Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SENIORS vs JUNIORS U20 MATCH?

I've been toying with the idea of starting a Seniors vs Juniors match some time in 2014. This is to gather the old war-horses to return to play for a cause, to show they still have what it takes a play a decent game.

Of course, we have to allow the old war-horses time to polish up. Offering Thomson sessions on Fridays for them. Those who are keen please drop me a line at my email?

PLANS FOR 2014

As the year ends, it is time to do a post-mortem of the events gone by and my intending projects next year.

I say goodbye to some of my students this year having taught them for the last 2 years. It is never my intention to hang on to them once they've covered the syllabus that I've set out. The materials have been imparted and its up to them to make use of it. If they see value in it to help them play better, that's good but if not, that's ok too as I'm sure that they would have learnt other life-long values from their time with me.

2014 is probably going to be moving at jetspeed so I'd really have to prioritise my time. Much as I'd like to take more students, it becomes difficult with many schools going full-day and students only have the later afternoons and evenings on weekdays for lessons. Weekends are precious and I'm trying not encroach into them as they remain the quality time for parents to catch up with their kids.

So hence, we may need to resort to having more lessons on the Internet via Skype to reduce travelling time. I realised that some years ago but as technology matures, going on the Internet is not much different that having me by the student's side. I will probably spend more time doing school classes to help more students in the afternoons from 3 to 5 pm.

Guess I'd have to be more selective in the students that come on-board. Those whom I feel not taking the game seriously would have to be dropped in order to make way for those that showed promise. Those having disciplinary problems during lessons may not be considered. So targets will have to be set and monitored.

I would also like to prepare a book of my syllabus next year  which can be used to educate the students better in their board vision ( the singular thing that most kids need to improve before their chess does). This will need some time off my teaching schedule.


A busy but fulfilling year ahead.

EVERYBODY LOVES WINNING



Toa Payoh West held its annual Rapid Chess Tournament on 1 Dec Sunday and attracted a very strong Open Section field, with 86 players, including 2 IMs, 1 FM and even inactive junior champions who decided to try their hand at the competition. Possibly because its not rated??


Just thought I'd feature the hardworking team led by Kenny Chern who normally assisted in the Cairnhill tournaments at this time of year, but due to the forthcoming renovations to the CC, the event was cancelled. Thanks to Chris the chief arbiter (he's camera shy), Hafiz , Chong Peng and Samuel for helping us out. 


Quite a few of my students participated in the Open, namely Royce Tan, Adrian Yeo, Bryan Sow, Tan Zhong Kai and Lee I Shiuan. In the Junior  there was U13, Caleb, Nicholas Low the U10 group saw Lee I Shiang, Malcolm Sow, Tan Qi Xuan, Naython Tan and Cadence Low the only girl. Sue Lyn did not turn up. 

The Open Section was in my opinion the strongest turnout that I've seen at Rapid tournaments with IMs Enrique Paciencia ( the eventual winner) and IM Luis Chiong, plus other trainers like Philippine NM Edgar Reggie Olay and Leonard Reyes. Our long lost junior champion Low Pe Yeow and former National Champion Derrick Heng also took part, as with other juniors Ben Foo, FM Tin Jing Yao Ashwin Sivakumar and Lee Qing Aun. What was heartening was that several adults who have not been active showed, eg Mak Chee Keong, Ng Hon Wing and even Nigel Tan, a former junior who played. Generally it was a tough field and therefore a 50% score should be satisfactory. Royce had his share of tough opponents like Ben Foo and IM Luis Chiong to finish with 3 while Adrian , Bryan and Zhong Kai managed 4 pts.  

As I was TD that day, taking care of the running of the tournament to ensure the best playing conditions was key so most pictures were taken by the parents of my students. I did manage to catch a glimpse of the students at play, observing their mannerisms and how they chose their moves. Generally they did well to focus on their boards, however some chose to vent their energies on the playground after the game than the chessboard. 


Malcolm and Naython would require quite a few tournaments to get their thinking routine right as they were still hurrying their moves and missing wins.



At the end of the day, the rewards go to those who took their time and played real chess. I was very proud of I Shiang, who showed great resilience coming back from a lost position against favourite Lim Tia Keat to win. He managed a perfect score of 7 pts to finish Champion in his category.  while Nicholas finished overall 8th and 3rd in the U11. Somehow he's lost some zest in his play and I'm sure he's capable of better results if he regains his focus for the game.



Cadence  did very well to emerge Champion for her U7 category. This must have been quite a morale booster for her since she's just started lessons with me. I can see that she's now more charged up to work on her game to aim for higher achievements come 2014. The other player I want to commend is Jaryl Seah (right). He is one of my most  obedient students, listened to advice and played well to finish 9th overall and 2nd in U10. Hence, you'd see that winning plays a large part in motivating their interests to do more. Hence preparation plays a big part in ensuring the win and to do that, I've encouraged them to play as many games on chess.com while weaning off their attention to computer games. In the long run, these children will grow to be pensive than impulsive, focused than aimless, better behaved in general than the ones I've seen running around. All the benefits you can give to your kids if they work on chess. Believe it. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

SINGAPORE vs MALAYSIA 2013

At the recently concluded Singapore vs Malaysia annual chess match, the final scores ( Rd 1 and 2 are classical games, 3 and 4 rapid games)



Round 1: Malaysia 23    - 13    Singapore


Round 2: Malaysia 20    - 16    Singapore

Round 3: Malaysia 21.5 - 14.5 Singapore

Round 4: Malaysia 14   -  22    Singapore



Overall  : Malaysia 78.5 - 65.5 Singapore

A close scrutiny of the rounds indicate that our girls were not playing in their own category, especially the U14 and U16 sections. These were filled by our U10 and U12 girls who were forced to play up for the first 2 rounds. The other sections were evenly matched. 


