Sunday, 28 October 2012

World Mindsports Candidates: Daniel C and Daniel F narrowly misses qualification (Updated to include Final results) - by Junior Tay

IM Daniel Fernandez and FM Daniel Chan came within touching distance of qualifiying for the World Mind Sports Finals event but their hopes were shattered in Rd 16 when both lost must win games. Daniel Fernandez especially had a great start and middle of the event, finishing consistently among the top 10 leaders for the first two thirds of the event. He reached 8.5/14 with 3 games left. Back to back losses to GM Krisztian Szabo and Ivan Moreno ended his hopes. Daniel Chan reached 8.5/15 and needed 1.5/2 in the last two rounds. His Round 16 loss to IM Hipolito Asis Gargatagli also spelt the end of his campaign. The Daniels ended up in  24th and 25th spot on tiebreak instead.

I scored 7 points and so did IM Jimmy Liew (42nd and 44th respectively). I got bashed so often that I felt like QPR against Arsenal, having to suffer throughout the games. However, I did sneak in some wins against GMs and that really made my day.

All the Singapore players got disconnected suddenly in Round 13 and that cost us a game (or in my case, I had an equal position at  best). NM Olimpiu Urcan and FM Tin Jingyao (who also missed Round 1-3 due to NJS training) decided not to continue after that and ended their event with 4.5 points.

Here are some Singaporean games from the event.

Daniel F emulates IM Mok Tze Meng's feat in the Istanbul Olimpiad by outgrinding GM Amin Bassem in the Exchange Ruy.

Daniel invests a piece and an extra move to obliterate his opponent - this time, following Daniel Chan's lead in one of the latter's favourite lines.

In the following game, Daniel Chan admits that he was actually playing for the win by avoiding repetition even though he was a piece down as he felt his opponent might just overextend and ...

And finally, a GM scalp by your scribe.

Top results: (after 17 rounds)

1st-2nd: GM Krisztian Szabo and GM Wesley So 13.5
3rd: GM Hrair Simonian  12.5
4th and 5th: GM Ghaem Maghami and IM Renato Alfredo Terry Lujan  11.5
6th: GM Vlad Jianu 11
7th-8th: IM Hipolito Asis Gargatagli , IM Vladislav Artemiev  10.5
9th-16th: IM Jose Carlos Ibarra Jerez, GM Amin Bassem, Valles Moreno, Ivan, GM Wang Rui,  FM Ganod, Sereenen,  IM Codrut-Constantin Florescu, FM  David, Anton Guijarro, IM David Larino Nieto 10

There was a playoff among those on 10 points to  qualify 4 players for the Finals (9pm tonight) and IM Jose Carlos Ibarra Jerez, GM Amin Bassem, Valles Moreno, Ivan and GM Wang Rui took the final 4 spots.

Update: GM Wesley So won the event and an all expenses trip to Beijing for the World Mindsport Event by scything through the field with an unbeaten 18.5/22 points. He started off with an incredible 9/9!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Final World Mind Games Qualifier - IM Jimmy Liew makes the cut! - by Junior Tay

GM Krisztian Szabo, GM Maxim Dlugy, GM Hrair Simonian, GM Petr Neumann, GM Rajaram Laxman, GM Batchuluun Tsegmed and GM Arthurs Neiksans. That's the list of GMs crammed into the final qualifier of the World Mind Games online event. I haven't even begun to mention the chockful number of IMs who were also fighting for the final 15 spots in the World Mind Games Candidates event. The field looks more like an European over-the-board Swiss event than an online thingy. Am I glad that I played in an earlier qualifier...

IMs Goh Wei Ming, Lim Yee Weng, Mok Tze Meng, Jimmy Liew and FM Dominic Lo played in this edition which had 164 competitors in total. It was absolutely brutal as Dominic exclaimed "Every round I'm fighting for my life and still suffering!" - as he took a short break from studying for his medical exams. So much for a peaceful break.

