It's Official - Mas Hafizulhelmi is Malaysia's No. 1
Despite playing at half pace, Mas was the easy winner of the prestigious Board 1 prize at the Inter State Teams and at the last major event, the Malaysian Masters, he shared first place with Lim Yee Weng and Aron Teh despite coming right off the exhausting top level KL Masters GM Tournament.
By no means however am I praising Mas... we all know he could do much better. At the point in time he was fully motivated, his rating was in excess of 2460 and today, with inflation taken into account, it would be a rating in excess of 2500 and he is still only in his early 30's.
If we look at the rating list I am alarmed that we have hardly any players 2300 and only 8, including veteran Jimmy Liew is above 2200!
Our IM's are not at 2400 level.
Yee Weng on the back of winning the Malaysian Masters is a little above 2300 while Ronnie's disaster at the same event (despite a decent outing at the Malaysian Open) has brought him under 2300 while we welcome back Jonathan Chuah to the active list!
Li Tian remains one of our very best young prospects even if he has stagnated somewhat in the last year and a half while globe trotting Aron Teh goes from strength to strength and will almost certainly become our next IM and hopefully a 2400+ IM and perhaps even a genuine GM candidate even if it is much too early to talk him up (as Malaysians tend to do!).
Today Malaysia is ranked 85, a steady drop over the years. When we looked to get our first IM there were no so many in Asian and even GMs were a rarity. After Jimmy, Mas was a long time coming but he too was able to compete with the best in our region.
Since then, a long time after, today(!), where the credentials and strength of many GMs are called into question we are still talking about getting a first GM?
Let me share two perspectives: A top GM who was in Malaysia recently noted that if by 18-21 years old a player was not getting to 2650, then is was unlikely he could close in on 2700 and make a good living from chess and this reality I think has been picked up by some other Malaysians already. The other is from someone who bluntly told a group of people that we have to stop measuring progress by getting a mere when it has to be done by looking at how others have also progressed and in relative terms. Don't forget that all the things we complain about is experienced by everyone else too.