Tuesday, 31 December 2013

27th SEA Games - the story (Part 1)

Liu Yang and I have returned from Myanmar and while we may not have won any medals, I am pretty satisfied with my play in general and our team work during the mixed transfer event. As the results often tell very different stories, I thought I'll give my own version of what exactly transpired during the events.


I finished 7th in the above event with 9/14, losing to all the players that finished above me apart from Megaranto Susanto from Indonesia. However, the cross table did not really tell the whole story as I had a real roller coaster ride throughout the event.

After 2 smooth wins in the first 2 rounds, I had the black pieces against the eventual winner, Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son from Vietnam, who incidentally finished 4th in the World Blitz Championships this year. I was perfectly aware who I was up against and my immediate aim was not to fall too far behind time and to obtain an easy and playable position.

The game started well after 1.d4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.Nf3 ed 4.Nxd4 Qh4?!. Truong Son was visibly surprised and thought for a minute here before unleashing the outrageous 5.g4!?!?! An exciting game soon ensued:

A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "27th SEA Games Blitz"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.14"] [Round "?"] [White "Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son"] [Black "Goh Wei Ming, Kevin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [PlyCount "54"] 1. d4 Nc6 2. e4 e5 3. Nf3 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qh4 $6 {An old favourite of mine. Truong Son is predominantly a 1.d4 player and I was hoping he wouldn't be familiar with this unorthodox move.} 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. g4 $6 {Played after 45 seconds of thought. Clearly, Truong Son doesn't know his theory very well.} (6. Be2 $1 Qxe4 7. Ndb5 Kd8 8. O-O Bxc3 9. bxc3 a6 10. Nd4 Nf6 11. Bd3 {with good compensation is the established mainline.}) 6... Nf6 $2 {Allowing Nf5 was just plainly ridiculous and justified White's extravagant idea.} (6... d6 $1 {would have secured a rather significant advantage.}) 7. Nf5 Qxg4 8. Qxg4 Nxg4 9. Nxg7+ Kf8 10. Nh5 Nd4 11. Bd3 d5 12. exd5 Bf5 13. Bxf5 Nxf5 14. Bd2 Re8+ 15. Kf1 Bc5 16. Nd1 Rg8 17. h3 Ne5 18. Nf6 Nf3 19. Nxe8 Nxd2+ 20. Ke2 Ne4 21. Nxc7 Ke7 22. Nb5 Neg3+ 23. fxg3 Nxg3+ 24. Kd3 Nxh1 25. Nd4 Bxd4 26. Kxd4 Rg3 $2 ({ Here,} 26... Rg1 $1 27. Rb1 Nf2 28. Nc3 Rxb1 29. Nxb1 Nxh3 {was my best shot, with decent drawing chances.}) 27. Nc3 Rxh3 {I was worse at this stage and had less time and swiftly went down in the blitz finish.} 1-0

In round 4, I faced the Malaysian Lim Chuinn Hoong who I’ve faced several times in Sin-Mas matches over the years. From an equal-ish position where I was probably very slightly worse on the White side of an Italian Game, I managed to gain a positional edge after a couple of inaccuracies:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "27th SEA Games Blitz"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.14"] [Round "?"] [White "Goh Wei Ming, Kevin"] [Black "Lim Chuinn Hoong, Ronnie"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C54"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Nf3 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. Bb3 d6 7. h3 h6 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. Nf1 Be6 10. Bc2 b5 11. Ng3 Bb6 12. O-O d5 13. exd5 Nxd5 14. Re1 Re8 15. Bb3 Qf6 16. Ne4 Qd8 17. Ng3 Qf6 18. Qc2 (18. d4 $1 exd4 19. Nh5 Qg6 (19... Qd8 20. Bxh6 $1 gxh6 21. Bxd5 {is the sneaky idea.}) 20. Nh4 {looks good for White. I've never seen this motif before.}) 18... Nf4 ({The simple} 18... Rad8 {is fine for Black.}) 19. Bxe6 Rxe6 20. Bxf4 exf4 21. Rxe6 fxe6 $2 {A serious structural concession.} (21... Qxe6 {is normal and equal.}) 22. Ne4 Qf5 23. Re1 Re8 24. d4 Kh8 25. Kh2 Ne7 26. a4 {Black has no counterplay here and is effectively lost:} Nd5 27. axb5 axb5 28. Qe2 b4 29. Nh4 Qf7 30. Qg4 Ne7 31. Nd2 g5 32. Nhf3 Qf5 33. Rxe6 Qxg4 34. hxg4 bxc3 35. bxc3 Kg7 36. Ne5 Ba5 37. Ne4 f3 38. gxf3 c5 39. d5 Bc7 40. d6 Bxd6 41. Nxd6 1-0

In the next round, I was getting squeezed by Ng Tze Han but somehow managed to survive to a drawn endgame. However, with a significant time disadvantage (30 seconds to his 45 or so), my hopes of salvaging a draw wasn’t huge until he made a tremendous slip and blundered in the pawn endgame. I only just managed to promote my extra pawn and mated him with 4 seconds to go.

