Monday, December 24, 2012


At the recently concluded National Age Group Championships, 8 students took part with 5 of them garnering top 10 positions. Results at a glance...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Some of my younger students took part at the recent Toa Payoh West CC tournament on 25 November, honing their skills against the others and did well. There were 8 of them who took part, 3 in the Open category and 5 in the age groups. Only 1 did not manage any prize but he enjoyed his games and was all fired up to the next tournament. Satisfaction comes when we see them pit their wits against older players and pushing them. Royce floored his opponent's Hungarian variation of the KID and duly refuted his opponent's risky Kingside attack, while Shi Hao had NM Koh Kum Hong on the ropes but the older man managed to draw on his experience to find a draw. Hui Ling, I Shiang, Elliot, Tricia, Jonathan and first time playing David
all managed merit prizes. A good day ...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I am planning a 3 day 4-hr a day workshop for players who are taking part in the coming National Age Group Championships from 17-21  Dec.

Date is 4 to 6 Dec, time 9am to 1 pm or 3 to 7pm.  Venue to be advised. If I get more than 6 participants I will have 2 sessions in 2 different venues, one in Central and the other in the West.

The workshop will cover mainly aspects in preparation, clock control ( how to maximise the 4 hour game time) and also thought processes (calculation) used in conducting such games.

Each session per day is $50 (inclusive of materials and refreshments).

This is open to all (not just my students) so if you are keen about it, please feel free to contact me at 97985479 or email me at for further details.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Those interested in taking part in the following events

30th Open Championships ( Open Section - all players, Major Rapid for those born after 1995) which is a 45 minute per side time control game.

Blitz Championship ( all players )

Minor Rapid ( For those born after 1999 and WITHOUT FIDE rating)

You may download the entry form here 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Since I was in Norway for 6 months in 1989 and working in Horten (which is about 30 minutes drive from Tonsberg, the birth place of Magnus Carlsen), I thought I'd shared with you what it was at the chess scene there.

Tonsberg is a very old city but a very vibrant chess-club. I was introduced to the club by the Horten chess convenor, Mr Arild Johansen, a very helpful and nice man (he drove me every week to the club as I did not have a driver's licence or a car). The room was always filled with players, most of them playing standard chess and shunned when I asked to play blitz instead. Those who did were alright, but I won most of the games. Then they realised that they needed to tame the 'foreigner' so the top guns sat down. One was Reidar Weierod, the other was Ivar Charvannes who were both very strong and so I had a hard time. We became good friends during my stay in Norway, often meeting for blitz games during the weekend.

One particular old man caught my eye - he was in his 90's then and yet the spark in his eye as he made his killer moves stole everyone's attention. His name is Gunnar Moe, who couldn't speak a word of English and my Norwegian was hopeless. " Deutsch?" alas, my German was worse. So we end up gesticulating to each other, occasionally muttering some names that he understood.

"Ja, Alekhine!" he pointed to his heart. Ah, so he had a favourite. Then he muttered 1935 and Euwe and pointed to his eye..I now understood that he had witnessed the world championship fight between Alekhine and Euwe in Amsterdam. When we played, he could always grimaced and bit his lip when he made a mistake and generally not a gracious loser. But we laughed as the evening drew to a close and shook hands. 

Towards the end of my stint I managed to find time to play in the local weekend tournament. It costs SGD60 then to take part. The games lasted 1 hr per side and I managed to score 3.5 pts / 6 rounds to win a book prize. Not bad!

Evenings in Norway were long during April so went to Oslo one weekend to meet the chess book-storekeeper and famous arbiter, the late Arnold Eikrem. He spoke fluently in English and recommended me some great books which I spent a small fortune. It felt great when your day ends at 4pm and the peace and tranquility of the Norwegian landscape affords you the time to study chess for hours. I felt that I made big strides in my understanding of the game during this period. 

When I transited back to Oslo from Hamburg, on route to Toronto, I stopped by Reidar's place and we placed blitz with Ivar till the wee hours. When I woke up the next day I'd realised that I was only 3 hours away from the flight and here I panicked. Reidar offered to drive me to Fornebu Airport (though it was about 80 kms from Horten). I was so grateful to him for being a friend.

In summary, the Norwegian chess scene as I knew then was very amateurish, but well run by a group of volunteers and on club nights, young and old would sit and play each other, mostly without clocks. Games lasted for more than 2 hours, and everyone joined in to analyse the games afterwards. The amazing part was that at the tournament, the results were computed and the ratings as well. It was then stored onto a disk which would be sent to the Norwegian Chess Federation for update. Players could see their new ratings if they played at the next tournament. That was before the days of the it would be a breeze to do this.

I am looking forward to re-visiting the country again in 2014, having toured the south and up to Bergen. It's a beautiful country with warm and hospitable people then and I hope it still is. Care to join me??


Happen to come across a comment made not long ago about how misleading it is to compare Singapore's  chess talent base with that of the chess superpowers China and India . His opinion is simply that we do not have the large numbers and base big enough to have extraordinary talent in chess to produce a world-class talent.

In my opinion, it seems contradictory to me when the writer inadvertently mentions a country like Norway, whose chess demographics and performances in the Olympiad paralleled Singapore in many ways, ie before the arrival of super-genius Magnus Carlsen. Since then, Norwegian chess has taken off from 3 GMs before Magnus to more than 10. Before Norway, there was Iceland, which produced world class GMs like Fridrik Olaffson and Sigurjonsson, before the Norwegians caught up. What about Israel? They had good players in Shimon Kagan (who competed with IM Tan Lian Ann in Petropolis 1973) and Uzi Geller, Moshe Czeniak before the Soviet emigrants arrived. Israel's population is currently 7.8 million, while Iceland's population is about 309,000 as of 2007 estimates. There's also Chile,about 15 million people but its top rated players are about 4 GMs and 6 IMs till date.

