Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NAG 2009 Experiences

I'm reluctant to write this article at first, however, I change my mind after reading Marcus's article.

I first got involved as an Arbiter was way back in 1995 when pairing is done in manual way. No such thing as computer pairing. I learn on how to do simple pairing from Mr. Wong Fook Loy, husband to former CAS Secretary, Jackie Wong. It is not easy to do pairing the manual way especially when there is no exact guidance on how best to produce a good pairing. I always tell myself since then, a good pairing will decide the fairness of a competition. I've seen with my eye as a chess player prior to 1996, how other Arbiters (even with IA title to their names) can manipulate pairing easily and had pairing done at the expense on me (to give others a better chance of winning I guess). Hence, as a matter of principle I tell myself I must produce a fair pairing whenever I'm put in charge to the the pairing job. This is one reason I decided to quit as a player to turn Organiser to help promote fair play in Malaysian chess. (P/S: A number of Arbiters have taken our chess players for a ride when comes to pairing during those days in manual pairing)

In those days, people can say how good are their arbitering/pairing skills but the ONE AND ONLY reputable Malaysian Arbiter in manual pairing is IA Abdul Hamid Majid . You may think that I may be indebted to Hamid for me to say that but I'm proud to announce my pairing lesson did not comes from Hamid at all. I learnt the inside-out on how pairing system works all by myself through computer pairing program, Swiss-46, which is introduced to me in 1998. By 2000, I believe my ability in manual pairing and using computer pairing is no inferior than any Arbiters in Malaysia.

My manual pairing skills ability is put to the test at the highest level when M'sia hosted World Youth Olympiad in 2002. For your information, the team event is using manual pairing. I was made the Pairing Arbiter to reputable IA Cathy Rogers (wife of GM Ian Rogers, Australia) who was the Chief Arbiter for the event. I was given a free hand to do the pairing for each round and Cathy will confirm / reject my pairing decision before publishing it as official pairing for the next round. I'm proud to have pass the test with flying colours without any rejection and receive a very high acknowledgement from IA Cathy on my Arbitership.

Finally, I told myself with the acknowledgement I received from WYO 2002, I have achieved what I'm aiming to achieve when I started in 1995 that is providing a fair pairing at the highest level to any tournament I'm put charge to do. Since then, I was in-charge as Chief Arbiter in Merdeka Team Championship and National Age-group from 2002 onwards. Also, I think I'm one of the very few Arbiters in the World who is willing to do the job all by myself (to input, check, double confirm and generate) for 10 categories pairing encompassing close to 500 players with an interval of 30 minutes between rounds.

For the first time in 14 years as an Arbiter and 8 years as Chief Arbiter for NAG, there was rumours that spread on Day 2 that I've tampered with the computer pairing manually to affect children chances. When I first heard of it, I did not care much as I've explained to the child parent on Day 1 that the reason for his daughter to be floated down in a group of 6 players with same points despite being the highest seed because the girl was floated up in previous round (Rd 4), hence the computer pairing program (Swiss-Manager: The only official pairing programme endorsed by FIDE in top level tournaments) automatically even up the floating rule. Also, the computer has floated up 1 person from this group of six in Rd 5. For your info, I did not know the girl was floated down in Rd 5. He has accepted the explaination, however, the following day he went round the hall actively meeting with other parents and posted several questions to them which basically questioning on my credibility, professionalism, instigating other parents by telling stories, making slanderous accusations over what I think is non-issue. This is what I get after 14 years of serving my chess community to see a betterment for Malaysian Chess.

First of all, I did not write this pairing programme, and secondly the programme is endorsed by FIDE as the ONLY official pairing program. Even if it is found that there is any wrong in programming algorithm with this pairing programme, no Arbiter will change the pairing manually unless the directive comes from FIDE to stop using it. Today, Chess Organizers from Trengganu, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Pahang who knows how to use this Swiss Manager programme and inside-out of the programme because of my training to them done during NAG 2008.

Personally, I'm very disappointed with these parents who either have little knowledge but act to know everything or just follow what others said without checking the facts from qualified people or assume things or selfish act or who cares it is not my problem or playing chess politics. Am thinking seriously of retiring from Arbitering?