I tend to agree with a lot of people who sees Yeoh Li Tian as our next best bet to achieve the accolade but of course, with the ever important SPM lurking in the next few years ahead of him, it would be a real challenge for him to balance between the two. If he can make it as an IM within the next couple of years, he would probably be able to make it as a GM just in time before his SPM exams but, this will be a tight call. But beyond the challenge of facing SPM, can he get the support and drive to reach the finish line and beyond in order to achieve the GM title? And if he decide that chess is not his cup of tea, who else after that? Aron Teh? Yinn Loong? Elgin? To be honest, I would bet on Amir Muqqri or Amir Ghazi - the sons of Mohd Saprin. If the interest continues, they might come on top. The siblings have the ingredient and they seem to like chess, and within just a year, Amir Muqqri - the youngest of the three, has already shown he can match wits with some of the more established junior players. And with Saprin steady solid play, and sound understanding of the game, nobody can be a better coach than the father himself. But of course, to go beyond, they still need the correct development program and the right path... I am sure there are other talented youngsters around but these are the ones that I can see now - especially Muqqri who is barely 9 years old.
For the girls, we had a chance in the form of Siti Zulaikha who made her WIM title but between medical school and chess, the medical option won the battle of choice hands down. There are probably a few girls that we can watch for i.e. the Azman Hisham daughers in Nabila and Najiha, Tan Li Ting and Camilia. Nabila and Najiha maybe the better bet because the entire family plays chess and with an elder brother like Nabil, and Azman Hisham who he himself was a strong player in his younger days, the girls may be able to go where no Malaysian woman chess player has ever gone before - beyond the WIM title.
With good results and at times, excellent showing at the age group championship in the region (and sometimes, at the world level), Malaysia has shown that it does not lack talent. We do have an abundance of them but as the talent grows, it lack continuous nurturing. And, as we all have found out - the hard way, talent alone is not enough. It must be polished, wiped, washed, cared for but for now, we lack the machine to help us do that work.
But, how long does it takes before Malaysia to get our own home grown Malaysian born GM? How many years (or months) does it take to become a GM or to hit above the 2500 FIDE rating mark? How many games does a person need to get across that line? How many GM does he (or she) has to slaughter to earn valuable points towards reaching the 2500 benchmark to be a GM?
I looked at some of the young and leading chess players in the world today and came across some interesting finding. It can be done within 2 to 3 years but.... it will be very demanding. A nice pace would probably be about 2 years to reach the 2400 points (from 2200 points), and another 2 years to break the 2500 points. But, let us look the achievement of some of the World's best, and some players from around the region.
The world no. 1 chess player GM Magnus Carlssen jumped from a 2200 player to a 2400 player within 15 months, playing over 100 rated games to jump almost 300 points. If we take an average of 9 rated games per event, he would have played at least 12 events in that 15 months span which comes to about one serious event between 1 and 2 months. And to jump to above 2500 points, he did it in 6 months playing 81 games and again, if we average it at 9 games per event, he played 9 major tournaments in that 6 months, roughly about 1 major event every 3 to 4 weeks.
Well of course, one can argue that this is Magnus Carlssen so let us go somewhere closer to home.
GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam took 3 years to jump from a FIDE rating of 2132 to 2422, playing more than 130 games in the process. Based on this figure, he would have played something like 1 major event every 3 to 4 months. With the lack of International event around ASEAN, this is a more likely figure for us Malaysians to compare with. Of course, if the chess circuit in ASEAN is as vibrant as Europe, this would have been different for Quang Liem.... For GM Le, the jump from a 2400 player to a 2500 player was completed in 9 months with 63 games being played - about 7 events in that time span or at an average of 1 event every 1 1/2 to 2 months.
Another person closer to home is GM Negi Parimarjan of India who incidentally won one of the Malaysia Open series some years back.... As one of the 10 youngest person ever attain the GM title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days), Negi managed to improve his rating from a 2200+ player to a 2400+ player in a span of 21 months, playing almost 200 games to achieve the feat. At an average of 9 games per event, he would have played at least 1 serious tournament per month during that duration to attain the 2400+ rating. Maintaining his momentum, he broke the 2500+ barrier in 6 months, playing 64 games (about 9 major events) at an average of 1 event per 3-4 weeks - even more intense. Of course, for GM Negi, India has plenty of events to go around with and it was not surprising that he can rake in 1 serious event per month. At the same time, India also has a lot of good GM - Anand is of course, one of them.