I could go on but you get the picture. Yes, the more populous countries have an edge in having the number of people who could become good at chess but that does not mean that small countries like Singapore do not. My previous post clearly showed that we have had world-class players back in the 70's and 80s. In 1982 our top board Leslie Leow (not yet an IM then) managed to beat GM Florin Gheoghiu of Romania who finished 12th while Singapore was 43rd. Dr Wong Meng Kong had the game of his life when he beat GM Speelman from England in the 1992 Manila Olympiad! There's also our "lost" IM Lim Seng Hoo too, who had plus results against Murray Chandler when he took part at the World Junior at Tjentiste in 1975. 

Hence I share the view with SCF that we need to re-look at our current state of affairs in our own backyard, simply because we WERE that good before.  After all, this is our country and we should know our chess history better right??

Saturday, September 22, 2012


This dinner would have easily raised tens of thousands in dollars but unfortunately CES is not a charity and hence not possible to do so. This is just from the RI chess family from 1981-1988. No one would resist turning down an invitation to dinner with the 13th World Champion. I am sure all would contribute generously if asked, so long as its for a good cause. The ACS group was there, although a bit smaller. There could have been lots more coming if not for the size of the hall!

There must be many amongst us chess players who are semi-retired, having good jobs, in high places. It should not be an issue in my opinion to raise a good sum assuming you know who your target audience is and the draw you'll need to provide.

A chess related dinner requires a true chess celebrity. We have set the example. Maybe SCF ought to get Anand?!

Here for more.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Now that our government is engaging all stakeholders (citizens and PRs) on what kind of country we would envision, certainly the time is also ripe for the chess community to rally together to discuss some important issues concerning chess in Singapore?

Some background knowledge may help:

SCF started in 1961. Tan Lian Ann became an IM in 1973 at the age of 26. He was then seeded into the Petropolis Interzonals and finished 16th-18th. Singapore competed in the Olympiads and finished 43rd in 1968, 40th in 1970 (64 countries took part), our best showing was in Dubai 1986 - 33rd out of 108 teams. In terms of individual world-class achievements, Terence Wong finished 2nd in the World Cadets (now the World Youth)  in 1975 while Alphonsus Chia finished 9th in 1976. That year, Leslie Leow finished 4th-8th in the World Junior U20 in Groningen.

These players only had their books, themselves and constant sparring within the National squad but I can say that the number of strong adult players gave them good grounding in the 70s. So we had world beaters within our ranks in chess before without the assistance of computers, coaches and what not.

Question:  Where is our junior scene heading to NOW?

Next, the rapidly dwindling of adults in the chess scene. Many are not keen to come out of retirement to play rapid chess and lose to active kids. Many of these adults are of course well-to-do individuals, busy with their schedules to play chess over-the-board. The number of social clubs in companies and institutions playing chess back in the 80's number about 45. Today it is not over 10. Adult chess-players have been mainly replaced by foreigners who are active in our tournaments organised today. What's worrisome is that without our local adults' participation, the pool of sponsors also shrinks.

 Question: Where are our sources of funding chess programs coming from?

Chess in the secondary schools is experiencing a serious erosion. JC participation has almost disappeared. It is shrinking rapidly in secondary schools due to the weird CCA ranking of chess. If the system does not change, we may not have any players rising from the primary schools continuing their chess career in secondary school. That means our remaining stock of good junior players will die off.

Question: How does SCF intend to arrest this worrying trend?


Someone anonymously remarked that a chess cruise is being organised which may consist of male and female World Champions, past and present, among the guests. This event could make a great fund-raiser for chess in Singapore - definitely a first for this region!

I did not publish the remark,doubting its authenticity, but then, we should recognise creativity when we see it. As an idea, as with the Karpov and Kasparov visits, there is always a possibility of making it happen when a small but dedicated team of volunteers avail themselves to work for the promotion of local chess. CES has done it, so we should not limit ourselves in Singapore on the excuse of lack of talent in this area of event management. I was glad to have been a witness and contributor to the visits which beats organising 10000 tournaments in terms of arousing chess interest here.

Perhaps the timing of events leading to the FIDE general elections may have caused the SCF to react the way it did back in 2010 (see here) , but now? Surely with most of the major events like the World Championship and Olympiads out of the way, the Federation should aim for such mega events in order to stir up interest amongst our new ministers and permanent secretary taking over the Education portfolio. In fact, Ms Chan Lai Fung used to be a National player and if I recall, she was in the SCF EXCO at one point.  CES did not rely on any connections to stage the visits of the 2 ex World Champions at all.  Surely with VP Shashi, SCF can do better than just host 1 dinner to raise funds?

Thursday, September 20, 2012


While enjoying some blitz games, I was watching the pieces till someone passed me the phone:

"John! It's Garry..speak to him, he needs your help". 

I noticed that Garry was no ordinary chap given the earlier discussions of him coming to Singapore. So I asked:

" Kasparov??"

"Please...please speak to him" replied the owner of the phone.

I took over the handset and an anxious voice immediately responded " Hello..Hello..this is Garry Kasparov!"

With tingles rising all over, I composed myself and answered : "Yes Garry, this is John Wong. I am in charge of your lecture in Singapore. How may I help?"

Garry asked if I can provide a screen attached to a computer with ChessBase, which of course is no problem. He then asked what should he be speaking?

" How about your game with Topalov in 1999 Wijk Ann Zee?"

"Very good, good choice! That's the one I was thinking of! Please prepare the file thank you."