After 6 rounds, Yee Weng decided that he had enough and went to watch EPL on cable instead, even though he still had a chance to make the top 15 having scored 3.5/6 then. Mok went for a toilet break just before the event commenced and missed round 1. He also got disconnected in the final round in a won position, ending up with 5/9. Wei Ming, after working two marathon no-sleep days in a row, gifted a whole rook in a highly advantageous position in the penultimate round, and eventually missed the top 15 after scoring 6/9. Anyway, he was also offering Manchester United and City commentary during the games so the lesson learnt is multitasking is definitely  bad for your online blitz.  Dominic Lo, emerged after 8 rounds with an excellent  5.5 points, needed to win his final round but got ground down.

However, it was Malaysian IM Jimmy Liew who shone today. He first announced his intention of not being there to make up the number by beating American GM Maxim Dlugy in Round 2. In such a big field, it's amazing that Jimmy can end up playing Mok (Rd 7 draw) and Wei Ming (Rd 5 loss). Here's the crucial final round game in which the winner would make the top 15.
So Jimmy emerged 13th with 6.5/9 and the event was won by GM Szabo with 8/9.  GM Dlugy and IM Mohamad Haddouche tied for 2nd with 7.5 points.

You can also read Jimmy's personal account of this event on his own blog.

The 17 round World Mind Games Candidates will commence on 27th October 10pm at the Emanuel Lasker Arena at 10pm. The 120 qualifiers will join GMs rated 2550 and above for prizes + an all expenses paid trip to the World Mind Games event in Beijing.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

IM Lim Yee Weng at the National Rapid - by Junior Tay

Malaysian IM Lim Yee Weng, who has recently become a PR here, sent us two interesting games from the recently concluded National Rapid Chess Championships where he finished 3rd.

IM Lim Yee Weng, plunging into the murky complications of the Vienna Game against FM Tin Jingyao 
(Thanks to NM Olimpiu Urcan for the pic) 

Yee Weng relates "It was good fun but on the average, my games were of quite poor quality".

 First up, a chaotic draw against FM Tin Jingyao (our answer to Malaysia's boy wonder Yeoh Li Tian). 

Next, Yee Weng showed how he made a hash out of his game against the eventual champion FM Daniel Chan.

Monday, 15 October 2012

FM Daniel Chan - 2 National Titles in 2 days! - by Junior Tay

FM Daniel Chan capped an extremely successful weekend by becoming double National Champion in the space of 2 days. By tying with IMs Enrique Paciencia and Steven Kim Yap with 7.5/9 in the National Blitz, he emerged National Blitz Champion on Saturday. Now we know why his handle is appropriately named "Blitzchamp".

        FM Daniel Chan with his National Blitz Champion trophy

On Sunday, he outpaced a National Rapid Championship field comprising IMs Enrique Paciencia, Lim Yee Weng and FM Tin Jingyao to finish 1 point ahead of Jingyao with 8/9

Daniel essaying the Hungarian Defence (Thanks to IM Jovan Petronic for this pic)

Daniel has sent us two games from the event.

Firstly, a critical game in which Daniel outfoxed National Coach IM Enrique Paciencia by plunging the latter into complications just when the latter was about to get a nice comfy grip on the c file.

Daniel made short work of Derek Lim in the following miniature though he pointed out that the latter could have equalised with an audacious King stroll on move 18.

NM Olimpiu Urcan and IM Goh Wei Ming had opined that digital timers should be used for National Blitz events and yellow/red cards be issued for players making infringements such as smashing the clocks around. I would probably be one of the first to get a yellow card for losing my cool and lambasting an opponent (during and after the game) who made constant and incredible 'drag the clock to his own side of the board' clock slaps  (+ scattering the pieces) causing me to lose time one queen and 2 bishops up (and losing on time in the process). Of course, the right thing to do is to grab the clock and make a claim for illegal move but in the heat of the moment, the emotional mode overrode the logical one. In any case, all these problems with clocks and errant behaviour are avoided come October 27th when the new National Blitz (and Rapid) Champion and 119 other qualifers (including a few other Singaporeans) compete in the World Mind Games Candidates online together with  ELO 2550 and above GMs. Do show up to watch on (Emanuel Lasker Arena) at 10pm if you're not competing in the SCF Training League.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Setting the record straight - IM Daniel Fernandez is the first Singaporean qualifier for the SportAccord World Mind Games Candidates by Junior Tay

A couple of days ago, I realised that IM Daniel Fernandez was actually the first local chap to qualify for the World Mind Games Candidates when he made the top 15 in the 1st preliminary on 17 September 2012. In fact, he got a tougher field than the rest of us as other qualifiers from his event include 2 GMs (eventual winner Mekhitarian and Nikola Djuric), another 5 IMs and 2 FMs. Singapore has a total of  5 qualifiers (IM Daniel Fernandez, Jr Tay, FM Daniel Chan, FM Tin Jingyao and NM Olimpiu Urcan) with one more preliminary event left to play (October 20 2012, 10pm).

