Monday, 31 December 2012

64th National Championships - Round 5 onwards - Epic battles with IM Enrique Paciencia and an anti-climax by Wei Ming

After a staid round 4 where I got absolutely nothing with the White pieces against Yee Weng, the next 2 rounds with IM Enrique Paciencia would ultimately prove to be crucial in determining the outcome of the tournament. I have always had a bad score against Enrique as his oppressive positional style often stymied my aggressive attacking play. After the year off in 2011, I feel that my play has generally became more all-rounded and I now have many solid, positional lines in my repertoire that I previously would not have even dreamed of.

I have prepared against the English opening extensively last year and since Enrique has utilised it against me with great effect in the previous 2 editions of the National Championships, I expected him to essay it one more time. However, I was faced with yet another Anti-Grunfeld.

After round 5, I was in the sole lead with 4/5 and the second cycle begins with White against Enrique. I have prepared against his usual 1.e4 e5 repertoire but he once again surprised me with the Modern Defense. Clearly, Enrique is also here to fight!

The game was another huge battle where I eventually prevailed after Enrique missed a tactic in an equal endgame:

The endgame towards the end deserves further attention and could well be the subject of a future article.

It was always going to be difficult to keep up with the momentum and I played out 2 relatively quick draws in the next 2 rounds against Yee Weng (English Opening with Black) and Steven (Anti-Sicilian: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5!?). In Round 9, I faced IM Rico Mascarinas on what I felt would be my most severe test in the run down.

I never liked morning games and this was no exception as I somehow forgot my move orders and found myself defending the Black side of the Accelerated Dragon, an opening which I had next to no experience in. I showed my lack of experience (and disdain for morning games) by blundering terribly at move 14 which fortunately went unpunished. Instead, Rico sacrificed a pawn for long term compensation and after a cagey affair, the game eventually ended peacefully:

The tournament situation meant that a draw with White in the last round against IM Luis Chiong would clinch the tournament victory. A quick signing of the peace treaty ensured my 5th National Championships, and the toughest yet. Of course, I couldn't have made it with a slice of luck here and there and I have no doubts that there is still a lot of work to do before I can ultimately reach my goals.

Chess wise, this was a great finish to 2012 and I'm looking to 2013 with hope and confidence that I can make further strides towards that final GM norm and 2500 elo.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

IM Luis Chiong's attacking gems - by Wei Ming

After an arduous morning round where I had to defend for long periods against the positional maestro IM Rico Mascarinas, I had the good fortune of analyzing a couple of IM Luis Chiong's victories in the 64th National Championships with the protagonist himself. Luis has already been featured here once (see Junior's article here) and he is well-known in the local chess scene for his full blooded approach to the game. Luis loves to attack and is never afraid to shy away from a fight which means that his games were often the most interesting to follow. With his permission and taking a break from posting and showing off my own games, I'll like to present a couple of his wins from the tournament.

First up, we observe how Luis breaks down the defense of the solid Queen's Indian Defence:

Next, Luis demonstrates how to handle an Isolated Queen's Pawn with attacking verve:

We hope to feature more games and other players on this website in 2013.

National Candidates - IM Domingo Ramos and Tan Weiliang tie for 1st! - by Junior Tay

In the National Candidates event, IM Domingo Ramos and Tan Weiliang tied for 1st place with 5.5/8.  They both qualify for the 2013 National Premier. Congratulations to them and FM Chia Chee Seng who clinches the bronze medal!

