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?


  1. Frankly John.

    I suspect SCF training of the junior squad is highly suspect.
    From 150 students, not one emerged to be of IM potential.
    Perhaps I am wrong, there is an IM recently but strange that SCF website did not announce this achievement.

    Wishing your blog well.

    French Spassky

  2. The SCF needs to be run by people with true passion for chess and genuine concern for the well-being of chess players. As long you have people who run it for the love of money or vain glory, chess in Singapore will not reach its potential.

  3. In view of the very poor play of the SCF endorsed junior players, I wonder if it is due to the low training quality or poor selection criteria or both. I know many chess players who are self trained and can play chess much better than any of those who went for expensive SCF training. The difference is whether these junior players have a genuine love for the game. If we get their motivation right, the learning comes naturally.

    Gary Fischer Karpov

  4. Hi John
    congratulations on your blog....which is very enlightening for us chess parents.
    can you allow this anonymous posting? i do not want to cause offence to anyone. my son is in scf junior traning. ..i would prefer not to leave my name. your blog is i feel a brave one.

    i think scf training needs to improve and make the next level.my son enjoyz it but whether he will make Iam well its too early to tell. some corrections if you dont mind...from what i see, juniorz once they pass a certain level are not forced to play the silican opening.i am happy with the coach but in my own views we need much more chances for 1-1 training.

  5. sorry i meant "IM".
    also wondering about your views about group training versus 1-1 training.
    many thanks john.

    1. Naturally I would welcome parents to make their comments but I am a little puzzled why they would not want to be identified. Fear of being "marked"??

      It is good to enjoy chess training. It would be better if the fun in training is translated into results. Going to training and ending the session playing transfer chess is FUN, but not purposeful.

      "Once they pass a certain level, they are not forced to play the Sicilian". According to experts, they should not be dealing with the Sicilian UNTIL they reach a strong level of play,not the other way around.

      There are advantages of Group Training of course, but it is really up to the trainer and his intentions. Group analysis of a position is often useful, as it allows everyone with an idea to participate and those who do not also learn from it. The Botvinnik school encourages students to question the moves of the player who has to defend his opinions when analysing. Nothing wrong with that really.

      Of course, it would not be sensible for 3 trainers to do more for more than 50 junior trainees. Therein lies the question: why so many?? Shouldn't the entry level be stricter? This would immediately weed out those who can't perform out of the squad and focus be on those who can.

      The bottomline is money. The SCF can't turn students away because it is clear that they have not sought sponsors who can fund the program to be selective in their students. Simple as that.

  6. Hi John,

    please allow me to seek clarifications.
    By your note - The bottomline is money. The SCF can't turn students away because it is clear that they have not sought sponsors who can fund the program to be selective in their students. Simple as that.

    Could you enlighten me on the following -

    1. Why is it that the SCF cannot seek any corporate sponsors ?

    2. What is the expenses of the SCF that it must have a lot of students to make ends meet ?

    3. How many vendors does the SCF engage for teaching so many students, or is it true that the teacher-student ratio is very high - explaining the poor quality of players churned out ?

    Appreciate your comments as a positive way forward for our chess juniors, so that they can learn the correct chess lessons, as well as positive values.

    Much obliged.

    Tang Shi Fu

    1. Questions 1 and 2 are best answered at the SCF AGM - or if you prefer, at the coming dialogue session on October 7th.

      To clarify, SCF does not outsource their chess-training anymore. It is now given by SCF-employed trainers. There are officially 3, but the number of trainees number about 73 (National men's and women not included).

      Each session has about 10 students on average.