Sunday, 30 September 2012

Daniel Chan qualifies for the World Mind Games Candidates too- by Junior Tay

Daniel at the Asian Nations Cup 2012 in Zaozhuang, China (with thanks to WFM Jeslin Tay for the pic)

The 2010 National Champion FM Daniel Chan took part in the 4th edition of the World MindGames qualifiers on the server this morning and tied for 1st with GM Richard Rappaport and IM Vladimir Artemiev with 7.5/9 points. Daniel, who is only into his 3rd month in National Service, managed to watch the Arsenal - Chelsea match on cable, catch a few winks before logging onto the server for the event at 2am!

Daniel reeled off 4 straight wins despite being half awake before GM Zoltan Medvegy woke him up by beating him in an English Symmetrical.

Daniel then ensured qualification by reeling off another 3 game winning streak, including this quick win over German 2011 Rapid Chess Champion Haegen Poetsch.

Finally, a quick 2 move draw with IM Artemiev in the final round ensured him a tie for 1st (2nd on tiebreak). Aside from a place in the Candidates where 2550 and above GMs await him, Daniel also earned 120 free days on the thanks to his 2nd placing. For more information on the qualifiers, please check out the Chessbase webpage announcement here.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Daniel Fernandez wins Marple Club Blitz with a 9-0 shutout - by Junior Tay

Back in his homebase of Manchester, IM Daniel Fenandez took part in a 9 round all play all FIDE rated blitz event at the Marple Chess Club and won all 9 games. This meant that his FIDE Blitz rating will definitely be in excess of his current FIDE rating of 2370.

 Hasta La Blitz-ta, baby...

 Daniel sent readers the following game against 2nd seeded Alexander Longson which he described as "spectacular but completely unsound". We thought it would be good practice for readers to find not only the refutation, but also the mate in 5 which Daniel realised he missed only after the game.

 In NM Olimpiu Urcan's "A Killer Application", he wrote "...being creative involves a certain amount of courage. Experimenting. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the games of Daniel Fernandez, the young Singaporean International Master. He’s a player who’s willing to experiment, to conduct advanced research on his own terms and come up with innovative ideas. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But that creativity vault only gets stronger". I think from the game, you can see Daniel's creativity at work....

White: IM Daniel H Fernandez (2370) Black: Alexander Longson (2283)
Marple Club Blitz (Fide Rated)
27 September 2012

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. a3
If Magnus Carlsen can play 1.a4 in tournament blitz and win , Daniel's 3.a3 isn't all that far fetched. Probably earned him a few seconds here. As to whether there's a practical point to this move, apart from Daniel, you can ask GM Artashes Minashin who has also employed it in tournament play. Anyway, Daniel has already punted this a few times in FIDE rated games on the English tourney circuit already.


The one advantage that he can claim here is that he isn't forced to back off from the a2-g8 diagonal or to play the complicated sacrifice after 3... Na5 4. Bxf7+ (4. Ba2 +=) 4... Kxf7 5. Qh5+ Ke6 6. Qf5+ Kd6 7. d4 Kc6 8. Qxe5 Kb6 which can arise after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Bc5 3.Na4 Bxf2

4. d3 Bc5 5. h3 O-O 6. Nf3 d6 7. c3 a6 8. Nbd2 Ba7 9. Qe2 Qe7 10. Bb3 Be6 11. Bc2 d5 12. Ng5 Bd7 13. Nf1 dxe4! 14. dxe4

It seems pretty unfair that White can just chuck a move like a3 into a standard Giuoco Pianissimo line and remain ok without completing development while Black does everything right and yet has to watch out for White's Kingside buildup (which he has potentially saved a move by moving Nf1-g3 without castling).

The catch is. Black has to repel the White pieces by14... h6! 15. Nf3 (15. h4 The best thing to do is to ignore the Knight and try to exploit White's slow buildup. Na5 ! 16. Ne3 Bxe3 17. Bxe3 Bb5 18. Qf3 Rfd8 =+) 15... Nh5! 16. g3 (16. g4 Nf4 17. Bxf4 exf4 18. O-O-O and Black is OK.) 16... Na5! 17. Ne3 Bxe3! 18. Bxe3 Bb5 19. Bd3 Bxd3 20. Qxd3 Rad8 21. Qe2 Qe6 with good control of the light squares for Black.)

