is true also of Wahid Karim who was last listed with a rating of 2,210. And I noted, too, that among the inactive members, Fide had again overlooked acknowledging Audrey Wong as Malaysia's international woman master. She was given this title when she became a joint winner of the 1985 Asian women's junior championship.

So what about those players that Fide still consider as active? As of January this year, 38 names are listed, with 13 having played in tournaments during the rated period. But here, too, there are inaccuracies, and the fault is not Fide's alone.

You see, when players get onto the Fide list, they are automatically given identification numbers. By right, chess players should disclose their ID numbers to organisers whenever they play so that when the tournament results are sent to Fide, there is no ambiguity about the players' identities.

Unfortunately, most of the time, players do not know their identification numbers. And the result is that a player can sometimes find himself having more than one identification number. I found two such cases among the list of Malaysian players.

The first was Wong Zi Jing whose two identification tags gave different readings. As Wong, Zi-Jing, he was credited with a rating of 2,220 but as Zi-Jing, Wong, his rating was 2,304. The second anomaly was with Ng Tze Han. As Ng, Tze-Han, he was given a 2,140 rating but as Han, Ng Tze, he was rated 2,284.

Obviously, this is a matter which must be taken up by the Malaysian Chess Federation. Anyway, using Fide's own formula for calculating ratings, I would safely adjust Wong's and Ng's ratings to 2,283 and 2,208 respectively.

Let's take a look at the players who were active in the last six months or so. Mas Hafizulhelmi, as expected, tops the list with a 2,401 rating but this is an increase of only one point from the July 1998 list! Although he gained points from an international tournament in Singapore, he lost them in the Asian junior championship in Rasht, Iran, and the zonal tournament in Yangon.

Jimmy Liew was rated 2,325, losing five points in the PWTC-Dynasty rating tournament in Kuala Lumpur. Wong Zi Jing improved the most over the past six months. His rating shot up a hefty 163 points to 2,283. He had good results in four international tournaments--the Asian open in Shenyang (China), the PWTC-Dynasty rating tournament, the zonal tournament and the Chess Olympiad in Elista (Russia).

Azahari Md Nor was rated 2,121, down 19 points from the previous list. Ismail Ahmad's rating increased 32 points to 2,072, and Lim Yee Weng increased his rating from 2,140 to 2,149.

Finally, there are five new players in the rating list: Ng Tze Han (2,208), Jonathan Chuah (2,337), Aaron Yee (2,337), Lim Jean Nie (2,227) and Deon Moh (2,205).

National Allegro circuit

THE second leg of the chess circuit will be played in Terengganu on March 6 at the Dewan Jabatan Laut Wilayah Timur in Kuala Terengganu. To register, call Jefri at 010-984 3648.

For details of the third leg which is to be held in Kuching on March 7, call the Malaysian Chess Federation secretary Abdul Latif Mohamed at 03-282 6341 or 013-301 0204.

Twelve other legs will be held in various cities and towns around the country before the Grand Final in October. Each leg consists of six rounds and has a total cash prize of RM1,500. The bulk of this prize fund will go to the main winners while RM500 is set aside for the minor winners. The winner of each leg will qualify for the Grand Final.

Entry fees are RM10 for members of the state chess associations organising their respective legs, Bank Pertanian employees, girls under-12, and veteran players, and RM15 for all other participants.















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