Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Crash Course on How To Argue Better

This post is dedicated to people who have no idea on how to argue their viewpoints properly. Needless to say, this is in reference to the mass "dumbass comments" (as Eddy calls them) that were left on his blog.

I generally agree with Eddy's views on discourse. To have a proper debate, we must first have respect. Use logical and sound arguments to make your point. If you start asking rhetorical questions like FGM, then it is no longer an argument. It is political spin. Also, it makes no sense to just simply assert your own viewpoint and then fold your arms and say "I am entitled to my own opinion". Yeah OK, last I checked, it's a relatively free country. But assertion without justification is the fastest way to prove that you are not very smart.

So here is the Idiot's Guide on How to Make Better Arguments:

1. State your assumptions and assertion

2. Explain your assertions based on your assumptions

3. Give examples to support your assertions

4. State conclusion

5. Check whether your arguments make sense

Of all the steps above, No. 5 is the hardest to do. Steps 1 to 4 are probably taught to you when you were in primary school. Of course you do not have to do it in numerical order, but these are the bare necessities of any cogent argument. But often, we get lazy and just jump from assertion to conclusion, without even checking whether it makes sense. I must admit that I am one of those people sometimes, but I try very hard to avoid it.

The most useful way that I found to check whether your arguments make sense is the "5 Whys". This is one of the underlying techniques of Toyota's kaizen philosophy, which brought it to great heights. As an aside, Toyota seems to have lost its way, but that is not the focus of today's topic.

Let me use Ronnie's arguments as an example:


In fact, I would claim that despite the fact that an 11-year old Yeap Eng Chiam or an 11-year old Fong Yit San is likely to beat an 11-year old Yee Weng, Zi Jing, Ee Vern or Jonathan, the tables are turned as they are older.

Yes, I do believe that a 15-year-old Yee Weng (already two-time national champion), Zi Jing, Ee Vern or Jonathan (already a national champion at 13) is probably able to beat a 15-year-old Eng Chiam or Yit San. And even more surely, an 18-year old Yee Weng, Zi Jing, Ee Vern, Jonathan, Nicholas or Tze Han (all already national champions by then except Zi Jing who only won it at 20 years old) would in all likelihood win an 18-year old Eng Chiam or Yit San. Even an 18-year-old Anas might not stand a chance.
Examples to justify:

To go further, the 20-year old Yee Weng, Zi Jing, Jonathan, Nicholas, Marcus and Tze Han were National Champions (except Marcus who won it at 21), mostly rated around 2200 plus, performed strongly in local tournaments, represented Malaysia internationally (with some good perfomances) and have beaten FMs and IMs internationally. Some of course improved further, getting their IM titles in their twenties while some basically stopped playing.

I hope you get my point. What I'm trying to say is that the OVERALL achievements of these players before they reached 20 were unparalleled by juniors in the years after (I'm pretty sure in the years before too).
The point here is not to discuss whether Ronnie's arguments are true or not. But this is just to show how a good, strong, logical argument is made. Hopefully, future discussions will be more productive and that some idiots would also have learnt a thing or two in making logical arguments. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Time to Move On

Eddy has added his comments to his post on the selection matter.

With that, I think the show is over. Time to move on to better things.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Pot Calling the Washing Machine Black

Let me first declare that I am not an interested party to any of this laundry-airing that is going on. Which is why I can say that I will be able to provide a more objective analysis on things.

For context, read Eddy Fong's email.

No matter how I read Raymond's reply, I just can't help but notice the big elephant in the room. Raymond kept emphasizing on the fact that Sumant's name was not in the list. As part of a selection committee, is it not their role to bring in any qualified player up for consideration? While Raymond may pretend to claim that he does not want to pick his favorite, but the truth of the matter is, he is also biased when he chooses not to bring in a qualified player for consideration.

Does he really believe that Sumant is not qualified to represent Perak? He is trying to shift the blame to the Perak committee. But let us all not forget that Raymond is the head of the selection committee and as the head, he is supposed to lead the discussion and choose the best players to represent Perak.