IM Goh Wei Ming is the 2012 National Champion! by Junior Tay

IM Goh Wei Ming emerged the 2012 National Champion with 7 out of 10 points, pipping IM Steven Kim Yap by 1/2 point. Wei Ming's punishing pace of 4 wins and 2 draws in the first 6 rounds proved too much for the 6 IM strong field and he wrapped up the title with 4 consecutive draws against IM Lim Yee Weng, IM Steven Kim Yap, IM Rico Mascarinas and IM Luis Chiong. Luis and Rico will face off tomorrow (both on 4/9) for the Bronze medal. If they draw, they tie with IM Lim Yee Weng who is on 4.5/10 and we might see a big playoff.
Left to Right: Background - IM Steven Kim Yap (Eventual Runner Up) vs IM Enrique Paciencia, Foreground - IM Goh Wei Ming (Eventual Champion) vs IM Lim Yee Weng

Standings so far:
IM Goh Wei Ming 7/10
IM Steven Kim Yap 6.5/10
IM Lim Yee Weng 4.5/10
IM Rico Mascarinas, IM Luis Chiong 4/9
IM Enrique Paciencia 3/10

Saturday, 29 December 2012

National Candidates: IM Ramos and FM CS Chia show the youngsters a thing or three! by Junior Tay

We move the attention away from the National Premier to the Candidates where veteran masters IM Domingo Ramos and FM Chia Chee Seng remain unbeaten so far.

 FM Chia Chee Seng vs Iskandar Abdullah (1/2-1/2), IM Domingo Ramos vs Tan Weiliang (1/2-1/2). In the background is WIM Gong Qianyun who is scything down the field in the National Ladies.

57 year old FM Chia is currently leading the pack with 4/6 having beaten both Tan Weiliang and Iskandar Abdullah 1.5-0.5.

The following game has him demonstrating how to combine defence and attack to down Tan Weiliang.

IM Ramos started his campaign later and has 2.5/4 so far, after drawing Weiliang, Shawn Yong Han and Chee Seng. He outfoxed Iskandar Abdullah here with the following:

Current Standings:
FM Chia Chee Seng 4/6
Tan Weiliang 3/5
IM Domingo Ramos: 2.5/4
Shawn Yong Han 2.5/5
Iskandar Abdullah 1/6

Note: FM Liu Xiangyi has yet to commence his fixtures.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

National Premier Update by Junior Tay

Results of Round 6

IM Goh Wei Ming - IM Enrique Paciencia 1-0
IM Luis Chiong - IM Lim Yee Weng 1/2-1/2
IM Steven Kim Yap - IM Rico Mascarinas 1/2-1/2

Standings after Round 6:

IM Goh Wei Ming 5
IM Steven Kim Yap 4
IM Rico Mascarinas 3
IM Luis Chiong 2.5
IM Enrique Paciencia 2
IM Lim Yee Weng 1.5

National Premier Update by Junior Tay

IM Goh Wei Ming surges into sole lead with a win over IM Enrique Paciencia. The  co-leader in Round 4, IM Steven Kim Yap was slowed down after being held to a draw by IM Rico Mascarinas. IM Luis Chiong continued his uncompromising fighting mode (he either wins or loses!)  by beating IM Lim Yee Weng.

Round 5 Update

IM Enrique Paciencia - IM Goh Wei Ming 0-1
IM Rico Mascarinas - IM Steven Kim Yap 1/2-1/2
IM Lim Yee Weng - IM Luis Chiong 0-1

Standings after Round 5

IM Goh Wei Ming 4
IM Steven Kim Yap 3.5
IM Rico Mascarinas 2.5
IM Enrique Paciencia and IM Luis Chiong 2
IM Lim Yee Weng 1

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

GM Hou Yifan wins Hou Yifan Blitz with picket fence score. NM Urcan clinches 2nd spot and FM Tin Jingyao 3rd by Junior Tay

The 2010-2011 Wormen's World Champion GM Hou Yifan kicked off the Blitz Challenge held in her honour by cruising to a 11-0 shutout of a field comprising mainly Singapore's top junior players. According to NM Olimpiu Urcan, Scot Colin Hornell gave her  the toughest test in their individual game but the Chinese GM eventually prevailed. Urcan 'walked the talk' by blitzing the rest of the field to win the Silver medal and Bronze went to FM Tin Jingyao who only suffered losses to Hou and Urcan.

 GM Hou Yifan vs NM Olimpiu Urcan

More information on the Blitz Challenge and the Simultaneous Exhibition to follow -SCF Website.
NM Urcan is giving a live-blogcast of the GM Hou YF - FM Tin JY game on his site.

