Saturday, 29 June 2013

Fighting for the d5 square with IM Mas - by Junior Tay

I would like to draw readers' attention to the following games of IM Mas Hafizulhelmi from the Malaysian Masters. After a hiatus from tournament chess in mid 2012, he has started playing more regularly this year and in this event, he demonstrated the class that made him the top Malaysian player for the past 2 decades.

Pitted against the 2012 Malaysian National Closed Champion Roshan Ajeet Singh, Mas kept absolute control of d5 and used his space advantage to soften the Black Kingside. Finally when Roshan initiated complications in the centre, Mas simpy overpowered him with an exchange sacrifice.

Mas used a similar ploy in the Sicilian Najdorf to exert control of d5. By castling long, the IM invited Fong to launch his Queenside pawns as Fong relinquished his centre to get his Bf6 to take aim. When Fong flung his pawns forward, Mas calmly picked them off and still kept total control to win comprehensively.
Instructive examples, don't you think?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Drama at the Malaysian Masters - by Junior Tay

Aron Teh, IM Lim Yee Weng and IM Mas Hafizul were leading the event after the penultimate round with 5.5/8. The last round pitted Mas against Yee Weng and the game was uneventfully drawn rather quickly. Not surprising for Mas, actually, since this was the 19th(!) game he had to play back to back. This meant that FM Lim Zhuo Ren (5/8) had the chance to catch up. To Yee Weng's disbelief, Zhuo Ren eschewed a whole exchange against Ng Tze Han, choosing to settle for a pawn advantage. Now, a win would give him 6 pts too, together with Yee Weng and Mas. However, Tze Han's endgame proved too solid for Zhuo Ren to convert his pawn plus.

Now it's down to Aron to make his White count against FM Dr Ronnie Lim who was by far a pale shade of his usual strength, having just completed a few academic examinations prior to the event. SB calculations showed that Yee Weng would narrowly pip Aron to the title in the event of a draw by less than 1 SB point so Ronnie is now handed the role of the King-maker...

A trench warfare ensued...

CM Aron Teh vs FM Dr Ronnie Lim 

Hence Yee Weng emerged the Malaysian Masters Champion on SB tiebreak from Aron and Mas. Looking at the games, I remarked that Yee Weng either dragged his opponents into long manouvring games of attrition or took quick, no-fuss draws. His explanation was that the 2 games per day schedule was just gruelling and energy zapping. In fact, on one occasion, when he reached home after the 2nd game of the day, he just slumped onto the bed and fell asleep. So his strategy of alternating fighting games and peace gestures paid dividends. He also noted that he had some lucky breaks indeed.

Ronnie had him on the ropes, outplaying him to win the exchange. But with 10 minutes each left on the clock, the inexplicable happened...
And of course, the game that did wonders for his SB a seemingly tranquil position, Yee Weng unleashed a deadly pawn sacrifice and got back a lot more for his investment.
Finally, here's the most talked about game of the event. Mas was clearly out of sorts against the World Amateur Co-champion (2nd on tiebreak)and Malaysian National Closed Champion who declined a draw on move 10 to record a memorable Queen sacrifice.
Final Crosstable here.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Tan Weiliang retains his Queenstown Club Championship title - by Junior Tay

 CM Tan Weiliang - thanks to for the pic!

A respite from the hazy conditions of the past few days allowed 55 chessplayers to contest in the Queenstown Club Championships. Shorn of the usual contingent of Pinoy masters typical of local tourneys, the tussle for the champion's title was a toss up between CM Tan Weiliang and NM Olimpiu Urcan in the final round.

Both of them did not have it easy though, dropping 1/2 point early. Weiliang was caught in the opening by Michael Siong in a Nh3, g3, Qb3 line in the Leningrad Dutch and after 11 moves, faced a worse position, having played too fast to notice its subtleties. Michael  made a practical draw offer to Weiliang and it was accepted. To be fair, I was also caught in the same opening in the final money round of the 2012 Cairnhill Blitz, lost two pawns and had to swindle my way out. Olimpiu, having worked his way into a winning King and pawn ending, mixed up the sequence in the forced win and had to settle for a draw against Marcus Chen, the National Age Group U8 champion. Much credit should be given to the youngster for his staunch defence!

Both of them continued to struggle in Round 6 with Weiliang barely flagging National Spelling Champion Ashvin Sivakumar on time in a complex ending. Olimpiu, on the other hand, had to hustle Reinhard Sellmair by going for dubious complications in the latter's time trouble. The 7th and final round showdown is covered in Olimpiu's blog.

