Monday, January 27, 2014

THE LATEST WORD

On 25 Jan Kasparov was an invited guest to the TATA Steel GM tournament and held a press conference there. Here he discusses the "Contractgate" issue that was featured in the Sunday Times.


Viewers can fast forward to 20:02 for his take on the matter.

THE TOURNAMENT

It was business as usual but owing to some entries that came in after closing date causing some confusion, the tournament start was delayed by 20 minutes. Eventually we managed to close the gap in between rounds to finish at 6pm regardless.

For the Seniors section we have Lee Qing Aun, Edwin Lam, Shawn Yong, Osric Mooi and Jimmy Ng while Alexander Chan, Marcus Chen and Jeremiah Xie were the top seeds in the Juniors section. A good mix of adults and children.

The Thomson Chess Club Championship is unique in that we do not offer cash nor trophies as prizes, but used chess books. This is to entice the good habit of self-learning amongst chess-players. I vividly remember the days where chess instrruction was only available if you go to chess clubs and well-meaning seniors show you a thing or two if they chose to. Hence my fondness for collecting good chess books, which I now offer to the next generation so that they too can benefit.

8 prizes out of 40 participants per Section meant 16 happy prizewinners, the Champion being Lee Qing Aun who scored 6.5 pts followed by Shawn Yong.Osric and Jimmy Ng. Royce Tan performed impressively on 5 with wins over Jimmy and Anoop Jayaraj and had Shawn Yong on the ropes before blundering near time trouble. Zhong Kai lost the first 2 but regained his form to finish on 4 (including a walkover from Winston Low).

Alexander Chan made perfect score of 7 pts, followed by Marcus Chen  and Jaryl Lee on 5.5 . My students Isaiah, Nash and Nicholas made 4 pts and 4.5 respectively while Qi Xuan only managed 3.5. Ryan was still finding his way in the openings so he only got 3 along with Cadence. Bringing up the rear was Caleb. 

I'd say most of the players enjoyed themselves and we hope that they will join us on our Friday sessions taking place from 730pm to 10pm. I am revising the opening hours because I realise nobody comes on in at 7. We have our adults league and endgame league still on-going. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

THOMSON CHESS CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP

Till date we have 82 registered players for the Championship, meaning as of 2014 January we have now 82 members of the Club. Welcome!

This Sunday's event starts 10am and we do not impose zero-start. However, we are also not encouraging players to go on byes as we do not award points for byes requested prior to the competition. If the pairing during the competition indicates a bye for the player owing to odd number of participants that is fair.

Parking is free on Sundays at the Shunfu Rd carpark for blocks 312-318.

Many asked about the prizes. For those who've participated before, we do not give trophies. I am only giving away used chess books as prizes for both sections. Hence, during prize giving, we will announce the Champion first who gets first pick of the books laid on the table. They are from my private collection and should be worth something.

Lastly, this tournament is not rated in any way.

See you all Sunday!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A CALL FOR SOLIDARITY

I can only sum up last night's SCF meeting with training vendors under the caption above.

The chess training community presently provides chess-trainers to schools and local individuals wanting chess lessons, comprising no more than 3-5 chess schools and several freelance trainers.  

The SCF President opened the floor to stress that it is not in the SCF's interest to vie for the chess-training jobs in schools. This is mainly a commercial matter best left to supply and demand amongst the training community. 

Key trust of the meeting was the news of chess in schools receiving a boost owing to the visit of Garry Kasparov. Garry  managed to convince some members of the cabinet to give chess a chance to develop young minds in the schools program. 
Hence the relevant ministries are surveying the potential of expanding chess training in the schools, currently from the 30 to 40 (as indicated from the GEBIZ tenders) to larger numbers. In that regard, SCF wished to work with the training community to pre-empt the possible increase in demand for chess trainers  through facilitating the process of application through the MOM and assistance provided in helping chess schools alleviate any shortage of training staff.

