Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Asian Nations Cup Round 4

In round 4, we took the Black pieces against a strong Kazakhstan team comprising 3 GMs and 2 2500ish IMs. On board 1, Zhang Zhong repeated his slightly unorthodox treatment against GM Rinat Djumabayev's Catalan. After a couple of slight inaccuracies, the young Kazakh GM managed to wreck Black's queenside pawn structure. With his two knights controlling Zhang Zhong's bishops, he took control and was close to winning the game. However, our top board again demonstrated his class by being extremely resilient:

On board 2, I was the white side of a staid Italian game against GM Anuar Ismagambetov. Black played the popular 5...0-0, 6...d5 line and equalised quite easily after I showed no opening knowledge whatsoever. In fact, I had to start defending after Black's pieces got a bit too active and I managed to find counterplay in time.

On board 3, Daniel was slowly suffocated by IM Rustam Khustnutdinov but he certainly had his chances:

Meanwhile, Peng Kong went down on board 4 on the white side of a Qc2 Nimzo-Indian against IM Kiril Kuderinov. Peng Kong played in his usual solid style and a sleepy position where nothing much seemed to be going on appeared in the game. However, Kuderinov has gained a huge time advantage after blitzing out his opening moves and this rattled Peng Kong to a certain extent:

Round 4
Kazakhstan 3 Singapore 1

After round 4, the Singapore team is ranked 7 which means a top 6 finish is still very much possible.

The next day was a rest day and the blitz event was held in the evening. We had a lot of fun during the blitz and the men's team eventually finished 6th. For more info, see here. I managed to beat my good friend and 2600+ GM Zhou Weiqi in round 2 but with apologies to my Indonesian friends, I simply cannot resist showing my biggest cheapo ever in blitz:

In round 5, we were paired against a youthful Mongolian team which is one of our competitors to secure that coveted 6th position. More to follow.....

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Asian Nations Cup Round 3 - Singapore vs Indonesia

In round 3, we faced the Indonesian team, our perenial rivals in the ASEAN region. This year, the Indonesian Chess Federation decided to send a team which is a good mix of experience and youth, probably with the intention to blood some of their most talented youngsters. This practice is not uncommon in Singapore as well - one can remember past Olympiads where a number of junior players were selected in favour of more experienced players so as to give them greater exposure on the world stage.

On Board 1, Zhang Zhong was White against Megaranto Susanto. Megaranto has a superstar status in Indonesia as he has been number 1 ever since Adianto retired from professional chess and also won the Zonals in 2011. An inactive Zhang Zhong had his work cut out against Megaranto's Alekhine defence and had a slightly worse position and was in severe time trouble. As the cliche goes, form is temporary and Zhang Zhong showed his class by cleverly creating counterplay by sacrificing a piece for 2 pawns and eventually salvaged a draw.

Meanwhile, I was Black against veteran FM Rudin Hamdani. Rudin made a name for himself when he won the silver medal in great style against insurmountable odds at the 2011 SEA Games. While going through his games, I realised the man plays virtually everything with a decent degree of opening knowledge and hence, I limited my opening preparation by looking through some recent games of his and having some idea of what to play against all his systems.

As it turned out, I essayed my favourite French defence and soon got an imbalanced game which was ideal for playing for a win:

Daniel faced an unrated opponent and as we all know, such opponents are normally the most dangerous because 1) they have virtually no games in the database and 2) they are probably decent players who had no chance to play too many FIDE rated games. We had a quick chat about his opening choices and he mentioned that he will consider what to play vs 1...e5 over the board (with a strong preference towards his almost-patented 2.Qf3.

The game indeed went 1.e4 e5 2.Qf3 Nc6 3.Bc4!, threatening to set a record of the shortest ever game in Asian Team Championships history. His opponent unsportingly continued 3...Nf6 and the game undertook a positional nature. After Black equalised by exchanging pieces and pawns at the right moment, Daniel began playing imaginatively, provoking Black to make aggressive moves which are actually self weakening. Slowly but surely, he outplayed the opponent to obtain a highly promising endgame:

Peng Kong showed his experience by outplaying his unrated opponent in an equal-ish ending and converted the win smoothly:

Round 3
Singapore 3 Indonesia 1

Monday, 25 June 2012

DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah International Open 2012

Last year, I was invited by Peter to play in a closed GM tournament group that was held in conjunction with the above event. I have to say the conditions were excellent and the tournament was well organised with virtually no quips. The only problem is that those players who lost their norm chances (regrettably, I was one of them) in the GM group also lost their motivation to fight which resulted in a number of short draws. Having played a number of closed GM tournaments, I can say that this is extremely normal - everyone is human and its not easy to psych yourself up to fight when there's no tangible reward at stake. However, I have to say that this is not very fair to the organisers who have produced nothing but the best environment possible.