Weiliang put up an incredible defensive display to outlast Olimpiu and retain his title, one point ahead of Ashvin Sivakumar, Olimpiu, young talent Heng Zheng Kai and Richard Lean. The final results can be seen on chess-results.

I would like to show you Weiliang's comprehensive win over Reinhard in Round 5. There are some mindboggling variations in the analysis provided - which didn't pan out in the game though.


Sunday, 16 June 2013

NTU 5th Inter-Institution Invitational Chess Championships By Kelvin Wee and Elizabeth Yeow

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) hosted the 5th edition of the Inter-Institution Invitational Chess Championships (IIICC) on 1st - 2nd June 2013. Traditionally, IIICC, as its name suggests, was only open to invited schools who are strong powerhouses in chess. A change in strategy saw the tournament being open up to all secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, universities and international schools. The tournament also abandoned the usual 7-9-11 rounds tournament format. This was done in order to allow players to have an equal opportunity of play with both black and white after 8 rounds of play. The 2013 edition being FIDE (Rapid) Rated was also another first, this being in line with the Singapore Chess Federation’s (SCF) move to make all tournaments FIDE rated.

The event was attended by a total of 32 participants, hailing from 6 schools in total - Anglo-Chinese Secondary (Independent), Dunman High School, Nanyang Polytechnic, Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University. As it was an individual tournament, the two days oversaw many intense matches--a significant number of which were fought down to the last second--played between players regardless of school and age group. 
Eventual Champion Isaac Ethan Soh with the Guest of Honour, IM Goh Wei Ming

After 8 rounds, Isaak Ethan Soh of ACS(I) emerged the individual champion with a total of 6.5 points out of 8, followed closely by Crivoi Alexandru of NTU (6.5), Ang Kai Lun Melvin of NUS (6), Wee Chun Jie Eugene of ACS(I) (6) and Daniel Moskovich of NTU (6).
The crucial last round game which Isaac had to draw to emerge Champion

 Battle on the top boards...

In the Open team category, NTU Team A, consisting of Alexandru Crivoi, Daniel Moskovich and Wee Chu En Kelvin, came out top with 17 points out of 32, 1.5 points ahead of runners-up ACS(I) Secondary and the ACS(I) seniors in the JC team. Naturally, both the Secondary and JC/Poly team categories were won by ACS(I) as well.

 NTU A - Overall Champions

 ACS(I) - Champions in JC/Poly Category
 ACS(I) - Champions in Secondary School category

Overall Standings (Individual)

The awards ceremony was held at the Sports and Recreation Centre, presided by our guest-of-honour, International Master (IM) Goh Wei Ming. IM Goh needs no introduction; being the top player native to our republic, he has represented Singapore in several Chess Olympiads, SEA games and Asian games. He is also a 5-time national champion (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012). A probably little-known fact is that IM Goh is an alumni of NTU, and the NTU Sportsman of the Year in 2006, no less!

IM Goh gave a short address, quoting the 12th World Champion in saying that chess is an “art, science and sport”. IM Goh believed that science was the most important component of chess, as it embodied the study of theory and the understanding of chess. He encouraged all participants to continue playing chess actively, and not to stop playing despite our busy schedules. IM Goh then helped distribute the prizes to winners.

To end, the NTU International Chess Club organizing committee would like to thank the following people and organizations: Singapore Chess Federation; IM Goh Wei Ming, guest-of-honour; Mr Christopher Lim, FIDE Arbiter; Mrs Celine Lim, NTU Sports Officio; NTU Sports and Recreation Centre; and Liu Tong, NTU Chess Club member. It is through their help and support that this tournament ran smoothly from start to finish.

Photo credits go to Elizabeth Yeow, Kelvin Wee, Liu Tong, Wagish Kumar Rai (photographers), and Na Na (image editor)
Like us at for updates and more photos

Here are two games from the event.