Several issues were discussed yesterday by a good representative turnout, notably the issue of state representation from players groomed by the community who may not wish to join the National Junior Squad on reasons of schedule or expediency. An appeal was made to the SCF to reconsider the stand of selecting junior players representing Singapore solely from the confines of the NJS. The President assured all present that potential interested players should write in to apply for their place for consideration, that the door is not permanently shut. Moreover, there will be initiatives announced soon that will allow every junior hopeful to enrol in a program to spawn Singapore's next generation of chess world-beaters. 

Other concerns were the issue of schools currently having a peak demand for chess trainers on specific days like Fridays. The SCF acknowledges that this would take time to resolve but the main priority at hand was to secure a foothold in the school Sports CCA. Major changes to the current Inter-Schools format would be announced in due course to align the achievements of the teams to the Schools' Colours awards model. Other notable initiatives are the possible setup of more schools' events which may involve the international schools here. In line with the de-emphasise on competitive achievements in the current CCA program, more initiatives to empower the juniors in organising chess rather than playing will be introduced such as the formation of the SCF Junior Council. The SCF hopes the new Council will groom interested young chess players to take up leadership roles in chess organisation. Succession planning is therefore in the works. 

SCF may be introducing locally-governed accreditation to better regulate standards amongst chess-teaching professionals in due course, details would be released when due.

So, in all, it was an amicable dialogue with both parties exchanging honest ideas on how to further improve the services of the training community to the schools with the support of the SCF. The night ended with the SCF's call for solidarity amongst the various parties in the training community to gear up for a brighter school scene in the coming years. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

SICILIAN LABYRINTH REVISITED

Before I continue, best to read this first.

I am revisiting this issue again after 3 years because once again I have to deal with it.

2 of my students have just enrolled in the National Junior Squad. I have not fixed what they should play as black, but I see disturbing signs such as this.



There were many such examples.

My suspicion is that they were asked to play the Sicilian Defence during the first training day. As I have stated my viewpoint on choosing openings which should be, in Mark Dvoretsky's words : "

Your choice of openings should be made primarily in accordance with your own tastes and style of play. This rule may sound obvious, but all the same it is quite easily broken,even by strong players"

For those new in chess, Mark Dvoretsky is the world's top chess trainer. Having groomed world junior champions like Arthur Yusupov and Valery Chekhov, Sergei Dolmatov and Zvagintsev, I won't even dare challenge his views.  

Forcing players to go against their innate character and play openings that run counter to their style of play cannot bring results, in my opinion. 

Now that there is a new National Coach in GM Zhang Zhong, perhaps he can shed some light on this matter and review the policy of having students play openings that they may not have the temperament nor the character disposition for? Can there not be an assessment exercise done to examine the games of the trainees and determine what suits them best before imposing the one-size-fits-all approach ?

Strangely, the Russians on the contrary advocated 1..e5 to 1e4 as the mainstream learning opening for most junior players before venturing to other openings, as opening principles can be learnt and reinforced from young. These principles will further guide their style of play as they move on to the semi open games (1 e4 others) and closed games, pending on their taste and style.  I see nothing wrong with this approach, which is accepted as conventional wisdom now among trainers worldwide. 

It would be a shame to cripple young talents that we have to represent the country when such policies shackle the players' interests and inclinations. I sincerely urge the SCF to review this before we really see a significant talent drain.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

YOUR VIEWS AGAIN

Dear players/parents,

2013 has passed. Many events have been organised. Rather than conduct a poll, I like to hear from you all what's good about chess events organised in 2013? What areas can be improved?

The floor is open. Though I allow anonymous comments, I will moderate as I see fit.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

MAKING PLANS


As this is my 50th year, I am making plans to visit the Olympiad in Norway, a country I lived in for 4 months in 1989 and revisiting it after 25 years. Revising my smattering Norwegian which I've not used since, it will be fun again just to spend a week or 10 days there. Prior to which I might go to Moscow if time permits. 

Vi ses!

