Friday, Jan 26, 2001

Making the grade

By Quah Seng Sun

THE Malaysian Chess Federation ended the old millennium by organising a very quiet and largely unpublicised double round-robin masters tournament, comprising six of the country's senior and junior players, at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Although Mas Hafizulhelmi dominated the event and finished unbeaten with 7.5 points from 10 games, he had a rather slow start to the tournament. After winning from Nicholas Chan in the first round, Mas Hafizul experienced a run of three consecutive draws with Ismail Ahmad, Jonathan Chuah and Ng Tze Han.

In the fifth round, however, Mas Hafizul scored a win against Lim Chuin Hoong who was at that time the tournament leader. This important win caused the lead to change hands and from then on, Mas Hafizul took a firm grip on the event and never allowed anybody to catch up with him.

In the home stretch, Mas Hafizul scored three more wins against Chan, Chuah and Lim, and allowed Ismail and Ng to draw with him.

It was remarkable that Lim, who lost both his games to Mas Hafizul, could finish in joint second position with Ng. In the last round, Lim tried to take the game to his opponent but the more experienced Mas Hafizul had already obtained a firm grip on the game which he refused to relinquish.

Lim's loss could have been heaven-sent for Ng who was playing the last-placed Ismail but fate was unkind to him. All he needed was a draw to take the sole second place in the tournament but somehow, Ng's attack was misplaced and he found himself at the losing end.

Chuah could have had a satisfying tournament, but after an encouraging start of two wins and four draws, he suffered three losses in a row to the three leaders. In the last round, he was glad for the opportunity to take a quick draw with Chan.

By all accounts, Chan is one of the country's most promising young players but he was never expected to finish anywhere higher than the fifth place in this tournament. Nevertheless, the tournament was beneficial to the 14-year-old boy who has managed to obtain his first-ever international rating points here.

By my estimate, Chan's performances against his more experienced rivals have earned him an initial rating of about 2095 points. This should be reflected in the World Chess Federation's July 2001 international rating list.

Ismail found himself out of his depth in this event. But it was a rejuvenated Ismail who managed to turn the tables on Ng in the final round. It was a precious win which ensured that he would not finish the tournament in sole last position.

The final standings in the double round-robin event: Mas Hafizulhelmi 7.5 points, Ng Tze Han and Lim Chuin Hoong 6 points each, Jonathan Chuah 4 points, Nicholas Chan and Ismail Ahmad 3 points each.

Moving up the list

The World Chess Federation (Fide) have just released its latest world rating list of players who have, at one time or another, played in international events which were recognised for rating purposes by the world chess body.

It is a very elite group of about 37,000 people on this list and even if you have been playing in international chess tournaments for some time, the chances are that you may still not find your name on this list unless you have performed up to expectations.

This may change, of course, if the local governing chess body in the country, which in this case is the Malaysian Chess Federation, takes it upon itself to organise more small and closed events like the recently- concluded Malaysian Masters tournament in KL.

There are 60 Malaysians inthe Fide list this January. But sad to say, many of them have not played in international events for a long time and are now classified as inactive. We had such good potential players in Eric Cheah, Christi Hon and Peter Long who have since moved on to other interests in life.

Mas Hafizulhelmi remains our highest rated player. In the January list, his rating is 2456, obtained from the Istanbul Chess Olympiad last year. This is an increase from the 2441 rating points from the July 2000 list. Slowly but surely, Mas Hafizul is inching towards the rarified atmosphere of 2500 rating points and I would like to see him achieve this as soon as possible.

Jimmy Liew, despite not having played any rateable game in the last six months, is still our number two player in the country with 2333 rating points. After Liew is Mok Tze Meng who gained 13 rating points from his games in Istanbul. Ng Tze Han, fourth in the standings, is rated at 2283.

A surprising entry into the Malaysian Top Five is Wong Chee Chung who enters at 2282 rating points. He had played reasonably well last year in the Singapore national championship.

Wong Zi Jing played nine rateable games in Istanbul and is now positioned with 2267 points. Placed below him are Lim Chuin Hoong with 2249 points, Aaron Yee with 2240 points, Ng Ee Vern with 2224 points and Deon Moh with 2215 points.

Among the other local players who have either gained or lost points in the past six months are Jonathan Chuah with 2211 points, Lim Jean Nie with 2165 points, Azahari Md Nor with 2106 points and Ismail Ahmad with 2064 points. All of these players had participated in Istanbul last year.

I should also add that the Fide rating list only shows players who are rated above 2000 rating points. The rating scale is actually open-ended and below this threshold of 2000 points, the unpublished names of players must be very large.

As far as I know, there are two Malaysian players who took part in one of the First Saturday tournaments in Budapest, Hungary, last August. Unfortunately, both did not fare too well to make the cut at 2000 points.

Both Shafruddin Fariz and Shafruddin Hafiz played 25 games each in Budapest and their ratings from this event are the same 1931 points.

Mailing list

Individual e-mails are great when it comes to an almost instant communication with people from around the globe. However, mailing lists are even better when you want to distribute your thoughts to a wider audience. An e-mail message sent to a mailing list will be distributed automatically to reach the electronic mailboxes of the list subscribers.

Two years ago, I set up an e-mail chess mailing list to test the response of local chess players. Unfortunately, it was not very well-received at that time and the utilisation was low.

About two months ago, I decided to widen the coverage of the mailing list by inviting several local chess players from the length and breadth of the country to join. So far, the response has been terrific because these local players have found themselves an outlet through which they can raise several issues on the state of Malaysian chess.

This is an open and largely unmoderated list and anyone can subscribe and contribute to it. To join the list, all you need to do is to send an empty e-mail to and follow the instructions that come back to you.

However, in order to get the most from this mailing list, I would advise you to visit and register yourself online. As a registered subscriber, you can participate in polls and download files which are put there by other members.

More importantly, as a registered subscriber, you become a member of Malaysia's first and only online chess forum and you can participate by contributing your views on issues very close and dear to all of us. I hope to meet more of you soon in our own cyberspace community soon.


Quah Seng Sun's e-mail address is His previous chess articles are archived at Logo

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