Nearly half the number. The big upsurge was in 2011 directly after the very first written selection for NAG came out. And FGM had a small hand in it by publishing the criteria on this blog from a private email after a long struggle to get it from MCF.
I wonder if MCF is taking into account the motivation of parents in the way it is managing its affairs. This is my view. When parents first start to invest in chess we do so with the belief, perhaps unconsciously at first, that our children will be able to go as far as they can if they have the skills and acumen for the game.
So if the perception becomes that they will be banned if they prove to be strong, that they will be publicly vilified and attacked to make way for someone who has not conclusively proven himself to be the best then this may become a disincentive for parents to continue to invest in the game.
If they also see that all manner of tricks is used to protect jaded seniors who cannot even play chess anymore and is too afraid to enter the arena but just shout all kinds of abuses from the sidelines, and still want to represent Malaysia, this may become the final straw to leave the game. It will simply become an investment with no future.
But what do I know right? I do not "play chess". But I think I can understand this much. You need to motivate both the parents and the players for chess to thrive in Malaysia. And this is best done by having open and clean selection. Let the competition decide. I have said this time and time again.
So how did they manage to twist this into me wanting a back door for Mark? (The only explanation I can come up with is that they are saying that Mark would win if there was a clean and open selection. If that is the case then, while I thank them for the back handed compliment, I personally think we still have quite a way to go in improving our chess.)
I thanked the arbiter who spotted Marks first and only infringement of the rules of chess in all his years of competition.
Yes, I do admit that I am more lenient with the Juniors. Any Junior. I think the job of parents and officials is to teach them honesty in a very high pressure and intense game. I am only in favour of more severe punishment for habitual offenders. And more so if they are adults.
Even more than that I believe that it takes strength to admit to your mistakes and then resolve to better yourself. It is very easy to try to hide your mistakes. But if you do that then you have only just begun to stop learning.
I hope that the powers that be in chess will consider what I have said as an explanation for the much smaller numbers this year. I honestly believe that the above conditions I mentioned ie open and fair selection will lead to the culture that will bring healthy participation as well as our very own first GM.