Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 IN SUMMARY

This year passed really fast, with the pace of competitions increasingly punishing as well. With more on my plate, it is necessary to monitor all students closely and with 2015 looming, a heavier schedule means less time for personal recreation.

Those who have put in conscious effort had better results especially Sue Lyn, Malcolm, Gavin and Bryan. Gavin trained till May before he stopped for PSLE and resumed right after. Sue Lyn managed to overcome her 2 nemeses this year and I am very proud of her. We look forward to bigger successes next year at the coming AAG in June, by then she should be ready.

Those who did not do well in the National competitions this year ought to reflect on how they spent their time. I believe most of the students in this category did not take their lessons to heart and made effort to remember what was covered. Upon going through their games, many mistakes especially in counting and calculation were spotted. Opening variations were not well executed, often the critical moves in the variations were forgotten. These were attributed to either not having enough time or other preoccupations like computer games or TV.

In chess, success can only be expected after much disciplined and consistent practice and study. Even if it takes 30 minutes a day, regular chess work developed into a routine will ensure that knowledge will be assimilated through the playing of online games and dutifully following the thought process taught.

With 4 schools and 32 students in total, I am beginning to see the need to monitor the output of my students' homework even more closely. My leniency in not checking all their work has resulted in some slacking.

Less emphasis will be made in introducing newer material next year but more exercises will be planned. In addition, I will  make sure that they can record their moves with confidence and know their squares on the chessboard whether from White's or Black's perspective. This is the cornerstone of chess strength as it aids visualising of pieces on the squares.

Overall, I wish that more could have garnered better results at the NAG but then, what's past is past. We move on, know what needs to be done and improve.

2015 TIMESLOTS FULL


Finally managed to fill my 2015 schedule. Thanks to all parents who co-operated and accommodated to make this happen.

However, there are some sacrifices and I say goodbye to Shannon, Natalie, Joshua, Julius, Zach,Jaryl and Aidan with a heavy heart. All the best to you for 2015.

Welcome aboard Sherwin, Darwin,Tian En, Ryan, Lucas, Alyssa, Joven and Portia! Let's make 2015 a fruitful year of success! Work hard and I'm sure you will be duly rewarded.

My congratulations to Sue Lyn, Malcolm, Gavin and Bryan for having the most outstanding results this year. You shall be the role models of the group and many will look up to you. Keep up the good work!

Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

NATIONAL RAPID CHALLENGERS 2014


Sue Lyn decided on participating this event on a whim. It was after the National Rapid and I guess she wanted to redeem herself after the slightly disappointing showing there. She rattled off a series of wins in the first 5 rounds, beating the likes of the Champion, along with Alfred Chua and Elmer Arrocena who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. She also took the Best Women's Trophy ! Though she lost the next 3 games, she managed to compose herself to win the final game and secured 6/9. 

If only there was more time spent on reading my opening notes...still, a most commendable effort!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

NATIONAL AGE GROUP 2014

A total of 366 registered for the National Age Group Championships played at the Jurong East Sports Hall. Some foreign entries from India, Malaysia spiced up the competition and gave our local juniors good opportunities to pit their skills against.


 The above managed to garner some of the trophies and my congratulations to them for the work they put in their preparations. Gavin lost the playoff for the best Singaporean result in the Under 12, while Cadence was 10th in the Under8. Sue Lyn lost her last game against Amanda Chan, having beaten the other 2 favourites Erica Chin and Kong U-Ham to finish 4th overall. Bryan came in 8th place overall.

Caleb and Isaiah not in the pictures

Others who took part missed out of the top 10 places but I'm sure they had all matured during the gruelling 4 days. Some took defeat painfully and could not continue, while on the other end of the spectrum, we also have those who did not think much about losing a game. The correct attitude towards treating a loss should be: yes, it is painful but more importantly, one must seek the reasons for the loss with deep analysis of the game played and errors are to be sought and corrected. No improvement can be attained if this critical step is not taken in every chessplayer's career. 

We had a workshop conducted to ensure that they understand how the pace of the game must be slowed in order to minimise losses. However, many are still trying to cope with the pace of play and made unforced errors. Opening lines were also not well memorised and therefore their games drifted into unknown territory. Besides time management, preparation for such a tournament also requires well-studied middlegame positions and clear understanding of the endgames that will result. 

 Indeed, it takes a lot of conditioning before they can perform at standard chess. To those who did not score above 4 pts, there is work to do in the areas you are weak at. Generally, I am satisfied at the overall behaviour of my students throughout the 4 days. We now take a short break and brace for the next major event - Back to School!







MY STUDENTS AT TOA PAYOH WEST TOURNAMENT

Here are some of my students who took part in the Toa Payoh West CC Tournament on 7 December, playing in the Under 7, Under 9 and Under 13 sections.

The U13 Section was won by Tan Qi Xuan who I taught for over a year. He was able to focus on his game and between rounds read my opening notes whilst his friends were busy playing with their computer games. Hence his victory was well deserved. Drawing the last game, he scored 6.0 pts out of 7 and took home $55 cash plus a trophy. 