The  Veteran's honour was defended by stalwarts IM Giam, IM Leslie Leow ( who agreed to play even though he was on holiday) and Lim Chye Lye. Giam even took a game off IM Jimmy Liew, which was a surprise to many. Leslie for all the years of chess inactivity managed to hold off Nicholas Chan in the rapid games. 


I don't think we should read too much into the result of this match where the focus was on building camaraderie between the 2 countries chesswise. However it does serve as a barometer of where necessary action should be taken in terms of the overall state of chess playing among the girls in Singapore. 


The dwindling of players in the U14-U18 sections, coupled with the drop in interest (as shown in the poor turnout of girls in the U12-16 sections in the National Age Group in November) is cause for concern. 


There is unconfirmed news that the oldest girl school to have Chess as a CCA, ie Singapore Chinese Girls School (founded by Dr Lim Boon Keng who introduced chess there) is closing their Chess CCA. I hope the parents can lobby for support to keep it going. Of course, we understand the school's viewpoint that poor turnout for the CCA is the major reason for withdrawing the school's support, but honestly I think the school does not realise that many of the top players in the school cannot attend the Chess CCA mainly because of scheduling. It is therefore up to the school authorities to flexibly move the date for Chess CCA to ensure attendance. The introduction of enrichment classes at P1 and 2 may perhaps unearth even more talents if this can be brought about. Hopefully, the SCF and the parents concerned can collaborate in some of my ideas mentioned to keep Chess in SCGS alive. For I fear that once this happens, it will be the start of a domino effect that will creep into the minds of the other principals...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NAG 2013 REPORT

Another year with newer students taking part in this year's National Age Group held at Jurong East Sports Hall.

The students taking part in the various sections include:

Girls U-8   -  Cadence Loh

Boys U-8   -  Naython Tan, David Tan, Emmanuel Lim Rei

Girls U-10 -  Grace Ho, Cheong Sue Lyn

Boys U-10 -  Caleb Loh, Jonathan Tan, Malcolm Sow, Jaryl Seah, Elliot Lim Han, Jaden Rabind Charles

Boys U-14 -  Lee I-Shiuan, Tan Zhong Kai, Keith Khoo, Rohin Singh, Adrian         Yeo, Bryan Sow

THE GIRLS





The 3 female students that took part did reasonably well. All were playing in the first-ever long time-control of 1.5 hrs per side. They managed to stay in the game for about 1-2 hrs which is commenable. Though Cadence has just started with me, Sue Lyn showed the most promise having beaten the likes of Lisa Tan, R Shahana and Grace and achieving a performance rating of 1224. There is great potential for this girl if she takes the game seriously and works hard.

Though there were not too many contestants in each U8 and U10 category, Cadence got a prize for finishing 4 / 9 to come in 10th place. The U-10 saw Grace and Sue-Lyn on 5 / 9 pts, finishing 8th and 9th placing.



 THE  BOYS

Naython and David were a little overawed by the size of the tournament. However, it was David who managed to compose himself to play each game past the 1 hour mark and I'm very proud of him. Scoring 5/9 ending at 29th out of 84 players, David has done very well!


Naython has just started and therefore requires guidance to the world of tournament chess. In time, we will see more of him.


Here my U10 students were paired against each other and this makes for a photo opportunity- Malcolm against Caleb, Elliot and Jaryl against others. Of the 4 boys, my praise goes to Jaryl for dutifully following my advice of keeping to the checkpoints (ie 27 minutes for first 12 moves, then another 18  minutes for next 8 etc) and spending his time concentrating and finding good moves. He scored the best among  the newbies with 5 / 9 pts at 24th place. Malcolm threw 2 games away ending on 5 / 9 but at 33rd, Elliot on 4.5 at 34th. Jaden's lack of practice showed in his games as he was unable to concentrate and ended on 54th with 3.5 pts.        


 My heart goes out to the pre-tournament favourite Royce, currently my best and hardest working student. He was cruising on 6 / 6 when disaster struck. Trying his best to erase the negative score he had against the eventual winner Alfred Chua, he erred in a better position and allowed Alfred to queen his pawn with just 2 minutes left on the clock. I suspect he was trying to win the game but took unnecessary risks allowing counterplay. This was the 3rd time I've seen Alfred run away winning from a lost position. Playing Delroy with his confidence shaken, he was unable to lift himself up from the earlier loss and lost again. Only a last round win kept him at 3rd place.  Another painful lesson for Royce,  but best learnt now.   Never let your guard down even when victory is in sight. You do not stop pushing until the other player resigns.    


Adrian Yeo was also a favourite to win the U14 being among the top seeds, but his lack of preparation showed in the way the winner Tommy disposed of him within 30 moves. Having realised his Achilles heel several tournaments ago, he made no attempt to improve on it and hence suffered 2 significant defeats. Only through a win against Cameron Goh did he redeem himself into 4th place. Thus talent alone is not enough. It is important to put in preparation, lots of it in fact if you aim to reach the top. 





My other boys did not do as well. Based on my post mortem analysis  I believe that their tactics and positional sense generally let them down. Not spending enough time on the position too is a causal factor. Before the competition, I had urged everyone to improve their physical fitness in order to withstand the strain of the gruelling 3 rounds a day. In the end, fatigue, inadequate game preparation plus weak tactical calculations did them in.

Overall, in spite of the shortcomings, I am satisfied with my students' behaviour and performance given that they are not accustomed to such a time-control of 1.5 hrs per side. Though I had prepared them to change their habits of playing the first move that comes to mind, it takes discipline to resist that and ponder for candidate moves. That comes from playing slow games I'm afraid.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

TOA PAYOH WEST TOURNAMENT 1 DEC

To take part in this 1 day event at TOA PAYOH WEST CC on 1 December,

Click Here

I urge my students who cannot bear the strain of the 3 day National Age Group to consider this event.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

DANGERS OF OVER-PLAYING

The SCF and other organisers do their best in providing ample opportunities for players to take part in competitions, as is their objective in creating a healthy chess scene.

