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.....