So after 5 games, I had scored 4/5 but have yet to face 3 remaining Grandmasters. In round 6, I had the White pieces against the dangerous Nguyen Van Huy who is an excellent blitz player. After getting outmanoeuvred the entire game (again!), I again managed to survive to a clearly drawn endgame until I presented him with an early Christmas present by gifting him a whole rook.

This was a devastating loss in an extremely important game against a direct competitor for a medal. Naturally, I was disappointed but had to pick myself for the 4 remaining key encounters. In the next round, I faced a relentless Farid Firman Syah who calmly accepted my dubious exchange sacrifice and consolidated his position without too many problems and so after a fairly good start, I only had 4/7 to show for my efforts.

The next game was probably my best of the blitz event. I had previously prepared for Megaranto’s Alekhine in an older event and I was able to obtain an opening advantage. I managed to maintain control throughout the game, a rarity for me especially in a blitz game and the game eventually had a frantic finish with me barely surviving a last ditch attack and I even found mate with 8 seconds to go. This put me firmly back in contention as now just 2 wins against Mark Paragua and Rogelio Antonio will virtually assure me of a medal finish.
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "27th SEA Games Blitz"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.14"] [Round "?"] [White "Goh Wei Ming, Kevin"] [Black "Megaranto Susanto"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B03"] [PlyCount "97"] 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. d4 d6 5. exd6 exd6 6. Nc3 Be7 7. Bd3 Nc6 8. Nge2 Bf6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O Re8 11. b3 Bg4 12. Qd2 Bh5 13. Rae1 Bg6 14. Bxg6 hxg6 15. d5 Ne5 16. h3 Ned7 17. Bd4 {I was pleased with the outcome of the opening as I had a pleasant spatial advantage with no weaknessess in my camp.} a5 18. Ng3 a4 19. Rxe8+ Qxe8 20. Re1 Qd8 21. Nge4 Bxd4 22. Qxd4 axb3 23. axb3 Ra3 24. Nd2 Nc5 25. Nb5 $1 Ra2 $2 26. b4 $2 ({I missed the terribly strong} 26. Nxc7 Rxd2 27. Qxd2 Qxc7 28. Re8+ Kh7 29. Qf4 {, winning on the spot.}) 26... Ncd7 27. Nf3 Nf6 28. Ng5 Nbd7 (28... Nfxd5 29. Nxf7 {was one of my little traps.}) 29. c5 dxc5 30. bxc5 Ra5 31. Qb4 c6 32. dxc6 bxc6 33. Nd6 (33. Nxf7 Kxf7 34. Nd6+ Kf8 35. Nb7) 33... Rxc5 34. Ngxf7 {Swopping the c5 pawn for Black's f7 pawn is a major achievement as now the Black king is weak and susceptible to attacks. In blitz, this is very undesirable.} Qb8 35. Qh4 Rh5 36. Qg3 Rd5 37. Re7 {Allowing Black some counterplay.} ({The computer pointed out} 37. Qxg6 $1 Rxd6 38. Nh6+ Kh8 39. Nf5 Qf8 40. Re7 $1 {I doubt that I can find this line in with standard time control let alone a blitz game!}) 37... Rd1+ 38. Kh2 Qb1 39. Qe3 Rh1+ 40. Kg3 Nh5+ $2 {We were down to our last 30 seconds at this stage and not surprisingly, the quality of the game decreased drastically from here on.} (40... Qb4 $1 {would have maintained strong counter attacking chances.}) 41. Kh4 Qb4+ 42. g4 Nf8 43. Qf3 Nf6 44. Nh6+ gxh6 $2 ( 44... Kh8 45. Nhf7+ Kg8 {is drawn.}) 45. Qxf6 g5+ 46. Kg3 Qb3+ 47. f3 Rg1+ 48. Kh2 Rg2+ 49. Kxg2 1-0

For those who have been following my games regularly, you should know that Mark is not exactly my favourite opponent. I have a horrendous 0-5 score against him and on top of that, Mark is well known to be an excellent blitz player in the Philippines. I honestly didn’t fancy my chances and the plan was to avoid something mainstream and not to fall behind significantly in time.