This year, the closed tournament appears to have been scrapped and in exchange, an open event with a more than decent prize fund is in the offering. According to, some prominent names such as GM Sergei Tiviakov and GM Thomas Luther have already signed up and the event should attract enough titled players to promise norm opportunities.

More information on the playing schedule and how to sign up can be found here

More on Asian Nations Cup and SCN

As many should have known by now, SCN founder and editor O.G Urcan has formally shut down Singapore Chess News "SCN" with his reasons given here. As one of the main contributors, I am naturally somewhat disappointed with this decision but at the same time, understand his difficulties in juggling his book projects, career and family with SCN. No one has worked harder than him on this project and I genuinely believe that SCN had given the local chess community exclusive and detailed coverage on local chess events at a level which has never been seen in this country before.

We are proud to have attracted a loyal group of followers for the last 2 years and hoped that readers have been entertained and learnt more about chess and chess people here.

With that, I'll move on to the Asian Nations Cup where I'll show some of my other games in this event. Before the tournament, the main target for the Men's team is to finish 6th which I personally thought was reachable with a fair amount of luck. Given that there are at least 7 near full-GM teams which I can think of (China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran) and that we were not able to field our strongest available line-up (GMs Zurab Azmaiparashvili and Wu Shaobin were not able to play for various reasons), I wasn't that optimistic about our chances. As it turned out, we were seeded 7th with Uzbekistan and the Philippines surprisingly opting not to send teams for this year's edition. With some luck, 6th position suddenly appeared to be a genuine prospect.

In round 1, we faced bottom seed Chinese Taipei and managed to get by without too many problems. My young opponent played the opening decently until he started defending passively:

Round 1
Singapore 4 - Chinese Taipei 0

We catapulted to board 2 where we had to face an insanely strong Indian team. Zhang Zhong played his first competitive game in nearly a year with the Black pieces against Krishnan Sasikiran and managed to hold him to a draw in impressive manner. Meanwhile, I was White against Harikrishna Pentala, whom, rated at 2693, was my highest ever rated opponent at that time (that would change by the end of round 8).

On Board 3, Daniel went down in flames against newly crowned Asian Continental Champion Parimarjan Negi. Before the game, we were discussing which line of Daniel's pet Cozio would Negi most likely try to squeeze him with and Daniel was spot on with his predictions. However, we also couldn't figure out a clear route to equality and he had to suffer with a slightly worse position through out the game. Even though Daniel defended well, he consumed too much time and blundered in a precarious position.

Peng Kong was doing well against G.N Gopal on the White side of the Neo-Grunfeld. Despite being out-rated heavily, he had a clearly drawn, opposite colored bishop and Queen ending until he blundered a critical pawn in time trouble. Heart-breaking stuff for Peng Kong who until then, was holding his own against the Indian GM.

Round 2
India 3 - Singapore 1

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Mayhem in May

It's been a crazy May and many thanks to all those who have congratulated me for making my second GM norm. Needless to say, I am absolutely delighted to make it over the line but I wish to emphasize that I would never have made it without the help and support of my family and friends, my understanding colleagues, my teammates, and a huge amount of luck. Thank you all!

I will also like to emphasize just how critical GM Zhang Zhong's inclusion in the team is. He is truly a remarkable player given that he had not played a competitive game since May 2011 (Zonals, had to teach at his chess club, look after his 2 kids and still managed to hold his own easily against active top players like Sasikiran (2720) and Wang Yue (2690) and a few other 2500+ players.

One characteristic of his play is the amount of grit and determination he displays in each game. A simple illustration is his game against Kazakhstan GM Rinat Djumabayev, where he was close to losing but fought on gallantly, making it difficult for his opponent to consolidate each turn. His opponent eventually cracked and allowed Zhang Zhong to save the draw. I don't care what a lot of people are saying about foreign talents, people like Zhang Zhong and Wu Shaobin are role models and locals have a lot to learn from them.

More analyses will be up shortly but for now, please read this to see my comments on my game with Li Chao. Digressing slightly, I recently had a conversation with a local senior player who told me he was too busy to read SCN - a real surprise to me as I cannot imagine anyone who's at least a little bit concerned about the local chess scene, not bothering to read SCN. SCN provides extensive coverage like no other local chess magazine or websites has done before and there clearly is a lot to gain but hey, to each his own. :)