However this does not mean that the players themselves should try to play in every single tournament. Playing in a tournament should be viewed with achieving the following objectives.

TESTING OUT IDEAS IN OPENINGS AND MIDDLEGAMES

After drawing up lessons for losses in previous games, the player should review carefully the losses derived and determine their causes. Improvements should be made and digested, so as to avoid the same mistakes made when playing the next tournament.

New ideas derived from the study of lost games should be tried out as well in the next tournament and the cycle of analysis and refinement continuously applied till the player is confortable in the positions appearing before him/her. Ultimately, the player should not be surprised by any opening novelty that has not been researched or played arising from his/her repertoire. Failure to remember the moves and resulting in lost positions a second time in a tournament game is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary.

It is not enough to have a good thought process - one needs to practice using it to derive good moves.

TIME CONTROL PRACTICE

The aim of playing in a strict time control is to practice discipline in thinking about moves. The emphasis here is mainly in working out variations arising from the opponent's moves which may differ from prepared analysis. Here the aim is spend the correct amount of time in deciding what best to play. Some positions are complicated and require more time, while simple captures should not bog the player down in the time spent. What I observe mainly in competitions is that players offen do not spend their time carefully in working out their moves when the position becomes critical, especially when the pawn structure can be altered or when multiple captures of pieces is possible. Such moments require careful consideration but often players react too fast and allow their positions to crumble. Many chose to exchange pieces when offered without serious thought, often slipping into inferior positions after their exchanges.

To play accurately in time trouble is an art in itself. I have seen good players able to dish out good moves even when their time left is dangerously low. This is a sign of good concentration by the player in foreseeing all threats by his opponent and working out their responses in advance. Here players should learn to retain their composure and not panic at the sight of the clock. Alertness, clarity of thought and determination are most needed when approaching a time trouble situation.

CONCENTRATION  

Good chess is often possible when the player achieves deep concentration and focus on the position in front of him/her. Failure to do so often results in missing tactics, leaving pieces to hang and therefore captured. Often the sense of danger leaves the player who drifts into his/her neighbour's position trying to solve problems there instead of focussing on their own positions. Deriving a good move from a good thought process, in good time, is also a goal for the player to work on.

If you are a player that joins  tournament after tournament without working on the above objectives, my fear is that burnout will result in you playing the same openings the same way, reacting to situations with the same "programmed" moves and likely achieving the same results as your previous tournament. One must never allow oneself to get into this droning mode as it is the surest way to kill your creativity and interest in the game. When this happens, it is time to stay away from the tournaments and start studying games again to recharge your creative batteries.

I recommend that one should not go beyond 60-80 serious competitive games a year and spend the remaining time STUDYING not just openings, but games of the top players and analysing their moves from the opening all the way to the endgame. This is necessary for all improving players who must have good ideas and plans with them as they prepare for their next tournament. Not forgetting the daily practice of solving tactical puzzles to keep their tactical muscles in shape of course. Only thus can one attain good results consistently.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A DAY AT THE POLGAR CHESS FESTIVAL

Each year the 3 chess queens of Hungary, namely the Polgar sisters, return to their native Budapest to hold a chess festival which aims to spark interest in chess amongst the young children. This year, Garry Kasparov joins them in their 7th edition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MzNe1f-5_o

Something we can learn perhaps in organising chess events involving children?

PRELUDE TO OUR CHESS FUTURE?

On October 9, at the FIDE Congress in Tallinn, a voice none other than ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov once again makes another effort to rejuvenate the world of chess today.

He gathers a team spanning the continents from the Americas to Asia, a conglomerate of business leaders, activists, plus organisational experience. In preparations for the next FIDE elections in Tromso next year, Garry is mindful not to repeat the lessons in Khanty-Mansisk 2010 where the key issue was money. This time, with the help of Jan Callewaert and Rex Sinquefield, he was ready with the funds, plus building links with the corporate tycoons such as Peter Thiel and more.

Garry has an important card in his hand - the Chess in its Role in Education that many on his team saw value. The use of chess in improving the learning experience for children in this century comes even more critical, more than the theoretical novelties created out of the outputs from the current top players. As he correctly pointed out at his presentation (and even back when he visited us 2 years ago), chess is played worldwide but receiving less attention than it should mainly due to the inward-looking FIDE policies which sought to cloister the community from the world at large. Chess is probably the only organised sport that currently does not receive sponsorship from corporate giants like McDonalds or Google or Coca-cola, as he observed. Should he succeed, he will rally and unite the forces of the chess organisations whose main aim is to popularise the game in children. This impact will  certainly see the same renaissance that the world experienced at the end of the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match.With the increase in numbers of players, the possibility of sponsorship will improve and thereafter fund future collaborations for the support of new talent.  Hence, with the changing political landscape, SCF should now work closely with Garry, leveraging on his platform to raise the profile of chess in Singapore amongst Singaporean parents and who knows, possibly capture the attention of our MOE to relook at their current view of chess?

Those interested in watching the views of Garry and his team should tune into the following links:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfl67YlKp85bT785Y6ZvowQ?feature=watch

For chess players, the following video would be interesting as Kasparov explained the events from 1990-1995 on how chess took its turn for the worse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZGO_TDcmZI

Is this the prelude to our chess future? Time will tell.

Monday, October 7, 2013

RATINGS SUMMARY FOR 2013

The October SCF Ratings list may be the last SCF Ratings list published by the Federation in view of the intended move to the FIDE ratings list wef 2014.

So in summary, I list the ratings changes from Jan 2013 till now for my active students who played this year.


