Friday, 2 January 2015

Mighty Mok celebrates Christmas and New Year with back to back tourney wins! by Junior Tay

Just a week ago, during a Whatsapp conversation with Malaysian IM Mok Tze Meng, the full time chess coach (as well as 'chapalang' financial adviser, mobile chess book/equipment seller, chess arbiter, intrepid deal-maker and prankster) mused that he might consider ending his playing career to concentrate on work.

Mok messing about with Dr J Nithiananthan when the latter swung by KL last year
However, the chess itch got to him as he felt that he still got something to prove to his detractors  (that he was still the same force who overpowered GMs Van Wely and Amin in the 2012 Istanbul Olympiad). In a 62-strong Tesco Setia Alam field comprising 2014 Tromso Olympiad representatives Sumant Subramaniam and Fong Yit San, Mok set out to prove that he can still rack up the titles at 46 years of age.

With 5/6 heading into the final round, Mok was paired against Sumant who had a perfect 6/6 score.

[Event "Setia Alam"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.??.??"] [Round "7"] [White "Sumant Subramaniam"] [Black "IM Mok Tze Meng"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A43"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] 1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. g3 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Bg2 e6 6. c4 Ne7 $5 {Taking the game out of the theoretical Modern Benoni highway. Apart from forcing White to find his 'own' moves henceforth, this move allows the Benoni bishop to keep the long Black diagonal open.} 7. O-O exd5 8. cxd5 O-O 9. Nc3 a6 10. a4 Bg4 $6 {A psychological gamble. Mok plays on the notion that White will keep things safe and uncomplicated, given his half point lead in the final round. The crux is that this move weakens the b7-pawn and if White gets to do the standard Benoni knight's tour (Nd2-c4) to hit the b6-square and especially the d6-pawn, Mok would have to defend it passively with ...Nc8 and the g4 bishop and queen knight would both be fighting for the same d7-square when White plays h2-h3.} ( 10... Nd7 11. e4 {gives White an easy game.}) 11. Bf4 (11. Nd2 $1 Nc8 12. Qb3 Ra7 13. e4 {accords White a strong game. Given the rapid time control, perhaps Mok might take his chances with} b5 $5 14. axb5 Rb7 {in Benko gambit fashion.}) 11... h6 {More psychology. Mok wants to boot the f4-bishop off its powerful h2-b8 diagonal and dares White to play the 'weakening' h2-h4.} (11... Bxf3 { White would be pleased to get} 12. Bxf3 {when} Nc8 13. Ne4 {is only fun for White.}) 12. Qb3 (12. h4 $1 {keeps the dark-squared bishop on its excellent diagonal.}) 12... b6 13. Nd2 g5 $1 14. Bxd6 $6 {White insists on keeping the initiative, even at the cost of a piece for a pawn.} (14. Be3 {After} Nf5 {, Black has justified the placing of the Ne7 as it can now help gain the bishop pair by removing the Be3.} 15. h3 Nxe3 16. fxe3 Bh5) 14... Qxd6 15. Nc4 Qd8 16. d6 (16. Nxb6 $5 {White also has insufficient compensation after} Ra7 17. a5 Nc8 {but at least there is still some complexity left in the position.}) 16... Nec6 17. Qxb6 $6 {Mok loves technical positions, even more so with extra material. After this, it is safe to say that Mok is confident of taking home the full point, as the endgame is his forte.} Qxb6 18. Nxb6 Ra7 19. e3 Ne5 20. f3 Be6 21. Rfd1 Nbd7 22. Ncd5 Nxb6 23. Nxb6 Nd7 {Mok welcomes trades of course, bringing him closer to the finish line.} 24. Nxd7 Rxd7 25. Rac1 c4 0-1