                             



My other students fared well, Arshia winning the Under 7 section with full score, while Christian (3rd in Under9), Rui Yang, Jaryl, Jasper and Joshua (5th placing in Under13) )took home trophies as well. Ju;ius and Teck Yong managed 6th and 7th respectively in the Under 9.


Jaryl took a break from chess and resumed his lessons to prepare for this tournament. A 7th placing is a satisfactory result His brother Jasper started in September and managed to score 4.5 pts finishing 6th position 




My only tournament this year got me a veteran's prize of $50 in overall 13th position, losing 3 games which gave me a lot of insights in my play. I shall annotate 1 of them in the near future.

Monday, December 8, 2014

COMMENTS FROM PARENTS ON NAG AND DIALOGUE

Dear parents of young chessplayers,

I'm sure many of you will have useful feedback and comments regarding the dialogue session conducted on Sunday. The floor is open, please state your name and feel free to say what you feel. I shall not be publishing anonymous comments without names attached.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

NAG 2014 HALFWAY MARK

The following results of my students after 4 rounds of the 2014 National Age Group:

Zachary Leong                Boys  U8        2.5 pts
Cadence Loh                   Girls  U8        2.0 pts

Lee I-Shiang                   Boys U10       3.0 pts
Isaiah Ng                        Boys U10       2.5 pts
Malcolm Sow                 Boys U10       2.0 pts
Naython Tan                  Boys U10       2.0 pts
David Tan                      Boys U10       1.5 pts
Cheong Sue Lyn            Girls U10       3.0 pts
Shannon Ooi                  Girls U10       2.0 pts

Gavin Koh                     Boys U12       2.5 pts
Caleb Loh                      Boys U12       2.0 pts
Jonathan Tan                 Boys U12       1.5 pts

Bryan Sow                    Boys U14        3.5 pts
Natalie Tan                   Girls U14        0.0 pts

Results of course do not tell the whole story; there were instances where some finished their games way before the first hour was through, accepting draws when there was ample opportunities to try for a win. Caleb managed to upset Delroy Singh on Round 2:



Overall, many who scored more than 2 points were concentrating on their games but need to slow down , use their time to field their best reply.

Monday, November 3, 2014

MY LITTLE CHESS SET GALLERY

Time to dust off my chess collectible playing sets, so why not parade them?


The above is the Swedish Tavling's model set that was widely used in Scandinavia during the time I was there during 1989. Its uniqueness lies in the pawns which have a wide base,very stable but hard to execute captures, so not very blitz friendly. The Knights' necks  are angled and gives a nice touch to hold. Not weighted.



I have quite a few of these sets which I bought from a warehouse in River Valley Rd when they were closing in 1981. Only $15 a set as they were clearing their warehouse! The laquer is coming off but otherwise still playworthy. These were the top-range French sets made before the Chavet line and were used mainly in the 70's and early 80s. Gave several of them as gifts and only 3 remained. 



My Chavet set is not with me but the German Staunton (currently the model used with most DGT boards) is now the de-facto tourament standard. These I got rather cheaply from a sportshop in Peninsula Plaza but they have stopped importing, so the owner says because there is no demand. Sad..


My Russian friend took this from his apartment in Moscow and give it to me ! Thanks again Leonid! This is a GM3 Soviet set used in tournaments in USSR back in the 60s to 70s but now no longer in production. Though I had the GM2 set before (bought in 1992 from a player at the Manila Olympiad), I lost that during my move to my current place. That had a plastic Knight's head instead so I wasn't too fond of it.


The Indonesians are great craftsmen and it shows in their attention to detail in their Staunton design. The Knights are intricately crafted. Though the wood is not so good but the crafting made up for it. Bought this from a vendor displaying them at the last World Amateur Championships in April this year.


When I was returning to Singapore in 1989, I stopped over London for the Candidates match then played at Sadler Well's theatre. Karpov was on the ropes against Yusupov, Speelman was battling Timman. While I was there I visited Peter Morrish at Edgeware who persuaded to me to take his last 2 wooden sets for a bargain of 30 pounds a set. Later I was to know that they were the replica of the Reykjavik 1972 set used in the Fischer - Spassky match! A gem.


I came across this Zagreb set on chess.com going for USD40 and couldn't resist. Managed to get my childhood friend to bring it on his visit to Singapore. The Knights looked drooping (typical of the old Russian design) and   there were crosses on the Kings (which were evidently absent from the Dubrovnik set). 

Still short of the Spanish, Hungarian playing sets and I believe I should have completed my personal collection of playing sets. Working on it..

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MY DUBROVNIK SET IS HERE!


Took 24 days to arrive but well worth the wait! I now own the Dubrovnik 1950 Olympiad chess set that Bobby Fischer uses for his game analysis. His set is not weighted but mine is double weighted.

That makes it more a playing set that an analysis set, but still I love the carved knights and the absence of the cross for the King ( suitable for Malaysia and Indonesia). It's got a nice feel when gripping the pieces, the pawns are sturdy and sit promptly when released. Can't ask for a better set. Need to find the right sized wooden board to complete it.

Interested parties can find this at www.chessbazaar.com. They are based in India and are reputable. 

