Friday, 30 December 2011

Singapore Chess Festival

Just a brief news update: I am currently playing in the 2nd Asean Open Championship which is part of the annual Singapore Chess Festival. This year's masters event turns out to be a 10 player round robin which in itself is a pretty tough GM tournament for me. After 6 rounds, I have a less than mediocre 2.5 points but I shouldn't complain too much given that I was really busy with work recently.

The time control this year is 2 hours for the first 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes without increment. While I can understand the organizer's desire to keep the timeframe of the rounds within control, some of the games ended in pretty distasteful manner, with some players blatantly playing to win on time in dead lost positions. I guess it is quite exciting to witness the players in time trouble and scrambling to make the time control but I am sure the players themselves don't enjoy it.

I will be putting up more games in due time but for now, check out SCN for a cool article by Olimpiu. I have submitted my comments to my game with Malaysian IM Lim Yee Weng, which without the drama, was pretty exciting.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Thoughts on my sabbatical year

I wished I could have updated my blog much more often but after what has been an ultimately unsuccessful Hungarian trip and an incredibly exhausting in-camp training, I am now half a day away from rejoining KPMG after an 11 month absence.

A lot of people have asked me whether I regretted taking this sabbatical year and how I managed to cope financially. A whole blog post could be devoted to really describe the pain I experienced in trying to make everything work out in money terms but I will leave that for another day when I feel like screaming to the world. Undeniably, it has been extremely tough and there are a couple of things that I would have done differently if I have the chance to do this all over again but ultimately, I still consider my decision to be a correct one.

Of course, I made a lot of mistakes, the most costly of which is to overtly trust a friend and in doing so caused me a lot of pain when I realised that one can never fully trust another human being regardless how close he or she is to you. There were also times when I felt I could have pushed myself harder when I lacked the motivation to work but well, it's always easy to say these kind of things on hindsight.

The adventure started really well when I became the first Singaporean in 5 years to make a GM norm in March. Soonafter, I finished tied 2nd-8th in the Sydney International Open, the first time I made a substantial prize in an overseas tournament. The turning point really came after 7 rounds of the South East Asian Zonals when I had a 2620 TPR and was ranked 2nd when everything seemed to collapse. Needing 1.5/2 to make my 2nd GM norm and qualifying for the world cup as a bonus, I contrived to lose my last 2 games, with the white pieces no less, and I never really recovered since then. I would like to really scrutinize my games and understand what really went wrong ever since but I will have to find the time, the energy and the drive to embark on such a tedious and painful project.

I am fully aware that it is more of an exception than the norm for someone to make 3 GM norms in a year, even for talented professionals. I also know that like any other sport, chess does not promise you the rewards you crave for in exchange for all the effort and sacrifices that you might have given. Nevetheless, I still can't help feeling disappointed in myself in the sense that I probably could have gone the extra mile in trying to make that 2nd norm. In the end, it was all about decision making and I guess I made more than a few bloopers.

It's not the end of the road yet, I still intend to play as much chess as I can but realistically, work will catch up on me very soon and the time spent on chess will decrease drastically. Taking a walk with Zlatko on a cold Saturday morning when the weather nearly froze my nose off my face, the Serbian GM tried to encourage me by telling me that if I play as often as possible, and that I continue to work on chess diligently, I would make it sooner or later. I replied "Really? Are you sure?" and he just replied nonchalantly "You must do your part and whether you make it or not, leave it to destiny." Which sums it all up pretty nicely.

I am of course extremely grateful to those who have given me their support, whether it is financially, emotionally or simply in chessical terms. I'll just mention a few names here:

ICCF IM Junior Tay, for really bringing me back to chess since 2003, advising me countless times on various issues, and being a real friend through and through.

NM Olimpiu Urcan, for his humor and infectious optimism and always reminding me that failure is part and parcel along the road to success (though I haven't made it that far yet).

NTU Alumni, for financial support even though they are really not obliged to do so.

Mr. Chan Kim Keng and family for moral and financial support.

Mark Tan, my primary sch mate, for financial support.

My family members and relatives for doing whatever they can to make things easier for me and of course, most importantly,

Yoke Ching, for patiently supporting me throughout for the small price of doing the laundry and household chores, and for pretending to understand some of the novelties I found.

Back to work! Can't say I'm looking forward to it.....

