Thursday, June 30, 2011

THOMSON JUNIOR ENDGAME LEAGUE

Starting tomorrow 1 July Friday, Thomson CC Chess Club shall be running a weekly Friday Junior Endgame League. This is FREE and open to junior members aged 15 and under.

RULES

- Venue is the Chess Club Room on 3rd Floor, Thomson CC Classroom 03-05. Play starts at 8pm.

- Each week, players get to play 1 endgame position with level material. Players toss to choose which colour they will be playing.

- Scoring is 1 point for win, 0.5 for draw and 0 for loss.

- Players who show up shall be paired with an opponent. Each player may play at most twice against the same opponent but with different colours.

- Time Control is 30 minutes per side.

- Recording is optional.

- Prizes are awarded to the top 3 players who score the most number of points as at 30 August 2011.
Interested members please send me an email to johnwong@pacific.net.sg stating your name, age as at 1 Jan 2011. If you are not able to come for that week, please sms 97985479 on Friday morning. This will help us in confirming opponents for all who are coming.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

RIP TANG KUM FOO, IA

Just received the sad news that a dear old friend, Tang Kum Foo, or KF as I often called him, has died. 

As I've known KF from my chess days back when he was SCF Executive Secretary in 1993-94 (and I the treasurer) to the days when he took over the Presidency in 1998, KF was always the cheery sort, never flustered. He was also one of the founding fathers of Intchess, with the aim of creating a vibrant professional chess scene in Asia having been involved in the popularising of chess in China in the early 90's. It was in 1996 that he achieved his IA title, putting to good use in chess organisation in Singapore and the region.

KF and I shared many views on chess during  our friendship. However, he often lamented that the state of affairs in Singapore did not turn out the way he had wanted it to.Hence he departed from Intchess to pursue other interests but continued to monitor the chess scene.

Many may not be aware but he was a top scholar having won the Colombo Plan scholarship in 1967. He was also a chess enthusiast in his early teens. My recollection of him as a chess player goes back to the tournament days of 1980 when he was in the play-off for the Cairnhill CC tournament that year, against a Sec 3 boy named Loi Chee Seng. The game was hard fought but sadly I do not have the scoresheet.

Kum Foo gave me some of his books, but staunchly retained his copy of The Games of Robert James Fischer which was then the must have for any chessplayer borne out of the Fischer-Spassky 1972 era. We were all Fischer fans I guess, recalling that his games were often very tactical and complex. He gave up playing chess in the 90's, preferring to delve into arbitering.

As a person who witnessed the saga of chess politics in 1996 in Yerevan, he told me what he saw and indeed it made me cringe to think our beloved game had been so tainted with the threats that were uttered. More of this can be found on Don Schultz's book Chess Don which was as close to what he told me. In short, KF also became disillusioned with the chess world after that and thought it best to leave. However, owing to a bad investment decision, he had to continue working in Intchess until his debt was cleared and left in 2009.

I last visited him in KTPH 2 weeks ago. He was lucid, but clearly weakened by the bouts of heart attack he sustained. It was my premonition that he wanted to see me again for old time's sake. We chatted a little but I knew that there was no need for more words. It was as if he was, in his own way, saying goodbye to me.

Two days ago I received an SMS from him that he's in ICU after suffering a stroke. He passed on today.

We will miss you.

RATINGS vs AGE

My afterthoughts on the recently concluded THOMSON CUP INTERNATIONAL tournament is focused on this topic.

It comes as no surprise that the majority of the 103 players in the Silver Section were children under the age of 14, many even below the age of 10. As parents of young children, they would naturally want the chess-playing experience of their kids to be pleasant and memorable. Hence it would be a traumatic episode should the child face someone bigger than his size or older, as the prospect of winning quickly evaporates with the daunting resignation written on their minds even before the first move is made. Hence there was surprise that there are a few adults milling in between the rows of schoolchildren, metaphorically seen as vultures or predators preying on the innocent young players and depriving them of a much desired prize.

My principle in hosting the THOMSON CUP tournament is firstly to uphold the sanctity of the rating. All chess players playing in a chess tournament should compete based on one matter - to determine for each of themselves HOW GOOD, not HOW OLD they are. Chess playing ability is measured by the rating, which is computed primarily on the performance of each chessplayer against another rated player and so long as the wins keep coming, the rating goes up. Of course if you fail to perform, your rating goes down rightfully. It is the fairest way of determining your chess-playing progress.