Some weeks later, I met the man over breakfast at 7am on August 15 2010. He looked tired but was cheerful to discuss the day's events, after apologising for the lack of sleep he had on route to Singapore because of a crying baby onboard. Garry was also briefing us the state of affairs as he saw it in the chess world, why he was keen to promote chess over the next few years and his mission to see chess elevated to a world sport. Thought a little upset at the response of the SCF at snubbing him, he brushed it aside and believed that his name alone would stir the chess-loving public in more ways that we'd imagined. And he was right! The crowds came, the fans came, even the press (who normally bypass any chess events)!

Back to business as I knew time was short - Kasparov asked for a 15min shut-eye after breakfast so I had to run through the chessbase file with him, deleting what's not important comments and highlighting the threats on the chessboard for the benefit of the audience. With that, I excused myself and went about to Thomson CC. The rest of it you can read  here.

It's slightly over 2 years from the day I spoke with the ex-World Champion, a great honour for me. Though we are the same age, one can notice the radiance and the regality he possesses, like an Emperor of the chess world. He was groomed for this since young and he makes no excuses for it. Garry is likely to be on the path again soon, championing his cause for chess in schools. He has succeeded in New York and the EU. Hopefully, we can see him persuading our new ministers what chess can do in stimulating great thinkers and entrepreneurs??

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Here are some of my observations based on the player's reports from Rounds 1 to 6. No further reports after that.

What I find disturbing are the following comments made regarding the junior's conduct of the games when playing against the stronger teams.

Against the Australians (Rd 1):

"Linson played against Justin Tan’s Scandinavian. However, he quickly lost a pawn in the opening after a blunder..." 

"Cyrus played against Mattheson Lawrence. He was outplayed early in the Sicillian.."

Qing Aun as White played a Guicco Piano against Chen Pengyu. Qing Aun was unfamiliar with the idea of preserving his light-squared bishop and it was quickly exchanged..."

Against the South Africans (Rd 2)

"Cyrus lost a knight in the opening..."

Against the RSA Team B (Rd 3):

After playing a 5 hour marathon the previous round, Iskandar played the black side of the King’s Indian Fianchetto variation well and managed to grab a pawn against his opponent. However, due to exhaustion, he blundered a pawn and his position crumbled. He eventually lost.

Against the Peruvians (rd 6):

Round 6 was a badly played round for all players who were outplayed in the opening.

Board 1:

Derek made a mistake in his sicilian and got into a losing position in which his opponent quickly finished him off.

Board 2:

Linson did not know how to play against the accelerated dragon and was positionally down. Finally, after a 60+ move game, he lost to his opponent’s superior position.

Board 3:

After his opponent played an uncommon variation against his Sicilian, Cyrus played ok. However, he was outplayed in the opening and eventually lost.

Board 4:

"After playing against the sveshnikov (he had learnt the opening just minutes before the game), Qing Aun blundered a piece and eventually conceded defeat." 

Most of the above showed that the youth team's opening preparation was suspect. This in spite of the emphasis on playing the main theoretical lines as opposed to individually prepared repertoires. Perhaps my fears on  dangers of the Sicilian Labyrinth is showing?

I was reading an article by FIDE Senior Trainer Adrian Mikhalchishin where I quote : " Another typical mistake is to teach trappy schemes in the openings. Sometimes well-known trainers also make different mistakes. For instance in one certain country all the juniors play the French Defence!" ( the Sicilian in our case). They could not have made a more serious mistake as everyone is aware of the fact that the open positions should be studied first and even more important, the trainer should suggest opening choices according to the style the students play and his/her understanding of chess".

The other issue is stamina - this is linked to the physical conditioning of the players to be able to stay fit and alert. So how are the boy's physical shape monitored? Brings back my point on the conditioning of our players in standard chess where the fight can start as late as the 4th hour. Iskandar's blunder occurred in Round 3 which is hardly gruelling as yet. If he was tired, shouldn't someone take his place instead?

Something for the SCF to mull about perhaps?

Monday, September 17, 2012


I came across the SCF President's remark on the National Junior/Youth Squad performance and an invitation to all stakeholders to give their honest feedback. Well, here's mine.

Chess involves 4 parties : players, pieces, a board and rules (not just the rules of chess, but also the relationships between the pieces which constitutes into chess knowledge and theory). Any improvement in the performance of a chess-player must involve these elements - the state of readiness of a player in terms of knowledge of the pieces on the board and the ability to project their movements in the future to concoct a favourable outcome. So its not just the ability to calculate one's moves in question, but the ability to visualise the opponent's responses as well in the formation of one's analysis of the position. Handling these issues while managing them within the time control is key to chess success in tournaments.

The first question one would ask about any form of chess training is its objective and purpose, then whether the methods adopted would steer the participants towards meeting the objectives. What's spelt out in the SCF prospectus is all very nice, of course, but at the end, the results of their performance would speak volumes of the efficacy of the training. What exactly are the other countries like China and India (or even the Philippines and Vietnam) doing right and we are not??

We may intend to move towards the promotion of rapid chess and other forms of chess played over short time controls, but the reality of it is that only proficiency in classical chess is proof of true chess-playing strength. If FIDE indeed is moving away from classical chess, as quoted in SCF's mission statement , then why is it that every major international chess event like the recently concluded Olympiad and current tournaments still feature it? If this trend is not going to change soon, then we should best prepare our players for acclimatising our junior players to the classical time controls by ensuring that they get total exposure to it. They should refrain from playing in competitions held in other time controls. True simulation of standard chess tournament conditions is vital to the development of the player's thought processes and judgement. Hence the promotion of local competitions of longer time controls, even with increments, will help our juniors in performing their best when they are in international events.So having less rapid chess tournaments and more standard chess events is the way to go.