National Premier Update by Junior Tay

Round 4:

IM Goh Wei Ming - IM Lim Yee Weng 1/2-1/2
IM Luis Chiong- IM Rico Mascarinas  1-0
IM Steven Kim Yap  - IM Enrique Paciencia 1-0

Current Standings after 4 rounds
IM Goh Wei Ming and IM Steven Kim Yap 3,
IM Rico Mascarinas and IM Enrique Paciencia 2,
IM Lim Yee Weng and  IM Luis Chiong 1

Monday, 24 December 2012

64th National Championships

I know I have not been very active here and had to shamelessly rely on Junior to keep this blog alive. Since I am officially on leave, I thought I should at least annotate the National Championships games here.

I initially planned to prepare for the tournament like how I have managed in my first 3 years in KPMG, getting my colleagues to pack food while I mug serious opening theory during lunch time but I soon realized this was never going to happen. I have had a rough ride in the last couple of months, at times struggling to stay awake throughout the day and feeling really exhausted the moment I reach home. Clearly, I should have a good think why this is happening given that I consider myself to be physically fit (yes, looks can be deceiving) and still think I have a good few years more in audit. However, I also should start thinking when it's time to lower chess on the priority list given that it always seems that 24 hours a day isn't nearly enough and we all know how much hard work it takes to maintain my standard at a decent IM level let alone to push for that final GM norm (and 2500 elo).

The National Championships is always going to be a strong event but this year, the field of 6 IMs in the double round robin tournament is proving to be the most grueling yet. The first 4 games showed how tough it was going to be as despite some reasonable play, I blundered terribly in the 2 games I won and the result could have been extremely different.

In Round 1, Luis Chiong surprised me with his very first move (1.Nf3). Luis has always struck me as a very principled player and it was a surprise to see him deviating from his favourite Queen's pawn opening. It was a tremendous struggle and even though I emerged victorious, it really could have ended very differently.

In Round 2, the experienced master Rico Mascarinas wanted to play solidly ("No Sicilian against you!") and essayed the Petroff defence. My preparation was found wanting and Black achieved equality with ease. The early draw was not a bad result taking into account that I managed to catch the remaining 20 minutes of the Suzuki Cup Final, 2nd leg between Thailand and Singapore.

Next, I was Black vs Yap Kim Steven, a young Filipino IM who has been terrorizing the local chess scene in several rapid events recently. He had a blistering start with 2/2 which means that this match up was even more important. I essayed my favorite French Defence and quickly entered a major pieces endgame where Black was always slightly strategically better. I was surprised that Steven exchanged queens so early in the game as I've always felt he is an excellent attacker and the exchange took a lot of pressure off me.

I ground out a win after nearly 4 hours of play but towards the end, I nearly threw it all away with a howler....

Another fortunate win and this game just goes to show how important it is to remain vigilant throughout the game. An important quote from GM Li Chao: "在下每一步棋,都要有输棋的警惕性" which means that in every situation and at every turn, you should always consider the prospect of losing.

Round 4 was another of my lame efforts to achieve an opening advantage with the White pieces. Facing Yee Weng's Caro Kann, I decided to give the Advance with 4.Nd2 a run out as I have spent considerable time during my gap year on this line. Despite being unfamiliar with the line, Yee Weng found the system with ...h6, ...Bh7 and ...Nf5 and achieved a solid position with comfortable play. Feeling that I was already starting to drift into a worse position, I offered an early draw which Yee Weng accepted after some thought.

It was good to finally get some games under my belt but I really have to do something to eradicate the horrible oversights. Round 5 continues on boxing day, 7pm, and I take Black against Enrique Paciencia. More to follow....

