Friday, April 29, 2011


When examining games of junior players, I see that many do not know what to do when the position in front of them is without any captures or threats to make. They are then left to think of a move, often one that takes a piece backwards into their own territory.  Can anyone blame them?

Indeed, it is hardest to teach a junior player strategy when their grasp of tactics is still not strong. To bridge this gap, it is not pertinent to introduce the materials from Nimzowitsch's MY SYSTEM. I would consider using a simpler book, Bruce Pandolfini's WEAPONS OF CHESS.

What I like about this book is that Mr Pandolfini outlines the basic elements of positional chess like the open file, passed pawns, pawn structure weaknesses etc in simple language for the child to understand, then gives explanations on how to play with these elements. He has also given fairly good advice on how one should think when quiet positions with no tactics is reached. Most P3-4 students should have no problems understanding the material in this book. I am sure it will help their chess greatly.    

Often I see notes on positional chess concepts  introduced with examples cut out from grandmaster games played over the last 10 years. This is not useful at all for a child who has yet to understand the complex thinking behind the players today. It will be far better to introduce the positional elements with games played by the old masters of the 1900-1930's, as many of these games show clear-cut moves on how to implement the methods of using the elements. Playing over the old classics  is like a step-by-step lesson on how to make the elements work without the opponent's interference. There is a lot that can be learned from the old games, but sadly today's children have not had access to the books like 

Where Chernev (not a master) explains the fine points of chess strategy to budding players. I learnt a lot from reading these 2 books which spurred my chess strength to new heights before tackling harder books like

 If trainers take examples from these books instead of the present games, I am sure that students will get to grasp the positional concepts better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Please note that the Thomson Chess Club practices on Fridays will be suspended from this Friday and next. We shall resume on May 13.

We are ready to receive entries for the Thomson Cup International now so do sign up early as we will cut off at 150 participants.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


TCA stands for Uncle Tay Cheong Ann, our oldest living chessplayer in Serangoon Gardens, is organised by the Serangoon Gardens Country Club in his honour. About 240 players competed in the Pre-School, Primary and Open Sections, with the bulk vying for trophies ranging from the Primary 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 categories.

L participated with his sister HL. Though he had no problems with those ranked 20th and below, the crux came in facing the tops Inexperience and knowledge took its toll and caused the 2 losses, leaving him with 5 pts but still he got 10th place in the P5-6 category and in the winner's circle. His 21st placing out of 182 players is most commendable.

Sister HL started well, finished 4/7 in 52nd place beating some boys along the way but the long day drained her of a good finish. Losing the last game caused her a place in the winner's circle but I'm extremely proud of her regardless. She's grown to accept losses and no longer breaks down each time a 0 is handed to her. That speaks of growth in her maturity and to me, it merits more than just a trophy. Both children played well and took their result in good stride, promising to do better at the next event. I'm sure that with better time management, they will be able to spend a little more time practicing ( L's in the gifted program which means time is really scarce).

The Serangoon Gardens Country Club staff and organisers should be applauded for their meticulous attention to detail in ensuring top playing conditions for the players and comfort for the parents and accompanying persons. Pairings are beamed in the holding area so players need not clambour to get their seats. Food was provided in ample quantities for the players and they even get ice-cream after the last round! A magic show entertained the young uns whilst results were tabulated. I could not stay on for the full results but I believe the SCF crew taking care of the pairings would upload the results in due time.

Kudos to Ansband, Catherine and all the F and B staff for making it a total success!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Please submit only page 2 of the document below.

Some explanation. If you are not a Chess Club member and would like to join, you (or your parent) will need to have a valid PassionCard. Chess Club membership is then $10 for those aged 12 and under, $18 all others. You are only eligible to pay $15 as a Chess Club member after your membership is complete. For those who do not own a Passioncard, it would be easier to join the tournament and pay $30 as it would be more economical.

I shall be distributing some forms at the TCA Junior Chess Tournament at Serangoon Gardens tomorrow. We are ready to receive entries from Monday April 28. Do sign up early as we have a limit of 150 entries.

Friday, April 15, 2011


There are generally 2 main schools of thought when it comes to choosing openings.