First - an endgame squeeze in which White effected a sudden breakthrough when Black got complacent ( annotations by Eugene Wee)

Finally, a rampant rook allows Black to trigger off a humongous Kingside attack (Annotations by Kelvin Wee)

Sunday, 9 June 2013

FM Jarred Neubronner clear winner at 2nd Balestier Blitz - by Junior Tay

The 2nd Balestier Blitz saw FM Jarred Neubronner stamping his superiority over the 6 strong field (double round robin)  with 6.5/10, one clear point ahead of the runner up NM Olimpiu Urcan, winning the 40 bucks first prize. The time control was set at 4 minutes with 2 seconds increment so as to let the 'old birds' have a chance not to get flagged so easily.
Background - CM Malcolm Tan (left) playing FM Jarred Neubronner. Foreground - FM Ong Chong Ghee (right)

CM Quek Suan Shiau (left) vs Junior Tay (right)

Jarred noted that his 2-0 win over CM Quek Suan Shiau (who finished 3rd with 5 points) was the turning point as had Suan taken a game from him, the latter would have won the event instead. Both sides traded tactical punches and Suan was on the receiving end this time.

NM Olimpiu Urcan, the runner up, magnimously chose to send us this marvellous game which he was on the receiving end against FM Mark Ong Chong Ghee. Mark last played a local tourney in 2002, tying for 1st in the 2002 Cairnhill Open. However, he is still extremely dangerous with the initiative as can be seen below.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

2013 Asian Continental Championships - Part 2

After a thoroughly forgettable round 4, I was paired against Emmanuel Emperado from the Philippines. Emmanuel has beaten 2 strong GMs in the first 2 rounds which shows that despite his relatively low rating (2313), he is certainly not to be trifled. Indeed, the opening was a ferocious Winawer Poisoned Pawn where he did the manly thing and took my g7 pawn:

A fortunate win but one that pushed me up the standings and made up for the half point that was dropped in round 4.

In round 6, I had the White pieces against Indonesia's number 1, Megaranto Susanto. We have each won a game in our previous battles and I was certain round 3 would be equally hard fought. However, I never expected THIS hard:

Megaranto was not at his best (certainly not from the opening anyway!) and it was slightly disappointing to have allowed this game to slip through my fingers but the game was nonetheless highly enjoyable.

This game took 6.5 hours and 132 moves, a record for me and I was of course exhausted after the game. At the same time, I was also ready for a fight in my next game against Mongolian GM Batchuluun Cegmed. What transpired however was my most embarrassing loss in an international event, ever.

What a terrible way to lose! After showing Junior the game, he did a search on the databases and told me that some big names such as Caruana and Van Wely have lost exactly the same way before. My wife told me that this may be the prelude to an eventual 2700 rating since I'm following the footsteps of such big names! 

Things went from bad to worse when I proceeded to lose a quick game in hari-kiri fashion against veteran Filipino IM Ronald Bancod and by the last round, I was only playing to save as many elo points as I can and hopefully sneak a prize by finishing in the top 50. True to form, the game was another long drawn affair, lasting 5.5 hours and featured yet another horrendous blunder:

I finished 37th and among the prize winners despite losing 8 elo points. Admittedly I was not at my best as this is my first tournament in 2013 played in classical time control but it arguably could have gone worse than this. In any case, it felt satisfying to get a few reasonably decent games under my belt. 

My next tournament would be the KL Invitational Masters, a 10-player round robin event before the Asian Indoor Games which is without question, the big one. Going into my 6th year with KPMG, it is always going to be a tough ask to find time to train but I've long accepted this to be part and parcel of an amateur chess player in Singapore. Hopefully, I will get to play some good chess and if I do, you can expect to hear it first on this site!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

More games from Teck Ghee Open - by Junior Tay

I was only able to produce game fragments from the Teck Ghee Open so now here are two examples of rapid play from the event.

First off, ex-youth international, Ong Yew Chiang takes on NM Olimpiu Urcan in Round 3. Yew Chiang had been one of the strongest local players in the 80s. In 1987, he was rated 12th on the SCF rating list at 2195. I recall him winning the 1988 Buona Vista Open with a perfect 9/9 score way ahead of Ian Wong (7.5/9) and your scribe (7/9). However, he was pitted against Olimpiu, who had since the end of last year, decided to play more actively after concentrating on work, blogging and writing  for the past 10 years. Of late, he had been registering strong results, tying for 3th-4th,  in the Vesak Blitz, finishing 2nd in the Hou Yifan Blitz Challenge and tying for 1st (2nd on tiebreak) in the Thomson Open.

I also recognised one name from the past in the Teck Ghee Open lineup. A certain Lee Song scored 4/7, only losing to eventual 3rd place finisher Reyes and current top juniors Lee Qing Aun and Ashvin Sivakumar. Lee was the 1986 National U16 Champion and had tied for 6th-8th in the 1986 Asian U-16 Championships.

Next up, an interesting square and space tussle which ended abruptly when White sends his Queen on a misguided pawn errand.