SENIORS vs JUNIORS : UPDATE

I am leading the organising committee for the Seniors and liaising with SCF via Mr Leonard Lau. We've looked at the possibility of forming the teams to play on July 20, which coincides with the International Chess Day.

Here we are searching for seniors 40 years and over to join the ranks in a friendly match against the current junior players up to 22 years ( to allow the NSmen and 1st year undergrads to play). The result is not really important but mainly the event focuses on bringing back some of our past top players in their younger years to return to chess-playing, after work and family commitments are attended to. Hopefully we may yet rejuvenate the interest of these seniors to form teams to take part in the Inter-Team competitions and help garner sponsorships to make it colourful and vibrant for the chess scene, which sadly is devoid of substantial participation from the seniors.

So here I'd like to name the possible candiates and if you're reading your name here,  do your bit to mark July 20 for this event.

Andre Maniam, Ian Wong,  Chua Teck Joo, Goh Han Choon, Loi Chee Seng, Soh Kok Hong, Ng Kim Hian, Ng Kim Ho, Tham Hung Wah, Low Eng Meng, Lim Chye Seng, Peh Tiong Ghee, Harvey Teo, Jean Lim, Sim Chong Boon, Thomas Hoe, Sng Tong Yew, Tan Sze Wah, Stuart Ong, Ernest Phang, Tan Poh Heng, Koh Kum Hong, Koh Lye Hock, Koh Kah Huat, Koh Nai Huat, J Nithiananthan, Lim Seng Hoo, William Wong, Chen Chih Min, Yeoh Khay Guan, Alvin Ong, Francis Guok, Lau Cher Loon, Sim Tiong Puay, Cornelius Chew, Benedict Keh, Edmund Leow, Wong Meng Kong, Wong Meng Leong, Ong Yew Chiang, Lim Hoon Cheng, Derrick Heng, Paul Thng Leong Keng, Mark Chan, Mark Khoo, Hsu Li Yang, Mark Ong Chong Ghee, Mark Tan Keng Yew, Prakash Pillai, Ang Choon Yong, Henry Lim, Yap Pao Meng, Randhir Bansal, Chew Shee Hoe, Tan Khow Siong, Tan Ban Seng, Fong Yeng Fatt, Mark Lim, Jeremy Lim, Low Pe Yeow, Francis Lim Tze-Wei, Chan Kuan Cheong, Tan Boon Kok, Warren Tan Poh Meng, Raymond Lin, Rin Nan Yong, Kan Lock Meng, Moh Hon Meng, Lin Nan, Mooi Kok Onn, Chua Choon Seng, Tan Chin Hoe, Warren Mark Liew, Ian Cheng, Lee Kang, Lee Song, Quek Suan Shiau, Ng Yew Song, Yip Peng Hon, Jimmy Ng, Leong Khai Pang, Ong Poh Tee, Terence Loke, Lim Wei Shen, Louis Lim, Leong Wai Yen, Benjamin Goh...


That's all the names I can think of for now. Sorry if the list is skewed towards RI but then, I know my players better. If I missed anyone, feel free to add yourself in under comments..will update the list next post.

FIRST 2014 SESSION AT THOMSON CHESS CLUB

Last night was a good turnout, with about 14 players showing up.


Glad to see undergrads like Kwok Foong, Gabriel lending support to spar with the younger boys. I am in the process of gathering players for the 1 hr standard league games starting next week, It will last till end March so any member can play anyone present so long as they've not met. I will try to place the Adults in one section if we can get about 5-6 committed players. 

The juniors will start off on the endgame league instead. 1 famous endgame position will be played out and each player gets to play the position with both colours. Solutions will of course be revealed at the end of the league. 

Hopefully with such activities we can persuade more to come and play for development or just fun without the gruel of competition. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

SEEDLINGS IN 2014

It is time to grow new seedlings for the next training cycle, so here are the new seedlings.

