Thursday, October 24, 2013


The SCF and other organisers do their best in providing ample opportunities for players to take part in competitions, as is their objective in creating a healthy chess scene.

However this does not mean that the players themselves should try to play in every single tournament. Playing in a tournament should be viewed with achieving the following objectives.


After drawing up lessons for losses in previous games, the player should review carefully the losses derived and determine their causes. Improvements should be made and digested, so as to avoid the same mistakes made when playing the next tournament.

New ideas derived from the study of lost games should be tried out as well in the next tournament and the cycle of analysis and refinement continuously applied till the player is confortable in the positions appearing before him/her. Ultimately, the player should not be surprised by any opening novelty that has not been researched or played arising from his/her repertoire. Failure to remember the moves and resulting in lost positions a second time in a tournament game is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary.

It is not enough to have a good thought process - one needs to practice using it to derive good moves.


The aim of playing in a strict time control is to practice discipline in thinking about moves. The emphasis here is mainly in working out variations arising from the opponent's moves which may differ from prepared analysis. Here the aim is spend the correct amount of time in deciding what best to play. Some positions are complicated and require more time, while simple captures should not bog the player down in the time spent. What I observe mainly in competitions is that players offen do not spend their time carefully in working out their moves when the position becomes critical, especially when the pawn structure can be altered or when multiple captures of pieces is possible. Such moments require careful consideration but often players react too fast and allow their positions to crumble. Many chose to exchange pieces when offered without serious thought, often slipping into inferior positions after their exchanges.

To play accurately in time trouble is an art in itself. I have seen good players able to dish out good moves even when their time left is dangerously low. This is a sign of good concentration by the player in foreseeing all threats by his opponent and working out their responses in advance. Here players should learn to retain their composure and not panic at the sight of the clock. Alertness, clarity of thought and determination are most needed when approaching a time trouble situation.


Good chess is often possible when the player achieves deep concentration and focus on the position in front of him/her. Failure to do so often results in missing tactics, leaving pieces to hang and therefore captured. Often the sense of danger leaves the player who drifts into his/her neighbour's position trying to solve problems there instead of focussing on their own positions. Deriving a good move from a good thought process, in good time, is also a goal for the player to work on.

If you are a player that joins  tournament after tournament without working on the above objectives, my fear is that burnout will result in you playing the same openings the same way, reacting to situations with the same "programmed" moves and likely achieving the same results as your previous tournament. One must never allow oneself to get into this droning mode as it is the surest way to kill your creativity and interest in the game. When this happens, it is time to stay away from the tournaments and start studying games again to recharge your creative batteries.

I recommend that one should not go beyond 60-80 serious competitive games a year and spend the remaining time STUDYING not just openings, but games of the top players and analysing their moves from the opening all the way to the endgame. This is necessary for all improving players who must have good ideas and plans with them as they prepare for their next tournament. Not forgetting the daily practice of solving tactical puzzles to keep their tactical muscles in shape of course. Only thus can one attain good results consistently.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Each year the 3 chess queens of Hungary, namely the Polgar sisters, return to their native Budapest to hold a chess festival which aims to spark interest in chess amongst the young children. This year, Garry Kasparov joins them in their 7th edition.

Something we can learn perhaps in organising chess events involving children?


On October 9, at the FIDE Congress in Tallinn, a voice none other than ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov once again makes another effort to rejuvenate the world of chess today.

He gathers a team spanning the continents from the Americas to Asia, a conglomerate of business leaders, activists, plus organisational experience. In preparations for the next FIDE elections in Tromso next year, Garry is mindful not to repeat the lessons in Khanty-Mansisk 2010 where the key issue was money. This time, with the help of Jan Callewaert and Rex Sinquefield, he was ready with the funds, plus building links with the corporate tycoons such as Peter Thiel and more.

Garry has an important card in his hand - the Chess in its Role in Education that many on his team saw value. The use of chess in improving the learning experience for children in this century comes even more critical, more than the theoretical novelties created out of the outputs from the current top players. As he correctly pointed out at his presentation (and even back when he visited us 2 years ago), chess is played worldwide but receiving less attention than it should mainly due to the inward-looking FIDE policies which sought to cloister the community from the world at large. Chess is probably the only organised sport that currently does not receive sponsorship from corporate giants like McDonalds or Google or Coca-cola, as he observed. Should he succeed, he will rally and unite the forces of the chess organisations whose main aim is to popularise the game in children. This impact will  certainly see the same renaissance that the world experienced at the end of the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match.With the increase in numbers of players, the possibility of sponsorship will improve and thereafter fund future collaborations for the support of new talent.  Hence, with the changing political landscape, SCF should now work closely with Garry, leveraging on his platform to raise the profile of chess in Singapore amongst Singaporean parents and who knows, possibly capture the attention of our MOE to relook at their current view of chess?

Those interested in watching the views of Garry and his team should tune into the following links:

For chess players, the following video would be interesting as Kasparov explained the events from 1990-1995 on how chess took its turn for the worse.

Is this the prelude to our chess future? Time will tell.

Monday, October 7, 2013


The October SCF Ratings list may be the last SCF Ratings list published by the Federation in view of the intended move to the FIDE ratings list wef 2014.

So in summary, I list the ratings changes from Jan 2013 till now for my active students who played this year.

Congratulations to all who have made big strides in their ratings! Especially Royce, Zhong Kai and Shi Hao who have done well this year. My newer students are gradually improving, though with modest gains.

Generally the ones with negative ratings require review of their lessons with me, plus lots more practice online to catch up.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The 2013 National Age Group takes on a new format - 9 rounds of grueling 3 hr games (1.5 hrs per side). Stamina counts for these games and fitness is of course very important. I have seen players leading up to Rd 6 in tournaments of this nature, only to falter at the last 3 rounds due to fatigue.

Hence to my students : Know your limits and if you choose to sign up for this, prepare yourselves physically by exercising regularly after your exams. It will be necessary to put in at least 45 minutes of exercise a day to achieve good physical shape to stay alert for the whole 3 days. Kindly contact me of your decision so I can make the necessary training plans to support.



If you have views to contribute on how we can promote chess in schools, I will see you this Friday , 7.30 pm at Singapore Chess Federation located at Bishan St 13, Singapore Intellectual Games Centre (opposite the Bishan Bus Interchange) 2nd Floor conference room. Please email if you can come.

Looking forward to a fruitful discussion and ideas.


John Wong