If swimmers need to get up at 5am to do lap-training, can our national junior chess team achieve regional success with only weekend sessions?  With the emphasis set by the Technical Director on theoretical knowledge over practical play, focusing on playing main lines where lots of study of opening lines is necessary, this saps time that may be required for the playing and analysing of middlegame and endgame positions that can  build the players' judgement of variations. Any player, as Botvinnik remarked, can only be a stronger player if he/she excels in the art of analysis. That requires concentrated effort by each player, drawing conclusions after the computer has crunched the usual variations to pinpoint the errors in judgement, then replaying the positions again to ensure that the right continuation is understood. Do our juniors have the time for this given the heavy workload at school? Or can the approach be tweaked to give more weight on improving game analysis skills and calculation skills rather than spending it on opening learning?? Our junior players should get enough quality sparring/analysing from the SCF Trainers or National Players such as our younger IMs and FMs.

Could it be that our juniors have had distractions - game cards, XBOX, computer games? If our juniors hope to get success over the chessboard, then the chessboard remains their only leisure toy, nothing else. Can't do it? Then these players should quit believing that they can represent the country. In my opinion, anyone who does not put 100% dedication into the game should not be worthy of bearing national colours.

The current SCF trainers simply cannot have their hands tied training the development squad while still tending to the training needs of the Youth Squad. If they need to do this because of the lack of funds, tough luck - then get EXCO members who can be mobilised to create events to get sponsors rather than continuously tax the local chess community for it. There is a dire need for a corporate sponsor to adopt the Youth Squad to provide the funds to pay for quality players to spar with the juniors. 

Parents also play a major part in the equation - many are already paying more than their share to see their children through chess lessons, overseas competitions, sometimes taking leave to accompany them etc. Naturally they too want to see that all this effort will go somewhere resultwise. Here the need to balance studies, chess and physical well-being falls mainly on their shoulders as they administer the daily timetable for the children. Expectations tend to be understandably high. Perhaps the parents can also help in not overloading the juniors' workload with excessive tuition for chess juniors, because they should have faith that chess-players do have the discipline (if taught well) to know when to hit the books and when to play hard.  That will work when the SCF is sensitive to schedule the trainings appropriately, intensifying them in the first quarter and June perhaps but avoiding the exam season in September - October.

Finally, we should choose our battles to fight carefully. Select the right events to participate, prepare for them well, ensure funding for them to have at least 1 SCF trainer accompanying. Otherwise, the discipline of the boys may be suspect and this can affect their performance in the event. We should not have our juniors play more than 50 standard chess games a year. The rest of the time spent should be in preparation.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


This year, our preparations were severely marred by a string of events from the school curriculum. That made it much harder for the team to assemble and work out a consistent training program. The best that I could do was to gather the team for 3 3-hour sessions to drill in tactical play, opening predictions and bolstering their opening choices.

The team started well, despatching Global Indian International 4-0 and RI Team 2 3.5-0.5, with Joven saving a totally lost game when his opponent blundered a Queen. Beating ACI Team B was another good score, though Jonah tried too hard to win and lost. Luck favoured us in the early rounds but not later.

After lunch tension mounted as the next 3 teams were all the prize winners. It was here that champions would be forged and we came up short - not so in preparation, but in practical play. Although we secured a 3-1 win against RI Team 1, the next 2 pairings were undoubtedly the toughest as we sat to meet Hwa Chong Institution. Jonah played his heart out to beat Peter Matthew Chin in a closely fought endgame 2 minutes from the end, when Peter crumbled after allowing Jonah's pawns to race through. Though we've not seen Lee Kah Win in action lately, he held the position steady to coast home against Zhong Yi. Unfortunately late studying of the Dutch did not help as he could not find his bearings and went down eventually. Nicholas did not give problems to Bryan Tan who was calmly waiting for fireworks to happen and when Nicholas's time was short, he decided to win the game on time instead. Elliot panicked in time trouble and lost against Lu Chen. In spite of losing 2.5-1.5 to HCI, we had to play ACI A and had to expect the worst.

Thankfully the lineup was correctly chosen to field Joven against Linson and Elliot against Joel Chan. At one point Joven had a double attack on Linson's bishop and threatening mate. Linson gave the exchange instead and after subsequent play, it was a complex Rook endgame and Linson's experience carried him through when Joven moved his Rook from the last rank and allowed him to promote. It was a heart-rending outcome but then, as I always believed, all in chess is fair. Victory goes to the active and prepared.

Zhong Yi did manage to ruffle Iskandar's feathers when he played the Classical Dutch, but after some moves his unfamiliarity showed as he could not find answers to Iskandar's consistent gain of space and had to resort to tactics which lost him more and more pawns. The outcome was long decided but at first board, Jonah created a stunning upset which seemed to turn tables around by launching a mating attack against his 1692 rated Eugene Wee! With Elliot holding on, Joven an exchange up, it could have gone 3-1 for VS but unfortunately Joven lost and Elliot had to take the draw being short on time though a piece up. That allowed NUS High A to catch up and pip VS to 5th place.

So we had to settle for being East Zone Champions, being ahead of Dunman High and Tanjong Katong Secondary.

Generally I did not think the boys worked harder than they did last year, except for Zhong Yi and Jonah who did their part in regular online practice. When the crunch came in the shootouts, it was obvious that their nerves gave way, or in the case of Nicholas, totally oblivious of his time shortage and lost on time without even rushing. In view of these observations, 5th placing was in my opinion justifiable.

Sadly, this may be the last team outing for VS in the chess scene as there were rumoured plans to shut the Chess CCA in view of poor attendance in the CCA. What really happened was that no one wanted to join it as a 2nd CCA and yet need to be involved in the first CCA. So putting Chess as a second CCA literally condemns it to die a natural death. This is happening across many secondary schools and the erosion is clearly seen in the Sec Open U14 where only 12 teams were mustered. In the Sec Open U14 Girls, only 6 teams took part.