So from my understanding, here is his main reason why he did not bring up Sumant's name for selection.

People told him Sumant is not from Perak

Any one with any cow sense to read the National Closed rules know that in order to represent the state, you must be either born in, residing in, or working in the state. Furthermore, as I said, the big elephant in the room was that Sumant was ALLOWED to play in the Perak Closed. If Sumant was not from Perak, why the heck was he allowed to play in the Perak Closed? By virtue of the fact that he is allowed to play, he definitely is qualified to represent Perak. Why was this not brought up by the stupid head of the selection committee who claims to be so good at thinking? Isn't it the job of the head of the selection committee to bring up names for consideration? No one is asking him to select Sumant. What is wrong by bringing in the name to be considered by the whole committee? It shows ill-intent by virtue of the fact that he intentionally left out the name.

Let me postulate a couple of reasons. The committee already had four names. The committee only had room to select four players. If Raymond had decided to bring in another strong player, it would mean that they would have to kick out one player. And based on the "understood and long-standing" criteria, the selection was supposed to be based on merit, by using the Perak Closed results. If that was used, it would mean that Mark would have been relegated to 5th place and could possibly not be selected at all. Given such a possible conflict of interest, Raymond should have recused himself from the selection committee instead, since he is all about taking the moral high ground of walking out the room and what not.

Raymond himself is also a strong advocate of "selection by merit". I did not know when "loyalty" was included as a criteria to represent a state or country. Granted, playing strength should not be the ONLY criteria, but it should be a main one. I fancy the day I am selected to represent Malaysia in whatever tournament just because I have always paid out of my own pocket playing for Malaysia.

The joke of the year is that the selection criteria used was "number of FIDE-rated tournaments played". A criteria cleverly designed such that Mark would be an easy number one pick. Given that this is the case, the committee should have forced Raymond to recuse himself as he was the one who chose the selection criteria and based upon the criteria he chose, his son was the number one pick. Anyone can see how absurd this is.

The selection criteria was arbitrarily crafted and most definitely not "written". But should it not be based on results? Can you imagine a beginner who just started chess and played five rated tournaments and scored zero points? Would Raymond have insisted on using that very same criteria? Isn't it obvious that results should be used, instead of number of tournaments played?

All I can say is, when you talk from ass, shit comes out.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Beginning of The End

Hilarious post here by Jimmy

But the comments makes me very sad.

Just a fair warning:

"When you corner a wild animal, its natural instinct would be to fight back. "

I hope for everyone's sake that Raymond's preferred course of action right now would be to privately apologize to Sumant and his family and keep quiet so that this will all blow over.

After all, this is his "technique" for solving problems. In this case, I think that it is for Sumant's benefit that this kind of nonsense does not go on and is no longer dragged out in public.

I think almost the entire chess community is angry at the damage that Raymond has done and will likely demand an apology from him. But I think it is unnecessary. To demand an apology from him would be to legitimize his "authority". The chess community as a whole does not need an apology from a nobody.

Also, an apology does not make it OK. You cannot go in someone's house and vandalize it and then say you are sorry. I think finally everyone knows the truth, if they haven't already, and we should all move on with our lives and let Sumant pursue his own goals in peace.

There is nothing left to say about this. The truth is out.

Shocker... Best Trainer In Malaysia

I was drinking water when I read this and I almost spat all my water on my computer. Luckily I managed to hold it in.

Just for the record, the results he is talking about is this:

1. Sumant qualified for SEA Games
2. Mark got 2nd place in National Junior

With these sort of achievements, I think even the Stonemaster would not have the stones to boast about it. Let me just dabble into how insignificant these achievements are.

