Friday, October 18, 2019

IGC Training Games from Week 7 (AY 19/20 Sem 2)

Yes, I ain't dead yet. Just living on the edge. To show that I am still playing chess, here's a training game played two weeks ago in IGC's training session. My opponent was a newcomer to NUS IGC, but a good player he was.

Featuring another near-miss on my behalf... I was fortunate to get out of this game unscathed:

P.S. This game was reproduced from memory, so some of the opening moves may be out of order.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

NUS IFG 2019

The NUS Inter-Faculty Games are back, which means another tournament for NUS IGC members to hang out with each other. In the (few) games that I played this year, most of them were against fellow IGC members.

In the following game, my unorthodox decision to reinforce the centre with doubled pawns gave my opponent time to launch a strong kingside attack; it was only thanks to miscalculation on his behalf that I survived the attack. emerging down in material but with a strong centre as compensation.

Here's to more exciting games in future training sessions and tournaments!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

IGC Training Games from Week 1 (AY 19/20 Sem 1)

Yes, it's me again. Back after a two-month hiatus; the flight testing season of the previous summer meant that all other commitments had to be pushed to one side, including chess.

It's the start of AY 19/20 Semester 1, and that means a return to NUS IGC to play some training games. Here I share some of my games played over the last week; the mistakes in these games also show how much I need to catch up after not playing for so long.

The first game was a rather dull one that ended with a series of blunders that turned the game from a draw into a rout. However, it is also one of the cases of a successful defense against a passed pawn:

The next was a topsy-turvy game; my opponent had built up a huge advantage following a strong attack, but threw away the win under time trouble:

The final game was placed during IGC's first training session last week. I did not record the game, and have tried my best to replay it from memory; some of the opening moves might be out of order. The game takes us back to fundamentals: Don't forget about your tactics!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Carlsen's Killing Streak

Magnus Carlsen has been in great shape recently. After a series of setbacks in the previous year, he struck back with a string of tournament victories, from Shamkir in April to the recently concluded Norway Chess 2019. It reminds us of his famous remark during the World Championship 2018, when he was asked who his favourite player was:

"My favourite player from the past is probably… myself, three or four years ago.”

Those were the days when Carlsen was king, ever since his crushing victory in the 2013 World Championship. Perhaps the Magnus of the past is back to dominate the global chess scene again? Diehard fans certainly think so.

One thing is for sure: His victories in recent days have made for very good games, some of which we shall analyze today.

Our first is from the final round of the Shamkir Chess 2019, where Magnus had already secured tournament victory in the previous round. In such circumstances, most masters would settle for a quick draw and take the prize money. But not the World Champion, who proceeded to beat up Alexander Grischuk and finish the tournament with a solid 7/9 score:

After Shamkir, fans were looking forward to how Carlsen would fare in the Grenke Chess 2019. And he did not disappoint, finishing on top with a 7.5/9 score and an incredible performance rating of over 2900. But the highlight was his very first game, where he faced off against a young and rising star: Vincent Keymer.

While a 2800 vs a 2500 would look like an easy win for the former, Keymer nonetheless offered excellent resistance. Magnus had to endure a tough fight, before converting the point after Keymer blundered the endgame:

Keymer (left) vs Carlsen, Grenke 2019

Our final game came from the recent Norway Chess 2019. Just like Shamkir, the World Champion won the tournament with a round to spare -- although this time, he finished on a sour taste after losing to Caruana in the final round. For now, we look at his tournament winning game against Yu Yangyi, which is almost like a textbook example of play against the doubled pawns:

Clearly, Magnus Carlsen is still going strong, and the results prove him worthy to be World Champion for many more years to come. What further surprises will he bring us for the rest of 2019?

Carlsen at the Shamkir 2019 closing ceremony


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

NTU Championships: Part 3

As promised, here are my final two games from the NTU tournament.

I have lost count of the number of winning games I have thrown in previous tournaments. Fortunately, karma was kind to me on the day of the tournament, as it was my opponent's turn to throw his game!

The blunders here were simply dreadful, but it was amazing how my desperate defence was able to save the day:

As for the final game... what seemed at first like a miscalculation turned out to be a neat exchange sacrifice that turned out well. Not for my opponent, that is.

And that brings an end to my analysis of NTU tournament games. With many more rapid tournaments coming up during the summer vacation -- Nanyang Team Challenge, Queenstown Club, National Rapids -- there is no shortage of opportunities to keep improving. Ah, the tough but happy choice of considering which tournaments to register for...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

NTU Championships 2019: Part 2

Hope finals went well for everyone! At last, I can get back to analyzing my next two games from the NTU tournament held two months ago (!):

Game 4

Game 5

I will cover the final two games in Part 3

Monday, April 29, 2019

Nezhmetdinov's Queen Sacrifice

Its the finals season now, so I'm terribly hard pressed to write any decent articles. The rest of my NTU games -- and one recent QCD game -- are still waiting to be analysed, and they'll have to wait till after finals are over.

