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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Of Visiting the KL Open - Day 2

After a long Malaysia Day weekend, and Hari Raya month came to an end on Sunday, it is time to go back to the working board! And because of that, I missed the opening day of the KL Open or more aptly known as the DYTM Raja Nazrin Shah International Open Chess Championship 2012. The event is back to its 2010 venue which is the Olympic Hotel located in Jalan Hang Jebat but with a different playing hall. In the 2010 edition, in which I had the opportunity to be a part of, the event was held on the 3rd floor of the main hotel building but this time around, Peter managed to secure the main Hall located on the ground floor - the Datuk Mokhtar Dahari and Datuk Ho Koh Chye halls. 

When I arrived earlier today at 10:00am, I managed to have a short catch up with Dato Tan Chin Nam, Hamid Majid and KK Chan, and moments later, we were joind by Dato Sieh Kok Chi, OCM Hon Secretary at the hotel lobby. There were a few other players which I have not seen for some time and of course, the usual suspects that can be seen at chess tournaments including those from the Chess Festival who seemed to never get enough of Malaysian chess hospitality. And the Philippines are still there but lessen in numbers - from more than 30 at the Festival, dwindling down to 16 for this event with some notable faces and new ones as well.

As I made through to the playing hall, the hall was just nice and comfortable to fit 82 players with some rooms to move but, if the numbers of participant hit 100, both the Mokhtar Dahari and Ho Koh Chye halls would not be enough to hold the crowd. But that was the original plan anyway - keep it small but provide a good level of play. With a quarter of the players are GMs or IMs - including GM Tiviakov of Netherlands who is rated 2674, the event provides a good, challenging and attractive environment. There were also 27 Malaysian players playing and that by itself, is the highest number of participants ever recorded from the local chess community for a KL Open event

Amongst the locals playing are FM Ronnie Lim (Dr) who took some time to play. Since his recent transfer to KL, Ronnie have been rather active in the local KL circuit - definitely hungry to get his game going. It has been a good run for Ronnie in this tournament as has managed to accumulate 3 points out of 4 rounds - 2 wins and 2 draws, to stay within reach of the top boards. His next round opponent is unrated Franz Barreto of Philippines who has also amassed 3 points from 4 rounds. Another notable local figure playing is our recently crowned FM Lim Zhuo Ren who postponed his trip back to UK to take advantage of his fine Olympiad run (and luck?) to see if he can secure his second IM norm. After 4 rounds, Zhuo Ren only manages a 50% score with 2 points out of 4 games but with the event less than the halfway mark, perhaps Zhuo Ren is saving the best for later. His next opponent will be another Malaysian player in Fong Yit San.

Two ladies from the Women Olympiad team, WFM Nur Najiha and former National Champion Tan Li Ting also took some time to play in the event with both scoring 2 points out of 4 rounds. In tomorrow's morning round, Najiha will play the black pieces against Legaspi Rhobel of Philippines while Li Ting, also playing the black side of the board, will be facing Jasper Rom of the USA

The event will continue with Round 5 and 6 tomorrow starting at 9:00am and 4:00pm respectively before going for a one day break on Friday. Round 7 and Round 8 will resume on Saturday at similar times with Round 9 to be played on Sunday at 9:00am. A blitz event is scheduled at 2:00pm with the closing set to start at 5:00pm

For those who are interested to view the event, please make your way to the OCM Olympic Sports Hotel located on Jalan Hang Jebat, opposite Stadium Negara, in between Sekolah Jalan Davidson and MABA Building. If you do not want to drive, you can catch the Monorail or the LRT Star and get off at Hang Tuah station, and from here on, the OCM hotel would be around 10-15 minutes walk.
Dato Tan and Dato Sieh having a chat during brunch
Current sole leader - GM Cao Sang of Vietnam with a perfect 4 points from 4 rounds
Top seed and highest rated player at the event - GM Sergei Tiviakov of Netherlands who is rated 2674
A new face to the Malaysian chess shores - Legaspo Kaye Ann of Philippines
Best Malaysian performer so far - FM (Dr) Ronnie Lim with 3 points from 4 rounds, winning 2 games and drawing with 2 GMs along the way. GM Deepan of India in Round 2 and GM Vakhidov of Uzbekistan in Round 4

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Of Managing Time in Running Events

It was an interesting overview made by Tse Pin with regards to the recent CAS Quarterly Allegro that was conducted in DATCC. It was an interesting perspective indeed but maybe, it can be improved.

To a certain extent, running weekend events using incremental time control is not overly disadvantageous unless the organizer has to maintain a dead set closing time especially when inviting VIP for the closing, and for the Muslim, if it comes too close to Maghrib praying time. During the 2010 Chess Festival, we conducted a Rapid event using incremental time control and it ended almost 8pm - overstepping the Buka Puasa time. But lucky for us, there was no formal closing ceremony hence, we were not pressured to complete the event within the timeline. The significant setback was that many players left the event early (mostly Muslims) when they realized it is almost breakfasting time and they had no chance of winning prizes. The minor setback was the crew and I had to stay late to rearrange the tables and chairs for the next day's event.