The plan worked to perfection as after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5!? de 5.Ne5, Mark was visibly slightly surprised and I soon attained a time advantage in an unclear position. In time trouble, Mark blundered a pawn and I was cruising comfortably to the full point. And then, disaster struck:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "27th SEA Games Blitz"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.14"] [Round "?"] [White "Goh Wei Ming, Kevin"] [Black "Mark Paragua"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B50"] [PlyCount "77"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 $5 {One of my favourite sidelines which I constantly employ when I didn't feel like contesting a theoretical Najdorf or Dragon.} dxe5 5. Nxe5 a6 6. g3 e6 7. Bg2 Qc7 8. Nc4 Bd7 9. d3 Bc6 10. Bf4 Qd8 11. O-O (11. Ne4 $5 Nxe4 12. dxe4 {looks like a pleasant edge for White.}) 11... Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Nc6 13. a4 Be7 14. Re1 O-O 15. Ne5 Nd4 16. h3 Nd5 17. Bd2 f6 18. Nc4 e5 19. Ne3 {It looks like White is playing without any ideas.... which is almost but not entirely correct. My knight moves have forced my opponent to find a concrete way of making progress and allowed me to gain a significant time advantage.} Nb4 20. Ne2 f5 $2 {A tempting move to play in blitz but here, it allows White to liquidate favourably.} ({The calm} 20... Qd7 {was better.}) 21. Bxb4 cxb4 22. Nxd4 Qxd4 23. c3 $1 {and all of a sudden, White is better! At this stage, I had a 1 minute plus advantage and was confident of finally notching my first win over Mark.} Qd6 24. Nc4 $2 (24. Qf3 $1) 24... Qc6+ 25. f3 bxc3 $2 (25... e4 $1 26. fxe4 fxe4 27. Rxe4 Bc5 {would probably have caused me to suffer a major panic attack.}) 26. Nxe5 Qd5 27. bxc3 Bf6 28. d4 Rfd8 29. Qc2 g6 30. Nd3 Rac8 31. Qb2 Qc4 32. Nf4 Qxc3 33. Qxb7 Qd2+ 34. Re2 Qxd4 {Around this time, I had about 1 min 30s to my opponent's 25 seconds. With a calm move like Rae1, victory is more or less assured but instead, calamity struck} 35. Ne6 $4 Qxa1 $3 {This was an extremely effective refutation of my attempted tactic to win the exchange. My heart sank but the time on the clock gave me hope - afterall, my opponent only had about 20 seconds left...} 36. Nxd8 Rxd8 37. Qb3+ Kh8 38. Qc4 Qd4 39. Qc6 {and here, my queen unfortunately toppled on the board and the rules indicate an immediate loss by default. A terrible, terrible way to lose a blitz game but I only have myself to blame for not holding my nerves when the finish line is so close.} 0-1

After the game, Mark gentlemanly apologised (he certainly wasn't obliged to) and admitted he was lucky to win this. While I was naturally disappointed at losing my medal chances once and for all, I appreciated the gesture and this shows that Grandmasters are not just good at chess but also have very good manners.

The rest of the tournament was purely academic as my medal chances were essentially over. Still, I chalked up a score of 9/14 and 7th position, finishing behind the 2 representatives from the top 3 countries (Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia). Truong Son showed why he is one of the best blitz players in the world by slicing through the field with a tremendous score of 13/14 while his very likeable compatriot, Nguyen Van Huy finished with the silver medal. Joey Antonio from the Philippines finished 3rd.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Outstanding performances by Edward Lee and William Woong at the London Chess Classic FIDE Open - by Junior Tay

Last week's London Chess Classic saw Nakamura demonstrating why he should be considered a contender to the World Champion Magnus Carlsen's future title defence. From the quarter finals onwards, Nakamura upended two World Champion finalists (Gelfand and Short) and 1 former World Champion (Kramnik) to win the title.

Meanwhile, Edward Lee Kai Jie, playing in the FIDE Open section, made 5/9 to clinch the Top Junior Prize of 125 pounds.

Here's an outstanding win from Edward over ELO 2508 IM Vladimir Hamitevici in Round 5.

William Woong made twice of what Edward earned (250 pounds) by finishing 1st in the U2000 category. Estonian IM Kalle Kiik must have felt he was up against a brick wall as his kingside attack failed to pay dividends when met by William's extremely solid defence.

Congratulations to both Singaporeans for taking out IMs with their superb defending and for topping their categories!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Naypyidaw (10th - 21st December) - Acknowledgements

In approximately 1.5 days, I will be on my way to the 27th SEA Games. This has been a very difficult period in my career as the responsibilities of becoming an audit manager have been overwhelming in the last few months. I've never underestimated the challenges that were forthcoming when I knew I was getting promoted but the added pressure of being part of Team Singapore in this year's games was one I didn't expect and prepare for.

