Wednesday, 29 May 2013

2013 Asian Continental Championships - Part 1 of 2

After a dismal appearance in last year's edition (3.5/9!), I actually told my wife that I would never again take part in the Asian Continental Championships. After all, I am certain I can find better ways to spend my precious leave instead of donating stacks of hard earned elo points. However, some chess players never learn their mistakes and after receiving an email from Thomas a couple of weeks before the event, I succumbed to temptation and proceeded to book my leave (convincing my manager that I can complete a piece of work in 2 weeks instead of the initially planned 3!) and air tickets days before the event. Before I knew it, I was on the flight to Manila.

I am joking of course. It is an immense privilege to be playing among Asia's best players and the incredibly generous global prize fund of US$100,000 was certainly attractive enough to draw in the crowds. If it wasn't for the Hainan Danzhou Grandmaster tournament in China, the field would certainly include a few more Chinese stars. For an amateur, this is an excellent chance to soak in the atmosphere and I found myself enjoying not just my own games (despite the abysmal result) and also the ones at the top boards.

The playing field was expectedly strong. China and India, Asia's traditional powerhouses were led by GM Li Chao (2686) and last year's Champion GM Parimajan Negi (2651) respectively. Vietnam sent her top players, GMs Le Quang Liem (2714) and Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (2631) along with other strong masters. Virtually all of the Philippine's Grandmasters took part with the exception of GM Eugenio Torre who decided to take on the role of co-organiser instead. It was good to see GM Julio Catalino Sadorra (2561) in action close to home. Ino, as he is affectionately known, is now studying in the University of Dallas but spent a significant amount in his teenage years in Singapore where he enjoyed a healthy but fruitful rivalry with yours truly.

One curious observation is the inclusion of a large number of players below 2300, which was the minimum rating for additional players. While it makes sense to provide as many norm chances as possible, this was clearly against the regulations of the event. Chess players are generally an amiable lot and I don't really know anyone who is vehemously against the participation of players below the rating threshold but rules are rules and perhaps, it makes far greater sense to remove this clause in future to avoid confusion and also allow players to have better expectations.

UPDATE: IM Jovan Petronic noted that the rules indicate that exceptions for the rating floor could be made by the continental president on request of the national federations, something which I overlooked. Still, there were about 20 additional players below the rating floor which seemed to me to be way too many exceptions. 

The tournament started auspiciously in the first round where I took Black against Polao Ben:

In round 2, I faced Chinese GM Li Shilong who has beaten me in 2 previous encounters. I was determined to take the fight to him and the result was a tough fighting draw:

In the next round, I took Black against one of the Philippine's top GMs, Mark Paragua. To my surprise, Mark repeated a slightly dubious variation of the Winawer which he had played recently in the Bangkok Open. I had previously analysed this line extensively when I was writing for and was really annoyed with myself for not paying more attention to this in my pre-game preparation. Unfortunately, preparation plays a really important role at the top level and my unprofessionalism would return to haunt me when Mark outcalculated me in a typically complex Winawer:

This was a really painful loss as regardless of the abysmal middlegame play, I really should have been better prepared. The only thing left to do was to take it on the chin and treat it as a lesson well learnt. Nevertheless, a lot of credit has to be given to my opponent for playing accurately for large moments of the game.

In round 4, I was paired against yet another promising Filipino junior, Jerad Docena who has a low rating of 2055 but turned in a fantastic performance in the tournament. Tactical endgame is the name of the game:

A traumatising finale but this only goes to show that you just cannot afford to lose focus at any point during the game. The second part of my report will contain more of such (horror) stories.....


  1. Very instructive games. Thanks Wei Ming!

  2. Where is Part 2? Dont keep us in suspense :)