Ironically for the organizer, the main disadvantage of using incremental time control is that, time is not within their control. From the start of the event, Arbiters/Organizers are always on their toes, praying that "the round will not go on for so long". Imagine having two seasoned players playing and both feel and think they can win the game especially when the point is crucial. And at that point of time, patience is a virtue that the Arbiters/Organizers need to have.

Taking into account that the event will run beyond time (if it were done 7 rounds), Tse Pin opted to run a 6 rounder instead - a logical solution that will allow him to manage his timing better! The significant setback is that a 6 rounder may not be enough to crown an outright champion if there are more than 64 players playing, but with potential draws being recorded, there is a good chance that 6 rounds would still be adequate - fingers crossed!

Looking back at Tse Pin's recent event, the higher rating category had 24 players but, the lower category had 65 players - just one above the 64 player "limit". The actual number was 81 but due to some withdrawal, it became lesser but, just imagine if the final number had actually hit 81 or higher?! There could exist 2 joint leaders that never played one another - a small issue but regardless, an issue.

For the Category 1 event, 6 rounds was more than enough to obtain an out right winner for the 24 players competing. The only (minor) setback was that, the rating gap used was too wide as Tse Pin had set 1400 rating points as the floor rating for the higher category - thus those who are in the 1500+ and 1400+ bracket, may find the outing a bit too tough for them especially when playing a player who are rated 2000+. But there are not many highly rated player playing so, all seems fair but again, imagine if it were not the case? Of course, we can always say that it is good to play a better player in order to improve (a "David against Goliath" ideals) but, on the tail side of it, if a player gets constantly hammered, it might also deter him (or her) from playing in future events.

Based on the rating spread of the players playing in the CAS event, it would probably make sense to spread them in 3 categories instead of 2 (suggestion) and divide them in the following rating category i.e. above 1500 (Category 1), between 1200 and 1500 (Category 2), and below 1200 (Category 3). Unrated? They can choose which category they want to play. Based on this spread, for the CAS event, there would be 13 players in Cat 1, 39 in Cat 2 and 15 in Cat 3 with 22 players unrated. Administratively, it maybe a challenge to manage 3 groups but, at least the spread of "strength" and number of rounds given seems fair and enough to crown an outright winner. To make it more interesting, we can name the category Super, Premier Division and Challenger Division - whichever suits your fancy

An incremental time event is still good for the longer classical type tournament i.e. Chess Festival, National Closed, etc. as rounds are scheduled far apart - at least 6 hours different from start to start. So, there is a good chance that a game can finish before the next round starts. Potentially, there would still be an overlap of rounds (where a game can extend more than 6 hours - in the Chess Festival history, as far back as I can remember, this almost happen once!) and pairing can come out as late as only 30 minutes before the next round starts (or lesser!). 

It may not be easy to overcome this issue but for pairing purposes, maybe we can deploy the adjournment rule - consider the game as drawn and continue the pairing for the next round (in order for it to start on time). If the two players are playing, let them continue playing while the next round starts (we can think of the mechanics later since it might "disturb" the players that are still playing while other players are adjusting to their seats, etc.). For the players that are still playing, they can start their rounds with their respective opponents, slightly later (and hopefully then can catch on with the following rounds). Issue may arise where these players that are still playing, are able to "see" their next round opponent even before they finishes but I believe, this is a minor "compromise" to balance the time management of the event. And of course, once the players have concluded their game, the results can then be readjusted. I am not saying that this is the solution, but a plausible work around to save time - instead of having to start a round later - at the cost of 100 players waiting instead of only 4. Alternatively, ask both players to adjourn the game and continue at a later time - to avoid chaos in starting the next round. For a one day weekend event, this may be a bit far fetched idea but then again, we can always give it a try - would we not?

Managing a tightly run event especially where there is not much time in between the rounds (and incremental time control event gives you unpredictable time gap) is a challenge. Somehow, I beg to differ slightly when Tse Pin mentioned that the Arbiter's burden is being lessened by the fact that the claim of draw under the 2 minutes rule has become almost non existent, because the fact remains that the Arbiter still needs to be around (and run around) when players raised their hands requesting for assistance i.e. games still need to be observed, and players may still request for the arbiter to declare a game drawn because the position may have repeated a few times (not in consecutive order and in the absence of a recording sheet). 

Somehow for me, a one day weekend event is meant for guillotine type rapid event where games/rounds must finish within a specified time i.e. 25 minutes to finish. And with the timeline set, it is much easier to plan for the closing, lunch, breaks, etc. Of course, the main challenges will be there - for an arbiter to declare a game drawn (or otherwise), or run all over the hall to peek at games but then again, it is what makes the Arbiter's job interesting, satisfying and challenging. And, it also provides continuous learning experience for the Arbiter to improve. A bit of help (aided by a small team of effective co arbiters, assistants and helpers) would definitely makes the job easier, but that is a given clause - whatever assistance that the Arbiter can get, will definitely be helpful.

