Some of you may be wondering why I say the National Junior is the best determinant for the strongest junior player. Very few players will get to experience what it is like to fight for the National Junior title. So let me tell you first hand what it was like from my perspective as manager, coach and father of Mark Siew.
National Junior was just 5 days after SPM. And so Mark had to split his time between his studies and still do a little chess on the side. After the exams he had only a few days to prepare. And that we did. With the short time remaining we came up with a simple strategy. Keep his opponents in the middle game. And so we worked on that.
At the National Junior itself, Mark found that he was losing every opening fight. So he went back to his lessons of keeping his mind strong and his concentration intact. With that tremendous effort he found himself the front runner right until the last round when he lost to Syakir.
That meant a play off with 5 players having the same points. Lim Zhuo Ren, Wong Jianwen, Syakir, Sumant and Mark.
By this time the boys had already played 5 gruelling days of chess. And they were all exhausted. Some more than others; depending on their run.
The play off consisted of a double round robin rapid. Players playing both white and black. And if the results were not conclusive then armageddon, a blitz with white having 5 minutes and black 4 minutes. White to win.
The play off didn't end till around 10pm that night. In the interim, there were some confusion over the rules, after the play off had started. The chief arbiter Najib Wahab was not clear with the other arbiters and he had left the scene. Just so you can understand what the fight was like, I asked Mark to take a short rest while the arbiters were sorting themselves out. I still remember vividly what he said to me. He said, "dad if I close my eyes now, I wont wake up". He was past the point of exhaustion.
Another thing. During the play off, Sumant was playing Mark and Sumant won. He offered Mark the win because Sumant didn't have a chance in the running anymore. To his credit, Mark declined the win and they submitted the correct results.
Finally, a new National Junior Master was crowned and Lim Zhuo Ren lifted that title.
All the boys fought like true Malaysian tigers that day. As a father and coach I was proud of of them all. In that one day I saw the boys grow up into men. Men worthy of respect. They didn't take the shortcuts.
Now that you have a glimpse of what it takes, I will tell you what it's all about in my next post.