IM Daniel Fernandez

Here's a recent blitz game which Daniel won with his beloved Smsylov Caro Kann.
More news on the Sportsaccord World Mind Games event can be found here.

Monday, 8 October 2012

An observation of SCF's New Training League - by Junior Tay

The SCF's new system of training for their FIDE rated NJS trainees is indeed an interesting development. In order to entice adult FIDE rated players to give their trainees some tough matches as well as the opportunity to increase the latter's FIDE ratings, SCF has come up with the idea of paying the adults $50-$120 for each game played on Saturdays 7-11pm for 8 weekends starting October 20th 2012. The players are put into a group or league where the organizers will try as far as possible, to pair the adults against the NJS players.  In my opinion, in one fell swoop, this addresses several issues that have deterred adult players from participating in local chess events.

1) The timing and schedule
By scheduling the event on Saturdays 7-11 pm, the adult can still spend quality time with family and take time off after dinner to compete. Moreover, he or she will have Sunday morning to recuperate from the game. For the serious tournament player, there is also time to prepare for the matches on Saturday afternoon after the rigours of the week's work. Also, most local events do not have evening rounds. The players can still commit their time to other events if they fall on similar days as the SCF league. Moreover, the participants can be excused up to a total of 3 rounds so there is a degree of flexibility here.

2) The time control (2 hours per side) 
As we age, we are no longer the speed demons we once were (or purport to be) and if we lose, it has nothing to do with 'being blitzed' by the presumably swifter National Junior Trainee.

3) The renumeration
Nothing beats being paid for your time to do something you enjoy. This concept of paying FIDE rated adult players to play is akin to the Japanese Oteai system (defunct since 2004) in go (or weiqi to the Chinese). In the Oteai, the go professionals play 8 to 12  league matches and collect game fees for every match they play. The similarities stop here as the top players in the league get to advance a rank (or dan) at the end of the event. However, in 2004, the Japan Nihon Ki-in Federation and the Kansai Ki-In Institute ended the Oteai and awarded dan promotions based on tournament victories and tournament prize winning records, presumably to 'force' players to strive for excellence rather than to be content to stay within the Oteai. A National Master pointed out that the total game fees for the SCF League  is  substantially better than the top prizes in local swiss events, for example, the 2200 player will get more than 3 times the amount of money IM Luis Chiong earned for winning the National Veterans and Seniors Event last week. The 1600 rated adult will also stand to make more than Luis' $300, assuming he plays all 8 games.

4) FIDE rating as a yardstick for adults' aspirations
This cash for game idea also encourages more adults to aim for FIDE ratings as a target. In an event (FIDE rated), not many can win the trophies and prize money but it is possible to attain FIDE ratings without making the podium

Having extolled the merits of the league with respect to the adults' perspective, let's discuss the downside.

1) Risking one's ELO points.
This is a most likely situation for the rusty adult player as he or she has to start keeping tabs on the current developments in theory, unlike the active NJS player. A current top player (2200+ elo) on the local circuit estimated that for every win, he will gain 1.5 elo points and if he loses, it's 13.5 points down the gutter because most of his opponents are more than 400 points below him.  It is no secret that due to the range of FIDE ratings which start from 1000 onwards, many of the NJS players are underrated. Of course, if the 2200 player can clean up the field he's pitted against, it's plus 12 ELO points for him and an assured $960 assuming he plays all 8 rounds. Also,  those with lower FIDE ratings risk less  ELO points and naturally collect less game fees.