In summarizing, perhaps an incremental time control for short rapid events (25 minutes or 30 minutes game) are best conducted over 2 days on a single weekend and to make it worthwhile, the rounds can be stretched to 9 instead of the usual 7 (or 6) rounds - 5 rounds on day 1 and 4 rounds on day 2. Of course, there will be an increase in costing but at least, there are more chess to be played, and organizers/arbiters will not be in a rush (and pray) to start the following round on time. The other setback about running an incremental time tournament, since the rounds are scheduled far apart to allow for lengthy games, is when by stroke of luck all the games surprisingly finished earlier than expected and due to this, the waiting for the players (and organizers) before the next round starts can be excruciatingly boring.... The Malay saying comes to mind: Penantian itu satu penyiksaan.... Don't you think?


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Of Earning the Official FIDE Title - And more....

Congratulations are definitely in order for our 2 new FMs - FIDE Master Lim Zhuo Ren and Women FIDE Master Camilia Johari. What is more interesting was that Zhuo Ren also made his first IM norm and with it, he could be our next IM in the making, the 6th after Jimmy, Mas, Mok, Zi Jing and Yee Weng. And also, a big round of applause to Tan Li Ting for securing the Women Candidate Masters title for her effort - all in all, a surprisingly good outing for the team, both the men and ladies.

Our new Women FIDE Master - WFM Camilia Johari
Our new FIDE Master (with 1 IM norm) - FM Lim Zhuo Ren
For Zhuo Ren and Camilia, both were rookies collecting their first ever cap for the country in the grandest and most prestigious chess event of all. Their successes could not have come at a better time. For the Malaysian Mens' team, they were ranked 86th overall but finished in 64th placing, finishing higher than Indonesia (who fielded GM Megaranto Susanto), Myanmar and Thailand. Recapping the position of other countries from around our ASEAN region, Vietnam with GM Le Quang Liem was placed 7th overall with Philippines in 21st place headed by GM Wesley So and one of ASIA's most celebrated chess player, GM Eugene Torre. Our southern neighbor Singapore with GM Zhang Zhong, finished 5 places above us at 59th placing.

For the ladies team, we were ranked 83rd and finished 61st overall. Note: Uncanny but I can't help but to notice that both the Malaysian Men and Ladies team finished 22 placing above their starting rank! Comparing our Ladies team performance in the regional race, we were only better than Thailand but lost out to Indonesia (24th placing), Vietnam (26th placing) and Philippines (43rd placing). Mongolia did well to earned the 13th overall spot with Iran securing the 9th spot. Top Asian countries were China (top seeded for the ladies and coming in second behind Russia) and India (in 4th place)

Surprisingly, Brunei did not field any team at the Olympiad, and Singapore and Myanmar only fielded the Men's team.
In any event, both the Malaysian teams did well amidst the continuous (and amassing) concerns that were raised over the state of affair of our beloved Federation, and the continuous whining and complaining that one small quarter have cast over the selection of our players to the event (especially for the Olympiad men's team) and everything and anything else under the sun (the sky, the planet, the universe....). The good outing by the Malaysian team may just be enough to suppress and quash some of the growing concerns and should be able to turn a new page on our chess affairs for a fresh start. It is only right to end (and start....) on a high note rather than letting it drop again. It is probably apt to dub the recent Malaysian chess episode similar to the that of the classic spaghetti western movie which featured Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach but with a slight twist - The Good, The Bad and The Fool Gone Mad..... with the tagline - everything good, everything bad and one thing mad!

Now that the fat lady has sung its last chorus, and a swan song is being heard in the background, and the curtain ready to unleash the next chapter on stage, let us move forward to improve (the state of affairs) of the game the we love, and the Federation that we have.... 

Folks, its time to move on!

Unless of course, some party pooper might just stop us in our track again......

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Of Celebrating Hari Raya.....

I had the opportunity to be invited to Tan Sri Ramli's Hari Raya Open House earlier today and took the opportunity to drop by and say hello. My wife and I arrived rather early (just after noon) and we were greeted by Tan Sri and Puan Sri, and already there at the garden reception were MCF Deputy President, Zuhri Abdullah and wife, Adzlin. Arriving about 5 minutes later than we were Abdul Hamid Majid, Mohd Fadli Zakaria and wife Zarina.

Tan Sri Ramli surrounded by the guests - at the back is (from left), my better half Hajar, Fadli and Hamid. Seated from the left was myself, Tan Sri, Zuhri and wife Adzlin, and Zarina (Fadli's wife)!!

It was still early when we were there hence, we got the place almost to ourselves but as the crowd began to fill up the seats, we decided that it was time to leave. In between, there were some talks and discussion about chess and its well being but since the occasion being Raya, we (especially I) decided not to get too deeply involved into it. I think most of us have already up to our heart, blood, neck, head and brain about chess that even on occasions like these, we had to still talk even more about the game that we love (or the politics of it).... But, at the end of it all, we did come to some kind of consensus - its time to move forward! And so we shall - I can't agree more to it....

But all in all, it was indeed a great get together with the President and the Deputy, and it was also a happy event indeed. 

Just before I left, a snap photo with Ramelle (Tan Sri's son in the middle) and Tan Sri holding his grandson.
Thank you for the invitation Tan Sri.... The food was great and the company was even better!