Let us look at someone even nearer.... GM Megaranto Susanto reached 2254 in July 2000 at the age of 13 - something we can relate to since Li Tian is also 13 years old now and he has just broken the 2200 marker. GM Megaranto Susanto was able to break the 2400 point barrier after 21 months - almost 2 years later, at the age of 15. He did so by playing in 31 rated games which is approximately 4 to 5 events at an easier pace of 1 major event every 4 to 5 months, something that we Malaysians can understand because traveling to other countries can be expensive and time consuming (and because we have major events in Malaysia every 2-3 months in a year). Megaranto only broke the 2500 point barrier 39 months later (slightly more than 3 years) at the age of 18, having played more than 151 games - about 18 to 22 major events, at an average of about 1 major event every 2 months.
Based on these observations, if we have a talented Malaysian who is already at 2200 rating points, playing at a moderate pace of 1 major event every 2 to 3 months (and getting good scores in these event), we can actually have a Malaysian born GM within 4 - 6 years. Or even earlier if the pace is quicken i.e. to 1 major event every 1-2 months. But of course, we are looking at a player with a 2200 starting point. So the next challenge is, how fast can we get our current youngsters to hit 2200 from where they are now? I assume, that will probably take us another 1-2 years to achieve this feat taking into consideration that the junior player already know how to play chess considerably well. Based on all these, if I were to look at someone who is 9 years old now, with a moderate improvement and participation in major events, he (or she) can probably earn the GM title at the age of 16 - give or take a year or two. Of course, if there is money and time to spend (traveling all over the world to play in strong events), then this would be much easier and faster but still, money alone without talent may not work.
The next question is, do we have the infrastructure to make that happen? If we were to keep the moderate pace of 1 major event every 2 months to achieve the GM title (hitting above 2500), we already have the events needed as platforms for our kids to achieve the feat of getting to be a 2400 player. With the 5-6 major events per year that we have i.e. Malaysia, KL, Selangor, Penang, Sarawak and Melaka (and we can add 1 or 2 regional event like Singapore or Bangkok as back up plans) the numbers of events to achieve this feat are there, albeit the strength may not. Of course, training and development, study, dedication and so on, must come hand in hand. And of course, we need to continue to have these events going (or increase the number of International events in the country) in order to keep the lifeline going.... of getting our own GM
Once the 2400 points has been achieved, the next part of the challenge kicks in. Based on the same observation, almost all the players that made GM had to play between 100 and 150 games to improve from 2400 to 2500 - a mere 100 points but a lot of games to catch up. At 9 games per event, that come to about 16 events that a player needs to play in order to have a realistic shot at the GM title and if we are looking at a moderate pace of 1 event per 2-3 months, that come to about 3 to 4 years for it to be realized.
So, to sum it up, at a moderate pace of 1 major event every 2 months based on our country "chess activeness", I calculated a realistic timeline of between 8 and 9 years for a Malaysian junior to be a GM by the age of 16 years old - or 17 years old at worst! The calculations is from 0 rating (or current strength) to 2200 would take 2-3 years to achieve, and from 2200 to 2400 will take another 2 years, and finally for the home run, another 3-4 years to get from 2400 to 2500. And as we pass on that dream in the hands of our Junior players, the main challenge now is - how fast can we get them to be a 2200 FIDE rated player from where they are now? And if we look at fresh talent, what we seek now are talents from primary schoolers whow are between the ages of 7 and 9 years old, who has interest towards the game and preferably, whose parents know how to play chess - the stronger the parents, the better, are our best candidates to get the GM title.
I am not saying they cannot be older but, with our society putting "everything on the line" for SPM, the only way to get a GM is to earn one before the boy (or girl) reaches 16 years old and if 8 to 9 years period is the most logical and realistic timeline to get a potential youngster to be a GM, then the children who are 7, 8 and 9 years old would be our better bets!
Anybody beg to differ?