Will be featuring more of my collected Staunton pieces later.

THOMSON CHESS CLUB RESUMES FRIDAYS!

Yes, we are once again open from 730pm on Fridays starting tomorrow and will remain open each Friday till end of the year.The last Friday session for 2014 is on 27 December.

Those wanting to gear up for the coming NAG are advised to come and register with me at jfan2003@gmail.com if you are keen to take part in the endgame league. This is where you can get to play endgame positions with 45 minutes per side, so you can learn to slow down and simulate the NAG environment. The positions (with equal pieces for both sides) will be set up on the day itself. All games are to be recorded. This league will start this Friday and end on 28 November. All registered participants MUST complete the 5 games. We need 6 players minimum to start.

See you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

THOUGHTS ABOUT THOMSON CHESS CLUB

Thomson Chess Club is open to all players from age 7 and beyond, however we have seen declining numbers from adult players over the last 6 months. As convenor, I would have to make some hard decisions over the future of the club sessions.

With the convenience of playing over the Internet, it is not a surprise that most adults are beginning to shy away from over-the-board chess. So far the main interested group of chessplayers is the Bulldog team made up of mainly Filipino expats. I laud them for their enthusiasm in wanting to play wherever they can, whenever they can. Such passion existed amongst our local players years ago but sadly with the shift in emphasis on age-group events, the adult scene has been neglected.

Though we as organisers try hard to entice the adults to return to club sessions by providing decent playing conditions, it is hard to content with busy schedules, priorities on other interests and lack of motivation on one's part to play chess for its sake.

Therefore I am contemplating limiting the club sessions to only 30 Friday nights next year. These sessions shall be extended 1030pm latest (pending the CC Management Committee's approval) in order to allow the players time to finish the league games if we start at 8pm sharp. I shall be broadcasting details of the new league next year during the Club Championship on January 25th 2015. If there is still little interest then, I may continue for 2015 but cease the club sessions altogether come 2016 unless there are interested parties willing to take over the running of the club.

2015 LOCAL CHESS CALENDAR


I've made this 1 page image of the 2015 Local Chess Calendar which I think will be useful for players wanting to know what's happening for next year.

The information is current as at 11 October though there are notable missing events such as:

Public Service Star Games (normally in March)
Queenstown Age-Group (normally in April)
TCA Junior Chess Championships (held on Good Friday)
Queenstown Club Championship  (normally in June)
5th Patrick Tay Chess Challenge (normally on 2nd week July)
Queenstown Open Championship (normally end August)
Teck Ghee CSC Community Chess Championships (normally September)
Toa Payoh West Championship (normally in 1st week December)

Cairnhill CC is undergoing renovation and will not be hosting events till further notice from their convenors.

The Thomson Chess Fiesta is shifted to March 26 to make way for the Asian Schools' Championships, inevitably so due to the low participation rate from the adults.


Monday, September 22, 2014

2ND TECK GHEE CSC COMMUNITY CHESS C'SHIPS


2 students, Naython and Isaiah took part in the U10 section of the above tournament. Naython finished 3.5 pts while Isaiah took 2nd place ( 2nd from right in photo) with 6, losing only to Zeke Ng who won. I am very pleased to see Isaiah finally breaking into the 6 pt scoreline, spending his time to find better moves and translating them into winning games. Naython can learn something from this I'm sure. 

I've observed many who brought game cards to play while waiting for the next round to start. Isaiah was quietly tucked in a corner reading his opening notes and preparing for the next opponent. The photo above tells you who has spent his time wisely. 

My long-awaited sabbatical comes in a week's time and looking forward to preparing materials for my students in the upcoming National Age Group in December, as well as those going for the 1st Johor International Open. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2014 INTER SCHOOLS

 RGPS mustered 2 U11 teams and 1 U9 team for the 55th National Inter Schools' Team Championships at Rulang Primary on 31 August Sunday.


The Team 1 comprises P5s  Loh Xin Yin, Isabelle Chiang, Emily Hu and Stephanie Tan with Joyce Ng (P4) as Board 5.













While Team 2 has Jessica Chan, Deania Duan, Natalie Tan and Shannon Ooi (the only P4) with Cleo Ng on Board 5.



Elizabeth Lek, Mak Wy En, Alexis Ang, Lim XuanQi and Iness Kuma made up the U9 













The U11 teams fared averagely scoring 11.0 to 11.5 pts against the fancied opponents like Nanyang Primary, Northland Primary. However, they emerged 2nd and 3rd in the South Zone with SCGS taking 1st place. The U9 girls were South Zone Champions ahead of Overseas Family School. 


The girls' were generally disciplined and well behaved throughout the competition though they could have fared better with more practice time on their own. In view of that, their performance was satisfactory. Hopefully we can get a new crop of P3s who can be motivated further to push for top honours as I'm sure there's no lack of intellect and talent in RGPS.

The South Zone U11 prize winners
 
The South Zone U9 Champions!

Thanks go to Ms Shahina and Mdm Lim for chaperoning the girls while I was at the Tournament Hall. As we wind down the CCA curriculum, congrats to the girls on their achievement! Well done









Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THOMSON CHESS CLUB SESSION AUGUST

For the remaining weeks in August, the Club shall be open and welcome all schoolchildren who wish to come Fridays from 730pm to practice and warm up before the National Inter-Schools competition on 31 August.