The mainstream school believes that you should start to learn the main lines of theory, accumulate the experience gained over tournament games and then emerge with a better understanding of the game.

The other school's main emphasis is on practicality - to be able to enjoy chess without spending too much time. Hence the main idea is to adopt off-beat gambit lines, learn them well and work on the element of surprise.  

In my opinion, both schools have their points and merits. For an interested student of the game wanting to grow into a player of international standing, the mainstream school should be the way to go - however, it does amount to spending lots of time in gatherting the information about the history of the opening line, studying the key ideas from playing over the key games on which theory has evolved, then checking through the current state of theory. In addition, there's also the need to look at deviants of the opening and to be conversant in refuting them as well. Such an approach can only be recommended if you truly make chess your one and only hobby outside of your main activity. No TV, no XBOX, computer games etc. Chess becomes your main entertainment

For students with lesser interest and ambitions, I honestly cannot recommend this approach for reasons of practicality. Our students are often swamped with loads of schoolwork, tests, projects and what not - there's simply not enough time to handle the huge demands of school as well as the chessboard. One needs to work smart in this case. The nice bit about chess is that there's really many ways to skin a cat. Hence the subject of gambits.

Gambit play is often recommended for young players because it introduces the concept of tempo and initiative at an early age. No one can afford to waste any time when playing a gambit because the advantage of time in development is transient and disappears rapidly when your opponent catches up with you in piece development. Then there is the necessity of having good tactical vision in order to make the gambits come alive. Learning tactical ideas coupled with good opening development habits makes learning and playing gambits fun and rewarding as opposed to memorising tomes of information without much understanding.

Please note that I am not advocating the use of gambits in winning miniature games through the traps ingrained in them. Resorting to "tricks" is not the right way to learn chess. However, we cannot deny that these traps are the result of punishing your opponent's indulgant moves in the position. So understanding how the traps are sprung is a necessary step in learning the opening, but it should not be over-emphasised as an end in itself.

A main component of junior chess improvement is the ability to generate threats at every move coupled with precise calculation of the opponent's possibilities to the threats. Playing gambits requires the correct execution of the sequence of threats in order to achieve the right conditions for the attack against the opponent's king or else the attack quickly fizzles. For students 10 years or younger this would work out fine. As the child grows, mainstream openings can then be introduced as he would by then realise that for all gambits, the secret to answering them is not to keep the pawn plus, but to return it at the right time to realise and advantage.He will then be at the right point of his chess development to appreciate the intricacies of the Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian and Queens Gambits or Slav defences which are the staple openings in any World Championship match.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


7 students took part in the just concluded Queenstown Age-Group with varying results. There were 2 prize winners, Nicholas Low who was 5th in the U10 and Matthew Sim who was 4th. The Primary Section was won by Ashvin Sivakumar while Ting JinYao won the Secondary Section.

 WIth my prize-winning students

Both got 4/7 pts. Dan Peng lost his last game to finish at 4/7, which is already great improvement considering that he did only 2.5pts at the National Schools Individual in March.

I was pleasantly surprised when my first-time participant student T  had Gregory Loh on the ropes on her first major chess game! She was totally winning but stalemated. T showed great composure, taking her time and diligently followed my instructions in recording her moves and looking at threats. She certainly has the temperament for chess if she pursues it with more fervour. 

For those who did not achieve the desired 4pts, they would need to examine the games to reflect on the typical mistakes which can be summarised as:

a. Unfamiliarity with the opening tabiya

b. Not being able to spot opponents' threats

c. Giving up when there's still fight left

d. Switching openings mid-way through the tournament

I believe many of these factors are related to their psyche of over-estimating the powers of the opponent and under-estimating their own. Therefore I will have to work on their confidence level when I next see them. Inadequate preparation may have been the chief contributor to the above factors.  Then again, there's many things to work on and not really enough time to handle every issue. Some things will have to wait and patience is called for.

It has been a fruitful day for most of them, for the most part they are now better aware of what it takes to be at the top. Passion and enthusiasm will top the list, followed by discipline and hard-work.