Congratulations to all who have made big strides in their ratings! Especially Royce, Zhong Kai and Shi Hao who have done well this year. My newer students are gradually improving, though with modest gains.

Generally the ones with negative ratings require review of their lessons with me, plus lots more practice online to catch up.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NATIONAL AGE GROUP 2013 16 to 18 NOV

The 2013 National Age Group takes on a new format - 9 rounds of grueling 3 hr games (1.5 hrs per side). Stamina counts for these games and fitness is of course very important. I have seen players leading up to Rd 6 in tournaments of this nature, only to falter at the last 3 rounds due to fatigue.

Hence to my students : Know your limits and if you choose to sign up for this, prepare yourselves physically by exercising regularly after your exams. It will be necessary to put in at least 45 minutes of exercise a day to achieve good physical shape to stay alert for the whole 3 days. Kindly contact me of your decision so I can make the necessary training plans to support.

Thanks.

CHESS IN SCHOOLS

If you have views to contribute on how we can promote chess in schools, I will see you this Friday , 7.30 pm at Singapore Chess Federation located at Bishan St 13, Singapore Intellectual Games Centre (opposite the Bishan Bus Interchange) 2nd Floor conference room. Please email hweekhim@singaporechess.org.sg if you can come.

Looking forward to a fruitful discussion and ideas.

Rgds

John Wong

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

REDRESSING THE BALANCE

On Chess: A Singapore Column, we saw how Dr John Nunn introduced a Queen sacrifice to win against our IM Hsu Li Yang. Not to be outdone is this once-in-a-lifetime GM scalp by our own GM Wong Meng Kong to make things even.

Monday, September 23, 2013

SCHOOL TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS, WATCH THIS PLEASE



We see a resurgence in the use of chess in education all around the world..surely Singapore shouldn't be left behind??

LIFE AS A CHESS PROFESSIONAL?!

Recently there was a post by English GM Danny Gormally who laments about his woes as a chess professional. By that he hopes to be able to make a living doing what he loves, playing chess.

As he'd described in his post, found here , the cash returns from winning tournaments in England are dwindling in view of a weakened EU economy, not forgetting the deluge of Eastern European and former Soviet GMs who now reside in Europe thus heightening the competition. So the few avenues left open to the GMs who wish to eke out a living from chess are to consider teaching students or write books/produce instructional videos. Unfortunately he's not interested in these activities, hence he finds himself stuck in a rut as he put it.

There are 2 main points in his post, ie
a) He chose to be a GM, hoping to make his livelihood through playing chess and not willing to consider other chess-related forms of income, and
b) There is no way he could turn back the clock and do something else to make ends meet.

This is indeed excruciating for someone who'd already sunk his feet into the business and not being able to achieve his ambition, simply because the big bucks in tournament prizes is no longer attainable as compared to the past 20 years where sponsors are readily available. The pace of events in the chess world has quickened thanks to the introduction of computer chess engines, which has somewhat demystified the charm for the game. In fact, the chess audience pool has also shrunk with the advent of computer games created from social media that has converted many chess fans because they are more appealing (and less taxing on the brain to play). Naturally, chess events are no longer attractive to organise and of course with the decline in participating numbers, the sponsors too do not see it viable to come forward. Hence the vicious cycle of dwindling numbers and sponsors plague the chess world and does pose a major dilemma to would-be GMs and titled players whether they should pursue their dream.

As I have long given up any ghosts of trying to be top player, my main livelihood comes from teaching and I put my whole being into this in the hopes of developing young minds into their fullest potential - not on the chessboard but in imparting useful life skills as well. My students will not end up as geeks and misfits because I do not steer them into the path of no return, rather they should see chess as a means to discipline their thinking, sharpen their decision making, able to cope with adversity and other stresses in life. They will surely end up better human beings than just being able to manipulate the 32 figures on the board. Hence being able to expound the benefits of chess in my view far surpasses the notion of moulding the child into a top player. My satisfaction comes mainly when I hear of their successes either in the corporate world or in their field of expertise. My only wish for them is that they continue to play and support the game that has helped them in achieving what they are today.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

DATABANK OF GAMES - HOW DOES IT HELP?

As we have over 5 million recorded games of chess known to man, they present a huge reservoir of ideas and precedents of what has been played, correct or wrong. It would be useful to look at past games to derive ideas and innovate on what's played to try something new yet based on solid fundamental ideas played by the past players.

Somehow in the games I've played with the juniors, I can discern that they have played lots of games and hence their practical ability to spot tactical threats is strong. However, when it comes to making strategic decisions to steer the game in their favour, they seem to hit a blank. I attribute this to spending too much time studying variations but not full games. One of the main areas of study in my opinion for a competitive player is not just to learn the variations but also the games of how the variations may turn out. Playing over master games based on the variations will allow the player to have a preview of what's to come, what positions to envisage and particularly the endgame possibilities that may occur. So memorising full, useful key games in the variations played can be useful in allowing the player to develop new ideas based on older ones.

A case in point - my game against WIM Gong was indeed based on a famous 19 mover sacrificial attempt by Edward Lasker against Sir George Thomas which is usually found in every book on attacking chess. It was a masterpiece of how the King was dragged from its castled position all the way into White's first rank and mated there. With that in my mind, I am sure that even if the moves were not all duplicated, the attack that arose should be sound enough to venture a try. The same thing goes when we hazard a sacrificial try in our blitz games - it has to be based on some presidential game in the back of our minds, with the rough details of the continuations. Interestingly, I just saw a puzzle in another blog and readers asked to find the move by Black that wins. This was played by Dr John Nunn against a Singapore IM. Without giving too much away, all it takes is for the interested reader to look at the famous game Averbakh - Kotov, Zurich 1953 and they will figure the moves out. I am sure Dr Nunn must have had the Kotov game in mind before he ventured his idea.