If this state of affairs continues, I shudder to think what the secondary school chess scene may be in the next 5 years? This state of erosion would soon permeate into the primary schools and before long, more schools would stop offering chess as a CCA and where does that leave us ? With a dormant adult chess-playing scene (now most adult players are foreigners), the 4 10-year (from 1969) cohort of 400+ students that have participated in the schools championships would soon start to dwindle. Lastly, the number of arbiters and helpers - nearly all are above 30 years of age. If no new blood comes in to help in the organisation of chess events, we would not be able to sustain the running of chess tournaments in this island soon.

Like the number of spoilt chess clocks discovered yesterday suggests, our organisers, like the equipment are aging. Though we can replace the equipment, organisers cannot be bought. If you have read my posting about this issue here, you've known that we need to foster the love for chess other than just competitions or else the passion for this game will be gone.

Monday, August 27, 2012



I had 8 students playing in this tournament, as I believe that they can practice their thinking and vision skills better in a 1 hr per side game. All except 1 won trophies, which was a good result for any trainer. Here I want to give some comments on their performance:

Mitchell, being the oldest in terms of age but relative young (in terms of tutelage) in my group, once again topped the list of my students' performance with a solid 5.5/7 score. His game against Alfred ,although blemished at the end to a draw, was well-conducted in accordance to his style. What I was impressed about him was the determination he set out to play each game to fully utilise his time and made generally good decisions. I am sure this will translate into another 30 rating pts thereabouts.
 Adrian as usual, missed the chance to end up in the top 10 finishers not because of lack of playing strength but lack of determination. His last round game against Lew Zhi Hong started not well but he managed to turn it round to get a clear advantage, but in the ensuing pawn race, poor calculation skills and lack of focus on the end position led him to drop a simple drawn game. Mental toughness sadly cannot be corrected from external help, but it often must come from the player himself. The mark of champions not only rests on the supremacy of technique, but also the forged steely nerves and will that will surpass all limitations. Only thus can one scale the heights of chess mastery.

Nicholas has grown a little since the last tournament and managed himself well though he played against 3 adult players. He lost 1 near the end of time control and bravely forced a draw in the last game. I am proud of him in this tournament as he has curbed his fears about playing older players without mentally psychling himself to lose. Looks like the Malacca trip did the kids a lot of good.

All my students did not join the rest in fidgeting between rounds, dabbling in transfer chess and all that rubbish. They dutifully checked their opening notes to prepare themselves for each game. I am happy that they realise that victory can come only with good preparation. As in the game Adrian vs Tan Jun Hao, we researched the line and knew what to do when it resurfaced and the 1 point was only a matter of time. 

I had the last but the most to say about Royce. We had spent a lot of time lately to convince him of the importance of preparation.Belief in your coaches' teachings is often the key to change and he is now playing more calmly, focused for each game and able to convert his winning advantages with help from his determination to win. I can sense that he finally accepted my words and ideas and believed in it to work. Now he starts his ascent and I am most gratified for that.  

I Shiang being the youngest of the group started well but of course could not manage the adults and due to the pairings, met 3 and lost them all. The game he should not have lost was due to insufficient care on his part to see the opponent's simple pawn fork. For that he was cautioned and he managed to win his games after that. So he did learn from his mistakes and will do better the next time. 

For my 2 other students who did not stay to collect their prizes, I am glad that they took the time to take part in the tournament as they have hectic schedules and tests to take in the following week. Yes, some games were lost but in general they behaved well and tried to play each game spending their time. Both had the temperament but lack tournament experience which will have to be gained painstakingly by clocking it through more games in the future. I hope they persevere because they too will join their seniors in garnering more honours if they would put in the time to consistently play online.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


For students playing in the Queenstown Open,  please observe the following advice:

1  No more online games from now till Saturday

2  Revise all your opening notes. Bring them to the tournament.

3  Sleep early on Friday night.

4  You can skip Friday chess sessions at Thomson to rest


1   Starting time is 2pm. Have a good lunch. Avoid having rice for your meals, especially chicken rice. It will make you sleepy.

2   Once seated, concentrate on your own game. DO NOT LOOK WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING.

3   Try to get up from your chair once in 15-20 minutes only, not every move.

4   Record your games properly

5   Bring sandwiches on Saturday as you will need them before Round 3 starts at 630.

Take your time on the clock and use it wisely! PLAY FAST, LOSE FAST. Guess your opponent's move when he's thinking. Ask when he's thinking who is better , where can your pieces go? If he moves before you finish, remember to continue when its your turn. Only then starting thinking about your moves.


The starting list is out. You can click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Again, your comments on this.

Should we as organisers organise more rapid events or perhaps we should organise more 1 hour events but limit that to no more than 7 a year (ie 14 weekends a year)?

Out of the 16 weekends, can an average family spend about 6-8 weekends to play 3 1 hr per side tournaments that will make 21 games a year?

Generally my feel is that with longer time controls, we can inject some seriousness in the play and that would make studying chess more relevant to improve upon our moves. Perhaps then, the Schools CCA Branch may take chess more seriously and add it into their Calendar of Events.

What say you, parents and enthusiasts??

Monday, August 13, 2012


Often we keep ourselves busy playing tournament after tournament after tournament, never stopping to ask if there's progress made in between them.

Often we do not see the games played as an oracle of our next performance. A close examination of games often reveal the very problem of our weaknesses - it gives us the direction of which areas in our game to work on.