We should be able to cater up to 40 players, of course the equipment is supplied at a first-come-first-served basis, priority given to members. Please bring your own chess clocks if you fear that they are given out. We will have enough sets to go around.

See you all Friday!

Address:                  3rd Floor Classroom
                                Thomson Community Club,
                                194 Upper Thomson Rd
                                Singapore 574339

Directions:  http://www.streetdirectory.com/sg/thomson-community-club-cc/194-upper-thomson-road-574339/9151_101829.html

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

AFTERMATH

I think Nigel Short sums it pretty much in this short interview he gave to the local paper about the state of affairs that had occurred in the concluded FIDE Presidency Elections:

http://www.vgtv.no/#!/video/86186/sjakklegende-det-som-skjedde-i-dag-er-en-stor-tragedie

The sad fact is that the demon they were trying to exorcise is apparently mainly due to their past misdeed of breaking away from FIDE and creating the PCA to further their own interest. With the series of events from 1994 leading to the downfall of Campomanes, the void was filled in 1995 by Kirsan and since then the chess world has not seen the light of day.

In a certain way, the situation parodies what happens in the current local chess scene, where it is near impossible to upseat the incumbent owing to the rules that govern the electoral process. Membership is controlled and therefore no one can get a fair shot at it. Therefore, it would not be surprising to hear rumours that a new world body may be born should the disgruntled supporters of Team Kasparov decide that FIDE is beyond redemption. However, in Singapore this would not happen mainly because there is simply no one willing to take up the mantle to further the cause of chess for the betterment of posterity.

Now that all bets are off for the Kasparov Chess Foundation to invest further in chess for schools program here, we will have to fall back on our own resources to get things moving. The malaise that will follow for the next 4 years means that there is little hope of expecting positive changes in the chess world that can impact the way the authorities see the game here.

Nonetheless, I applaud Kasparov for taking a year off his life for this campaign and I hope he will continue his quest to bring back civility into the chess world, if not in FIDE, then through his own organisation. He will need to redeem himself of his past misdeeds which sadly haunted him on 11 August. Perhaps now, the scores are settled and a new day beckons. Hopefully, we get to see the same here in Singapore.

SAD DAY FOR CHESS

It was not to be.

The incumbent won 110 to 61.

Another sad day for the game.

Somehow the dollars speak more than action and direction again..wondering when we're going to dispel this aberration of democracy?

Monday, August 11, 2014

DAWN OF A NEW ERA? OR PERPETUAL DARKNESS..

It's D-Day for the 2 combatants (right, combatants) as they enter into the last leg of campaigning for the FIDE Presidency which will shape events globally for the chess scene over the next 4 years. Last time around, Garry Kasparov was cut off in mid-protest as he called out point of order in the proceedings only to be ignored. Today, I am sure he can no longer be ignored in Tromso.

What will a Garry Kasparov victory mean to the chess world, rather, to the local chess scene? Here are some of my views:

REJUVENATED INTEREST

I am sure that those who follow the campaign trail will know the promises that Garry has proclaimed in the event that he wins. It will be a Herculean task to galvanise the chess world and make sweeping reforms to the current processes which hinder growth in chess popularity. Implementing the six winning moves will take time but I certainly hope it will trickle down to Singaporean chess players' interests. This will be the opportune time to rekindle interest in chess among the adults and near retirees. Much manpower will also be needed should Garry decide to embark on selling the Chess-in-Schools program to the Ministry of Education, as there will be demand for chess trainers and coaches to teach the game in schools.

SCF should seriously consider organising events for adults to play without having the participation of the juniors, especially team events held over 2 days during the July-August period (where hotel ballrooms are available due to the Seventh month lull). All it takes is a good sponsor for the venue and manpower and I'm sure the prizes need not be exorbitant. The key is to inject the fun element for such events which will bring back the missing hordes that used to frequent tournaments over the 15-20 years. With the return of the adults into the scene, more chess clubs can flourish and attendances grow with sufficient numbers availing themselves to run them.

IMPROVED PLAYER LOGISTICS

By this I mean lowering the rating fees, the admin fees all FIDE rated players had to pay. If Team Kasparov's promise to have a universal rating system for all games played holds, then the fee to maintain this rating should be low and affordable to every player here. How about charging this fee separate from the entry fee for each tournament (which used to work while SCF had its rating system then) and should a player play more than 5 tournaments, he need not pay the fee for the remaining tournaments played till end of the calendar year?  Surely this will act as an incentive for more players to take up the game.

SPONSORSHIP  

What currently ails our local scene is the meagre prizes offered for chess events. We used to see tournaments with $1000 first prize and more during the heydays of the Christmas Festival in the late 70s and Cairnhill tournaments in the mid 90s. With bigger cash prizes, most adults would be enticed to try their luck and polish their skills to make a comeback. Again, if Team Kasparov were to channel funds to run sizable events here, I am sure the local institutions like the Tourism Board or Sports Council will respond in collaborating to make it an international spectacle. Having the Anand - Carlsen match in Singapore, or the World Youth  is a possibility which I believe will spark local media interest. These are exciting projects for the newly elected FIDE team to fulfil their program and what better place to do it in!