In the meantime, I found this annotated game that was analyzed in one of NUS IGC's training sessions quite some time ago. It is an outrageous looking queen sacrifice by the great attacking player Rashid Nezhmetdinov. While not as well known as Tal or Fischer, he is no less aggressive in his play, as his game beautifully demonstrates:

Monday, April 1, 2019

Brexit Memorial to be held on 12 April 2019

Gashimov Memorial, Tal Memorial, what's next? In a momentous announcement today morning, FIDE has announced the Brexit Memorial.

Yes, you read that right. In what FIDE officials described as a "tribute to the death of common sense in Great Britain", the Brexit Memorial was officially announced today. The opening ceremony is scheduled to be held on April 12, 2019, which coincides with Britain's departure from the European Union.

"We have been floating ideas of a Brexit tournament, ever since May's first deal was struck down in Parliament, " a FIDE spokesperson said. "That was when we realized that rationality was something that's going to be more and more precious in this world. Therefore, it is only right to hold a tournament in its memory."

However, it is unclear on who will be participating in the tournament. Many of the world's top players are competing in the ongoing Gashimov Memorial, and the unfortunate timing of the Brexit tournament means that the former's participants will likely be too exhausted to compete in another tournament so soon.

Or maybe they're just tired of all the BS going on in politics right now

However, the English Chess Federation has revealed that many of its top players have expressed their desire to participate in the tournament. "We keep trying to persuade them not to waste their time, and that we will organise bigger and better tournaments in Britain that will outshine anything else in Europe. But they won't listen." An ECF official lamented.

The players, however, gave their side of the story: "We want to play in an European tournament for free, one last time. Next time, we will have to pay taxes to even get past the border."

"They have warned that they will not invite us to the London Chess Classic should we participate. But we told them bull. As chess players, we should have the freedom to participate in whatever tournaments we want!"

Never mind the tension within UK's chess body. FIDE has other things to worry about, namely the handling of logistics for the tournament. Agon, the organization notorious for mishandling the FIDE Candidates 2018, has declined to take charge, lest they botch things up again. And obviously, the English Chess Federation has flat out refused to provide any sponsorship. With the tournament being mere weeks away, it remains to be seen who will be brave enough to take up the mantle of planning such a challenging event.

Or perhaps, if the UK government chooses to remain the EU on May 12, then FIDE's worries will be for nothing, as the Brexit Memorial will no longer hold any significance.

How will the battle among the politicians play out, and what impact will they make on FIDE's decisions as well as chess in general? As chess players, our one concern should be to play chess and not give a damn about politics... which is why you should not believe a word of what was said in this article. Have a happy April Fools, everyone.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

An IGC Training Game from Week 10

While I am still halfway through analyzing my NTU games (and trying to finish my assignments at the same time), I shall digress a little by going through a training game played during last Tuesday's IGC training. It is a good lesson on how to (and not to) exploit weak pawns in the enemy position, while looking out for counterplay from the other side.

Note that this game was reconstructed from memory, so take the analysis with a pinch of salt... not every move might be 100% accurate.

Finally, a bit of trivia that it was my opponent's first time at NUS IGC's training... good to see that more people on campus are becoming aware of our existence (:

Monday, March 18, 2019

NTU Championships 2019: Part 1

The NTU Championships 2019 was arguably my first official tournament of 2019, and the first time I was representing any organisation since 2014 (no, the QCD league doesn't count). Time to say goodbye to the good old days when I was playing for myself, and had nothing to lose...

Nah, I am still a free man.

But I am much happier with the games played that day, compared to my poor performance in the Cairnhill and JB Rapids 2018. Without further ado, here are my games from Rounds 1 - 3:

Image from NTU International Chess Club on Facebook

Game 3 was one of those YOLO games which highlighted my inexperience in making sacrificial attacks ._.

I will share the remaining games in Parts 2 (and 3?)

NTU International Chess Club Facebook Page

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February 2019 Tactical Training: Part 2

I should get this out before February ends!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

JB Chess Rapids 2018: Part 2

The last time I left off in the JB Rapids, we looked at a game where I built a very nice attack against the enemy king. Today, I shall share another game where I came on the receiving end.

Let's face it: In the following game, I played terribly. There were no less than 4 blunders, and while it was a 20 minute rapid with plenty of time scramble, that doesn't excuse the fact that some of my mistakes could have been avoided with a more objective analysis of the position.

Kudos to my opponent for beign able to capitalize on my errors to execute a swift and crushing attack:

What can we learn from this game?

Sometimes, our past experiences hold us back: We all know that grabbing pawns (especially those at the edge of the board) while our opponent is about to launch an attack is generally not a good idea. But in this case, capturing on b7 would not have hurt me, because it also opens up an avnue for me to counterattack! This could have been avoided if I had done a more objective analysis of the position... but my over cautiousness ended up backfiring as it reduced me from active to passive defense.