3 of my students took part in the recently concluded ASEAN Youth International held at Nanyang Primary School. 1 scored 5.5pts in the U8 Section, while in the Girls U11 she scored 5pts. The weakest finished 4.5pts. As usual, the score means little to me while the games themselves reveal more.

The chief issue seems to be clock management. This is partly due to the many rapid chess games they have played over the year. To make 40 moves in 2 hours, it takes discipline and maturity to understand that the average of 3 minutes a move should be fully utilised into searching for good moves. When a good move appears, one should look further for better moves. This is usually not possible in rapid chess and often one relies on instinct or tactics to solve intricate strategic problems. Hence conditioning for classical chess is different from rapid chess indeed. Slow games are very useful in developing calculation skills if one chooses to use the time to search the board for best moves, both for oneself as well as the opponents' strongest threats. This will develop analysis skills further and improves one's playing strength in turn. The trend I noted in my students is that often the first idea that enters into their heads will most likely be the move selected, rather than searching for the next 2 candidate moves. When the games are dissected, often the fortune of one's game can swing wildly from winning to losing within a few moves.I suspect that amongst the students, they have probably not seen enough game plans made by the masters in their respective openings to decide which direction their game should go. Playing over master games should cure this weakness.

I am not sure what exactly the Federation has in its objectives of organising classical chess contests such as the AYIC while filling the year round calendar with rapid chess tournaments which in my opinion can undo good thinking habits. To spend hours of preparation a week on theoretical openings can at best save some thinking time in rapid chess, but it cannot replace the pensive steps taken to sieve through and evaluate each move for its effectiveness.

For those who wish to derive the benefits of playing chess, it is important to remind oneself that whatever the time control, one must try to make use of all the time given to play the best 40 moves within the time given. For 25 minutes, assuming one takes about 20% or 5 minutes for the first 12 moves, that averages 25 seconds a move. In a 2 hour game, the first 12 moves can go as slow as 36 minutes. The time can be used in developing one's board vision of the pieces and their relationship to squares on the board and the opponent's pieces. It will be good practice to quickly scan the board and determine which piece attacks what square, which piece cannot move to what square while the opponent is thinking. It will reduce the number of errors in calculation for sure.

So hopefully my students will take to this advice and work towards using their time better to find better moves.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012


I refer you to ICCFIM Junior Tay's detailed account here.


This is what everybody came for..the 10 main and 5 merit prizes, with cash prizes limited to the top 5 and books/New in Chess magazines (the latest copy) sponsored by the Chess People. Special thaks to FM Lim Hoon Cheng for his contribution.

Here we see last year's winner of the Silver Section, Mr Ambat Sasi Nair battling it out against Aldrin Wong, a regular tournament participant who enjoys playing chess especially with longer time controls. Many parents I spoke to remarked that they much prefer the longer time control as it does not hurry the children to finish their games and allows them time to record the full game. Sad to say, only Thomson and Queenstown CCs offer this format of tournaments which used to be the norm before 25 min time control was introduced.

My VS boys were asked to play the tournament as part of their duties as school team players. They fared reasonably well overall, but definitely need some work in the ethics department. One left the tournament at Round 6 just because he has only scored 3 pts. None of the arbiters was informed. This is irresponsible behaviour as his quitting the tournament (once started) has robbed his opponents of the Solkoff tie-breaks and will affect their placing. No one should quit a tournament once they have started Round 1 precisely for this reason.

Three players I am really impressed with are the ones shown on the right - Issak, Cyrus and Matthew in the background. They chose to play in the Gold Section and though it was tough every single round, no one walked about during the course of the 2 hours and were duly focussed on their games. They have certainly set a model example for many of the children who were playing in the Silver and most of them were wandering around after finishing their games in less than 30 minutes. Credit goes to them and their trainers at Chesskidz for their discipline and positive attitude.

Generally my students fared reasonably except for Adrian who blew his chances in finishing top 5 with a simple calcuation mistake against Tan Jun Hao, before missing a mate in 1 against Roy Lau. The others were basically not accustomed to thinking about their moves given the extra time and lost against more experienced players. Playing for more than 25 minutes is a different ball game from the usual rapid time control and this has to be acquired through practice.

Hopefully, we can get enough funds to get electronic clocks next year to run the entire tournament with incremental time controls.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


There were skirmishes even at Day 1 of the competition at both sections.

IM Terry has not rusted 1 bit as he polished off his opponents with deep strategic plans. Belying that impassive innocent pose, his machinations brought down Nelson Mariano in devious Rook endgame to clinch the point on Round 3. Tan Weiliang survived a Rook and 3 passed pawns vs Jared Neubronner's Rook,Knight and passed RP forcing the Knight to give itself up for the passed pawns to draw. GM Sadorra scored with the Queen's Gambit Declined emerging 3 pawns up against his GM counterpart Eldar.

IM Terry at Round 2 playing against Limono Handjojo
Cyrus Low dropped his participation at the Patrick Tay tournament and was rewarded with a hard fought draw against GM Gasanov. I was impressed with his calm and collection execution, down to his confident draw offer which the GM accepted without attempting any tricks to swing the game.

The Gold Section at work
The lower boards at the Silver Section
 You can follow the results and round by round pairings at :

                              GOLD SECTION

                              SILVER SECTION

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Lo and behold! We now have 2 Grandmasters participating in our tournament! GM Sadorra has just arrived in Singapore and will be playing. The other is GM Eldar Gasanov. We have not had the honour of having 2 GMs play since the days of GM Joey Antonio and GM Tu during our 1st Thomson Cup Tournament. Welcome!!

All the more incentive to register in the Gold section and try your hand against them :-)


So far we have  Nelson Mariano III and GM Eldar Gasanov who have registered for the Gold Section, along with Arlan Cabe, Tan Wei Liang and Jarred Neubronner among the top seeds.