Everything hinges on the news over the next 12 hours as we await the fate of the FIDE Presidential Elections. Never since 1994 has the Elections been so hotly contested and so much is now at stake in the well-being of chess world. Will the world see a resurgence of chess interest or sink back to the doldrums, lets count the moments to the results...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CHESS TRAINING AS 2ND CAREER

Many former chess-playing friends of mine are reaching retiring stages of their careers. Some have also pondered whether they would be made redundant in time to come as the brutal attrition at the workplace continues at a punishing pace.

I have known at least 2 who have made chess-training their 2nd career option. One is Winston Williams, a former player for ACS and ex Singapore Police Inspector now residing in UK. The other is Marcus Chan, whom I had worked with for 2 years at the CTEP in Malaysia and now a FIDE-rated player. Marcus had switched careers quite early on the contrary but I am sure he has made serious consideration on this matter.

When I decided to become a trainer back in 2003, I had realised that my days in IT were numbered owing to the quick advances in technology which I would have trouble keeping up with. Moreover, my passion in teaching chess started way back in the 80s since my student days in RI which convinced me that I had the knack for this trade.

Since then I had been looking out for strong players who are near 50 or over to consider teaching the game as a career. I would recommend it to them mainly because there is a market for it. Often I received surprising remarks that it is possible to make a living on chess by well-meaning friends and acquaintances.

The fact is chess training itself is mainly a teaching job and one must have the patience, the desire to impart the knowledge without any condition. Hence it is not good for active players to go into it if they worry about grooming their potential competition. Besides, what's often taught in schools are basic knowledge of endgames and simple tactics. Only the private students demand more in-depth knowledge of the game.

Besides having the ability to be understood, the other tools of a chess trainer are a constant lookout for instructional material. There's quite a lot floating on the Internet and if one searches diligently, you can find some good ones which you can adopt as lesson plans. I have great respect for guys like Pete Tamburro and Dan Heisman who willingly share their knowledge and write very good books for club players to improve. Dan also has videos which any budding player should look at if he wants rapid improvement.

Knowledge of chessbase is a pre-requisite I believe. You can prepare your lessons there and use it as a lecture when delivering it in schools. Quite a lot of chessbase files are also available on the Net for use.

For those with children, why not try teach your kids something simple and see if they understand you? A good test would be to explain the Queen and King vs King checkmate. If you can get them to understand it within 1 hour, then you have what it takes to be a trainer. If not, go work on your presentation skills or try to simplify your explanation. It is challenging but attainable.

I welcome any questions of chess training especially those wanting to change careers. Sorry but I cannot share information on incomes online as it is sensitive.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 : YEAR OF REFORMATION?

As SCF President seeks to reform chess at the world level by joining Team Kasparov, he will have his hands full from now till the August elections in Tromso. The chess world is holding its breath till then for the advent of long-awaited reforms to FIDE to reach out to the masses and gain bigger exposure for the royal game.

Yet however, there are also long-awaited and pressing reforms that need to be addressed at home should chess gain a bigger foothold locally. Though the SCF has aligned the Schools' competition into the format of the ECCA format, there remains a few other aspects that we in the chess community would like to see reformed:

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT

The current exclusivity of the National Championship, restricted to just players above 2400 (albeit with 2 wildcards) in my opinion should be rescinded. Even if it would cost some players their ELO points to play in the event. I do not think protecting the ELO points of the elite players would help the development of chess in the long-run. The fact is that budding Singaporean players from 2000-2300 ELO do not get a fair chance to play and try to improve themselves locally, causing them to seek their competition overseas which of course is a costly affair. The National Championship is one of the few standard-game tournaments held here and thus it should be at least open to anyone rated 2000 and above.

ENCOURAGE MORE ADULT PARTICIPATION

SCF should do more to organise competitions where only adults can play in - for the simple reason that not many of them would want to lose to juniors. Yes, I know it sounds silly but what can you do to FIDE-rated players who refuse to play kids in friendly games for fear of losing? Sad but if we need to revive the chess scene, we would need to encourage more adults to play by setting aside tournaments where their egos do not feel threatened. One of these could be the Inter-Team competitions which can be the continuation of the previous Inter-Clubs tournaments in the 80s-90s. In those days these tournaments do not see juniors participating. The casual format of gettting 4 adult players to form a team can persuade many a former player to take up the game and revive their interest, which can create opportunities to sponsorship of other similar events, Adults these days do not mind taking part in team events much like the Merdeka tournaments in KL which had grown to more than 100 teams taking part. I believe we can do the same here if we try. The ideal time control is perhaps 25 minutes with 5 sec increment so that the 7 round event can end in a day.

MORE ARBITERS

We would definitely require more arbiters to run so many events that it will be useful to conduct arbiter courses just before the National Age Group in November and have them officiate it. An estimated 8 to 10 more arbiters would be required to fill the gaps left by the previous generation of Mr Lim Chye Lye, Koh Sei Hian, George Wong, Tan Peng Huat and Douglas Wong who had served in the last 20 years.

