Friday, June 15, 2018

June 2018 Tactical Training: Part 1

Wishing all our Muslim friends Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! Have fun!


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Women's World Chess Championship 2018 Highlights

While the World Championship traditionally receives the lion’s share of attention among top chess events, let us not forget its sisterly counterpart, who prefers to shy away from the limelight: The Women’s World Championship. However, that does not make the games from the Women’s Championship any less interesting. In fact, this year’s edition saw plenty of bloodshed as many decisive games were played out.

The 2018 edition of the Championships saw a 10 game match being played between the two contenders: Defending Champion Tan Zhongyi and Challenger Ju Wenjun. Let us look at some of the highlights from the match:

Tan Zhongyi (left) vs Ju Wenjun

Game 3

The start of the match already saw first blood drawn by Ju in the second game. Game 3 was a Queen’s Gambit Declined which looked to be a promising position for both sides, until Tan made a reckless mistake on the 14th move. This allowed Ju to launch a vigorous attack against Tan’s exposed king, and before long it was over:

Game 4

Tan got some payback in the next round, employing her own kingside attack that is typical of Stonewall Positions. The queen sacrifice at the end was a neat way to finish things off:

Game 5

By this stage, however, Ju was already leading by one point, and extended her lead further by winning Game 5. In this game, which featured a typical struggle against a pawn centre, Ju managed to secure a nice central advantage. Tan sacrificed a pawn to gain counterplay, but her plan backfired:

Game 6

Nevertheless, Tan was not going down without a fight, and bounced back to reduce the score difference to one point in Round 6. This was a truly amazing marathon game, where time trouble meant that Ju found herself defending a worse endgame. She defended accurately, but could not stop Tan from grinding to a win after a whopping 125 moves.

Obviously we are not going to look through every single move (unless you are the sort that enjoys watching those extended Taiwanese dramas), but we should focus on a few critical positions:

Ju eventually won the match 5.5 – 4.5 to become the 17th Women’s World Champion. Sadly, she only has half a year to enjoy her new title before having to defend it: This match took place later than expected, and the next Women’s World Championship is a knockout tournament that will be scheduled in November 2018.

Of course, the highlight of the year is still the main World Championship between the two Cs in November. Let’s hope their games will be equally exciting!

Setting the stage for November


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Return of the Old Guard: QCD SG Chess League 2018 Round 4

Today we shall look at another of my games from the QCD SG Chess League 2018. Now in its second year, the League is unlike most of the single day, rapid tournaments that were once commonplace in Singapore. Instead, it is a team event held over the course of several months, with games held on Friday evenings. Perfect for chess-playing adults who want a place to destress after their work.

The playing hall after Round 3 (Photo courtesy of Ong Yujing)

Oh, and did I mention that you need to be above 20 to participate in the event? That’s what makes it even more appealing: No screaming kids running around the place, or haranguing the arbiters over the touch-move rules. Such a nice, quiet environment to play in, which makes me regret not having signed up for the 2017 edition.

Return to the abyss, little ones

Round 4 was held last Friday, and it was a series of well fought games for my team despite suffering a loss. Incidentally, I was paired against one of my ex-seniors, who was also an NUSH alumni. The last time we faced off under tournament conditions (if my memory doesn’t fail me) was during a team event at PJC in 2010.

Well, old comrades we may be, but that doesn’t make the subsequent clash any less intense:

What can we learn from this game?

  1. Sometimes, it is good to just maintain the tension instead of releasing it so early, especially if you have the advantage. The pawn exchange on move 15 gave Black an opportunity to free up his cramped position.
  2. In my bid to break the stalemate, I ended up opening the position and gave the enemy bishop pair free reign. It is a simple strategic mistake which we should learn from: The two bishops are king of the open battlefield!
  3. When in time trouble, it is best to keep things simple instead of playing so aggressively; 31. Qa5 was simply asking for trouble.

I end off with an anecdote: After the game, my opponent told me that I had become a much better player compared to when we faced off 8 years ago.

My reply? “Yeah I train quite a bit, but the only difference it makes is that I take a longer time to lose!”

Definitely, I am still making poor decisions in time trouble even after all these years of competitive chess. It’s something for me to work on, which shows how the learning never stops!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Candidates Tournament 2018 Highlights: Part 3

We finish off our Candidates Tournament series by looking at the last few rounds. If the earlier games were dramatic, then the last few rounds were reaching fever pitch, as more blood was shed in desperate efforts to score those final, valuable wins.

Round 12 saw the tournament being blown wide open as Sergey Karjakin defeated Fabio Caruana to catch him in first place. This was also an incredible comeback for the former, who started poorly with 2.5/7 in the first half of the tournament.

An amazing comeback by Karjakin

Watch how Karjakin deals Caruana his first defeat in this tournament with the nice exchange sacrifice 17. Bxd5:

The same round saw another decisive game: Ding Liren scored his first win in the tournament against Shakriyar Mamedyarov, using an unstoppable queenside pawn majority:

Ding wins his first game in the tournament

With the tournament blown open in Round 12, four contenders had good chances to earn the challenger rights: Caruana, Karjakin, Ding Liren and Mamedyarov. Even Kramnik had a theoretical, albeit low, chance. The final two rounds were gearing up to be hotly contested fights.

Eventually, it was Caruana who emerged victorious from the mess, beating Alexander Grischuk in the final round to win the tournament by a full point:

With that, we round up our coverage of one of the most thrilling chess events in 2018. Congratulations to Caruana for earning his right to the World Chess Championship 2018, and here’s to more exciting games between Carlsen and Caruana in November!

History has been written, and will continue to keep doing so

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

All photos by Maria Emelianova/