Entries are still open, please submit your entries by Wednesday 10pm.

Monday, June 25, 2012


This is my Middlegame Section (Advanced Players). Most of what I would need for IM or GM study is here.

Here's my top players who never-made-it-to-World Champion section. Some Fischer books are stashed here because of overflow from my World Champion section. Portisch, Korchnoi,Nezhmetsinov, Stein, Gligoric and Larsen, along with the old masters like Rubinstein, Tarrasch, Reti etc.

My Openings and Positional Play for 1200-2000 ELO section: These were my favourites when I was studying chess a lot. The opening books were kept to a minimal now, as I realised that they get outdated quite soon. So I chose mainly books that explain how to play the openings rather than the repertoire books (but of course, you need at least 1 good one for the openings you play).

My favourites were Improve Your Chess Now, Purdy, Improve your Chess Results by Zak (Spassky's trainer) and the book next to it - Study Chess with Tal (by Koblenz, Tal's trainer).

    Forgot about my Tactics and Endgames...

Here's where I store my Russian Master's English translated books along with the Kasparov Series. Many are great but have gone sadly out of print.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


This was taken after I had cleared my books off the shelves in preparation for their move. The aircon man is coming to lay down the piping.

The collection spans from my childhood days when I bought my first book in's about 400 plus books in there .. from world champion game collections, to middlegame books, lastly opening books. I had a few Russian and German books too from the days when I was in Europe. Now I am running out of room and will have to rely on ebooks. Now I give away those I hardly read in the annual Thomson Club Championships.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

BACK IN 1985

It was pure serendipity that there was mention of a comment I read about Malaysia raising a new Junior Squad from the current bunch of promising juniors. Peter Long has already done it back in 1984-86, with the likes of  Gregory Vijendran, Chan Han Meng, Ng Ek Leong, Ng Ek Teong, Tan Hong Ghee,Adrian Wong and among the ladies, Audrey Wong and Seto Wai Leng. They were then known as the Kumpulan Remaja and did a blitzkrieg tour of Singapore, playing and beating some of the top Singapore juniors like Wong Foong Yin, Low Pe Yeow and so on.

My story is centred from the above report made by then IM Leslie Leow in his regular chess column in the New Nation. The Cairnhill Chess Team consists mainly of players associated with Michael Siong who was the Chairman of the Club then. They have travelled  to the KL Labour Day tournament which was then held at the Wisma Belia.It was a strong team event, where amateur teams were formed from friends and associates (no Filipino professionals had entered the scene then).

Leslie mentioned 3 4-0 wins by the Champions, which included 1 whitewash of the Kumpulan Remaja!

I was in KL then to see the tournament and the Cairnhill Team was paired against the Kumpulan Remaja the next morning. Based on my observations of the Malaysian players, what followed was my masterminded Pearl Habour-like plan of matching the right openings to play against each of the boards for maximum surprise effect. The plan was conceived in a old villa of Datuk Tan's in Jalan Stonor,.where the players were housed.

My strategy was as follows:

Board 1 :   Alvin Ong vs Gregory Vijendran - I predicted that  Greg will play the Dragon as Black and  2 c3 was chosen to counter this. Though the positions that arose were a little dull, it suited Alvin and frustrated Greg who was not given the opportunity to brandish his tactical play. 1-0 on time.

Board 2: Audrey Wong vs Tan Chin Hoe - I had noticed during the Singapore tour that Audrey's favourite weapon against the King's Indian was the 5 h3 system with a quick g4 and Kingside Attack. I advised Chin Hoe to go for an early f5 to blunt her intentions and lo and behold, everything appeared like clockwork and soon Chin Hoe was infiltrating Audrey's Kingside on route to a positional crush! 0-1

The game (thanks to Alvin's report on Singapore Chess Digest)

Board 3:  Sng Tong Yew vs Soon Chee Hung - A French defence by Black.. 1-0
Board 4: Seto Wai Leng vs Hoe Chiew Ming - Seto had a very narrow repertoire against the King's Indian which consisted then of 1 d4, 2 c4, 3 Nc3, 4 Bg5 and 5 Qd2. I told Chiew Ming that she would invariably play these moves. Chiew Ming cheekily wrote down the exact moves just before the game started (not an offence then) and a red-faced Seto had no choice but to play the exact moves because she didn't know any better! The game was probably psychologically lost from this point.

One of those rare moments where Sun Tzu's " Know thyself and thy enemy...." came to work just in time!

Special thanks to Alvin for recovering this clip from his archives.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


This is open to all SECONDARY SCHOOL students, on 2 July Monday at the Toa Payoh West CC at Toa Payoh Lorong 2.

                                      Download the PDF entry form


For  the details of the 6th THOMSON CUP INTERNATIONAL chess tournament. If you wish, you may


Having studied  the views of Siva, one cannot help but feel that there should be some streamlining in terms of chess training services in Singapore. Siva has cited various sports associations and their workings with private coaches, but stopped short of mentioning how the selection of players for National representation is conducted. When there is insist on creating a national registry of chess trainers, I wonder how this will benefit everyone in the trade. In  particular, when parents with high expectations of their children will be inclined to choose the school or organisation that will bring useful accolades for their children should they attain the goals (be it DSA to the desired school of choice). It all boils down to the framework of which the Federation chooses to operate with all stakeholders, from students, parents, coaches and schools.

I'd still advocate the selection framework based on  meritocracy - that is, the system of selection of national representatives for all international tournaments be decided by simple and transparent criteria, either by  selection tournament  placing or based on an aggregate of the applicant's tournament results of the past 6 months. Not by association of any National Junior Squad or entity that is deemed biased as anyone who has the financial means can join, with the entry prerequisites set rather low. What's even more interesting is that you can "buy" your National colours in the process. Someone in the comments questioned the rationale for admitting such a large number of trainees who eventually required additional personal coaching on top of the 4 hr training sessions.