NATIONAL SCHOOLS' CHAMPIONSHIPS

More needs to be done in the Schools' scene I feel as it is quite evident that many secondary schools are closing their chess clubs for lack of students joining. The reason? Most students who are representing their schools only get to play in 2 events a year and this is not sufficient to earn themselves CCA points for that activity. SCF can help either in creating more divisions amongst the schools to create more prize winners, or to create new competitions. Perhaps the National Schools' Blitz competition can be introduced ? It could then justify the trainers' costs if they had more competitions to prepare their students. Another one could be the National Schools' problem-solving competition or even 960 tournaments to allow more participation for the Secondary School students.

SELECTION

It is heartening to hear that there are steps taken to shortlist potential junior players to groom them for excellence, however I feel that it should be made known that those who are currently not in the National Junior Squad should also be considered in the shortlist. The terms can be spelt out to them and ultimately it is up to the player concerned to take up the offer and make adjustments to their training schedule with their personal coaches.

NATIONAL JUNIOR SQUAD AUDIT

As the program passed its 16th year from 1998, I feel it is high time an audit of the program is due. Some of the points of reference can be:

a. The efficacy of the program in terms of performance of students before and after they had joined, say over 4 terms.

b. Grading test results to track the students' progress in understanding of the materials taught

c. Feedback from students' on trainers' performance. Of course, the findings will be kept confidential and only used during performance appraisal.

Hopefully the EXCO can look into these points in their remaining year of office and make their due contribution to the local chess scene.


Friday, June 13, 2014

AAG 2014 STANDARD : AN ANALYSIS

The table of rankings for the various sections in the Standard category is compiled by me. Normally I exclude the U08 section as I believe real chess ability is perceivable at the U10 level and beyond. The results of the non-Asean countries are also excluded as I wanted a comparison of our performance against the rest of the ASEAN countries.

The legend shows those having played in last year's event in Chiangmai (perhaps in a lower age-group) as marked in bright blue, those playing for the first time in gold.


It is fair to say that the gold and silver medalists generally field no more than 1 first timer (with the exception of the Philippines in the Boys U12 and U16 and Girls U12). A bold move but it reaped dividends. Singapore had bronze meals in the Boys and Girls' U10 despite fielding 2 first-timers. Our lacklustre performance was in the U14 where we had an experienced team but finished 4th to Malaysia fielding 2 new players. The same goes for the U16 Boys where both Vietnam and Philippines had fielded 2 fresh faces but finished top 2 places. 

Fielding first timers often gives the element of surprise as there are little or no games that can be used for game and opening preparation. Of course, if the first timers are prepared well they can score heavily. 

My take on Team Singapore's performance is that for the U10-U14 category, we have started our preparations a little late. Our boys and girls in the U10-U14 do not have sufficient game practice in the Standard time-control and this is evident in the first 5 rounds where our players finished their games in little over an hour, despite warnings from the coaches. Another weakness was shown in their conduct of the endgames, where the Vietnamese and Filipinos do better in this department. Upon examing the game scores, I noticed that many of the top players here are content not to engage their opponents in tactics but play a safe middlegame, readily exchanging and start playing only upon reaching the endgame. In this department I find that our girls do not have the necessary strength to hold their opponents. 

More would need to be done in the weekly training at the NJS. My suggestion is to start gathering those interested in going for the tournament next year to start training at least 9 months before we head for the next edition in Ho Chi Minh city. For these players, 90 minute games per side would have to be worked into schedule and more importantly, not from move 1 but from endgame positions they've encountered. There's plenty of material from the games in Macao and Chiangmai to obtain those positions whereby players can improve upon their losses and play better. 

Though we have been preparing our kids on openings that their opponents use, I find that it does not do much to help them as their opponents generally avoid theoretical positions and tend to steer the game along positional lines. So my advice is that a lot more positional chess concepts would need to be covered in order to better prepare our players when encountering more quiet positions in their games.

Accompanying parents I feel play an important role in providing moral support and encouragement for everyone playing there, not just their own children. As first time parents to this event, it is important I believe not to make remarks on how impressive the Vietnamese and Filipinos are. Rather, we should always tell our own children that they are no worse and can do just as well if they set their hearts and minds to it. The other countries do not have the luxury of 7 coaches to help their players prepare for games, so surely we can do a lot better without having the psychological fear of them?

I must thank the wonderful team of Nisban, Tian Wah, May Hui, Hwee Khim and Dr Lee for great teamwork in administering the affairs of Team Singapore from the first of the event till its end. All who were there would agree that they have helped immensely in the settling down of all in Team Singapore and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the schedules are followed. Our players are well behaved generally so there were no incidents involving their behaviour. 

THOMSON ADULTS LEAGUE JUNE TO SEPTEMBER

Looking for 9 adult players minimum to start an adults' league.