Let's end off with some lighter stuff: As the competition was located on the 36th level of JB City Square (in the office towers, not the shopping mall!), that gave us a bird's eye view of the city, as well as the Singapore coastline. It makes for some nice views that made the registration fees worth paying for.

Singapore's North-Western Coast. You can see the Kranji Dam on the middle-left, and to its right is Sungei Buloh. I have set foot there many times but never got to see it from a distance o.o

Sometime in the afternoon, I could literally see a storm blanket out the east side of Singapore. Alas, I have no photos of those (:

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A tribute to Vladimir Kramnik

Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have known by now that Vladimir Kramnik, the 14th undisputed World Chess Champion, has announced his retirement from professional chess. This came shortly after his participation in the Tata Steel Chess 2019.

Kramnik is best known for having dethroned Garry Kasparov in the Classical World Championship 2000, winning 8.5-6.5 without losing a single game. He then defeated Veselin Topalov in a 2006 reunification match to become the undisputed World Champion for the next two years. His contribution to opening theory -- notably the Berlin Defense in the Ruy Lopez -- was enormous, and his tough, positional playing style has cemented him as one of the best positional players in recent times.

Today, we will look at three of his sample games, where the Russian displays a fine combination of both positional and attacking play. Our first game took place in 1999, when he was on better terms with his long-time rival Topalov:

It was during the Classical World Championship 2000 that Kramnik rose to prominence, after defeating Kasparov to win the Championship. Game 10 was the critical round which gave Big Vlad his 2 point lead: It was indeed shocking to see Kasparov crash out in less than 25 moves:

Kramnik (left) vs Kasparov, 2000

Even in his later days, when young bloods like Carlsen, Caruana and Giri were making their mark, Kramnik proved that he was still a force to reckon with. In particular, his brilliancy against Aronian in the Candidates Tournament 2018 shows that he could still play vibrant, attacking chess if he wanted to:

Aronian (left) resigns to Kramnik in the Candidates 2019

It is a pity that another chess legend has left the global stage, but it is only a matter of time: The big names of the past (e.g. Kramnik, Kasparov, Anand and Topalov) will eventually give way to rising stars (Carlsen, Caruana, Giri, etc). Nevertheless, the impact that the former have made on modern chess will last forever. Let us wish Kramnik all the best in his future endeavours as he begins a new phase of his life!


Thursday, January 31, 2019

January 2019 Tactical Training: Part 2

End off the first month of 2019 the right way!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

JB Chess Rapids 2018: Part 1

SCF's rapid tournaments are becoming more and more expensive: From $30, to $40, and then $50 this year for the upcoming Hong Bao Rapids... Not surprisingly, it made more sense to look for more affordable options elsewhere. And that brought me to Johor Bahru's Causeway Rapids 2018, held just across the causeway last month.

One thing that surprises me is how well behaved the young players are over there. Unlike the typical SCF tournament where we see children screaming all over the place with flustered parents in tow, the kids in the JB Rapids don't exhibit that kind of behaviour. And the few that I played against had decent manners. It's something that I wish were more common in our local tournaments...

But enough of the commentary, and on to the fun stuff. Due to time crunch, I am only able to share an analysis of one game, but will be posting more in a follow-up article. This is probably one of the most fun games I had in a while, despite losing on time:

(Errata: My good friend has pointed out that after 18... Rdg8, the f7 pawn is immune because of Bxh2... thanks for pointing out!)

An opportunity lost, but a valuable lesson on risk taking learnt in this game!

In Part 2, I will catch up on a couple other games from the same tournament which I have yet to analyze.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

World Chess Championship 2018 Highlights: Part 2

This was supposed to have been written last month, but as usual things always get delayed by work. Still better late than never.

One cannot deny that the World Championship was the highlight of 2018. Even though all classical games ended in draws, to say that there were no good fights would be a great injustice to both players. Today, we look at two of the most exciting battles from the classical match.

Caruana vs Carlsen, Game 10

In top-level matches, the opening games are usually quiet affairs, as both sides test each other out. Think back to the World Championship 2013 between Carlsen and Anand, where the lack of fireworks in the first two games prompted someone to write a (misguided) article lamenting the current state of top-level chess. But not this time. Already in the first round, we see Carlsen pressing an advantage on the kingside. It was only after a few inaccuracies, and Caruana's resolute defense, that the game equalized and ended in a draw.

The next game that we look at is Game 10. After 9 consecutive draws, an interesting struggle manifested, with both sides pressing hard on both wings. For a moment, it seemed like a decisive result was poised to occur... only for the fireworks to peter out, with peace agreed. But what a hard-fought peace!

There is no doubt that both players are fabulously strong, and so closely matched that the Championship had to be decided by tiebreakers. Carlsen will stay at the top for at least another two years, but who knows whether a stronger Caruana will return to take up the challenge again?

The closing ceremony after a three-week battle

All photos by Maria Emelianova/