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.


  1. Thats a good point. Too many rapid chess does indeed push them to make hasty decisions, which doesnt help in bettering extended analytical chess skills. Hence, perhaps better time/clock management is needed in this local chess climate.

    I also think on the other side of the coin would be that the player will have to learn to decide under "pressure" in life in general?

    Hmm..but I'll try to have my child play a longer game next time, hopefully he is able to benefit from it. Thanks.


  2. As to why most tourneys are rapid than standard, well, a rapid tournament can be concluded within one day whereas a standard one takes a few days. IMHO, we should have more 1 hour tourneys but that will require at least 2 days. And since most participants are school children, this will be a challenge.

    1. Back in the 80's (with no internet and other distractions), tournaments stretch for 3 weekends where 3 games are played over Sat and Sun. Most of the players then were adults and only very keen school-children (like myself) would travel for an hour to get to the tournament.

      In today's context, I understand that with the amount of schoolwork one has, arranging a whole weekend on chess is tough. Hence we need not to organise more tournaments, but a few such tournaments over the course of the year (no more than 6 say) and the public can take their pick to play 3 on average a year. Surely 3 or 4 weekends a year is not too much to ask? Just means less time on IPAD,WII,XBOX and DOTA ...

    2. Haha..if prizes are IPADs and WIIs, maybe more kids may take part in 1 hour tourneys?