1  Time control is 1 hr per side

2  Attendance is not compulsory however we accumulate points by player.

3  All games will be counted from June 20 till September 5.

4  Each player can player the same opponent twice but with different colours each game.

5  Open to all Thomson CC Chess Club members aged 16 and above.

Interested players please whatsapp me at 97985479. You can join the club by registering with the CC at the counter on 1st Floor. Membership is $18 for those aged 12 and above, $10 for those below. You need to hold a valid Passioncard before you become a member.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

CONSTRUCTIVE POLITICS IN THE CHESS WORLD

I lament at the way the current chess politics are conducted by the incumbent to intimidate, smear and mug-sling. Despite spending 19 years at the helm, the current FIDE regime has failed to popularise the game to the masses and indeed it is time for change - for the better I hope.

Much of the turmoil surrounding the World Chess Championship has been the doing of Kasparov since his breakaway from FIDE in 1990-1, But he has admitted his mistake in the chess.com interview and is now wanting to redeem himself by advocating chess in education. As a player, it is not easy to forgive 22 years of chess turbulence but being a chess teacher, I am eagerly awaiting the developments that can bring light to the darkness that our game is shrouded in.

I am much in agreement of Kasparov's view that the chief way of revolutionising chess lies in its educational and other values to the young - the opening of minds, the stress on concentration and thought behind each decision, the ability to overcome adversity under pressure and most importantly, acccountability for one's decisions. Hence it is in this frame of mind that I chose to renew my faith in the man that once nearly destroyed the chess world with his introduction of Kirsan to the scene.

Hence, back home, it is also important that we re-examine what is currently needed to give the local chess scene a boost. Rather than focus on the shortcomings of the current SCF adminstration, I would think we should look at the big picture by supporting the cause to launch chess education into the Singapore education system. This can only happen if Kasparov succeeds in Tromso in August.

So no matter how deep emnity that can be among rivals and friends-turned-foes, we would need to repair fences and forge new alliances if we truly love our game and see it grow in the right direction. Let us not waste time in answering to people who are committed to misunderstand us. I am supporting the cause and not the person, for that my conscience is clear.

15TH ASEAN AGE-GROUP MACAU 2014

As I write in the wee hours, whiling my time till my departure at 6am, 2 things came to my mind surrounding the event - my students and their state of preparation for the tournament, plus my own in analysing their opponents' games based on what's available.

We had learnt a lot about the Vietnamese and the Filipinos from the last event in Chiangmai, so I cannot stress the importance of fitness enough to our own boys and girls. The Vietnamese do not display great strength in their games, but they do have fitness and patience on their side. They can make safe moves and wear down anyone past 4 hours of play. Hence we need to be most alert entering into the 3rd hour to ensure no big endgame blunders appear. Many also chose not to follow the book moves but relied on simple opening systems hoping to avoid book preparation. Our players therefore need to know their endgames well in order to match their opponents once pieces are exchanged on their behest. 

Our current diet of rapid chess does not help our juniors develop endgame skills as the endgames are often conducted with less than 5 minutes of play left, leaving one no time to strategise or plan. Hence I am advocating games to be played not from move 1 but from positions taken from famous endgame masterpieces where one gets to guess and execute the correct plan made by the winner. This will give the juniors exposure and practice in conducting their endgames.

THOMSON CHESS FIESTA

The Thomson Fiesta saw the birth of 3 new events spawned from the Thomson Cup International of previous years - The Thomson Cup Rapid that attracted 42 players, the Thomson Challengers that garnered 49 players and the Blitz that saw 42 participants, a large number made up of foreign players. This is perhaps the first event in CC chess competition history where incremental time control was used.

Perhaps the turnout was a little less desirable but nonetheless, it was a comfortable number in the hall and playing conditions were most conducive for some real chess fights. 

For those keen on the results of the Cup Rapid, you can find them here. Cyrus Low did not return to defend his title so Jarred Neubronner came in strong at 9/9 to take the title. For the Challengers, Ling Kay Soon resurfaced after a long absence to win with 7.5pts, giving a gracious draw to the top junior finishing at the top 5 positions, 10 year old Cheong Sue Lyn. I admired her feistiness in grinding out the point and hopefully this instinct will stand her in good stead at the coming Asean Age Group Championships in Macau next week.

       

The Blitz saw Robert Suello clinching top spot with 8pts out of 9. It was not possible to complete the stipulated 11 rounds as that would mean the ones playing later in the Cup Rapid would do without lunch as the round would start right after the event, Some amendments will have to be made in next year's edition to accomodate the players playing 2 events at the fiesta.

As I glanced at my students' games throughout the 2 days, I am also monitoring their play. 

 

I-Shiuan played some good games, especially his win against Edwin Lam, Jeremiah Xie and Jonathan Kow but somehow he succumbed to Sean Christian Goh unexpectedly. Despite the result, he showed maturity at the handling of the incremental time control and balanced it well. His brother I Shiang somehow lacked the discipline of watching for his opponents' threats at every move and often found himself material down due to 2 move tactics which should be detected had he learnt to use his time wisely. The same goes for Naython, with the only difference that Naython did manage to record his games and could recall where he went wrong. It is this difference that will determine who will take strides to self-improvement and better his results at the next outing. David though missing the first 4 rounds managed to score 4/5 together with Nash, while brother Jonathan also did reasonably well at 4.5 pts.


