Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Interview with IM Mas Hafizulhelmi

Chess Olympiad Bled 2002Image via Wikipedia
On the evening of the 29th December 2009, fireyrook had an opportunity to talk to one of Malaysia’s top chess players, IM Mas Hafizulhelmi, the new reigning Malaysian Masters 2009 Champion. IM Mas Hafizulhelmi revealed a few interesting facts about what he has achieved and his thinking for the future. He also talks about Malaysia’s chances for the SEA Games in Indonesia come the year 2011.
Picture 1. IM Mas Hafizulhelmi is the new Malaysian Masters Champion 2009.
How is your journey to become first GM of Malaysia?
I am reaching the end of my two-year period of break and will be returning to work with Petronas very soon. I would say that I have gained valuable exposure over the last two years and participated in many chess tournaments abroad to try to gain my GM-norm.

Have you achieved any GM-norms to-date?
I have had a few near misses but no norm yet. Certain criteria need to be fullfilled to obtain a GM norm in a tournament, such as the minimum 3 GM opponents, a score of about 70% of games played (this is also relatively dependent on your average opponents rating) and other related critirea. And 3 norms are needed for the full GM title. At the same time, the player needs to achieve a FIDE rating of above 2500.

How will you achieve your GM status from here onwards?
I will continue to participate in more future chess tournaments, here locally and abroad. This is of course, time permitting and work permitting. Generally, it takes 5-7 years to become a GM (This is what GM Ian Rogers told me when I started this Tiger Project, and to do it in 2 years was almost an impossible task) I have read somewhere, statistically to be a GM, it is as tough as doing a double PHD.
If a Malaysian needs to achieve a Grandmaster norm, I think it would be an advantage to stay in Europe for a period of time and participate in chess tournaments there. Still this is not easy, it is just that more tournaments mean you get more chances to improve your level and more opportunity to go for the norms.
Yes, We have seen how the Indian World Champion, Anand, who has stayed in Germany to stay focused in professional chess and participate in as many chess tournaments as possible to achieve his World No. 1 status as World Champion in chess. Next question: Recently, we have heard that Indonesia will become the next host for the SEA Games in 2011 and chess is included. Do we have a chance to win any medals in chess in the coming SEA Games in 2011?
In the South-East Asia region, there are three big chess giants. They are Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia. Each of these countries have many grandmasters in chess and even more International Masters and FIDE-Masters amongst them. On paper, it won't be easy for Malaysia to win a medal (but we did win bronze medal in Vietnam SEA games some years ago) but it would be worthwhile for our Malaysian chess players to use it to try for IM/GM-norms, a spring board to their own titles. Once, Malaysia starts to have players with GM-titles, the pool of titled chess players will increase dramatically, almost exponentially! To start having one GM is the most difficult part that Malaysia has to undergo.
Thank you for your time to have a conversation with me. We wish you all the best in your struggle to achieve your Grandmaster norms and eventually a full GM title.
(interviewed and posted by firey_rook;
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