15. Ng3 Nd6 16. Nf5 Bxf5 17. exf5 h6 18. Nh7? 

Daniel's imagination moves into overdrive as he works up a huge Kingside attack
18. Ne4 Nxf5 19. Qg4 Nd6 20. Nxd6 Qxd6 21. O-O with strong compensation for the pawn sacrifice.

18... Rfe8 19. f6 Qe6

So far, so good for Black. He calmly steps his pieces out of harm's way and is poised to cut communication lines for White after e5-e4. Daniel ups the ante with...

20. Bxh6?

The whole continuation is unsound. We invite readers to find the refutation to this sacrifice. (The answer is at the end of this game)


After the game, Daniel realised he missed a forced mating attack here. Can you find it? Answer is at the end of the game.

21. Qf3?! Kh8 

Satisfied with a clear edge, White goes for the ending

22. Qxf6+ 

22. Nxf6 e4 23. Qh5 Qxf6 24. Bg5+ Kg7 25. Bxf6+ Kxf6 26. O-O +-

22... Qxf6 23. Nxf6 Re6 24. Bg5 e4 25. O-O-O 

25. Nd5 Rc8 26. O-O +-

25... Kg7 26. Nd5 Rc8 27. Bf4 Bxf2 28. Nxc7 Rxc7 29. Rxd6 Rxd6 30. Bxd6 Rd7 31. Bf4 f5 

31... e3 32. Bd1 +=

32. g4 fxg4? 

Black's last chance is to play} 32... e3

33. Bxe4 

After this, White's double Bishops call the shots as he can liquidate into a clean won ending.

33...g3 34. Bxg3! Bxg3 35. Rg1 Kf6 36. Rxg3 Ke5 37. Bxc6 bxc6 38. h4 1-0 

a) Answer: Refutation after move 20.Bxh6??

20...gxh6 21.Qh5  e4 22. Qxh6 Bxf2! (Black needed this tempo to get the Queen to scurry back to the Kingside) Kxf2 23. Qf5+ followed by Qxh7.

If 23. Kf1 Qc4+ followed by Qf5+ and Qxh7 wins again.

If 23. Kd1 Nf5 stops the mate.

b) Answer: Forced mating contination

The forced mate is 21.Qg4+!! (trade Queens!) Qxg4 22.Nf6+ Kh8 23.hxg4 and Bf8 mate cannot be prevented.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Fancy a shot at the World Mind Games 2012 Chess events? - by Junior Tay

One week ago, the Chessbase website announced that online qualifiers for the above-mentioned events would be held on the server. Those placed in the top 15 for the qualifiers will join GMs (rated 2550 and above) in a 17 round Candidates event on 27th October. The top 12 will go on to play in the Final  and the winner gets an all expenses paid trip to Beijing for the World Mind Games 2012 events. Of course, the rest will not go empty handed. Check out the Chessbase site for more details.

For Singaporeans and Malaysians, the ideal qualifiers to play in are the 6th one (Friday 5th October, 11pm (Singapore Time) and the 8th and final one (Saturday 20th October, 10pm (Singapore time). The other qualifiers are held at the unearthly time of  2am onwards.

This morning, I played in the 3rd qualifier and managed to secure a place in the Candidates Final after a 6 way tie for  1st place with 7.5/9 points - (finishing 4th on tiebreak). Although there were 8 IMs and another 8 FMs in the field, I only met 2 of them as the 252 strong field meant the chances of playing them were relatively slim.  Here are the games that helped me secure qualification.

This game illustrates why the Benko Gambit is very popular in online blitz play. If not theoretically prepared, for the price of a pawn, White has a very tough defensive job while Black gets free play and plenty of automatic moves. However, my Lithuanian opponent did muster up after the game and qualifed for the Candidates Finals too.

My penultimate round opponent had tied for 1st (Bronze medal after tiebreak) in the 2010 Asian Junior Championships. The way he wriggled out of his boxed in position is pretty impressive and instructive as he cleverly returned the gambitted pawn (and more) to free up his restricted pieces. Fortunately, both of us needed only a draw to secure qualification so we called truce.

