Philippines had the first Asian GM in the form of Eugenio Torre who was once ranked as one of the top 20 GM in the world during the mid 80's. Now, Philippines have another top player in GM Wesley So who is ranked 64th in the world, the strongest GM in our ASEAN region.
Vietnam with 7 GM can boast having GM Le Quang Liem as their top GM and currently ranked 79th in the world, separated only by a mere 9 points different between GM Le and GM So. But with the current good run shown by GM Le, his new ranking may end up higher than GM So in the next FIDE rating list release
Indonesia is 3rd in our regional ranking with 5 GM lead by GM Megaranto Susanto. Whilst GM Utut Adianto is no longer playing chess (as he is now concentrating his work as an Indonesian politician), he is considered to be Indonesia all-time highest rated player and was once considered as one of the world grandmasters that broke the 2600 FIDE rating barrier. Of course, the Super GM barrier no stands at 2700 but for an Asian player, it was an outstanding feat which he was able to achieve in the mid 90's.
Singapore with 3 GM, two of which are "imported GM", can still boast having GM Wong Meng Kong as their very own GM. GM Wong earned the IM title in 1980 and achieved the GM title in 1999, a 19 year journey to finally add the prestigious title to his name.
So, where do we stand?
We are still behind in producing titled players in the country and are yet to produce our very own GM. In 2001, we have 5 titled players to boast (2 IM, 2 FM and 1 WIM). 10 years have passed and we have improved it with 17 titled players (5 IM, 7FM, 2 WIM and 3 WFM) - a 240% increase. Comparatively, is this a good progress (taking into account that we are still yet to produce a GM)?
Here are the figures for our region based on titled players each country have in 2001 and comparing it to what each country has now (based on January 2011 list)
Based on the figure above, we are ranked second behind Vietnam which continue to be very aggressive in producing quality chess players. Again, it is beyond any doubt that we are also very aggressive at participating and increasing our numbers but.... the same question arise - whilst we have the quantity, do we have the quality? Can we not only increase the numbers and improve on the quality as well?
Let us look at the countries who already have GMs in our region i.e. Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore.
Indonesia is the only country who have maintained its number of GM - 5 GM in 2001 and 5 GM in January 2011. Singapore continue to "import" foreign GM increasing its tally from 2 GM in 2001 to 3 GM in 2011. Vietnam had 3 GM in 2001 and in 10 years, it has increased its number to 7 including producing a world class player in GM Le Quang Liem. And the leader Philippines had 3 GM in 2001 and quadrupled its number to 12 GM in 2011 including another strong GM in GM Wesley So.
So, how can we improve the quality of chess in our country? The numbers are sufficient but the quality seems to be lacking. We definitely need help but how, where and what kind of help do we need? Where can we seek help? If having a GM can generate more quality players in the country, how can we move a step closer to producing our own GM? If this is not possible, can we synergize our effort with our neighboring country and "lean on their resources" to create our own GM?
What say you?