2) Risk of getting outprepared.
FIDE rated adult players are likely to have their games in databases such as chessbase megabase 2012 and this allows the trainee's coaches and private trainers to book up on them with a few mouseclicks. This is a risk one has to accept. There is nothing to stop the adult player from doing some serious preparation to avoid being hit by the theoretical truck. Also, he or she can hire his own trainer to brush him up on theory for a few sessions or buy a decent opening book to prep up. Or the adult players can even collectively form a training group and get a trainer to help them with opening preparation - won't cost that much if they pool the training fees.

In any case, I see this as a positive development as there is considerable effort put into thought and incentive for  the adult chess player to resume chess activities. Browse through the Singapore section of and you can hardly find more than 3 ELO 2000+ rated adults taking part in local Swiss events. The National Championships Premier and Candidates section were also postponed due to the same reason. Will this new initiative work? We definitely welcome contributions and game analysis of the league from players in the tourney.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

FM Tin Jingyao and NM Olimpiu Urcan also qualify for World Mind Games Candidates - IM Goh Wei Ming red-carded! - by Junior Tay

The 6th World Mind Games qualifier was dubbed the 'Asian qualifier' by Jarred Neubronner due to 11pm timing  for us (most of the qualifiers are at 2 am). Indeed, there were quite a fair number of Asians competing this time in the 93 strong field.
FM Tin Jingyao (Thanks to NM Olimpiu Urcan for the pic)

This morning, in this qualifier, FM Tin Jingyao and NM Olimpiu Urcan clinched their berths in the Candidates event which will be held on Saturday 27th October 2012 at 10 pm on the server. Jingyao and Olimpiu finished in a tie for 9th to 19th place with 6/9 but made the top 15 due to their superior progressive scores. IM Kevin Goh Wei Ming came to grief when he got disconnected just as Round 1 was about to start, prompting the Tournament Director to forfeit his game. After 3 straight wins from Round 2-4, his connection went down again and the TD decided that he should cease play as it would be unfair to his opponents to deal with the massive lag. So it was  definitely, not Wei Ming's night.

In his first tournament after the end of his PSLE this week, Jingyao's lack of practice was evident in his game against Chinese GM Wang Rui.

More Benko (or Volga - as Olimpiu prefers to call it) Gambit fever as Olimpiu and Jingyao made their qualification berths by sacrificing the b pawn + more and won beautifully.
The Chessbase announcement on the event can be found here.

My thoughts on the Chess Olympiad - Part 2

As most chess players should know by now, the Singapore team finished 59th out of 157 teams. Given that we were seeded 55th, this is not exactly a disastrous result. However, I believe a more objective evaluation is to look at how we got there, and a general assessment of the games that were played, regardless of the eventual results.

Grandmaster Zhang Zhong again proved what a valuable addition he is to the Singapore chess community. Even though he is now predominantly a coach, he is still capable of churning out 2600 TPRs as indicated by this result and the Asian Nations Cup. Maybe these results were not that surprising given that Zhang Zhong was number 16 in the world at his prime but having to take care of his two children and teaching a school of kids mean that his dedication to competitive play has largely decreased since his professional playing days. 

Zhang Zhong lost his first game against Kenny Solomon of South Africa, with the white pieces no less, in a rather depressing manner. However, he showed great resilience and determination and scored a resounding 8 out of his remaining 9 games. This is something that we can all learn from, the art of picking oneself up and quickly moving on after a defeat. 

A closer look at his games will indicate another remarkable aspect of his play. Zhang Zhong is not afraid of entering into big mainlines even though he only had the morning to prepare these variations. For example, he played both the Bayonet Attack and the Fianchetto variations against the King's Indian, both big mainlines in their own right, and he duly won both rather smoothly. We also went through a line he prepared in the Caro Kann as Black and when I asked him what he intended to do in a particular dangerous recent attempt, he immediately quoted a recent top GM game as the antidote. 

A recent interview with Zhang can be found on Olimpiu Urcan's refreshing new website here.

Li Ruofan did not have her best tournament but a lot of credit has to be given in the way she fought for wins in positions where most would have given up and offered a draw. Her last tournament was the 2011 Zonals which was more than a year ago and hence a certain degree of rustiness was to be expected. 

Ruofan has a very positional style which means most of her games tend to be grinders and typically lasted 50 over moves. I think this caused her to tire more easily and clearly cost her towards the end of the tournament. However, in observing her games and during our team analyses, it is clear to me that she is a classy player and I get the impression that had she had the chance to play preparatory games and devote some time to prepare for the event, she would most certainly have done much better. 