Hence, with this win, Mok tied with Sumant for the top spot with 6/7 and clinched the RM 200 + Tesco RM 500 voucher first prize on tie-break. Just to prove that the Tesco result wasn't a fluke, Mok entered the next tourney on the circuit, the Kastam Open. This time, he led from start to finish and by Round 6, was a point clear of the field. A draw with Black against Kamaluddin Yusof sufficed to give him clear 1st place as well as the RM500 first prize. In the penultimate round, Mok was paired with the ex-Malaysian International, Mohd Kamal Abdullah. Even though Mok (with 5/5) was leading Kamal by 1/2 point with another 8 players at 4/5, he dispelled any thoughts of a safe draw to keep his lead. 'First place was not guaranteed yet so I played for the kill', he recounted and added 'if you want to be champion, you must never look back'.
[Event "1st Kastam WPKL"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "6"] [White "IM Mok Tze Meng"] [Black "NM Kamal Abdullah"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B30"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4 $5 {Bologan considers this knight hop inferior to the Ruy Lopez Bird's Defence (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4). This didn't stop GMs like Ricardi, Wang Zili and Matjushin from playing this.} 4. Nxd4 cxd4 5. O-O g6 6. c3 $1 {Undermining Black's advanced pawn immediately. If Black is not careful, White will end up with a strong pawn centre.} Bg7 7. cxd4 Bxd4 8. Nc3 Bg7 $6 (8... a6 9. Ba4 b5 10. Bb3 Bb7 {. Zarnicki,P (2493)-Ricardi,P (2544) /Pinamar 2002 gives Black more central play.}) 9. d4 {Black is not only behind in development, but also gifts White a strong centre.} a6 10. Bc4 d6 $6 (10... e6 11. e5 $1 {. Real de Azua,E (2320)-Obregon,C (2268)/Buenos Aires 2003, also looks good for White.}) 11. Qf3 {Of course Kamal, an ex-Olympian and Asian Teams representative, is not going to miss a one mover. This however, forces Black to weaken some dark squares and gains time for Mok to play his next move. } (11. Qa4+ $5 {Even stronger is} Bd7 (11... b5 12. Bxb5+) 12. Qb3 e6 13. Qxb7 {nets a clean pawn as after} Bxd4 14. Rd1 Bc5 15. e5 $1 d5 16. Nxd5 $1 Ra7 17. Qb3 exd5 18. Bxd5 {White has a devastating attack.}) 11... e6 12. Rd1 Ne7 13. Bg5 O-O 14. e5 $1 {Creating chronic dark-square weaknesses.} d5 (14... dxe5 15. dxe5 Qc7 16. Bf6 $1 Nf5 17. Bd3 Bxf6 18. exf6 Qe5 19. Ne4 {and White is still in control.}) 15. Bd3 {It's very difficult already to suggest an unravelling method for Black, especially against Mok who loves these squeeze-type positions.} Re8 16. Bf6 Bf8 17. h4 {This battering ram is going to weaken the Black kingside irretrievably.} Qb6 18. Rab1 Bd7 19. h5 Nc6 20. Ne2 Rec8 21. a3 (21. Qg4 $1 Be8 22. hxg6 hxg6 23. Nf4) 21... Be7 22. Bxe7 $6 {Too casual. Mok just wants to win technically and does not play for mate.} (22. hxg6 fxg6 23. Qg4 Be8 24. Nf4 {gives White an unstoppable kingside breakthrough after a imminent sacrifice on g6.}) 22... Nxe7 23. Qf6 Qd8 24. h6 {Mok aims for a plus minus position where Black's queen is stuck on f8 forever to defend the g7-mating square as well as the back rank.} Qf8 25. g4 Ba4 26. Rdc1 Nc6 27. g5 Na5 28. Rxc8 Rxc8 29. Rc1 Rxc1+ 30. Nxc1 Bb3 31. Kg2 Bc4 32. b4 Bxd3 $4 {Black finally falters and this allows Mok to push the queen off f8 after} 33. Nxd3 Nb3 (33... Nc6 34. Nc5 Nb8 {would allow Mok to win flashily after} 35. a4 b6 36. Nxe6 fxe6 37. Qxe6+ Kh8 38. Qxd5 Qe7 39. e6 Kg8 40. b5 a5 41. f4 Kf8 42. Qe5 {winning}) 34. Nc5 Nxd4 35. Nd7 {and Black's queen cannot move and thus he has to resign.} 1-0

Definitely a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for Mighty Mok!