A) Classic case of "shiok sendiri" aka Malaysia Boleh

Sumant has "merely" progressed from a strong national junior to play for the senior team. FGM makes it sound like it was responsible for ALL of Sumant's training since he was a small boy. The gap between an already strong junior player and a senior team player is not that huge. Quite frankly, let us take a look at some of the players who have done it. Ronnie Lim, Nicholas Chan, Wong Zi Jing, Jonathan Chuah and so on and so forth. Why do I call this Malaysia Boleh? This is exactly like how Malaysians try to boast about Lee Chong Wei's and Nicol David's success as if it were their own. Hello!! Can you imagine how absurd it is if Misbun started jumping up and down by claiming that he was responsible for Chong Wei's success?

B) Overestimating the value of coaches

I don't know about you guys, but representing the country (even in a fair selection) and getting 2nd place in National Junior is far less of a deal than what most people think. These are perfectly achievable goals even without a coach, or with minimal coaching. If I am not mistaken, Jonathan Chuah won the National Closed when he was 13, and he never had a coach. Nicholas Chan won back to back National Closed Championships in 2003 and 2004, when he was 15 and 16 respectively. Granted, he did a stint with John Wong and I am not sure who else (if any). Lim Yee Weng won the National Closed in 1996 and 1997 when he was around 13-15 (also with minimal coaching). Bear in mind that these are all National Closed champions and not MERELY National Junior RUNNER-UPS.

This is just like our DPM who has the nerve to claim that Malaysia has better quality education compared with the US, UK and Germany. A psychiatrist would probably diagnose these people as being delusional with potentially harmful tendencies towards others.

P/S: In no way am I trying to belittle the achievements of Sumant. I am just saying that FGM cannot pretend to be responsible for Sumant's success. In fact, I am trying to do both of them a favour by saying that they should not rest on their laurels. These are not achievements that anyone should be shouting about. It only advocates complacency and arrogance.

In the words of Steve Jobs, "Stay hungry, stay foolish".

Monday, April 2, 2012

Quote of the year (for now)

Nothing much to add lately, mainly because nothing much has changed. Lately, a lot of discussion has been going on about the national juniors. Every one wants a stake in "spotting" the next top talent. Every one wants to place their hopes on a first Malaysian GM.

If the objective is for fun and laughter ala coffee shop talk, by all means, carry on. My first thought is, we will always have strong juniors. We always have players with very great promise. I mean, how is the Yeoh Li Tian of today any different from the likes of Ooi Chern Ee in the past. Let us be reminded that Chern Ee was tied 2nd in the World Youth Chess Festival, an achievement that is unmatched until today. So, my point is, juniors will always come, and some of them will go. So as far as this goes, it is great as coffee shop talk. No different from a debate comparing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Who cares which of them is the best in the world?

Personally, I don't get what the big fuss is about. As I said before, the goal of getting the first GM in Malaysia is utterly stupid. That should never be the end goal. So if the discussion about the Malaysian talent is to spot a potential GM, I am afraid that all that time is completely wasted.

As for anything new to add, here is simply a quote which reflects the reality (compared to all the fictional stories that has been bandied across all the blogs):
'I take it for granted there is really no such thing as “intelligence”. There are a million ways to be smart and no one’s smart in all of them; everyone can be slow on the uptake, and most human beings, whether plumbers or professors, will be remarkably apt at some things and hopeless at others. "But stupid isn’t dumb. Stupidity is different. It involves an element of will. This is why no one ever talks about “militant dumbness” or “militant cluelessness”, but they do talk about “militant stupidity”. The Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem once tried to imagine the stupidest possible computer. It could only do one problem, 2+2, thought the answer was 5, and when anyone tried to tell it otherwise, it grew outraged and eventually, tried to kill them.

'It is in this sense that I we can call Bush stupid. He is a man used to deciding what he thinks is right, and then sticking to his guns no matter how insane, disastrous, or simply incorrect his premises turn out to have been. But of course this is precisely the core of what his supporters like about him. He’s firm. Decisive. A strong leader. Not like those over-intellectual flip-floppers who are always going on about how many sides there are to a problem.'

--David Graeber, "Militant Stupidity"
All of us know that the "emperor (or dictator, or Hitler, etc)" is naked. The joke is on those who support his every move.