Monday, November 28, 2011

TOA PAYOH WEST CC TOURNAMENT RESULTS

Here's the results for the Toa Payoh West CC Tournament

 Under 13  Here   Under 7   Here    Under 8  Here   Under 9  Here 
               
  and of course,  the OPEN is already published here                

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TRAINING DAY

We've started the first of our 8 training days for the coming Singapore International Youth Tournament. It lasts 4 hours per session (designed to stretch the players to cope with the first 4 hours of play). Quite a fair bit done with vision drills, followed by solving tons of 2-3 move tactics.

I'm harnessing the wisdom of Michael De La Maza and Dan Heisman, thanks to their insights I've incorporated their advice on working on chess-playing ability rather than stuffing more chess knowledge at this point. Training Day 2 promises to be gruelling, with more puzzles, more intense visualisation tasks ahead.

Sorry but there will be no photos as the competitors's names and faces are confidential at this point.

Players who have done well were rewarded with a good bowl of lotus root soup with rice plus kit kat too between breaks. Not a dull moment !

Thursday, November 10, 2011

JUNIOR CHESS PROMOTION - DOES IT HELP ?

Lately there was talk of a group of parents wanting to appeal to the MOE for chess to recognise as an official sport.

Though I commend the noble effort of the group, some doubts linger in my mind:

How does having more children playing chess raise the stature of the game here in Singapore?

How does it increase the popularity of the game here? Will chess be as popular as that in Indonesia, India and other countries?

Here is my opinion. Throughout the countries that are promoting chess from age 6 onwards, we have several institutions like Chess-in-the-Schools program, the Susan Polgar academy in the US, while in the UK Michael Basman and Malcolm Pein also championed the Chess in Schools & Communities project. Lately we have Kasparov starting Chess for Schools in the EU. The Scholastic chess ( chess in primary and secondary school) model is being seen as the most likely model to propagate chess interest amongst the populace.

Sadly, the results of these noble efforts do not commensurate. The situation is quite the same in the countries that have chess in school programs -  the high dropout rate, little focus  on the children's  chess well-being after they've grown out of the game, lack of well-funded activities to stimulate the child's interest once they realise that chess is not about winning trophies and looking good for mum and dad while the picture is taken. When the success of winning disappears, so does the enthusiasm.

Witness the shrinking of secondary schools offering chess as a CCA, notable ones like ACS Baker have closed and some are following suit owing to poor attendences. However, this is mainly due to the school's policy on branding chess as a non-core CCA, which I hope MOE will overhaul for the benefit of our flagging chess community.


If we are to study how chess flourished in the old Soviet Union, where it was Lenin who fashioned the use of chess to keep the population mentally active, some lessons can be learnt. A good junior program taught by strong player/coaches in the Palace of Young Pioneers (much like our community clubs), competitions with Grandmasters in the White Rook tournament where a team from a republic pits itself against a known Grandmaster in a simultaneous match. After that, there's lots of activities in the form of chess clubs where enthusiasts meet to share their interests, stories, analysis of games and what not. When these adults get into positions in high places, it is only natural that they become prospective officials and sponsors for the game, continuing the funding for such chess activites thus maintaining the healthy pool of chess fans. Grandmasters and masters have jobs producing games for magazines, or retire as coaches for the next generation and their livelihood is well cared for. Others who are not as proficient get to enjoy the tournament games, trying out the ideas learnt in their own tournaments. So the culture of chess is hereby preserved, but only if chess promotion does not stop short at the school level alone.


Our current chess scene for adults amount to 5-6 individual tournaments at most, with the National Championship, Rating tournament and the year-end Singapore Open. This pales in contrast to our neighbours Malaysia who apparently does much more for the seniors in terms of the DATCC weekly leagues, the 3 international level KL, Malaysian and Penang Opens and several weekend tournaments for the adults. There's also a good number of informal chess clubs formed amongst the youths, evident by the number of blogs on chess there. Hence I'd say that the Malaysians are on the right track in promoting the culture of playing chess amongst the young and elderly, while in Singapore there is really nothing much happening that will motivate the young adults from continuing to play.  


My past articles have shown that we did have a vibrant chess culture in Singapore back in the late 70's and early 80's often dominated with a good mix of young and old adults and some children. Today I see many adult foreigners who are taking our places in the tournaments. Though the prize money is not great, what is sad is that few are keen to take part purely for the game's sake rather than seeking to claim a prize. Of course there are demands on everyone's schedule, but I think this is mainly an excuse simply because the conditions to entice them out of retirement are not attractive enough. We will need more iconic events I guess before we do coax them. Perhaps Anand should visit Singapore?? Or Carlsen??

Monday, November 7, 2011

CHILDREN'S DAY CHESS CHALLENGE

I've got several of my students to take part in this, with no expectations as I wanted them to enjoy playing after such a long break from chess because of the exams. In all, the stronger students did not disappoint, while others played to enjoy themselves in spite of the mistakes.

Shi Hao's game against the winner of the Open, Ashwin, was rather close from the opening to the middlegame. He had surprised Ashwin with the Danish Gambit which was declined. Generally when a player declines  a gambit, it implies a psychological victory to the gambiteer but probably the more prudent choice when one is not prepared to enter the battle a pawn up. I viewed the game vaguely where White was training his heavy pieces on Black, thought it went well but was told later that Shi Hao lost.  After a day's battle, Visakan came in 4th with 6/7 pts.

 

 Joshua was very much himself, playing with his hands rather than his eyes on the board, made the usual mistakes but won some games against like-minded opponents. Tricia was still very much a beginner and had trouble viewing her opponent's threats. More online practice will be needed to overcome this deficiency. 


The night before the tournament, Samuel was going through most of his opening lines with me to iron out any questions and doubts about the variations. Being my student for 4 years, Samuel had understood the importance of good preparation before good results can be obtained. Though he lost to Nathan Mar, he managed to draw against Nicholas Teo (which was a lucky result as he was losing). His final game was against Shi Hao.

                  
  I did not offer any advice but told them to play their best. The game was fiercely fought and Samuel achieved a winning attack, but he needed to go relief himself. Having to choose between losing some minutes running to the toilet in the thick of battle, he decided to concentrate on the game and won..at the expense of wetting his pants.

Yes, quite an eventful day it was, but everyone enjoyed themselves whether on the chessboard or outside (especially in Nicholas Low's case, who was more keen on his Angry Bird score than the chess score).  There will be time to demand their best but then, there should also be time to just let them be.