So rather than spend time taking part in tournament after tournament, my advice to budding players is to read as many games played by the masters in their openings to develop their knowledge and feel for the positions they are about to play. This will give them ideas to work on in their games and confidence to play the moves they want.

Friday, September 20, 2013

GETTING BETTER

It's no secret really.

Ask any older player what it takes and invariably you boil down to 3 things:

USE YOUR TIME

CONCENTRATE

THINK CHECKS, CAPTURES & THREATS

Somehow I find the chief failings of our young players (based on my observations at the recent Serangoon Inter-team tournament) is that their level of concentration is generally lower to that of the older players. When a player concentrates, he starts to work out relationships between his pieces and his opponents. He will be aware of what can happen when one of his pieces leaves a square, which can be occupied by his opponent if there is insufficient control of it.

I am guilty of this in my first game whereby I lost a Queen, so really it can happen to anyone. No excuses! I could have paid dearly for it but I was lucky. That lesson woke me up real fast and for the remaining games I concentrated hard for every game and it was amazing how much the mind's eye can see once in that mode. I didn't waste any time working out my moves, although I must say my intuition was on form that weekend and allowed me to quickly pick the best moves on the board. Well, it did falter towards the end when tiredness crept in. Other than that, I generally played up to my expectations.

My opponents generally did not play their best moves, much a times I was surprises that they often did not follow the thread of the game and surprised me with their responses. It was as if I was doing my thing and they did theirs, only to be rudely shocked when loss of material or mate stared at their faces. Here I am convinced that many simply do not ask themselves what I was doing with my move, whereas I could not understand what they were doing in the light of my threats. So converting the wins was simple.

If there is anything to learn from our games, I think, its simply this: If you don't think your opponent opposite you is trying to win the game and pay no attention to his moves, then be ready to face defeat again and again until you wake up. This advice goes to my students, especially those who have lost badly. To get better, one must learn to question what went wrong and be up to facing the lessons to be learnt. Otherwise, playing tournament after tournament does nothing to help - only to perfect your "mistakes".

IMPORTANCE OF READING AND SELF-HELP

Since so many parents are reading right now, perhaps time to re-issue an old post?

http://www.chessfood4thought.blogspot.sg/2010/10/importance-of-reading.html

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CROSSING SWORDS FIRST TIME

At the recent Serangoon Inter-Team competition where I partnered my students, I had the chance to cross swords with several of the juniors from the other teams. As I do not get the chance to play in tournaments often, there are few opportunities to meet them over the board. Here are some of my first impressions of their play  (I hope the parents reading about their children do not take it too personally).

My first encounter was round 2, playing White against Steffi Lim. She's played in many competitions, generally quite calm, but tends to give up easily when things do not work out her way. One of the most important qualities in a chess-player is to be resilient and always being resourceful out even when things do not work out. Only this way can one improve and succeed.


 

My next junior opponent is Carwyn Yeo, an aggressive young man who has got ambition on his eyes. He concentrates well and was eyeing me for breakfast that morning. I feel that I have to tread very carefully as he's generally sharp in tactics but not so alert positionally. So that's how I chose my approach to his opening which sadly I feel does not suit his style of play. The tactical player should go for the main lines of the Yugoslav rather than avoid theory with the Levenfish which is generally positional in nature and offers less opportunities for wins against Black.




I played Steffi as Black in the Knockout 1st round but this time she chose an insipid line against the Sicilian and got ground down to defending the f3 square, mainly because she transposed to a French-like structure which she did not quite understand how to play. Sorry for not annotating so vigorously but I do not have too much time to spend over these games and usually refer to the computer for their assessments. Hence my notes are mainly in words which reflect my thoughts at the time of play.

MY MOST SATISFYING LOSS YET

Spend the last weekend with my students at the Serangoon Inter-Team tournament and we called ourselves the JW's Musketeers, in the company of teams like 152, ChessKids New Generation to form a total of 19 teams. It was time to play chess for fun and enjoyment rather than worry about the result. So much fun I was having when I realised I blundered a Queen against a very scared Royce Ho (whose brother Josh had lessons from me 2 years ago). I managed to compose myself and grinned throughout the game, laughing at my carelessness and trying to calm my team-mates that everything was under control. Soon the boy lost on time in whirlwind complications and I told myself its going to be a fun-filled day!

Saturday's 4 rounds earned me a perfect score, so I was looking forward to extending that when I met WIM Gong Qian Yun from 152. This was her first chess outing I think after a long time, so with perfect peace of mind I started:

Though I lost this game, I was very happy to have had the pleasure of playing all the attacking moves, perhaps re-inspired by the reading of the Tal book that I had just bought. When reviewing the game with the engines, they in general agreed with my assessment and  the best moves found matched mine as well. That in itself is satisfaction, never mind the result.

AN OLD CLASSIC REVIVED!

Some time ago (about 5 years maybe?) I stumbled on the idea of converting my old copy of  " STUDY CHESS WITH TAL" which was a great classic written by the World Champion in collaboration with his then trainer Alexander Koblenz. I'm often curious as to who the guy in the old cover is. Koblenz wrote many great books on tactics and strategy in Russian but so far this has been translated to English:




It took me close to 10 years in hunting down the out-of-print book from an old bookseller in UK who offered it used at  US$15, where most second-hand booksellers were pricing it way above US$50. Naturally I treasured the book and thought many times if I should want to undertake the project to convert the notation from descriptive to algebraic. A painstaking job no less - finally I decided to start work on it last year during this time when my students are having exams and I had a little more spare time on my hands. But lo and behold! I found this!