In 2004, your blogmaster IM Goh Wei Ming cleared the 13 round online qualifiers in the Dia De Internet Chess Festival to reach the Quarter Finals where he was finally eliminated 2.5-1.5 by Russian IM Eraschenkov. The details can be found here.

Finally, I leave you with the exploits of FM Timothy Chan at the 2008 World Mindsports Games Chess Teams who besides beating GM Li Chao twice, trounced two IMs with yes, another cheap gambit...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Meng Kong and Edward Lee in KL Open - by Junior Tay

GM Dr Wong Meng Kong and Edward Lee are currently in KL, taking part in the DYTM Raja Nazrin Shah International Open. Meng Kong has 4/7 so far and Edward 3.5.

In Round 2, Meng Kong lost a hard fought game against GM Mark Paragua.

I feel that Meng Kong's subtle play with the minority attack against Malaysian junior Fong Yit San  is worth showing here.

I've learnt about another prodigy (apart from 9 year old FM Ram - see the notes to the Fong YS - WMK game) 14-year-old Indonesian Jodi Setyaki Azarya from NM Olimpiu Urcan's website. Jodi had led th the tournament after Round 6 together with GM Tiviakov before the GM outplayed him in Round 7. It's alarming how fast these kids are improving indeed.

Now, the tournament is into Round 8 and the KL Open ends tomorrow.

You can check updates on Chessresults

NM Olimpiu Urcan's new website offers a look at Singapore Chess from the perspective of someone with more than a decade's experience in local chess happenings.

Check out his views here as well as more updates on the Singaporeans' performance here - KL Open 2012 - Singaporean results

Friday, 21 September 2012

Paradoxical moves - by Junior Tay

20 years ago, just before I had to enlist for National Service, I joined other Queenstown CC Chess Club members on a chess tour to KL to play friendly matches against a few chess clubs. I recall we did pretty well. During the trip, naturally, we had the time to blitz with our team mates. During a blitz session with FM Alphonsus Chia, he made a remark which I found pretty strange at that time - " keep playing the 'standard' moves" - with reference to the way I develop my pieces or prepare an attack. It took me quite a while to realise that by always playing such moves, it create a certain predictability and allows the opponent to react easily as the first thing he would anticipate or calculate are the natural moves. Of course, in most cases, there's nothing wrong with those standard ideas - Rooks to open files, lock the centre before you prepare an attack on the flank etc." However, that one remark changed the way I looked at chess, in a sense. Nevertheless, the alternative idea to the natural move must not be an inferior continuation or it's just hustling to win quickly when one already has a decent position.  Henceforth, I always keep a lookout for such 'arcane' moves. I would like to present to you 3 such paradoxical examples in local chess praxis where "unnatural moves" are played to secure an advantage or unsettle the opponents.

A) The mysterious Rook move.

In the following training game, Weiliang sacrificed a pawn in an attempt to stem the White initiative. While deliberating whether I should take the proferred pawn, I recalled the previous training game in which I was one pawn up but he played the endgame so well that I could not make use of my material advantage. Hence, I began a search for alternative ideas and my 'mysterious Rook move' worked as time trouble forced him into clarifying matters in my favour!

For a clearer explanation of what the concept of the mysterious Rook move is, please check out GM Dejan Bojkov's blog.

B) Jam em' and charge em'.

When I saw the following game by your resident blogmaster IM Goh Wei Ming, it struck me that he was defying the standard chess conventions. He first advanced pawns in the sector where he was supposedly  weaker (the Queenside where Black had a Rook trained on a half open c-file.Then when the opponent tried to use his Rook to put pressure on Wei Ming's King, he then advanced the pawns in front of the King to push Black off the board.. However, I think he was guided more by concrete needs in the position than trying to 'play punk'.As IM Wily Hendriks in his marvellous book  'Move First, Think Later' (New In Chess 2012) put it aptly, "If you cling on to the generalities, you lose sight of the concrete" (Hendriks, pg 10). .

C) The 'unnecessary' Exchange sacrifice.