Sunday, 23 December 2012

National Premier - Update after Round 3 by Junior Tay

Round 1:
IM Luis Chiong - IM Goh Wei Ming 0-1
IM Rico Mascarinas - IM Enrique Paciencia 1/2-1/2
IM Steven Kim Yap - IM Lim Yee Weng 1-0

 Round 2:
IM Goh Wei Ming - IM Rico Mascarinas 1/2-1/2
IM Lim Yee Weng - IM Enrique Paciencia 1/2-1/2
IM Luis Chiong - IM Steven Kim Yap 0-1

Round 3:
IM Steven Kim Yap - IM Goh Wei Ming 0-1
IM Rico Mascarinas - IM Lim Yee Weng 1-0
IM Enrique Paciencia - IM Luis Chiong 1-0

Standings after 3 rounds: IM Goh Wei Ming 2.5 IM Rico Mascarinas, IM Steven Kim Yap, IM Enrique Paciencia 2 IM Lim Yee Weng 0.5 IM Luis Chiong 0

In Round 2, IM Rico Mascarinas effectively neutralized Wei Ming with the Petroff Defence.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Top Seeds draw first blood at the 64th National Championships! - by Junior Tay

IM Goh Wei Ming and IM Steven Kim Yap, the top 2 seeds in the National Premier staked their claim for the title with wins over IM Luis Chiong and IM Lim Yee Weng respectively in the first round. The remaining game saw IM Rico Mascarinas and IM Enrique Paciencia split the point early.

What else can you expect from Yee Weng than the Dragon! But can he reach there  with Morra Gambit expert Steven Yap in a fighting mood?

The battle of the two tactical monsters Luis and Wei Ming saw a great central skirmish. Wei Ming flubbed a pawn which Luis missed and in the latter's time trouble, Wei Ming increased the pressure and netted the point with panache.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Interesting scenes at the National Age-Group Championships: A superb tactical slugfest and an ultra long think - by Junior Tay

The abundance of talent at the National Age Group events as indicated by NM Olimpiu Urcan was indeed a relevation for me. I was in particular drawn to the contest on the Open U10  Board 1 (Round 7) between Daniel Loo and Heng Zheng Kai.

Daniel Loo calculating furiously in a critical position against Heng Zheng Kai.

 IM Rico Mascarinas had noted that both players had played the opening and middlegame at 'easily 2300 level' and we arrive at this position with White to move. Now, the hallmark of a strong player is to know what to do in a worse position before 'the point of no return', In other words, it is to sense the critical position where something drastic has to be done before he gets outplayed. Daniel Loo demonstrated this trait and we pick up the game here...

Next, we come to Board 2 in the Open/U14 section. As most of the games were winding down, on Board 2, incredibly, the game is still in its opening stages. Korean CM Jung Yung Hoon has yet to move for close to one hour on move 7(!) after Derek Lim's shocking Bf4!?

CM Derek Lim vs  CM Jung Yung Hoon- the start of an ultra long think for the Korean...

For the record, before I headed home, here's what's transpired.
For the record, the game ended in a draw later.

The tournament will continue and end tomorrow with Round 8 and 9 to follow. Many more reports and pictures of the event can be found (and will continue to be updated) on NM Urcan's Chess: A Singapore Column

Monday, 17 December 2012

Penang Open - Singaporean Prize-winners - by Junior Tay

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see Singaporeans (or Singapore-based players) making their rounds in regional events such as the Penang or Bangkok Opens / Challengers events. Besides broadening their chess knowledge (mostly through hard knocks), they also get to find out if they can make their mark outside the local chess circuit. The recently concluded Penang Open was a great success, prize-wise for the Singaporean contingent.

Here are the Singaporeans (and Singaporean-based coaches) prize list.  