Someone at Batsford must have read my mind and saw the potential of releasing it in algebraic! This is indeed a blessing for all attacking players who have not played over the comments made by the trainer. There were great insights given in how Tal would prepare for the sacrifice when he smelt one in the air, as well as the World Champion's understanding of the workings of his pieces once they roamed freely on the chessboard. The intuitive notion of choice of Tal's moves are indeed useful lessons for any chessplayer, noticeably when Koblenz often prepares your state of mind to think like Tal with very useful questions just before the sacrifice. This book has elevated my attacking play better in my opinion than Vukovic's Art of Attack which in my time was the definitive attacking manual. In fact, I have structured my chess lessons very much in his style of leading the player into the train of thought to understand the concept at hand. It is very much more effective to learn this way as the lesson becomes interactive rather than a lecture.

Naturally I recommend it but I think there are very few copies available in the Singapore bookstores..I got mine the very day I knew it was available. Let's see if you can too!


Friday, September 13, 2013

SUMMARY FROM THE COMMENTS

Judging from the comments I've read (published or otherwise) from real parents, impostering ones, trolls and all, here's what I gathered:

The SCF should indeed take a hard look at the way current large-scale junior competitions are run. We have seen recurring instances of ill discipline amongst the students, over-crowding at the pairings corner, mis-communication regarding rules of the competition in general. There are of course solutions to be found and I'm suggesting some of them right now.

A) TECHNICAL MEETING

In view of the changing personnel taking charge of the school teams, I feel it is best to address basic matters such as pairings, board order of players, protocol inside the tournament hall etc in a technical meeting with teachers and SCF officials. This of course cannot be done on the day itself. The technical meeting can be conducted at SCF premises perhaps a week before, on a Saturday so that teachers concerned can attend.

Issues such as discipline should be communicated to the teachers at the meeting, who shall be solely responsible for their wards' behaviour. Regarding punishment, I propose that should anyone be caught misbehaving in the tournament hall, his/her entire team shall be given a yellow card or 1 match suspension but the team can compete after serving the suspension. In a 6 round competition, a 1 match suspension technically rules the team out of any contention for the top places. Students can then learn the consequences of their actions and we will not have future instances of any SCF official seen as rude or imposing when all they are doing is their job of keeing order in the tournament hall. This should be reiterated at the start of the competition and thereafter carried out with no exceptions should any student insists on breaking the rules.

B) USE OF TECHNOLOGY

Pairings I feel should be uploaded once done, so that teachers and interested parents can then check them online with their smartphones and not rely on students milling round the pairings corner for it. There may be a difficulty in entering the round results of every team due to manpower shortage and time constraint at the time of the tournament, could they be added on after the tournament?

C) IMPROVING THE FORMAT

I've talked about this at my earlier post to increase the number of prizewinners in the competitions.

These are my views on the other issues raised:

CHESS COACHING

Parents are of course paying good money and have every cause to examine the training given to their children. I wish more parents can be forthcoming in expressing their woes so that this feedback can be channelled to the relevant parties without malice. When I tried to address the concerns of Raymond and Christina who wanted help, they did not communicate with me. Strange, unless..

IN CONCLUSION

I have withheld several postings which I deem as inappropriate, incendiary and mischievous. At the start of the post I've pleaded with readers to keep it clean. However this does not mean that I harbour any legitimate queries which may place the organisation or person concerned in a bad light. At the same time, I urge those giving comments in the guise of anonymity to exercise fair comment and not use my blog as a battleground to grind their axes because really, it wastes everyone's time and does not do anything constructive. Those who do care to get it off their chest and feel that they are right should identify themselves.

Once again, thanks (and no thanks to those who know who you are) for your comments and till the next comment request...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

MALAYSIAN CHESS FESTIVAL - LESSONS


The annual Merdeka Team Tournament in KL marks the largest team competition in ASEAN region, with participating countries from ASEAN as well as the competitiors who have taken part in the Malaysian Open. Singapore has been sending teams to this event, notably present were the players from Chess-Kidz and 2 other teams, QY+3, (all NUS team members)
plus IM Chan Peng Kong who stayed on to play for Brian Jones's team. AMS Bolih contained 2 Singaporeans, Jimmy Ng and Lee Wang Sheng (who may be Australian by now). 

My visit to the  Festival this year was fruitful in many ways, with some observations and lessons that we can draw from should we in Singapore attempt such a feat.

SCALE

It is undoubtedly true that without scale of participation, no media would want to cover such an event. The latest Merdeka Team Tournament held last week attracted 473 players, with 8 GMs, 11 IMs and 12 FMs in the fold. For such a tournament to be held in Singapore, a decent hall the size of the wedding banquet will have to be found..very likely this can happen when weddings are scarce, such as the Seventh Moon period.  September and October will be out of the question as no hotel will be able to accommodate the request, unless the event takes place in a sports hall. 

I do not see a problem of getting the number of participants that they have there, although the bulk of it will be juniors. It takes a lot to coax our seniors here to give a weekend to play chess, but if it is presented as a social event rather than competitive, it may just work. 

SPONSORSHIP

Malaysia has had the generosity of Datuk Tan Chin Nam, whose unfailing sponsorship of the event by way of the Function Room in the MidValley Cititel and prize money in conjunction with the other sponsors delivered RM17350 ( SGD 6940). Not big money in Singapore, but the buzz it creates for the local chess scene is tremendous. Can we do better? I am sure we can, so long as the business plan is well crafted and substantiated with the 3 factors. 

Securing sponsorship for such events is no easy task for any organisation, be it the recepient or the sponsor. How much of the budget is allocated as advertisement to the sponsor and the rest to the organisational costs has got to be carefully worked out. I have seen too many events where not enough was done to tend to the sponsors' needs and thus there was no continued support hence. 

INFRASTRUCTURE

This is perhaps the only weak link we face - the number of arbiters, volunteers to enter the scores, set up the boards and score sheets, etc. But can't we utilise the schools to send their children who are not playing to do this under the VIA scheme and earn CCA points for it? We should start to garner help by having enough parties to take up the FIDE arbiter course, then get them to officiate this event to earn their wings. 