During my active years of chess playing, one contemporary I like to watch is FM Mark Ong Chong Ghee. His games are rife with exchange sacrifices and sometimes he employ ideas that are quite spectacular and daunting to face. Wei Ming had said that Chong Ghee would make a tough opponent for him because the latter will never let him settle down in the game -by keeping the game complicated and tactical. One motif  I noticed he employs is sometimes when he has created a weakness in the opponent's position, he does not hit on the weakness immediately as the opponents would expect, by say, piling Rooks behind the weak pawn. He will aim for something else and then say 10 moves later, the weakness is still there for him to hit. However, the examples I watched are from blitz games he play so it's hard to reconstruct those themes for you. His 'unnecessary' Exchange sacrifices, however, have been used with success, for example in the Asian Team Championships against FM Eddy Levi and IM Tu Hoang Thai. I used the term 'unnecessary' because in the positions where he played the exchange sacrifice, he could still carry on playing normal moves and press on. The following exchange sacrifice earned him a point en-route to an equal 1st placing in the 2003 Cairnhill Open.

I hope showing these examples won't spoil your chess though...or maybe I'm just trying to con you into playing crap...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

My thoughts on the Olympiad - Part 1

The first part of this article would be purely my analysis of my own games which I think were all pretty interesting both from the theoretical and practical perspectives. Interestingly, I scored 4/4 with Black and lost my only game with White (in a rather lame manner) which is both worrying and exhilarating at the same time. I believe one of the hallmarks of being a GM is that he should be extremely solid with the White pieces and for me, I have been losing far too many games with White!

 I was also pleasantly surprised by the huge amount of interest in the Olympiad from a large number of my chess friends. The timing certainly helped (games were broadcast at 10pm Singapore time daily) but it is still something that our ex-national players would follow the games virtually on a nightly basis, discussing not just the Singapore games but also the Malaysians' and on the top boards.

 Round 1 was against South Korea, and we took the decision to rest our top board to give the younger members an early run-out. My opponent is the solid and underrated Lee Sang Hoon who I drew with during the Asian Nations Cup Blitz event.

In round 2, we faced the severely underrated South African team. My opponent was the dangerous Henry Steel:

My opponent is easily one of the nicest, and most sporting players I have ever met. It was the first time in my life that my opponent actually said that he really enjoyed the game after losing and I was pleased to see that he went on to score an IM norm after playing superb chess for the rest of the tournament.

The less can be said about round 3, the better. I was completely off the tracks for this one but even though I played badly in the opening, I could still have saved the game had I seen some, on hindsight, rather obvious tactics:

I was really annoyed with myself for missing so many chances and had trouble sleeping for the rest of the night. I badly wanted to win since I lost to Krgystan in 2008 and I already knew by then that I had to return home after the 5th round. Ultimately, I had to brush it off as a bad day in the office and move on.

 Round 4 was a smooth win in the Sicilian Dragon vs Panama:

And in round 5, I was extremely lucky to survive and even managed to win:

It was unfortunate that my tournament had to end prematurely but I did gain a few rating points, met some old friends and learnt some new things about chess so it wasn't all bad news.

 My next post would be my evaluation of Team Singapore's performance and what I think can be done to achieve better results in future.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Polish Preparation by IM Daniel Fernandez

IM Daniel Fernandez had embarked on a few warm-up events prior to the Istanbul Olympiad in which he tested possible lines to use for the forthcoming event. One of them was the maverick Polish Defence (1.d4 b5!?) in which he felt that Black would be OK if he can get ...c5 in without being punished immediately. Unfortunately (or should it be fortunately?), all his White opponents in Istanbul preferred to test him with 1.e4 so he did not get to 'polish' them.

Here's Daniel's best game from the Baden Baden Open 2012 which he had kindly provided the copious annotations for readers.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

An Interview with FM Lim Zhuo Ren, Malaysia's top scorer at the Istanbul Olympiad - by Junior Tay

When IM Mok Tze Meng brought his wards down south to compete in the Singapore Open 2010, he introduced me to a certain Lim Zhuo Ren, a nice polite chap who one week later, nearly mauled me on the chessboard during the Singapore Malaysia match. Thanks to perpetual check (and possibly the Pow Sing chicken rice treat I gave him earlier), I emerged barely intact. Just nearly two years down the road, Zhuo Ren proceeded to win the Malaysian Championships and then made the Olympiad team where he emerged their top scorer, notched up the FM title and made an IM norm in the process. Let me introduce to you, FM Lim Zhuo Ren.