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Zlatko Ilincic - Goh Wei Ming, Kevin, Caissa GM Oct, Round 5

After a horrible start with just 1.5/4, I desperately needed a good result in this game to retain any chances of making a norm. Unfortunately, the Serbian GM is an extremely tough and experienced player and I have seen many good players being tortured by him in += positions. To be honest, I was not very optimistic before the game.

As you will see, I was quite fortunate to win this game after I managed to surprise Zlatko in the opening.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

First Saturday GM Nov

Am feeling a little sad now as in a few hours time, I will be playing the first round of the First Saturday GM tournament in Budapest which is going to be my last tournament abroad, probably for a long time. While I am sort of looking forward to going back to KPMG and drawing a decent salary, I really enjoyed this stint as a semi-professional. Since it was never going to work out financially, I could not afford to do this for more than a year, as much as I would like to.

Anyways, it looks like 2 players have withdrawn from the initial 10-player list and it is increasingly likely that it is going to be a 8 player double round robin. I have never played in a 14 round tournament before and I'm sure there will be some days with double rounds to fit everything in within the schedule. Will put up the player list and schedule once everything is finialised.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Gyula Sax - Goh Wei Ming, Kevin, Caissa GM tournament October Round 3

After a promising start, I proceeded with a peaceful draw with a good friend of mine, the American FM Erik Kislik who has uncountable IM norms but was unfortunate not to break the required 2400 elo. I then faced GM Gyula Sax with the Black pieces in a rematch of our encounter in the corresponding tournament in March. Then, I managed to play possibly one of my best games in a long time and notched a crucial win to secure the norm. As Sax hardly loses any games in a year, I am sure he will be out to avenge that loss.

I prepared the same variation I played in Round 1 and he clearly came unprepared, having spent an hour on 2-3 moves right after the opening. The time spent proved to be extremely worthwhile as he managed to, and I'm not exaggerating here, refute the Hyper Accelerated Dragadorf over the board.

Pretty convincing stuff and I consider my preparation to be considerably unprofessional. Clearly, GMs do not lose games this way.

I have to move on from this disappointment and prepare for my next game, White vs Attila Groszpeter. Since no one walks into my preparation nowadays, Erik and I were speculating how he will deviate from the lines which he usually plays. To my surprise, he challenged me head on in a 6.Bg5 Najdorf which I fortunately spent a bit of time preparing for.

The game started promisingly when Attila, clearly surprised by my opening choice misplayed the position and I was faced with a couple of winning options after just 10 moves. Thinking for 30 mins and quietly congratulating myself for a job well done, I chose one of the weakest continuations at my disposal and instead had to defend a worse position from then on. Of course, I hardly put up any resistance and lost without a fight after that. Here's the game with light notes.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Antal Tibor Kende - Goh Wei Ming, Kevin, Caissa GM October Round 1

I've completed the Caissa GM tournament and finished with 6/10. I guess it's not a bad score, considering I scored 1.5 points from my first 4 games but it really could have been much better than this. I'll be putting up the games and allow readers to feel the same frustration that I'm going through now and I promise to stop moaning about it soon.

Anyway, round 1 was against a talented 12 year old boy who's rating was 2286 but I saw on the FIDE website that he will be gaining 50 elo points on the next list. This means he is a much better player than his elo suggests and I had a hard time deciding which line to play for a win with Black against him. As I've spent a lot of time looking at Fernandez's article on SCN and Simon Williams book on the Dragadorf, I thought it's a good idea to try to surprise him with it.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Caissa GM Tournament November

I'm currently in Kecskemet midway through the above event, incidentally the same tournament where I made my maiden GM norm in March. It's unlikely for me to replicate my success though, as I have lost 2 games and drawn 1 already and basically needs to win the rest of my games.

All the games were interesting though and I'll probably put them up very soon. Just a small taster, I played 2 (hyper-accelerated) Dragadorf with Black, winning 1 and losing 1 to the legendary Gyula Sax who took revenge for his corresponding loss against me in March. I can add that he basically refuted the entire system and I daresay it's no longer playable now. Not sure if anyone considered it playable in the past though.

I also lost with White against Attila Groszpeter in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf, missing an immediate win after 10 moves and instead contrived to lose in the most pathetic manner possible. I was thoroughly depressed at this point and after posting a half emo status on Facebook, I regained some much needed pride (and elo) by winning with Black against Serbian GM Zlatko Ilincic in a Neo Grunfeld. A few hours ago, I again failed to convert a winning position and drew with the talented Hungarian Antal Tibor Kende.