This is Ravindran's debut in a major team tournament and I believe he learnt much from this experience. I personally feel that Ravi's opening repertoire is too narrow and hence too predictable, and this exposed him to specific preparations in a number of games during the event. I also get the impression that his opening preparation was a tad out-dated but I suppose this can't be helped as he is after all not a professional and has to cope with his studies in Oxford. 

As Junior has reported on this blog, Daniel Fernandez has played in a number of warm-up tournaments prior to the Olympiad. This was also not his best tournament and I get the feeling that he may have put too much pressure on himself to do well. The issue here, as pointed out by many back home, is again his opening choices which sometimes borders on the bizarre. I must say I was a little frustrated when he essayed the obscure Petroff Gambit in Round 2 but fortunately, he went back to something more mainstream in the rest of the games (under the advice of both Zhang Zhong and Li Ruofan).

Daniel clearly has the potential to become a Grandmaster based on the quality of some of his games and his obvious love for chess. He is extremely creative in solving problems over the board which may explain his tendency to vary his openings. However, I personally think that this approach can only bring you to a certain level and that his results will improve greatly if he studies just one or two solid mainlines, in great depth, and play them as a primary repertoire.

Ultimately, we did not do as well as we could given that we lost to some lower rated teams (South Africa, Krgystan, Turkey 2016) and only played one higher rated team (Belgium). Part of the reason has to be attributed to my absence for large periods of the event and that as a result, there is a lot of pressure on the rest of the team as they knew they have to play every game even if they are not on their best form. Under such circumstances, it does feel a little awkward writing an evaluation of our Olympiad team but ultimately, I am still a chess fan and I hope that all involved will see this article as my personal objective evaluation of how we did.

The results indicated the degree of preparation that is required for such a major event.  My opinion is that preparation should begin way in advance and not just before the tournament. Team training sessions can be held on a weekly basis regardless of whether there is a major event to prepare for as such training will be beneficial on a long-term basis. If there are budget constraints, the players can all arrange to work together without the need of a trainer. Of course, it certainly will not hurt if an experienced trainer sits in once in a while to guide the players towards the correct direction but my point is that there is nothing stopping players with approximately equal strength to work together on their own.

The problem with our current National Men's Squad is that we have players located all over the world and as such, it is impractical to hold joint training sessions together on a regular basis. A solution will be to approach and group the top 5 - 6 rated, active, and locally based players and organize a joint session, say once every fortnight. Players located overseas can be kept abreast of developments so that they can keep up on their own. This is certainly do-able for the Women's squad since all our players are home. Naturally, the next issue will then be the level of commitment from the players which is really up to the individual. Anyone who is not committed to the cause should not be considered to represent the country at the Olympiad.

The big question: how many senior players do we really have who are motivated enough to work on chess on a consistent basis towards the common goal of playing well in major team events? Regardless of the answer, I hope the SCF can consider my suggestion for both the Men's and Women's squad as a step in the right direction. This approach is simple, cost-saving, builds team building and also forces players to show their level of commitment. In the end, joining this "elite" group may also be an incentive for the younger players as one of the goals to work towards excellence.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

GM Wong Meng Kong finishes 7th in Hong Kong International Open 2012 by Junior Tay

GM Wong Meng Kong took part in the above-mentioned event, finishing with 6/9 for a tie for 7th to 10th position in a field of 60 (7th on tiebreak). Spanish expat Alberto Muniz, who was based in Singapore for the past few years, also finished with 6 points.
GM Wong Meng Kong (Thanks to Alberto Muniz for the pic)
NM Olimpiu Urcan had earlier reported on his column about the event and Meng Kong's performance in the first 4 rounds, inclusive of an endgame loss against eventual champion top seed English IM Zhou Yang Fan. Sixth seeded Meng Kong offset losses to Zhou and US based Filipino NM Alberto Riveira with draws against Chinese nationals Chen Baining and Bai Jinshi (2nd place winner on tiebreak) and 5 wins. Here's a nice boa constrictor type squeeze from Meng Kong in Round 7.
More information on Hong Kong Chess can be found here.
Results from Hong Kong International Open 2012 can be found here.