I have noticed with some perplexity some of what various parties have been saying about the composition of the Malaysian Team to the World Chess Olympiad and summarising the key points of discussion, here too is my two cents worth!
1. Our No 1 player Mas Hafizulhelmi declining participation! That to me was the biggest shock as not so long ago he had turned professional and it still makes no sense to me notwithstanding well informed parties citing family matters, all of which he really should have calculated before taking the huge step to quit his job. Well, he will most certainly overcome this challenge in time!
2. The curious case of Mok Tze Meng. A lot of the fire in Mok seemed to me to have been lost after he achieved his long dream of becoming an IM (even if for short period he seemed to have made a stab at trying for a GM norm) and soon enough this highly successful businessman was busy instead qualifying to become a FIDE Arbiter. And yet he still wants very much to remain a permanent part of the national team setup as evidenced by participation in the SEA games and now he will also have his chance to lead the team on top board. I wish him all the best!
3. IM Jimmy Liew. Since Jimmy’s return to chess he has been as active as anyone with a fulltime job could hope for and from his activity in his blog he is obviously taking great pride in going to Turkey as part of a very decent team. There was some talk as to why not Ronnie but if that was true then it would be another player who would have been dropped as it was not a matter of selecting Jimmy or someone else instead! I will also say in his defence that if he was not selected he would have accepted it although he would still be his usual critical self based on having high expectations of what our national team should be and that would have been very much his right. On some comments as to his age, while he is no Korchnoi, I think that he and other older players still around are there to be forced into retirement and it is a sad indictment of Malaysian chess if Jimmy remains high on the national FIDE rating list and continues to hold his own against many of the young players constantly being touted as future IMs.
4. Young players in the team! It was a pity new National Champion Roshan Singh decided to opt out but his family’s priority is his studies and that has to be respected. Yeoh Li Tian for some time now has been our hottest property so it is fantastic MCF recognised that and not only will he benefit greatly from the experience but he will certainly also carry his own weight! Lim Zhou Ren to me was a bit of a surprise but a safe choice as he is as good as any of the rest given who was able to go and I hope he uses this opportunity to start to step up but as the reserve there will be less pressure on him to perform and that is not a bad thing at all for a debutant.
5. Team player. Lim Yee Weng has long been one of our most reliable team players while in the main also enjoying very decent individual performances and even if his rating has suffered from his short lived stint as a professional, with his excellent opening preparation and sober style he will no doubt turn in a typically solid performance and make an invaluable contribution.