COMMENTS FROM CHESS PARENTS PART 2

Once again, my blog is open for comments from parents. Please post your comments if you are a chess-parent on matters which are of concern to you and your child regarding chess.

The floor is once again open. Let's keep it clean.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

OUR OWN NATIONAL CHESS CONVERSATION

On 2 August, a landmark meeting was convened between the SCF and interested parties to discuss key pressing issues regarding the popularity of chess in Singapore and its continued survival.

Led by VP Leonard Lau, he correctly assessed that the number of children playing chess, especially in secondary schools, has dwindled and this needs to be addressed. Other areas of concern include the current branding of chess amongst Singaporeans, the education of chess ethics to the young chessplayers' parents instead of players themselves, beefing up the chess organising infrastructure in terms of new organisers and staff, eg arbiters and volunteers and so on.

Many ideas were offered and feedback sought amongst those who attended, a number of them stakeholders such as chess schools, trainers, arbiters and parents. It was felt that that the current chess tournament calendar was a little too intense, with little opportunities for one to play casually. Some opined that the present Grand Prix system needs to be reviewed as it requires compulsory participation should be in the running for the top prizes.

Through Leonard the audience did get an insight of how the public at large looks at our chess community. The public sees chess-players as cloistered, insular beings who do not integrate with others socially (as chess is individualised in many respects), sedentary as opposed to physical (which does not augur well with the current sports authorities). It is little wonder that chess-related initiatives do not receive support from institutions like the Centre for Physical Education, the Schools Sports Committee where the emphasis is to get schoolchildren to do more physical activity at school. To this end, the SCF would soon initiate a dialogue with the school principals on how to take the role of chess in schools further, with emphasis of chess as a tool for character building and family value cultivation. Apart from this initiative, more needs to be done in outreaching chess to the various other sectors like the disabled, the under-privileged and the elderly.

I am all for this form of engagement by the SCF as it tries to bridge consensus with feedback from interested parties. Taking the lead from our government, there is greater urgency for the chess-governing body to listen and at the same time share perspectives and explain constraints faced in their aim to promote chess today. The chess education market is a huge one and certainly requires involvement from every stakeholder who should contribute ideas and action to keep the chess scene vibrant, albeit for financial reasons eventually.

Monday, July 22, 2013

ZHONG KAI WINS WHAMPOA CHALLENGERS 2013

Tan Zhong Kai, a 13 year old student from Victoria School has won the Challengers Section of the Whampoa Open Rapid Chess Tournament held over the weekend with 6/7 pts, finishing ahead of several seasoned and higher rated competitors.


My congratulations go to him as he has put in diligent work towards his game. Well done!

Monday, July 15, 2013

RATING CHANGES JULY 2013


The July ratings reflect some healthy increases in ratings for the ones who have worked at their game, Royce Tan once again gained 127 pts from his last rating to increase 150 since his January rating. Hui Ling was taking part in more competitions this year and has done well in the last 2 tournaments to gain a hefty 89 pts from April to total 122 pts gained since January. It was a slide for last quarter's top performer I Shiuan, whose performance in the Serangoon and Teck Ghee tournaments caused him to lose pts mainly due to unfamiliar opening play from his opponents. Hopefully we've patched that and the decline should cease. Malcolm and Bryan made modest gains, but with correct thought processes shaped during our sessions they should make bigger process.

A few have dropped out of the list owing to O Levels and PSLE which made them inactive. Finally Tricia Koh joins the list after a long wait of 2 years! Hopefully she would find more time to play and improve her rating.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

CHANGING THE FORMAT IN INTER SCHOOLS?

This year's National Inter-Schools is slated to begin 31 August - 1 September. As usual, going by statistics over the last 3 years:

BOYS U14
    TEAMS SCHOOLS     PLAYERS
2010 18 15 90
2011 13 10 65
2012 12 9 54
SEC OPEN
2010 31 25149
2011 29 18 136
2012 30 24 146
OPEN 2010 16 10 73
2011 10 8 48
2012 12 8 55


Note that the Secondary Open section is combined with the Girls U16 category, otherwise the numbers will drop if we are to measure only boy's participation. I am sure the number of ladies playing in secondary school has dropped but will need to work out the statistics at another post.

The trend that fewer schoolchildren engage in chess for school competition after they turn 16 years of age shows a gradual erosion of interest (seen from the number of players still playing in the Open). This could also be due to the fact that some schools may have closed their chess clubs since 2010, notably ACS Barker, SJI amongst the top schools. Others may have closed their chess clubs but we'll need some sleuthing from visiting MOE websites of these schools to find out. 

My point is that this is a worrying trend for chess development in Singapore, especially if we detect erosion of interest in the Secondary Schools where the budding talents from the Primary Schools wither owing to the dominance of the top 3 ( RI, ACI, HCI) and leave little to the rest of the participating schools to garner any meaningful titles. We urgently need a relook of the current format of awarding accolades to help the schools that participate but do not win anything annually. Create 2 leagues perhaps (much like the EPL) so that the weaker schools can also emerge tops in their own league? Change the structure so that each school is represented not by age-group but have them represented as a collective team from U14-U16 (total of 10 players a team)? This will eliminate the favourites from having amassed a huge pool of talent from 1 bumper year of new students and also allows those schools which do not have enough students in the age-group category to compete. 

Whatever the solution, I urge the newly formed EXCO to seriously deliberate on this issue as the erosion will negate much of their presents efforts in trying to sustain growth in numbers of schoolchildren after they leave their primary schools. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

SCF EXCO 2013-2015

At today's AGM held at the SIGC Conference Room, a total of 25 people attended with the agenda of electing the next Executive Council for 2013-15. In attendance were some trainers, players and Life Members notably NMs Koh Kum Hong and Mark Choong Liong Onn, as well as IM Chan Peng Kong, Xavier Chua and a few parents plus the outgoing EXCO.