Penang Open
7th place: WIM Gong Qianyun - 700 ringgit
13th place: IM Luis Chiong - 500 ringgit
16th place: Jimson Bitoon - 300 ringgit
17th place: CM Derek Lim De Li - 300 ringgit
19th place: FM Tin Jingyao - 300 ringgit

Penang Challengers (Main)
4th place: Steffi Lim Wan Yu - 300 ringgit
5th place: Isaac Ethan Soh Hong Han - 300 ringgit

Penang Challengers (Under 12 Boys Category)
1st place: Jonathan Kow

Penang Challengers (Under 12 Girls Category)
1st place: Emanuelle Hng Mei En

Penang Challengers (Under 10 Boys Category)
1st place: Royce Tan Jun Yi
2nd place: Lew Zhi Hong
3rd place: Low Yi Quan
5th place: Yu Zheng Wen

Penang Challengers (Under 10  Girls Category)
1st place: Krystal Valerie Soh
4th place: Eunice Hng Mei Xian

Penang Challengers (Under 8 Boys Category)
2nd place: Cyrus Nisban
3rd place: Marcus Chen Meng Boon
4th place: Shaun Lee Jun En
5th place: Timothy Chan Wei Shyan

Congratulations to all and also a big thanks to the organizers for introducing so many prize categories to encourage the junior players!

The complete prize-winners' list can be found here.

More reports on the Penang Open can be found in NM Olimpiu Urcan's blog -
Upset wins by Singaporeans  - A Day for Underdogs
FM Ting Jinyao beats GM Bitoon - Bitoon Beaten
Photos of Local Players - Unique Photos: Penang 2012 , Photo Essay: Singaporeans in Penang 
WIM Gong Qianyun's impressive result : Tactical Ataxia

If you wish to know more about Penang Chess, you can check out its website here.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The strongest National Championships ever! - by Junior Tay

From 22nd December till the end of the year, the strongest ever National Chess Championships in all Categories will be held. It is fitting that this is the 64th edition of the event (If you don't know what's the significance, then surely, you're not a chessplayer...).

6 IMs will contest for the title of Singapore Champion in a double round all-play-all event. Asian Nations Bronze Medallist  IM Goh Weiming (2441) will be up against Cairnhill Blitz Champion IM Steven Kim Yap(2410) , 1982 Lucerne Olympiad Gold Medallist IM Rico Mascarinas (2390), Toa Payoh West Champion IM Enrique Paciencia (2374),  Queenstown Open Champion IM Luis Chiong (2301) and SEA Games Bronze Medallist IM Lim Yee Weng (2300) in a gruelling 2 rounds-a-day event in the Premier section

The participants in the Candidates section are no slouches either. Top seeded is former Asian Junior Champion IM Domingo Ramos (2259) who will have his hands full against Cairnhill Open Champion Tan Weiliang (2214), Multiple National Blitz Champion FM Chia Chee Seng,  ASEAN Youth U17 Champion FM Liu Xiangyi (2118) and National Challengers 2011 co-winners, Iskandar bin Abdullah (1991) and Shawn Yong Han (1901).

In the Womens' Category, all participants have already attained Master Titles. Top seed is WIM Gong Qianyun (2267), followed by WIM Angela Khegay (2214). WFM Liu Yang (2078), WFM Zinmar Min Than (1964), WFM Victoria Chan (1948) and WFM Danielle Ho (1907)

The time control is 90 minutes + 30 seconds increment per move.

More details can be found at the Singapore Chess Federation National Championships webpage.

A brief comeback - by Junior Tay

When I saw the lineup for the Toa Payoh West Open 2012 event, I was pleasantly surprised to see an old friend CM Low Pe Yeow competing. I was wondering if he could even hold his own in that field with 2 IMs, 1 WIM and 13 ELO 2000+ players. As far as I know, he has stopped playing competitive chess for more than 20 years! When I first started playing in 1986, he, along with FM Wong Foong Yin, IM Hsu Li Yang, FM Ong Chong Ghee, NM Lee Wang Sheng and FM Jeremy Lim were constantly jostling for the major junior titles as well as the local swiss top placings. That year, he tied for 1st in the National Junior Open with Foong Yin and the following year, they once tied for 1st in the National Youth Championship. Pe Yeow went on to represent Singapore in the 1987 Asian Teams Championships as well as the 1990 Novi Sad Olympiad before deciding to call his chess career to a complete halt.