More to follow.....

Monday, 17 October 2011

DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Invitational Masters - Rounds 4 & 5

After losing with White in the previous round, I was naturally disappointed but there was no time to feel sorry for myself as I was due to play against the solid Uzbek GM Tahir Vakhidov with the Black pieces. I decided to be as solid as I can as a draw will allow me to stop the rot. The game indeed ended in a short draw but is interesting in its own way:

In round 5, I was White against Singapore's only homegrown GM Dr. Wong Meng Kong. Work and age are both catching up on him and Meng Kong was clearly insufficiently prepared for this tournament. Which is of course understandable given that a lot of things have been happening in his family recently.

I natually had to try to win to have any chance of making a norm and since Meng Kong plays just about anything, there is little point in preparing deeply. I went for the Scotch only because I have recommended it to my Universiade students but didn't handle it well and was put under pressure by the legendary master.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Quick update

I haven't been posting as frequently as I'll like to mostly due to the horrendous internet connection everywhere. Anyway, I've bungled the Yangon GM tournament really badly, lost 14 elo points and I'm now in Kecskemet preparing for round 2 in the Caissa GM tournament. I just won my first game with Black against Antal Tibor Kende who's live rating is 50 points higher than his current elo. Which is a big pity as it means I require 7/9 yet again.

I'll be putting up the players list and the pairings pretty soon as well as the rest of the KL Masters Games which I've already finished annotating.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Campomanes Memorial Yangon GM Tournament

After making 3 tedious visits to the Myanmar Embassy, I've finally received my visa which means I am all set to fly to Yangon tomorrow afternoon for yet another GM tournament.

Tournaments in Myanmar receive little coverage on the net so I guess I can only update my results periodically here. Here's the tentative player list:

GM Nguyen Anh Dung
GM Bui Vinh
GM Jha Sriram
GM Zaw Win Lay
IM Mok Tze Meng
IM Wynn Zaw Htun
FM Nguyen Van Hai

This is naturally not the final list but I reckon there will be a few other Myanmese in the line up and from the looks of it, the average opponent rating is likely to be in the lowest category which means I'll need to score a minimum of 7/9 or 8/10 or 9/11.

In any case, I have never been to Myanmar and I was told Yangon has plenty of beautiful places so perhaps, I'll mix a bit of tourism in this tournament for a change.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Goh Wei Ming, Kevin - Das Arghyadip, DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Invitational Masters Round 3

In the 3rd round, I had to face Indian IM Das Arghyadip with the White pieces. Buoyed by my 2nd round win against Anh Dung, I naturally wanted to win badly given that I was White and that a win would put me back on track for the coveted GM norm. However, Das is clearly not a pushover as he had outplayed Malaysian no.1 IM Mas Hafizul nicely with the Black pieces in round 1 and was clearly better against Oliver Barbosa in round 2 (before blundering the game away). I was sure that both of us would be playing actively for the win and sure enough, the game turned out to be a huge tactical battle:

Friday, 9 September 2011

Nguyen Anh Dung - Goh Wei Ming, Kevin, DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Invitational Masters, Round 2

In round 2, I was Black against Vietnamese veteran GM Nguyen Anh Dung who fell to a superb piece of preparation in round 1 against the Uzbek prodigy Jahongir Vakhidov. I expected Anh Dung to be an angry animal after that and true enough, he started the game with 1.e4 which he hasn't been playing often recently. In turn, I replied with the Sicilian Dragon which I've never played before:

(Note: at the time of posting this, Oliver Barbosa has secured his final GM norm with a score of 6.5/8 and as such, is the Philippine's latest Grandmaster. My sincere congratulations!)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Goh Wei Ming, Kevin - Oliver Barbosa, DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Invitational Masters Round 1

And so after 6 rounds, I am on a less than satisfactory 2.5/6 although I feel my play hasn't been that all bad and I'm trying to come to some conclusions why the results haven't been going my way so far.

