Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ATTACKING THE KING


This is always an interesting subject for anyone who has known the rules of the game, learnt openings and basic endgames and started playing chess. What is next for the player, you ask?

To teach the fundamentals of attack, I can honestly find no other book that explains the subject as didactic as JN Walker in his book "ATTACKING THE KING". Through simple examples, he brings to the reader the important ingredients one needs to have before an attack on the King can be launched. Here he also dispels the myth of Scholar's Mate, as well as the rash notion of using only a few pieces to start the assault when the centre has yet to be sufficiently controlled. I am often amazed how students can be made to solve tactical puzzles, yet not explained how these positions are obtained in the first place?  It's like watching the dish pop right out of the oven, tasting awesome but not knowing what goes into it.

JN Walker's approach mirrors closely to another great classic " The Art of Attack" by Vukovic, in that he looks at the assaulting the King in the Centre, the need to know checkmate patterns, then the sacrifices one must make to attain the patterns, finally the concept of attacking the Castled King either with both Kings castled on the same side or opposite sides. I find these concepts necessary to learn before one attempts to play openings with game plans that expound these concepts (especially in the Sicilian Defence). I have come across many games played by juniors in the Sicilian where the entire attack on the King is skipped in favour of exchanging down to an endgame, which to me misses the point of playing aggressively in the Sicilian.  

So I recommend that budding players obtain this book and learn the fundamentals of attacking the King, which will then make chess a lot more exciting. You will renact your computer game thrill with your chess pieces as they smash against enemy pawns, opening lines of fire for other pieces to train their lines onto the enemy monarch. Of course, there's always a good defence to be found but that's what makes chess such a thrill to play, the clash of ideas of attack and defence !
 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

THE MELAKA RAPID 2012

The official tournament name is much too long, so I've shortened it to get to the meat of this post. I have to say the organisers tried their very best to attend to every detail in the ballroom to give the ideal conditions for play and I am impressed, though chief Najib Wahab is still not satisfied when I thanked him.

It was a great feeling say hi to many old friends, like IM Jimmy Liew, Ronnie Lim, Jonathan Chuah who are competing. plus others like Limono, Daniel Lam (who worked in Singapore some years ago and

now resides in HK) plus my former CTEP student (albeit only 8 days in 2 years) Sumant. He has grown quite a bit, both in size and his chess. I couldn't get a win at blitz from him! It was a good feeling when your student bests you.

I brought 4 students to this tournament to give them exposure to international competition. Mitchell, Nicholas and Royce travelled with their families while Adrian came with me with Jimmy and Poh Heng. We had a great time on route, giving the younger boy prep talks in how he should not worry about the field but play his best regardless of the strength of the competition. Though the rest took some time in checking in, we all got to Melaka safely and Nicholas's family and our group met for a sumptuous meal in Lucky Famous Restaurant.

The first round was to be expected as our young lads faced the tough pairings. Adrian was paired with Jimmy Liew, Royce with WIM Gong Qian Yun, Nicholas with an FM and Mitchell with an Indonesian FM. I expected all to lose their games but Adrian succeeded in holding IM Jimmy to a draw!


 Royce had a tougher time against WIM Gong but he was doing ok in the KIA against her Sicilian, but was careless in giving her the crucial e5 pawn. Had he defended it with his Knight at h2, it could have been tough for her to continue. What I admired in Royce was that he showed no fear of his opponent but the mistake was his to make. He would need to work on his orientation of the pieces (which cost him a Queen in a later round game) if he wished to progress further.

The boys were well behaved throughout the competition and though we had less than 1 hour in between rounds, we made full use of it by going through everybody's games to check on mistakes made and gaps in their preparation. The first 3 rounds were tough in that the opponents were playing main lines and punished any slip that came about. This happened in the game Mitchell against Sumant.


 Mitchell started with a Grand Prix against the Sicilian and the position drifted close to the moves of Short vs Gelfand. Mitchell could not find the moves and was overrun in the centre before his attack could take place. Analysis showed that he should not captured Sumant's pawn on e4 but played on for the attack. The e2 knight was also not well placed. With these findings Mitchell went to improve his game against Tay Shi Hao and got a much better position and even won it!

Royce faced an English Opening against Limono Handjojo. Though he was rated 1950, he was stunned by Royce's odd Qd7 and was thrown off for the whole game. The tactical skirmish was poorly calculated and soon Royce was 1 minor piece ahead, which he converted to a win. I was very impressed by Royce's cool
when he proceeded to exchange the pieces and did not allow counterplay from his opponent. Limono had no choice but to concede defeat. What a game!


Although Adrian lost his encounter with IM Mas (who avoided the main line in the Dragon), he was pleased with his play except for the careless move b5 which weakened the Queenside and cost him the game. b6 instead would have held the position. Through these games with IM, Adrian has understood that so long as he is careful with his play he should not fear stronger players. The outing has certainly yielded dividends in that it made the boys stronger mentally when dealing with tougher opposition.
After several rounds, the dust settled and soon the tailenders would have to meet each other. I told them to play and not fix their games, so they will have to fight it out everytime they meet. This is healthy in that it encourages peer competition, so that they will push each other to excel.
 
