Wednesday, September 28, 2011


There were many famous chess collaborations between the student and teacher.  Arturo Pomar and Alekhine, Karpov and Semyon Furman,Kasparov and Botvinnik, finally   Magnus Carlsen and Kasparov,  Carlsen and Simen Agdestein. Some worked, some didn't.

For those who did work, the chief success factor was on the personality of the student and his view of the trainer. Chemistry.

If we studied the influence of Furman on his pupil Karpov, both men had similar styles, positional wizards to be exact. However, Furman was able to impart his wide body of chess middlegame knowledge to his student. Botvinnik managed to convince Kasparov on the need for chess research despite having enormous talent. He often scolded Kasparov for his impulsiveness in churning out variations without careful study of the requirements of the position. "You'll never be a good player if you let the variations control you instead of you controlling the variations!" I believe Kasparov learnt his lesson under the hands of Karpov in their 2 matches. So Kasparov was a product of the Botvinnik school where deep study and research of the game is the main training method of choice.Botvinnik and Kasparov parted ways mainly due to different political beliefs, but respect is always shown to the master.

Comes the Norwegian wonderboy Magnus Carlsen with his trainer Agdestein. Agdestein believed that the boy learned well when least pressured, stimulated by his own creativity over the board rather than sticking to a fix routine. When Carlsen realised that Kasparov was ready to unleash the Botvinnik approach on his training (which is totally against his learning approach), he had to terminate their relationship.

There were also chief differences in the character make-up in both men: Carlsen, with a happy childhood, always believing in the world of plenty, seemed more like a Mozart compared to Kasparov who lost his father at  a young age, often paranoiac of help from others except from trusted sources. Kasparov was probably much more hungry for success as compared to Carlsen, who did not seem to mind if he became the youngest ever World Champion beating Kasparov's record. My opinion is that Carlsen would prefer to stay out of Kasparov's shadow by not going into the record-book race. He will ascend into the Olympus of chess but at his own bidding.

Therefore as coaches, we need to be mindful about the character of our charges and often make adjustments to maximise their potential. Sometimes, that may mean changing some paradigms. No approach fits all. Imposing one's will on a student may create resentment and indifference.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Here's the report of the performance of my students who participated at the recent National Inter-Schools at Rulang Primary School. 3 of them achieved perfect scores, while the rest scored 4 and above. What more can I ask? Well done boys and girls! Perfect score achievers get a present as promised.






From Left: Oliver, Zhong Yi, Jonah (standing),Elliot and Joven

Victoria School emerged 3rd in this year's National Inter-Schools Secondary Open Under 14  at Rulang Primary School held Sep 11. We were seeded 4th behind ACS I A, RI A and HCI. I had stressed to the boys the importance of a good showing in our trainings and its impact on the survival and well-being of the VS Chess Club in future years. Most of the boys who played in school competitions shyed away from the Club because it is a second CCA.

With this mission in mind, the boys were playing online games consistently during our preparation and worked towards sharpening their tactics. We had discussed possible scenarios of the possible scores that we could get against the higher seeded teams, as well as individual openings that can occur against them. All that remains is the state of form the players were in. Before the tournament day, I wrote in our Facebook group that we had a realistic chance of coming in 3rd, if we were to achieve the predicted scores against the top 3 teams.

Into the storm, as they say..first round was a 4-0 whitewash of St Andrews Sec, then a 0-4 crash against ACI A! Zhong Yi showed me his game and he managed to stretch Edward Lee (who'd just returned from a grueling KL Open) way into the endgame till he bungled a Queen for Rook. Against HCI, it was Oliver and Zhong Yi who managed to hold Calvin Ong and Soo Kai Jie while Elliot was outclassed by Bryan Tan and Jonah sought revenge by beating Yeoh Li Yuan. At this point, I arrived and told the boys that if they achieved 4-0 scores against their opponents, 3rd placing is still possible. It made them ever more determined to go for the target.

After lunch (which I advised them to eat less rice and just sandwiches, sushi), they faced a dud RI Team 2 and steamrolled 3.5 - 0.5. Though not a 4-0, this was good enough for us to meet the next RI Team 1, which we miraculously won 4-0! I predicted a 3-1 win against them but the boys did even better. Finally, the day of reckoning when I received an SMS from Zhong Yi that we needed 4-0 to get 2nd. Though ACI B were the former ACPS boys who had not played much, they were nonetheless no pushovers and managed to tie the match 2-2. With that, VS managed to go above their seeding and ended 3rd place as well as East Zone Champions for 2011.

Hopefully, this can be an inspiration to the other schools who closed their chess clubs simply because the school officials do not think it could be possible to garner results with the top schools dominating the scene the whole time. The boys from VS do not embark on any Junior Squad Training but were simply interested in the game to want improvement. 3rd placing is as good as it gets and I am thankful to the team for making history - its the best showing we had since the 5th placing in the 2007  U16 result. Last year, the same 4 boys finished 11th! A massive improvement indeed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I don't really envy myself as a eulogist, but I had to say something for our ex SCF President who served the Federation in the years 1986-87. Among those who served were Choong Liong Onn, Tan Lian Ann, Giam Choo Kwee, George Wong, myself and Lim Chye Lye. Ignatius Leong was then Competitions Secretary.

SCF meetings were usually held at Dr Wong's home at Chancery Lane. As a great host, Dr Wong will welcome us in person and before starting the session, he will treat us with the most appetising of tidbits. Afterward, he would insist that we go for supper at the Whitley Road hawker centre, then situated under the Whitley flyover. As a President, Dr Wong often listened to suggestions and gave his insights on the big picture, but left us to iron out the details. His biggest contribution at his time was his submission of a paper to the SNOC on why chess should be rightly labelled a sport rather than a game. He tried hard to impress upon the authorities that being Asian, Singapore should embrace the promotion of sports and games that relied less on strength and physique. This was already discussed back in 1987.

Before the term chess parent came about (probably since the formation of the National Junior Squad in the late 90's), Dr Wong would certainly be the first in Singapore. He would attend his children's chess tournaments when he had the time, bringing with him his trusty camera. When either Meng Kong (GM Wong Meng Kong) or Meng Leong would be making the winning move, he would always be ready to snap the winning moment. In fact, during one of the school team tournaments, my cheeky RI chess friend went up to him reporting that Meng Kong was winning. An unassuming Dr Wong readied his camera to take the shot, only to freeze at the last moment - the camera lenses revealed that Meng Kong was actually losing!

Dr Wong was always supportive of his children, whether they would give up a year of studies to pursue chess, or other interests. His congenial disposition and affable smile would infect anyone. I would remember Dr Wong as patient, cheerful President who contributed his time and energies to steer SCF in the late 80's and also groomed a GM and 2 National Chess Champions without pushing them.


As the school holidays start with effect from Friday, Thomson Chess Club will be open from 7pm till 10pm for Sep 2 and 9 Fridays. Members who wish to come practice before the National Inter-Schools Team Championship are welcome.