I'll be annotating all my games from this tournament and in round 1, due to the worst possible draw, I had to face top seed IM Oliver Barbosa with Black. With a 2538 elo, Oliver is clearly a GM in the making and just needed the opportunites to complete his GM requirements. I felt he played the entire game flawlessly and just a couple of inaccuracies meant I had no chance to survive his dashing attack. I think he conducted the attack extremely well and would make a good training example for any trainers. Here's the game with some of my comments:

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Chess Tour 2011, Part 2

After playing 7(!) tournaments in a row and having a 3 months break during which I held a couple of wedding dinners and pretended to be a trainer in Shenzhen,I am now ready to commence on World Tour part 2 which begins tomorrow:

1) 4 - 10 Sept: DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Invitational Masters, KL, Malaysia
2) 21 Sept - 1 Oct: Campomanes Memorial GM Tournament, Yangon, Myanmar
3) 15 - 24 Oct: Caissa GM Tournament, Kecskemet, Hungary
4) 5 - 15 Nov: First Saturday GM Tournament, Budapest, Hungary
5) 26 - 31 Dec: 2nd Asean Open Championship, Singapore

Hence if nothing goes wrong, I would have played a total of 12 tournaments and a staggering 109 games in 2011.

When I first began this sabbatical, I initally thought that it is imperative that I make my 3 GM norms in this period. Chess is not easy to achieve mastery and I do not think it is possible to train intensely while I'm back in my audit career and achieve excellence in both areas. As a result, I unknowingly put an incredible amount of pressure on myself during each tournament and I'm constantly worrying over my results.

After giving the game far more attention than I have ever given, it is easy for me to realise that Chess should not be played with such a mentality and that it is simply impractical to expect to make a norm at every tournament. True, making my first GM norm in March had raised my personal expectations but I cannot deny the fact that fortune played a amazingly large part in Kecskemet and that in these GM tournaments, a lot of luck (not just skill) is required to fulfill the criteria.

I am trying to approach each tournament not just with the aim of making a norm, but also to obtain fresh positions, study other facets of chess and ultimately enjoy each game. I've realised that there is simply no point in stressing myself up and forgetting that I'm doing this not just because I want to be a GM but also because ultimately, chess is what I do, and I plan to be around for a very long time.

The tournaments are coming thick and fast and whatever happens, it promises to be an extremely interesting and challenging period from now till the end of the year. Wish me luck, I'll need loads of it!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Jan Markos - Li Chao, Universiade Shenzhen 2011, Round 6

Below is a game which I've analysed for SCN and I've decided to reproduce it here. This game is the perfect illustration of the difference between being well-prepared or not. To all those who still think that opening preparation isn't important, it's time to wake up!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

SEA Games 2011 - no Singaporeans in chess events?!

Not so sure if I should be writing all this but apparently, SNOC has rejected SCF's appeal to include Dr. Wong Meng Kong & I into this year's SEA Games and as such, Singapore will not be represented in the chess events.

According to my understanding (which may be wrong), SNOC only allows athletes who fulfill a certain criteria to play in the SEA Games, that is, to have achieved a top 3 placing in South East Asian events for the past 1 year. Even so, these athletes will only be "considered for selection" and by no means are their participation guaranteed.

Given that I've finished 15th in the Zonals and I did not really play in any regional events in the past few months, that means I am out. And since Meng Kong was relatively inactive this year, he also did not survive the cut.

To be honest, I am completely baffled by this decision (though I can't say that I am really surprised). Firstly, such a selection criteria, when applied to Chess, is clearly flawed for so many obvious reasons that I can't even be bothered to list them down one by one. As one good friend put it succintly, if every country adopts the same mentality, the tournament will just be between Indonesians, Vietnamese and Filipinos (no offence to my Malaysian friends).

Secondly, which is a perfectly valid point from Nat, if Singapore wants as many medals as possible, it makes sense to send as many participants as possible to increase the probability. Now, I do not mean that we should send any Tom, Dick or Harry. Neither do I imply that our participation will guarantee medals. But just because we did not finish in the top 3 placings in a regional event, or within the top 3 rated players in South East Asia does not mean that we stand zero chance of achieving something. Jason won a silver medal ahead of countless GMs in Vietnam 2003 when he wasn't even an IM yet and the Singapore team came within a whisker of knocking out the Philippines on their turf despite being heavily outrated on every board. These are just a couple of examples, I can easily list more.

Thirdly, and this is one which I personally find it hard to fathom. Is it really that big a deal to send 2 more players?

To be perfectly frank, I am not really disappointed (as explained, I wasn't really surprised) but what kind of message are we sending to the rest of the younger chess players?