Hi! Zhuo Ren. Thanks for consenting to this interview.
Ok. Firstly, thanks for this opportunity. It feels weird being interviewed. This is my first time, so please bear with my rambling.

How did you pick up chess and when was that?

 When I was about 7,  I saw my dad teaching my mum chess. Upon seeing this, I asked him to teach me the game. For about 2-3 yrs after that, I only played with my dad whenever he was free before I was taken and enrolled into a chess club where I met IM Mok. The rest is history.

Any comments on your chess style?
My chess style....don't really know my style. I like to be in control of the position, limiting my opponent's counterplay and squeezing him. But you can't always play a particular way every time. Sometimes, you have to play what the position demands. For example,  in a chaotic position full of tactical possibilities, you cannot limit counter play. You have to be able to calculate precisely and everything has to be concrete. I think in modern chess, you have to be ready to play any sort of position, to be universal and that is hard.

Is there any chess literature or software you will recommend to the aspiring junior who hopes to make the big league?
I think there are better sources to ask about this. I recommend Chessbase which everyone else would recommend. It's important to key in your games and to learn from your mistakes. One book that I was very fond of in my junior days was "Rethinking the chess pieces" by Andy Soltis. I read it many many times. It was recommended to me by IM Mok.

Prior to the Olympiad, what was your best result (best players you've beaten/drawn etc, best tourney performances)
 My best result. To be honest, I don't know my best results in terms of rating performance prior to the Olympiad. So I will just tell you my 2 most memorable tournaments. One of them is National Championship 2011 which I won with 8/9 pts. If I'm not mistaken, I think my Rp was around 2400. Another one is Singapore Open 2010. I think I scored 6/9. I beat and drew with a lot of higher rated players there which included GM Laxman (we drew). I can't remember his rating at that time. It was also memorable coz I made many new friends there including you guys. XD. I remember our game during the Singapore-Malaysia match too, a nice draw (What nice game? Nice for you, not nice for me! You nearly wiped me off the board - Jr) and I remember playing blitz with Wei Ming too.

What is your ultimate chess aim?
I don't have an ultimate chess aim. I'm just taking it step by step. Like prior to this, I was just aiming to increase my rating and get an FM title. And now that I have gotten this title and an IM norm, my aims are to try and achieve 2 more norms and definitely to increase my rating. Maybe after/if I get the IM title, I will aim for GM but that's way into the future. My current aim now is just to increase my rating and maybe get another norm.

And how do you plan on achieving that?
I have a few books which have helped me tremendously this 1-2 months which I haven't finished. And I have some other materials (books) which I'm going to read while I juggle my studies. In short, I just plan to work hard. One of the people who inspired me to work hard is actually none other than Kevin himself :P

The Olympiad was probably the first event where you get to play against so many GMs/IMs at a go...What do you reckon is the difference between a GM and IM/FM?
 I will tell you when I become a GM. LOL. That was a joke. Err, I'm not really sure what the difference is. A GM probably has more chess knowledge than an IM and he probably understands chess better. I guess the GM maybe knows more about what he is doing on the chess board and what he is trying to achieve on it and maybe that's why we get outplayed against them

What did you (and your team) feel  when you found out that your opponents were the Dutch comprising  ELO 2600+ type gms.  How did you guys approach the situation?  
 I think we were excited to play 2600 GMs. I know I was. It's not everyday you get to play such a strong team. I think we all prepared for our respective opponents except for IM Mok who prepares in his own special way.
The Malaysian Olympiad Team (sans Mighty Mok) (with thanks to IM Jimmy Liew for the pic)

Did you intentionally go for imbalance in that game against GM Daniel Stellwagen?  
 I was going through his games and saw a variation of the Dragon which I liked. So I decided to try it out. I looked through the game notes,  variations and some analysis. During the game, he deviated early by not playing Bc4. I knew he probably wasn't familiar with this line since he normally plays Bc4 and I was familiar with some of the sacrifices on f3/g4 in the Dragon and decided to just go for it. I was quite sure he would just outplay me had I not complicated the game. Luckily, I got a draw. A lucky one for the sacrifice wasn't really sound, I think.