Now if we use my proposed method (say take the results National Schools Individuals any similar scaled event ) and decide the top 3 places in the respective age groups, with the candidates paying half or less of the expenses (SCF can raise the rest), I should think this system of selection will be transparent to all  students who qualify regardless which school,academy or private coach they train under. In this way, the qualifications and accreditation of the coach will no longer be important. So long as the students that qualify can perform.This will tie in nicely with all stakeholders as it will let the coaches do their job (with less students to deal with), the officials can spend less time deciding who should be selected and instead work harder at raising funds (rather than try to expand the  NJS to raise revenue).Perhaps the SCF coaches can even supplement the training of the selected candidates by detecting and rectifying weakness in their play, during centralised training sessions that can be conducted before the tournament?  Surely this will benefit the players a lot more. 

By the way, I need to clarify and correct Siva's misconception of clubs offering chess training services. There are certainly commercial chess academies set up for this, but by far no existing CC chess club offers chess training. As volunteers running the CC Chess Clubs, we as coaches certainly cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into a blatant conflict of interest in soliciting our services during the playing sessions.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Rather than conduct a survey, I invite all chess parents reading the blog to air their opinions on the current state of chess training here in Singapore.

You are most welcome to state what's right, or wrong, or what can be improved upon. I am sure this feedback will go a long way for chess trainers to improve themselves.

Anonymous comments are welcomed. Please stick to the topic, thank you.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Thomson Chess Club will reopen from today for all Fridays starting from 7pm. All are welcome, but priority for chess sets and clocks will go to members first.

See you there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Here I would like to state my views on some  of the more constructive comments made under the post HOW DID IT HAPPEN.

From Anon@May12, 11:59pm:

"As a chess parent, my children are very much into chess and competitions. We put our kids under the training of an outside chess school, and as with any commercialised chess schools, I feel that the trainers are more concerned about making $ and his livelihood, than about the general progress of our children's chess-playing skills.

If we feedback that our children are not 'improving', the coach would tell us that 'more lessons are required' or 'sign up for the holiday intensive chess lessons'. Hard to find any genuinely sincere and passionate chess school or trainer outside that is really concerned about the progress of a chess student, as it's really a good means to good steady income. Chess parents are seen as 'wealthy providers' for these chess schools, largely run by foreign talents....sigh..

I can't speak for the rest, but many of my students' parents will agree that when there is a need to stay longer than necessary to ensure that the student has understood the material, I have always done so.

As trainers we have to make a living, but there is also the moral aspect to ensure that we can deliver the goods as there's no quantifiable measure of progress (unlike the piano exams and tests) other than the student's performance in chess tournaments and their rating differences. Parents ought to have the right to choose the right trainers for their children and not feel threatened in any way to conform to any pressure to stick with someone if they know he/she cannot do the job. They can also discuss with the trainer to set some targets in order to audit the efficiency of the trainer's efforts.

Would really be good to start a nation-wide chess movement whereby the passionate chess seniors would guide the juniors, and spar with fellow seniors, and all playing chess with no hidden agenda, just out of pure love for this game. When that happens, I can really see the progress in our chess scene in Spore. "

If this parent has read my earlier posts " LETTER TO THE EDITOR" and "HAS ANYTHING CHANGED SINCE 1984?" I have already stressed the need for chess clubs outside of the schools to trive and provide the bridge between the older chess-playing adults and the younger children to interact, share ideas and experiences, most of all pass down good values.

So I have to disagree with AnonymousMay 13, 2012 8:40 PM when the author opined that so far there has been grouses but no constructive solutions given to improve the chess scene in Singapore for adults. I share the opinion that it is the onus of the SCF to rally all parties involved in chess in Singapore to provide the infrastructure, be it tournament halls, arbiters  and volunteers to promote chess-playing activities for all in Singapore. As one comment pointed out, the SCF has turned down opportunities presented and allowed the press to play on the division of ranks between chess organisers here. Could differences not be put aside in order for us to work together for the benefit of all chess-players ? 

Anon@May14 1:55pm writes:

Hi John,.

Why are the comments on your blog diverging to other areas?

Let's come home to the key issue of the 2 main characters : the writer Handjojo and the person he encountered, Ignatius Leong !

What is the latest development with regards to the whistle blower Peter Long ? 

I did not delete any comments from the thread even though it veered off topic because it is so rare to have passionate people finally opening up with pent-up emotions conveyed and I thank you all for speaking up. 

As to the 2, I will leave it to the readers after researching on Wikipedia or other sources to form their own opinion about them. Peter has categorically stated that he will have nothing to do with Mr Leong despite being a FIDE trainer. As I understand, Peter is currently collaborating with the Susan Polgar Academy and has already disassociated with the IntChessasia entity. 


While I am indeed gladdened by the vigorous response over the saga of Mr Limono Handjojo, the number of anonymous comments that resulted were sadly made under the cover of anonymity.

I think it is only fair that one should stand by one own's opinion and be identified with it too. My blog is a platform for healthy exchange of ideas, not bickering. So once you know who you are, it becomes easy to note your views and difference of opinion. I do not expect everyone to be converted to the views of others, we can always agree to disagree.

Having been away for the last week in China with no access to my blog, I am currently reading the comments of all contributors and trying to keep thread of everyone's viewpoints. Hence allow me some time to moderate all your views.

Thanks for the lively exchange which saw 600+ hits. I am officially closing anonymous postings for this topic. If you wish to continue your discussion, register a Google account and you can stand up and be counted.