Sports are meant to be competitive, make no mistake about it. But the bonding between players from each country, the mutual respect and friendship that is being built, and the sharing of knowledge all comes along with competition and that should never be downplayed in favour of the number of gold medals obtained.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Universiade Shenzhen 2011

I just returned from Shenzhen after coaching the Singapore team at the Universiade 2011. It has been a real eye opener for myself as this is the first time that I was attending a major tournament as anything but a player. The players worked hard and enjoyed themselves tremendously and I am proud of all of them not just because they fought hard each game but also because their conduct was exemplary throughout the event. Special mention has to be given to Jason, Qingyang and Nat who took time during the event to annotate their games for publication on SCN and in doing so, do a small part in contributing to chess writing and ultimately, to the chess community as a whole.

I am preparing a final report for SCN which will conclude my thoughts on the event and for those who have not seen my articles on the first 8 games, please head to and check them out now!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Tummy Bug

Funny how things turn out. I was just reading this the other day and I was wondering how it will feel like to be "hurling your guts out" in the middle of the night. Don't get me wrong, I am not focusing on the wrong things (of his article) but since I know Dave to be an adventurous and nice guy in general, I wasn't really suprised with his Peru trip. While Dave and I love chess with a passion that few can understand, I don't see myself doing anything similar given my current obsession with training and playing.

What I didn't expect is that I would be caught with a horrendous bug in my tummy just 2 days before I travel to Shen Zhen with the Uni students and would end up experiencing the same thing for 8 hours. In the end, I dragged myself to the nearest 24 hr clinic (puking on a batch of grass along the way back), took a jab, and has been washing down pill after pill ever since.

I hope I do not embarrass myself by retching while checking in on Sunday, in front of 500 other Uni students no less!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Forthcoming tournaments

So it seems like I have a few options to complete the final stretch before I head back to work. Of all of the following tournaments, I've only confirmed my attendance at the Raja Nazrin Shah Masters:

4 - 10 Sept: Raja Nazrin Shah Invitational, KL (
21 Sept - 1 Oct: Yangon GM Invitational (13 player round robin), Myanmar
1 Oct - 13 Oct: First Saturday GM Tournament, Budapest
17 - 24 Oct: Caissa GM Tournament, Kecskemet
5 Nov - 13 Nov: First Saturday GM Tournament, Budapest
26 Dec - 31 Dec: Asean Open Championships, Singapore

This looks like a very busy schedule but of course, I will not play all of them. Ideally, I would like to play at least 4 of the above events but because of a variety of reasons, I can't quite make up my mind which ones. Hopefully, the current murky situation will clarify in a couple of weeks time.

In the meantime, I will be travelling with the Singapore team to the World Universities Games in Shenzhen as their official coach. This is quite a novel experience and a refreshing challenge for me. Out of the 7 in the team, IM Jason Goh, WFM Liu Yang and WFM Jeslin Tay are experienced players who have been mainstays in the National Squad both past and present while Nathanel Ong, Ng Qingyang, Zhang Changjie and Cyril Chua while not quite having the same level of experience, make up for it by showing an abundance of enthusiasm and effort during training sessions.

It is particularly pleasing to have Jason back in competitive mode and he played his first game in classical time control in 5 years, in a training game against me. It is clear that he will take some time before getting back to the level he was at but his talent is certainly not in doubt. I am still amazed at the speed at which he can solve puzzles and lesser mortals like myself can only dream of having the same kind of tactical vision he possesses. It will certainly be interesting to see how he does at Shenzhen.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Adams - Williams, 98th British Championships, Round 7

While browsing through the British Championships games just a moment ago, I was surprised and to be honest, a little disappointed to witness the following game. This is because Adams has just made this line with 8.h3!? and 10.d4! famous, a line which I've spent tons of hours studying in the hope of making it a surprise weapon.

Well, since it's obviously not going to be a surprise anymore, I'll present the following humdinger.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ivanchuk - Karjakin, 5th King's Tournament, Round 5

The venerable Italian Game is one of my favoured openings and recently, the top players are testing it once in a while as an alternative to cracking the solid 1...e5. In the above game, Karjakin exploited some insipid play by his Ukranian counterpart with some explosive tactics. According to my analysis, Ivanchuk could have held the game at one point but it was admittedly much too computer-like.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Giri - Ponomariov, 39th Dortmund Round 7

While going through the Dortmund and Biel games last night, I found the above game strangely captivating. The game itself is nothing special, but I find Giri's simple but logical play quite appealing and have chosen to annotate this game here. The game represents a smooth transition from superb opening preparation (my assumption), to skillful manoeuvring in the middlegame and finally to good endgame technique.