Among the new students this year, like Peng Zheng and Chloe Soh (who have not played yet), the others took part in the New Generation Tournament at the Serangoon this year. I wanted to get a feel of their mannerisms at the board and so encouraged them to sign up. 


Isaiah was usually quiet and sometimes very passive in making his moves. He started the tournament without recording his moves and soon got checkmated. After advising him to take his time to slow down, writing his moves and using the thought process he learnt, he soon settled down and started his wins. I was impressed when he ended his last game downing Hoo Jun Ming by winning his Queen early in the game and converted the game promptly after that. He managed to win a pawn endgame by Queening his pawn - a sign he's understood his lessons. The future holds bright for this student if he's able to grow in time by more diligent practice and learning to be a little more aggressive. 


Nash Lim started not too long ago and has the temperament of a fighter. As we've started working not too long ago, I do not expect immediate results yet but I'm sure that in time he too will progress. Nash finished with 5 pts on 10th place, not bad at all.  He has been playing games online and practicing so it will be a matter of time before we hear more of his efforts.


Naython though has not quite reached the maturity we'd all expect of, so more patience is required. He has got a single-mindedness about him that's good especially in the execution of a winning plan, but bad when he loses his caution in looking out for his opponent's threats. However, more game practice should remedy this temporal weakness. He has developed the concentration required and that augurs well for future tournaments. 

Other students shall be featured in time to come, not to worry. As it's going to be a busy year ahead in grooming them, I ask humbly the parents for patience and faith in staying the course and not be too anxious in expecting results. They are after all 8 to 9 year olds and require time to discern the teachings and internalise them. At this point in time, playing more games consistently over chess.com will be good in honing their board vision and visualisation skills. 

PENANG HERITAGE OPEN 2013

I decided to take a break by visiting  this tournament in Penang, having played at the 2nd edition back in 2006 with a friend. Penang has always been fond memories for me, besides chess, as the food and hospitality there is always a talking point. What's enjoyable about this trip was that I detached myself from the chess and focused on meeting friends and having great meals with them! 

KK Chan and Hamid have been old friends of mine since the days we worked together at the Asian Teams back in Genting back in 1998. Together with Quah Seng Sun and Chuah Soon Peng, both from Penang, we made a beeline for the famous curry-fishead meal at LineClear in Little India (Penang). What a fabulous meal it was and we even joked who'd be taking the front seat after the meal :-) There were also others like Michael Yeap and Mr Goh who treated the Singaporeans to the famous Penang char kuay teow at Jalan Selamat. The McAlister area in Penang is certainly laden with the best Penang fare and every meal was relished with great company. Dim Sum in the morning, followed by shopping in Georgetown and evening meals at the hawker fare along McAlister Road is enough for the day. 

The tournament hall was most impressive, as you can see. Though the entrance of the Red Rock Hotel may not seem much, this hall is ideal to seat the numbers who came to play. Mr Teoh Eng Seong, the chief organiser must be commended for his efficient command of his team of volunteers and attention to detail as the tournament was very smoothly run. 


A very interesting trend emerged this year with the appearance of several Unrated players from Sumatra. Though unrated these players made news very soon as they brushed aside most of the FIDE rated players in the Challenger's section! Some of our players though finishing 5 or 6 pts out of 9 could not even meet a FIDE rated player for the purpose of getting some rating points. The top 2 finishers were unrated, as was the 4th and 7th place. The Singaporean players' results were summarised below:


Royce Tan finished 0.5 pts more than his performance last year with 6.5 pts and was 9th. Tommy Tan finished with higher tie-break at 5th. Low Yi Quan also scored 6.5 pts and was 1 place behind Royce, with Tan Jun Hao on 6.A rather good finish by our players this time round.

I managed to meet Eric Cheah, former Malaysian Olympian now with his own law practice in Penang. He was at the tournament hall everyday to watch the games right after work and I'm sure he will start his training soon to play in the 2014 edition this year. Hopefully I can join him too with some Singaporeans, mainly to savour the great playing conditions.