The Singapore chess team is a large contingent consisting of Mark Choong (team captain), Liu Yang and me. With 2 representatives from virtually all the neighbouring countries in all the events, the odds are clearly against us - it is unrealistic to say anything otherwise. However, we have trained hard every evening (after we are done with our day jobs), sacrificed our weekends and have done everything we possibly could to be as prepared as we can. Make no question about it, we will not be there to make up the numbers - we will be playing to win.

Throughout the last couple of months, I have received all kinds of messages, the odd sarcastic comment or snide remark and even had people questioning our selection but I'm glad that more often than not, I have friends that put their words into action and showed that they care about us and genuinely wanted to help. There will always be people who prefer to cause disruption and I have grown to live with that. Instead, I prefer to acknowledge those who have spent considerable effort into helping both Yang and me in the last couple of months: 

- As always, Junior Tay, who basically took care of this blog, organised training get-togethers, offered the function room in his condo as our training arena plus providing countless advice along the way;

 - Olimpiu Urcan: for offering himself as a punching bag during training and always knowing the right thing to say;

- GM Zhang Zhong, who must have played at least 100 blitz games with me all in his own spare time just to get me ready for the games, IM Steven Yap and Liu Xiang Yi for offering to be transfer partners with Zhang Zhong and IM Chan Peng Kong for showing up one friday evening even though they are clearly not very interested in the game! Big effort guys, appreciate that;

- Mr. Tin and Mr. Lee and their sons, Jingyao and Qing Aun respectively for sacrificing their weekends while knowing that they have nothing to gain from this. The training was incredibly helpful and we are grateful for that;

- Balestier Gang: Tim Chan, for spending a precious morning playing a rapid game with me. I know how important weekends are to NSF! Chongghee, for joining us despite flying in on the same morning and having very little sleep and the blitz monster Malcolm for spending time with us. Malcolm, I'll lock LKB in his cage the next time both of you are in the same room!

- National Squad: Luke, Jason, Jarred - I know you guys really have better things to do than spending Friday evenings with us and appreciate the time and effort spent; and of course,

- the Boon Lay Primary School Gang - Keng Boon, James, Yong Li, Qing Quan, Mark and the Bak Kut Teh master Hanwei for climbing out of retirement at my request. Too bad Khoo was uncontactable again... 

Thank you all, we will fight hard in Myanmar!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

One heck of an attack! - by Junior Tay

Yesterday's blog post saw how Tan Poh Heng crush FM Jarred Neubronner in a Grand Prix attack. What readers didn't read about is that Jarred got fed up with having to defend the whole game so he resolved to play the final round game all guns ablazing. And what a cracker of a game he whipped out!

Games from the Toa Payoh West Rapid 2013 - by Junior Tay

The abovementioned event, which boasts the 2nd biggest prize fund among local Swiss Opens (after the TCA Mega Open) had thirteen ELO 2000+ rated players participating, inclusive of 2 IMs and 2 FMs. IM Enrique Paciencia claimed the title on tiebreak (from fellow 6 pointers Leonard Reyes, Reggie Olay and FM Tin Jingyao) after a full-blooded last round draw against IM Luis Chiong. With White in a Nimzo Indian, Luis whipped up a massive attack against Enrique's king and was rebuffed by precise defence from Enrique. Eventually Luis repeated moves settling for a truce. In the post-mortem, Luis was convinced his position was better and he should have pressed further but Enrique kept demonstrating resource after resource to hold the position. However, in Round 6, Enrique was on the ropes against National Age Group U12 champion, Ashvin Sivakumar on top board when he conjured up the following... An excellent photo capturing the shocked look on Ashvin's face upon realising that he had been outfoxed can be found on Olimpiu's website here. As the other tournament leaders, Jingyao and Leonard Reyes drew on board 2, this gave Enrique a half point cushion going into the final round. Jingyao, in order to join the tournament leaders after the final round, was stymied by Tan Jun Hao for most of the game as the latter played ultra-solid chess. We join them in the endgame here. And hence, Jingyao kept pace with the 3 Amigos...sorry, Pinoys at 6/7. Now, the recently concluded World Championships match was in a sense, the triumph of youth over the experienced old guard. However, in our backyard, Tan Poh Heng scored one for the oldies in this smashing victory over FM Jarred Neubronner (who generously sent us the gamescore).

FM Jarred Neubronner (left) vs Tan Poh Heng (right). In the foreground, Napolean Recososa (left) plays NM Dr Derrick Heng (right), a former National Champion. (picture courtesy of sgchess.net). Final results - Toa Payoh West Rapid 2013.