Giving prizes to children based on their age-group by  pairing them within their categories may seemingly make the path to winning easier. Some say that it encourages them to play. However  I maintain this is merely a placebo effect. The effect soon wears out when the winners of the respective category continually end up winning at every age-group tournament. The complacency sets in and they start believing that they are good enough (of course, beating those in their age-group).

When these winners start playing alongside someone rated higher, the security of the age-group pairing is taken away and you can see the apprehension and self-doubt emerge. They may not necessarily be worse players than the older or higher rated opponent, but somehow many psyched themselves to lose.

The whole purpose of this.tournament format is to help the young players overcome this fear and mental block. When the budding players taste victory after their harrowing encounter with a stronger player, it is a great feeling of achievement no prize can buy. The euphoric sensation will also lend confidence to the young budding player that he/she is capable of overcoming his/her own fears and respecting the notion that in chess, only the skill and ability of the player matters in bringing in the point once the nerves are taken care of.

In my youth, there was no concept of age-group pairing and therefore my generation of players only understand that what matters is your ability to find good moves on the chessboard to beat your opponent. There was never any notion of fear. In fact, we used to look forward to playing older players and if we lose, we will pester them to tell us how we lost. Many valuable lessons were learnt in discussing the game after it was over. Our determination to win the next time round made us tougher mentally to face the same opponent at the next tournament.

If the young chess community are to grow in terms of maturity of thought and mental strength, I feel it is high time that organisers have a change of direction. Let's bring back the old tournament format of pairing by rating. Let's wean off the practice of awarding age-group prizes. Many of course will give up once the trophies they used to win are gone, but I believe that those who stay the course will be the ones that will continue to love and play the game for years, like I. Perhaps we can revive the chess culture that we once had in the 70's and early 80's that the current generation of players never knew. Some returned after years of inaction and can still win! That speaks much of the depth of players in the past that the previous system produced.

Monday, June 6, 2011

FEEDBACK FOR THOMSON CUP

Thanks to all who have signed up to play, we are most grateful for your support 

We had 144 competitors who registered for the competition, thanks to the overwhelming last spate of entries.

I appreciate if you can give us some feedback on how we can do better the next tournament around. However, some things will not change eg  age-group prizes, starting list etc.Unless we close entries 1 week in advance to do it, which will of course inconvenience some. So we can't please everyone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

WHY NO STARTING LIST?? AMONG OTHER THINGS

I've gotten some feedback from Thomson CC, where the number of participants has reached 100 and some last-minute entries are expected today.

The staff were puzzled by some of the questions asked by the parents of participants, some of which I shall attempt to answer here.

A: Why is there no starting list for this competition?

     Well, first of all, this is not an event organised by the SCF. When entries are collected by the SCF, they will create the list of participants and update it whenever they can. Thomson CC is the organiser of the Thomson Cup Tournament and therefore the staff at the CC are not trained to create such a list. Moreover, we set the closing date to 2 June giving maximum flexibility to players with very busy schedules to make up their minds to play. Based on our experience, the vast majority of players send in their entries within 5 days of the closing date. So I am afraid it will not be practicable to provide a starting list, as even if we had done so, it will take some administrative effort to send it to the SCF to publish it on their website when they can.

B.  Why aren't there age-group categories?

This question I've answered in my earlier posts, but I repeat it here. Thomson Cup International is a tournament based on strength of the player, not age. Hence players are grouped by RATING rather than age-group. We want to dispel as much as possible that age plays a part in the strength of the player. To do well in a tournament, one should play well. Honestly, I do not see the rationale of awarding age-group prizes when there are no merits to their performance. Giving a prize to one who scores 3 pts simply because of small number of players in his/her age-group does not teach the child the right values in competition. One must win by his/her good performance. In any case, there are dozens of tournaments awarding age-group prizes so Thomson should cater to those who want to know how good, not how young, they are.

C.  Why must the tournament be held over 2 days?

This is mainly due to the time control of 1 hour per player. To play 4 games a day is indeed taxing and I do apologise to the players for the ordeal. Until we are able to secure the hall for 3 days instead of 2, we will certainly spread it over 3 days. But there will always be those who cannot spare 3 days to play a tournament, so where do we draw the line??