The final picture of all the prize winners with the Thomson CCMC Chairman Mr Sng Jin Poh. We thank the CCMC for their support of this annual event and will strive to improvement the details to make it even more conducive for good chess playing next year.

Monday, May 26, 2014

CLOSING DATE NOW THURSDAY 10PM FOR THOMSON FIESTA

Participants can have up to Thursday 10pm to sign up for the tournament. I would suggest that you come to Thomson CC personally to make payment if you are afraid that your mailed entries cannot reach the CC in time.


Friday, May 16, 2014

THOMSON BLITZ JUNE1 SUNDAY 9AM

For interested players wanting to play in the Thomson Blitz, it is on June 1 Sunday 9am so we can give away the prizes in line with the other events.

This tournament is not rated.

Hope to see more enthusiasts in the 1st incremental time control blitz tournament!

Monday, May 12, 2014

THOMSON CHESS FIESTA ! MAY 31 JUNE 1

The annual Thomson Cup International comes back with a new format

THOMSON CHESS FIESTA

It is Singapore's first tournament played under incremental time controls at CC level competition. We have decided to take this bold step to drop the 60min per side time control due to problems in FIDE rating compliance. Having the tournament in 25 mins with 5 second increments allows each round to complete within 80 minutes and gives the players 9 rounds of chess instead of the usual 7. This tournament shall be FIDE rated under Rapid Chess. As such, foreign players wishing to participate must obtain their valid FIDE-ID when submitting their entries or it shall be rejected and their entries refunded.

In addition, we have added a blitz tournament also based on incremental time control (ie 3 minutes with 2 second increments) to be played Sunday morning from 9am sharp.

This will be a treat for those wishing to try out the incremental time controls over the sudden death modes. However, I do advise you try it out online first at the chess servers to get  a feel for playing under time pressure as precision is required at every move. 1 wrong decision can see your win disappear when the opponent gains material and will have time to convert the advantage so long as he/she finds the moves.

There will also be the Challengers tournament played over the usual sudden death of 25 minutes per side. The Challengers and Blitz tournaments shall not be rated.

Entry forms can be downloaded here.





Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 NATIONAL SCHOOLS INDIVIDUALS

It has been a while since the Primary and Secondary sections of the National Schools Individuals Championships were played on the same duration. The grand spectacle was officially opened by Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

My main activity for the past 2 days was primarily focused on getting my students to settle down amidst the hustle and bustle. Once the rounds started I left them to tend to their games, though some parents' however were glued to their childrens' moves. Some even resorting to prompting their kids' responses - this I find perturbing as we should not go beyond winning the game at all costs. 

I was tasked to groom the Lower Junior boys from Henry Park Primary and thankfully the efforts paid off with Michael Yeo and Gavern Ong garnering 8th and 12th placing. The others too  made good scores. 

Michael and Gavern with their medals

I-Shiang managed 8th place in the Junior Boys and I am proud of his achievement. All he needs is a little more determination and drive to reach the summit. Isaiah got into the top 20, probably his first time in the NSI. Other worthy results were Qi Xuan, Malcolm, Nash and David who put in good effort. Ryan, Naython and Joseph should reflect on their games, for they are capable of better results in my opinion. 

I Shiang (3rd from right)


Sue Lyn had a great tournament - she had Sunshine on the ropes in their game being a Rook up but could not retain her composure and stalemated. Nonetheless she played the remaining games with determination and got herself 2nd just behind Danielle. The 2 girls were her nemesis for some time and this tournament has closed the psychological gap. I believe it will not be too long a wait before she eclipses them. For her effort, she has earned the trip to play in the coming Asean Age Group championships in Macau in June. 

South Zone winners

A beaming Sue Lyn in her best result thus far
Another breakthrough occurred in the Senior Girls with Isabelle Chiang and Charmaine Sim from RGPS entering the top 20 circle. I am pleased that Isabelle has finally overcome her fear of her usual peers and played some good games to score. Charmaine's performance is also commendable being in the company of top Senior players like Hui Ling and Gillian. The other girls, Shina and Ashley should not feel too disappointed in their results for they had just joined Chess this year. 



Charmaine (extreme left) and Isabelle (4th from right)
 RGPS had 3 medal winners in the South Zone...



Working with Gavin for the past 2 months revealed a lack of confidence in his play - mainly from self-imposed mental blocks due to poor preparation. We managed to correct that, improving his focus on the game as well. This time he moved ahead of his notable peers like Alfred Chua, Carwyn Yeo, Heng Zheng Kai to finish 9th place. 

  

Royce managed 4th placing this time despite starting 5/5 on the first day, probably lacking in stamina rather than preparation.

Gavin Koh (extreme right)

Qing Aun joined VS this year and we were rooting for him to come in strongly. He did not disappoint and got 3rd placing behind Liu XiangYi and Tin JingYao. For the East Zone, VS garnered 4 medals with Qing Aun, Zhong Kai, Cephas Yeo and Ethan Low.

C Division East Zone medal winners

C Division top 3 winners

In summary, the majority of my students had delivered and I am extremely pleased with their efforts. Looking forward to the Team competition.