At the stewardship of Treasurer Leonard Lau, the finances of the SCF improved with a healthy surplus. The auditor has commended the outgoing Committee for their efforts in turning round the SCF from its dubious position 2 years ago towards proper governance in managing its financial affairs.

At the end of the elections, which was mainly a slated affair with the team as listed below:

           President    :  Ignatius Leong
Vice - President    :  Leonard Lau
                                 Kenneth Tan
                                 Shashi Jayakumar

          Treasurer    :  Ang Hao Yao

 Council Members:  Luke Leong
                                Jason Goh
                                Tony Tan
                                Tan Lian Ann
                                Mark Choong Liong Onn
                                Fan Kow Hin    

General Secretary:  Dr Lee Chien Earn    

The current committee is a mix of young and experienced ex-EXCO office bearers. Kenneth was in the President's seat in the 2004-5 term which saw the SCF  engulfed in a law suit, while Lian Ann and Choong were active in previous EXCOs as President, Vice President and Treasurer. All 3 have business connections which may aid the SCF in its preparations for the hosting of the 2014 World Amateur Championships in Singapore in April 2014. My hope goes in that the EXCO will look into the issues I've raised in my earlier posts concerning the shortage of organising manpower, the erosion of interest in chess amongst the secondary schools.

I've asked what was the status of SCF's licencing scheme of players going forward. The returned President has stated that the scheme is undergoing so fine-tuning but will be implemented in due course. Although there were some concerns raised by a member about the lack of international GM tournaments similar to that of the Bangkok Open, it was generally a cordial meeting.

My congratulations to all elected members of the EXCO.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SCF AGM 2013 - YOUR COMMENTS

As I know not many are SCF members and may not have the privilege of voicing their views regarding chess matters in Singapore, I once again open the floor to you to air your views. Kindly state your name even if you are entering your comments anonymously. I will do my best allow them published so long as it is constructive to the chess community at large.

I can help to table some of your concerns if you cannot be there.

The floor is open.



Monday, June 10, 2013

AAG2013 HAPPENINGS

The Standard Chess event started on Saturday 8 June at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel in Chiang Mai Thailand. Singapore has the largest contingent of trainers here, working hard round the clock to guide the players before each game and post-mortems after.

I was taking care of my 3 charges, 2 of which were ill from flu and recovering from fever and cough. But I am very proud of them as they showed good spirit, played their games with grit and managed decent scores.

Royce Tan is currently on 2.5 out of 3 points, scheduled to meet the Indonesian 4th place finisher at Hue last year. Our preparations have been most useful in anticipating the positions that we are confident in scoring. Most U10 players do not pay much attention to their openings so it is a great boost of confidence when we see our preparation yield results. I am counting on 2 more wins today from Royce so that he gets the award of going to the next AAG with a 50% subsidy as promised by SCF President Ignatius Leong!

Hui Ling scored 1 out of 3 games, but she had a winning attack which could have been converted to a full point if only she had remembered her plans shown in our earlier lessons. Having known her Rd 3 opponent was the WCM Teh De Jen, she managed to hold the Malaysian star to a draw in spite of her health condition 
and I was very proud of her achievement. Today she will be playing White.

Shi Hao has so far scored 1 out of 3 inspite of an incessant cough that bugged him from the start of the event, but recovering. Hopefully he gets to do well today.

Seeing the familiar faces from the Malaysian contingent like Greg Lau, Mok, KK Chan reminded me how long it has been since the last Singapore vs Malaysia match. It was good catching up on news and happenings and forging stronger bonds of collaboration and understanding.

More to come.

Monday, May 27, 2013

THOMSON CUP INTERNATIONAL 2013

The turnout of 73 players was less than satisfactory, probably because there is still a week of school before the holidays begin on 1 June. Nonetheless, the tournament went ahead with the best playing conditions for the participants and we truly thank those who came to play.

Some of my students took part, all except 3 won prizes. For the Silver section, Nicholas Low finished 11th while Zhong Kai and Nicholas Teo came in 17th and 6th respectively. Adrian Yeo won Best Performance for Gold Section (as he was rated below 1600 and came in 13th). 

 

I managed to persuade my new student to play and he enjoyed his tournament making friends in between games.

                                   

The games at the Gold Section were fiercely contested, with Tan WeiLiang and Jared Neubronner (both our past winners) leading the pack at Round 3, but fortunes started to change at the 2nd day. Weiliang could not convert his attack against Robert Suelo and lost, crashed against Cyrus the next round which ended his hopes of regaining the title. Robert continued his winning run with a win against Urcan Olympiu setting the showdown  between him and Tin JingYao in the final round. Interested readers can follow the commentaries wonderfully captured by Junior Tay here.  

For the first time in our tournament history, 3 players tied for first in the Silver section and the winner had to be settled with a playoff of 1 blitz game. The winner was Warren Lim who is now the Silver section champion and will look forward to playing in the Gold Section next year.



The winner on tie-break (as JingYao beat Robert and Urcan overcame Paul Butteumueller) was a beaming Cyrus Low who captured his first Thomson title, having outplayed Kelvin Wee at the last round. Cyrus was put to the test in games against Urcan ,who at one stage had a passed pawn ready to queen but was kept on the ropes to play for a draw in view of time pressure). He went into a theoretically inferior position against Tan Weiliang but kept his cool and started making inroads when Weiliang blundered a pawn who had 3 pawns for the piece plus rook against Rook and Bishop. A well deserved victory for Cyrus who has supported the tournament for the past 4 years and we look forward to his title defence next year.


All participants had burgers this year for their meals which went down well with the children. Hopefully we will get a better turnout next year. 

Thanks to Chris, Kenny, Hafiz, Weixiang and Brandon for all the help given during the 2 days! And of course to Thomson CC for the use of the hall.