Were you inspired at Mok's performance at the start of the Olympiad? 
 Yes, of course I was inspired. I was inspired to fight especially the way he fought against Van Wely. I was really hoping he would make the GM norm. Unfortunately it was not to be.
Zhuo Ren with IM Mok, giant-killer of ELO 2600+ GMs (with thanks to IM Jimmy Liew for this pic)

What was your target for the Olympiad? Did you expect to be in contention for the IM norm. At which point did you start aiming for it? 
I didn't have any target. I just wanted to do my best and hope I get a decent result. I didn't expect to get an FM title, let alone a norm. I started thinking about the IM  norm when I made 5/7. But I was more focussed on securing the FM title first. Only after I did that, then I started really aiming for the norm.

What did you do during the 2 day interval before that critical game against the Thais?
I was preparing. Going through a book on the opening I was planning to play again. You could say I was over preparing. Mok, Li Tian and Jimmy helped me relax a bit by playing some games (not chess).

What was first thing you did after your opponent resigned thus ensuring your 13 game IM norm?

After my opponent resigned, I was actually kind of in disbelief at what had just happened as I signed the scoresheet. I looked at Jimmy's and Mok's games. Yee Weng had already finished and he was pumping both his fists. He shook my hand saying "You did it!" and only then it started to sink in. After I got out of the tournament hall, I got my mobile phone out and I texted my mum telling her the news. Then, we just waited for our teammates to finish before we left the venue.

Which is your favourite game from the Olympiad?
This is a hard question. The last game was special coz it secured the norm but I really liked my game against Columbia (vs FM Christian Camilo Rios (2398). I think that was my favourite. It was the game that secured the 6 points required for the FM title.

How did you celebrate your (and Malaysia's performance) success?
We (the men's team) had drinks at the hotel. Joking around, basically just enjoying each other's company.

Can you tell us about chess in England. Are you planning to take part in the 4NCL next season?
I have participated in a few tournaments in England. Therea are more FIDE rated tournaments there than Malaysia.  Yes, I'm planning to take part in the 4NCL next season. I have joined the team you told me about a few months back, the Sussex Smart Survivors. Thanks for that! (You're welcome - Jr)

Thank you for your time!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Olympiad Round 11 - Singapore eked out a 2.5-1.5 win over Uganda...finished ahead of Malaysia on Junior Tay

Malaysia, galvanised by the concerted (and ultimately successful) effort to help Lim Zhuo Ren get highly rated opposition to make his IM norm, pulled level with us on match points by the end of the penultimate round. Only a win over Uganda would suffice for us and we just barely made it.

 Daniel Fernandez ended his campaign on a high note when he took advantage of White's chronically slow development to net a piece and to finish with a flourish.
Ravindran just could not find his mojo in this event. He went into a double edged continuation just before time control and paid dearly.
The ultra reliable Zhang Zhong is just world class. After his shock loss to IM Kenny Solomon (who made a GM norm) in his first game, when he had not gotten his "car-engine revved up yet", he blasted the opposition away with 7 wins and 2 draws. He put Singapore 2-1 up after his opponent played an erroneous 'combination' which left his back rank exposed.
Li Ruofan was gradually taking over the game positionally when she missed a simple tactic and lost the h pawn. Conventional theory dictates that when one is materially down, he/she should trade pawns and not pieces (or try to avoid exchanges). Instead Li went on a piece trading expedition and hacked off as many bits as she could. The policy worked as she played into a drawn Rook + 3 pawns vs Rook + 2 pawns ending (on the same side).
Thus, with the all important 1/2 point, Singapore edged out Uganda 2.5-1.5. Seeded 55th, we finished in 59th position with 6 wins and 5 losses, just barely ahead of Malaysia who had the same match points but were placed 5 spots below on tiebreak. In terms of ASEAN placings, we were 3rd behind Vietnam (7th(!)) and Philippines (21st).

I would like to thank the many readers for following this series for the past two weeks. It was my pleasure sharing the local game commentary with you.