Mentally Nicholas was the weakest as he often needs reassurance before he plays. But even this time he had winning positions against stronger players only to lose on time. He realised that if he had kept better control of his clock, he could have converted some games. So it was a good lesson for this boy who often felt that he could not win against stronger players simply because they were stronger. I am pleased that he had grown up a little on this trip. More power to him and he should do better next time round once his fear is overcome.
The best performance of the group has to be Mitchell, who lost the first 4 games on the first day and was depressed. However, his resilience in the subsequent rounds was most commendable. Fighting ulcers due to his braces, he could not eat well but yet he summoned his inner strength to overcome adversity and fought well on the 2nd day. Beating Lee Qing Aun, Tay Shi Hao was a bonus. My worry was in the last game when the IM Luis Chiong brandished the latest line h4 against the Lasker Defence. This was not shown to him prior to the game, so I didn't think he would be ready to face it. Yet he secured a draw to end 5.5pts, 39th place and BEST FINISHER amongst the Singaporeans who were there! This will surely earn him a FIDE rating. 



All in all, this was a good outing for the boys and the parents who accompanied them. My thanks go to all the parents who worked closely to coordinate the boys' meals, especially Oileng and Chan Hong who voluteered to help with the meals. We shall plan for another one in December when the Penang Open is on. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

PHOTOS FROM TCA 2012

Some scenes from the recently concluded TCA tournament.

                                                     Overview of the tournament hall
                                           The holding room for parents with free newspapers provided
                                              by SGCC

                                             Our ever-busy arbiter Chris confirming the pairings

                                            The scorers who helped record the results for Chris 
                                              The end-of-day balloon sculptor entertaining all after
                                             ice cream was served.  What a day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

THOMSON CLUB CLOSED FRIDAYS FROM 20 APRIL TO 16 MAY

The Club shall be closed as many of the members are getting ready for their SA tests which are important as it forms a significant part of their total score at the year end result.

I shall be away from Singapore from May 10 to 16.

Club activities shall resume from May 16 onwards.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

TCA @ SERANGOON GARDENS COUNTRY CLUB

The TCA Junior Chess Championships at Serangoon Gardens Country Club has become the latest talk of the town on the lips of parents whose participating children were given the best possible conditions of play, both on and off the chessboard.

You will never get to see children clambering for space to view their pairings, parents having a hard time finding space to rest after the kids are off to play. The ever efficient SGCC team ensured that pairings were printed on A3 paper and they were also flashed as powerpoint slides in the playing area and holding hall where parents have full view. It usually takes no more than 10 minutes to have everyone seated and ready to commence the round. Lunch was served (as part of the entry fee) which was a relief to all when there was heavy rain on Good Friday morning.  Ice cream was sponsored for the last round and balloon sculpting was pre-prizegiving activity. The kids had a ball!

I had 6 students participating, 2 in the Open Section and 4 in the Primary. Samuel Yip and Adrian Yeo did themselves proud when they came in 7th and 5th in their category, with Samuel scoring a nice win over Rudolph Lau and Adrian besting the likes of Heng Zheng Kai and William Woong. Both finished ahead of the top juniors in the squad (notably the Lim brothers) by the luck of the draw. 

Chia Dan Peng could not believe himself when he landed 5 pts (despite missing a win against Krystal Valerie Soh) to come in at 10th position for the P5-6 category. It took a lot of effort to convince him that he had what it takes to win, but there was always self-doubt which showed everytime he played someone rated higher. This result will do wonders I am sure for his self-confidence and he deservingly won a Portland Chess Set from me.

Royce Tan also garnered 5 pts coming in 4th in the P3-4 category, however, there were some aspects of his play that I will need to work on especially in the area of move selection. Nicholas did not have a good tournament, plagued mainly by his mood when he arrived just in time for the first round. Though he scored 3/3 before lunch, he lost steam and could not convert his advantage against Siew Kai Xin to concede a loss. The last game loss against Lim  Tia Keat must have been painful.

All in all, it was a most smoothly run tournament and I congratulate the SGCC team for their great teamwork, ever smiling faces which certainly lit a lot of happy faces that day! Thanks also to Jimmy for giving everyone on the team a well-deserved treat after all is packed and cleared.

RATING CHANGES APRIL 2012


I monitor my student's performances closely as a measure of my methods and approach to their game. This is the most tangible way of my own assessment as a trainer. Adjustments will have to be made should there be any signs of stagnation or even regression in a student's rating. Often that means either the student is unable to move higher due to tough opposition, or insufficient preparatory work is done before the tournament.

Most of my students earned their ratings by participating in the Thomson Chess Club Championship as well as the National Schools Individuals in March. The 3 top scores are Mitchell Han (up 168 pts), Royce Tan (up 159 points) ,Lee Zhong Yi (up 103 pts) and Nicholas Low (90 pts). Others did reasonably well to move up by 50 odd points or more, except some setbacks like Joshua Ong who did not do well at the National Individuals. Chia Dan Peng was below par at the Thomson Club Championships, but his recent showing at the TCA Chess Tournament (performance rating 1448) will most certainly regain some lost points