 Low Pe Yeow

As I facebook-congratulated him after the event for finishing 7th, he said he did not deserve the high placing. He mused that "rust was falling all over" and he "made a lot of  boo boos". He even had no clue of the "no handphone rule". He was busy texting during the games and fortunately, no one made a claim against him. Only when NM Koh Kum Hong was forfeited via mobile phone ring (against Benjamin Foo) did he find out about the rule.

Here's a smashing game from his heyday!

Pe Yeow said that the Toa Payoh event was only a one-off thing and has no intention of competing regularly. Let's hope the chess bug bites him again!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Master Blasters! - by Junior Tay

I would like to present you two instructive games in which emerging juniors ousted experienced Masters by solid, rational piece play culminating in winning combinations.

First up, Tin Ruiqi, a Primary 4 student from Nanyang Primary School,has making life difficult for adult players on the chessboard in recent events. Tenacious and composed on the board even against seasoned adults, the ASEAN Youth U11 Silver Medallist and ASEAN Age Group U10 Champion has since made her first major scalp in the SCF HPE league last week.

 Tin Ruiqi at the Cairnhill Open last Sunday (Picture courtesy of

Next, I would like to feature Eugene Wee who pulled off an upset last round win over top seed IM Steven Kim Yap at the Cairnhill Open to finish in a tie for 4th place despite being seeded 15th. The only reason your scribe was able to edge him out in Round 6 was because the youngster tried too hard to win, having eschewed many drawish continuations in his attempt to bring home the point.

At the Toa Payoh West Open, Eugene not only drew against CM Jarred Neubronner from a position of strength, he also comprehensively took out former National Champion NM Koh Kum Hong in Round 3 to share the lead.

 Eugene Wee tussling with Tan Weiliang at the Toa Payoh West Open 2012 (Picture courtesy of

We hope to see more of such giant-killing scalps from our junior players!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The wonderful and yet brutal game of Chess - by Junior Tay

Grabbing lunch at Newton Circus Hawker Centre after 7 rounds of Cairnhill Blitz with NM Olimpiu Urcan while waiting for Round 5 of the Cairnhill Open to commence, I posed the question of 'why do we even bother to drag ourselves up on a Sunday morning to suffer?' to him.

He paused and pointed out what GM Danny King explained about why we love chess so much. The English GM had stated that indeed 'Chess is a brutal game' and likened the 'self-contained' game of chess to 'going into a tank' where one loses all sense of time. He went on to indicate how he loved that feeling of being in this 'universe' of one's own. Olimpiu felt that King had hit the nail on the head and that's the reason why we drag ourselves out of bed to suffer along with hundreds of others at a CC in Cairnhill.

In the final round of the Cairnhill open after your scribe and Weiliang had wimped out a draw on Board 1, all eyes were glued in on Board 2 where two veteran Pinoy International Masters were demonstrating how the brutal game of chess should be conducted. Everybody and his dog knew that IM Luis Chiong would pull out his trusty King's Indian but instead of Enrique's usual safe and solid g3 variation, he chose to enter the most complex and analysed Mar De Plata line in the Classical KID and calmly invited Luis to breach his King's cover. Luis accepted the challenge with a pawn sacrifice to send his Knight to h4, with every intention of detonating it on White's g2 to denude the King. Enrique secured his Queenside advantage and bunkered down on his Kingside, even offering the exchange to stem off Luis' ferocious attack. Luis preferred to remove a potential defender of g2 and kept training his tank turret down the h file, even as his time tricked down to blitz minutes. With a minute and a half left, Luis unleashed Nxg2! and finally blasted open the defences with f4-f3 to create unstoppable threats.

Watching these two veteran masters exchanging mental punches, I could envisage why Olimpiu concurred with GM King's statements. It was a brutal game which was definitely worthy of the spectators' attention and time certainly stood still for us while both sides were calculating furiously and sacrificing bits. Thank you Luis and Enrique for placing us in your mental universe of brutal no holds barred chess!

The video of the final 10 minutes of this exciting encounter can be viewed on NM Urcan's A Singapore Column.
GM Danny King's 'Chess is a Brutal Game' video can be viewed at CBS News