Thursday, 24 June 2010

Malaysia at the Asian Junior Championships in Chennai, India

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Sisters Nur Nabila Azman Hisham, 13 years old, and Nur Najiha Azman Hisham. 11 years old, are two of our brightest young prospects, Nabila already a dangerous opponent for even our senior players at Rapid and Blitz events, and Najiha dominant in her age category and already demonstrating maturity in her play.

Of course neither sister has ever had proper coaching so while their strong points are obvious and impressive, their knowledge gaps are often surprising and there is no program (teaching, playing and analysis) in place to develop their talent.

In Chennai, participating were 8 countries and 53 players in the girls championship, including 2 who were Women International Masters and 12 who were Women FIDE Masters, and after being ranked 35th and 41st respectively, a finish of 20th and 27th respectively is rather good and they would have enjoyed nice rating gains as well.

The trainers of the other participants were surprised at their age relative to others, and even more surprised that they were able to largely hold their own.

Evan Capel, 16 years old, is also largely self taught and while he could be considered a late bloomer after going it alone in the last few years, he was still able to win the National Championship last year at 15 years of age and only lost out at the recent MSSM Championship on tie-break.

He started ranked 45th from a field of 74 players including 12 International Masters and 8 FIDE Masters and finished 47th so it seems really played very much to his level even though he too got a rating points gain.

But I also did manage to spend some time with Evan at this event and his score could so easily have been 5.5/9 as opposed to the 4/9 it got and I think he just lacks experience and of course exposure to strong competition, but like Nabila and Najiha he has also several glaring weaknesses, most of which fortunately can be remedied with a program of playing and analysing but that decision is his alone.

The Importance of the World Junior and Asian Junior Championships

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Before the explosion of “open” age group events, be it World Youth, Asian Schools, or even National Age group championships, the World Junior Championship and Asian Junior Championship were the only opportunity for a country’s best young talent to showcase their talent.

Each country could only send their best player for this under 20 event and the rewards were the International Master title for the winner of the Asian Junior Championship and the Grandmaster title for the winner of the World Junior Championship.

Today, these events are still incredibly important to top young players but not for the International Master or Grandmaster title but for the title of World or Asian Champion itself as many who play are already International Masters and Grandmasters!

See this year’s World Junior Championship entry list:  http://www.wjcc2010.pl/en/news/29-22062010-lista-uczestnikow

I was very pleased therefore to help facilitate Malaysia’s participation in the just finished Asian Junior Championship held in Chennai, India, and especially so when we were arguably being represented by our very best prospects.

Our players impressed in Chennai, and while the girls shone, I think that we all saw this as really more of an opportunity to better appreciate what it takes to succeed in chess at this level of competition and to take lessons for the future because if Malaysia is to develop a new generation of young players capable of flying our flag at senior level we must continue to make these investments.