Saturday, April 9, 2011




1.      The tournament is organized by the Thomson CCMC and the games shall be played according to the FIDE Laws of Chess for Rapid Chess (G/60).

2.      ELIGIBILITY : This tournament is open to members of the public. Players may enroll in one of the 2 sections,   GOLD   (Rating >= 1600)  or  SILVER   (Rating between 0 and 1599) upon payment of entry fee. Players can choose to play in the section above their rating category but not in categories below.

3.      VENUE : Thomson Community Club Hall, 194 Upper Thomson Road Singapore 574339

4.      PAIRING : Swiss System of  7 Rounds,  time control  1 hour each side to finish.

5.      SCHEDULE: 4th June Saturday 11 am to 6.30 pm (3 rounds). Please report  by  10.30am. Walkover time for Round 1 is 1 hour.  5th June Sunday  9.00 am to 6.30pm      (4 rounds). Round times and lunch break will be announced on the day. Lunch is  provided 5th June.
      Prize Giving Ceremony :5th June  Sunday  7.00 pm.

6.    PRIZES : Gold 1st Prize $300, Silver 1st Prize $150. All other prizes shall be  announced at the start of Round 1. A minimum of 10 prizes per section is expected. All winners shall receive 1 prize only and tie breaks will resolve the placing of each prize winner.

7.      ENTRY FEE  : $15 for members of Thomson CC Chess Club, $30 for all others.

8.      CLOSING DATE: There will be a limit of 150  first-paid entries received.All entries are to be submitted with entry fee and reach Thomson  CC  by , June 2nd  Thursday  10pm. All cheque payments are to be crossed and made payable to “ Thomson CCMC”. DO NOT SEND CASH. 

9.      TIE BREAK :  The System of Tie Break shall be announced before the start of the Tournament. The Tournament Director’s decision on matters on the tournament shall be FINAL.

  1. The Organising Committee reserves the right to accept or reject any entry without assigning a reason. Rejected entries shall be fully refunded.

 For drivers, free parking is available Sunday  at Shunfu Blk 309-314 at the back of the CC. Enter via Shunfu Road along Marymount Road.


In view of the looming Singapore 2011 General Election date which has yet to be announced, our organisers have decided that it would be best to move the tournament to 4-5 June to avoid any rescheduling should it be necessary.

The entry forms shall be posted soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I noticed several readers are keen on the topic of Board Orientation, or Examination by some authors. To examine the roles of each piece in play is indeed something that's so important in determining one's decision that it is not much mentioned in chessbooks. So far, only Dan Heisman's Everyone's Second Chess Book has delved into this topic.

The other source of board vision drills that I would advocate is Michael De La Maza's Concentric Square exercise. Start by placing a Black King on a centre square say  d5 Then place a piece that is the target on d4. Move the piece anti-clockwise, ie e4-e5-e6-d6-c6-c5-c4. It will complete 1 full square. For each move of the piece (say a Rook), use a White piece (say Queen) and place it on a square such that it can attack both the Black King and the piece without being captured. Work out all the possible squares before moving the Black piece to the next square. 

The main purpose is to associate the mind with the various attack patterns of each White piece against the King and another unprotected piece. This in turn trains the eye to identify threats such as pins, forks and skewers which form the main weapons in a junior's chess game. 

Certainly, this may seem boring and tedious but then, isn't shooting free-throws at a basketball hoop and taking penalty shots? The secret is to hone the mind into identifying the threats (be it yours or your opponent's). To work out the full set of Concentric Square exercises, there are 4 attacking pieces (R,B,Q,N) and 3 shifting pieces (R,B,Q). That works out to 9 combinations and 1 for the Knight (which undoubtedly makes the same pattern be it the Black R,B or Q.  By diligently doing the 10 exercises which can take about 1 hr, this is akin to practicing scales on the piano or violin or any other music instrument. Mastery and familiarity of the lines of attack will certainly raise the awareness of threats and improve the sight of the board for the chess player. For future details, its best to look for De La Maza's book "Rapid Chess Improvement" or look for his pioneer article "400 pts in 400 days" on the Net.