Friday, June 4, 2010

Focus on the Juniors


By Lim Chong


In the coming weeks some of our promising juniors will be busy travelling around the region to gain useful exposure in a series of challenging chess competitions.

A contingent left this week for the Asean+Age-Group Chess Championships 2010 at Subic in the Philippines, to be followed by a small group for the Asian Junior Chess Championships in Chennai, India, and a bigger group for the Asian Youth Invitational Championships in Beijing, China.

At home, most of the junior players will be involved in the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) chess finals and the National Championships 2010 scheduled this month.

Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) deputy president Ibrahim Abu Bakar says that efforts to send junior players for international competitions are continuing despite the rising cost involved and increasing difficulties in finding sponsors.

“We are aware of the importance to provide our top juniors with international exposure so that they are not left behind,” he says when asked about Malaysian representations at the coming events.

MCF secretary Gregory Lau says the federation has initiated a comprehensive five-year plan to uncover new talents right from the primary school level and from as young as seven years old.

“We have found a sponsor and will be working together with the Education Ministry to implement the plan,” he says, adding that details of the plan will be announced soon.

Lau says MCF also plans to come up with new guidelines next year that will enable more Malaysian representatives to be sent for international competitions.

“We are also thinking of incentives like reimbursing and rewarding those who are able to get good results in the competitions,” he says.

At the Asean+Age-Group event, Malaysia will find it tough to maintain the third place finish that it secured last year. In the 2009 event held in Vietnam, the small Malaysian contingent managed to win three gold medals, with two of them coming from Nur Najiha Azman Hisham.

Host Vietnam swept all the 38 gold medals in the team events and 42 gold medals in the individual events while the 25-member team from the Philippines finished second with four gold medals.

For this year’s event from June 4 to 13, Malaysia has eight representatives comprising Edward Lee Kim Han, Muhd Tariq Amru, Mark Siew Kit-Tze, Lim Win Sen, Amier Hamzah Mohd Zuhri, Muhd Faris Aminuddin, Nur Faqihah Aminuddin and Zainoor Ikhmal Maisarah Mohd Noor.

The contingent, headed by MCF vice president Haslindah Ruslan, also includes four parents but no coach. MCF explained that there was no budget for a coach. Not to worry though as the players have the services of an “appointed mind coach” in the contingent.

Hopefully, with the attention given to preparation and training, the Malaysian representatives can show their best form and put up a commendable performance.

The Asean+Age-Group event may have lost some of its lustre in recent years due to the increasing dominance of Vietnam. However, it should be noted that the championships have been a good training ground for some of the top Vietnamese players as well as Filipino grandmaster Wesley So who won two gold medals in 2005 and three gold medals in 2006.

Vietnam has showed its intention to continue dominating the event by fielding 79 players while the Philippines is counting on home ground advantage with 73 representatives. Not surprisingly, Singapore is also putting up a serious challenge with 33 participants. Thailand has 16 participants while Indonesia has eight, the same number as Malaysia.

The small number of Malaysian participants as compared to those eligible from the National Age Group Championships is attributed to the MSSM chess finals which will be held at around the same time.

For the Asian Junior event from June 14 to 24, the Malaysian representatives are current national champion Evan Timothy Capel, and sisters Nur Nabila and Nur Najiha Azman Hisham. Accompanying them is coach Peter Long who volunteered his services and is paying his own way.

Lau says Amira Syahmina Zulkafli whose name was also submitted for the Malaysian contingent earlier has later informed that she is unable to go.

He also says that for the Asian Youth Invitational Championships in China from July 8 to 15, Malaysia will be represented by 17 players.

Looks like a busy time ahead for our promising juniors, going places and hoping to make a breakthrough to fulfil their promise.

Postscript: The previous article, “Fulfilling the Promise”, seemed to have touched a raw nerve, as gathered from a response by the writer of the First GM blog. So, straight to the paragraph in the blog where my name was mentioned:

“What do you Lim Chong know about what is going on in the Asean initiative? Aren't the Asean players being trained by GM Ziaur enabled by our sponsor? What exactly is your beef? Muddled thinking based on imagined assumptions is not going to help.”

The writer was right. I knew little about the “Asean initiative” other than the details given in the MCF, First GM and First GM Academy blogs. Since I am not operating a chess centre, nor a chess coach or related to any of the leading juniors, I did not have any special interest to pursue further details.

Since the matter has been raised, I asked MCF officials and this was the gist given: MCF called for applications for the Asean+Age-Group Championships and gave an estimate of the cost for each participant. Someone (not from MCF) approached AirAsia for air tickets to Subic which were later given by the low-cost airline. MCF then received a “value-added” offer which included training and lower cost from the original estimate for the players. The AirAsia contribution was to be treated as sponsorship for training by First GM Academy.

MCF seemed comfortable with the arrangements, and so it’s considered a win-win deal for the parties concerned. Is there more to it? Well, only those directly involved will know.

Honestly, I do not see how calling for a systematic junior training programme, which the article was mainly about, reflected “muddled thinking”.

Another thing is I don’t whine (which my Longman dictionary defined as “to complain in an unnecessarily sad voice”). Having been in the chess scene long enough, I don’t whine over any issue though occasionally I am surprised or disappointed. I do admit that I criticise, though rarely and with the hope that things can be better. Generally, I am positive and optimistic about Malaysian chess.

And lastly thanks to Khairunnisa Wahiduddin for the interesting update on Rosazman Mat Rosley, whom some thought had the potential to reach up to grandmaster level. I recall it was Cikgu Robil (can’t remember his full name) who brought to attention the special capability of Rosazman. Back then, there were some who worked hard to uncover new talents in chess without any thought of reward.

1 comment:

  1. Rosazman has grandmaster level potential? Seriously?



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