Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Here's Wishing One And All A Very Happy And Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Whatever Happened To My 4 Days?

The Australian Open is coming!!

Unfortunately, I would be working and thus unable to participate. However, I am tempted to pop in on Manly during one of the weekends to have a look.

The number of entries has swelled to nearly 50 for the Open Division and 40 for the U1600 section.

I wish everyone participating in the Open the best of luck and I wish the organisers as well for a good tournament!

Onto personal things, okay, my wife was away for 4 days and today she would be back. So let's see what I did during my 4 days.

1. Saturday - dropped my wife off at the airport. Went to work, ate dinner, watched Mythbusters (*cough cough*) and Iron Chef.
2. Sunday - housework, gardening, doing laundry, folding clothes, went for dinner with my aunt, uncle, Steven, cousin and family.
3. Monday - Went to the gym early in the morning, went to work..... errrrr.... spent 5 minutes on FICS (got beaten - actually got disconnected - internet connection keeps breaking up), slept early.
4. This morning - Went to work early so that I can go through one WC's annotated games (before work starts). Come evening, I'll have to pick my wife up later from the airport.

How much chess study did I get in during these 4 days?


I managed to learn a main tabiya during those 4 days. Unfortunately, that main tabiya only goes up till move 7 but I've finally understood why certain moves have to be played this way and why alternative moves are not so good.

Due to unforseen circumstances, I'll be working come this Saturday and Sunday and again on New Year's Day. Hopefully, things are quiet work-wise because I would really like to get cracking on some serious chess study.

Btw, Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games has been republished in algebraic edition. I'll have to try to get the book one of these days (as soon as I'm done going through another WC games collection book) and go through it for my own benefit and learning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

For Greg: Daniel King's Powerplay 8 Coming Soon

This blog post is for Greg of Greg's Chess Progress.

I know he is an avid fan of Daniel King's Powerplay DVD series so here's something I heard from the grapevine.

A little birdie told me that Daniel King is releasing his Powerplay 8 : Knights and Bishops very soon and it would be based on how to effectively use Bishops and Knights (well, duh *grin*).


The DVD would be out within the month.

The synopsis reads as follows:

"When we are starting out in chess we are told that knights and bishops both have a value of three points, but it is quite clear that in some positions a bishop is clearly superior to a knight - and vice versa.

After watching this 8th Power Play DVD you’ll have a better idea of how to play positions with knights and bishops – what to look for, what to avoid, and how to place your pawns. Throughout the DVD, specially selected positions will enable you to test your understanding of the subject."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homework Troubles

There's just no getting around it.

If I want to improve my chess, I have to do my homework - the hard yards, so to speak.

Unfortunately, it is easier said than done.

When I first started playing competitively this year, I'd realised there are severe gaps and defects in my chess knowledge and skills. These mistakes are very costly and they often have a detrimental effect on my play and I desperately need to fix them if I'm ever to have a hope of improving my play to a decent level.

While I'm fortunate to have a job in the midst of this economic climate, unfortunately, the job entails me having to work weekends and on public holidays at times.

I've always believed that it is possible for anyone to reach FIDE Master (FM) level if they devote sufficient time and resources for chess study and practice.

This is where I fall short.

I've a study plan but circumstances have forced me to make me divert from it. That's because I get side-tracked by something more important when I'm at home.

In addition, the nature of my work requires a high level of concentration throughout the day (I work as an analyst in the security industry) and it's often and not surprising that by the time the end of the day comes, my brain just refuses to accept any new information thrown at it.

Take last night as an instance in point. I tried to feed my brain some chess annotations from one of Anand's early games but it lifted its hand to say,"Enough! No more." and proceeded to spit the information right back at me. It's like trying to feed a videotape into a VCR only to have the VCR eject out the tape constantly. Frustrating.

Does this mean that I need time to rest? Yes.

I know I need to rest but I can't possibly have that every night. Coffee works for like 10 minutes for me, after which, the Sandman (inset) starts to blow dust in my eyes and my concentration falls apart.

One way I found which seemed to help was to go for an early gym session in the morning (I've been heading to the gym 3 times a week at least and trying to swim once a week) to boost my energy levels. I found that it has helped somewhat because come the end of my work day, I find that I still have at least a good half an hour of brainpower energy left.

I barely touched the telly these days although last night, I stayed up to watch a documentary on the origins of the Vietnam war protest in America. I rarely watch prime-time television programmes (save for the occasional CSI episode on Mondays) although I do watch quite a bit of BBC and SBS documentaries.

On weekdays, I do Sudoku in the morning, the Crosswords during lunch and try to fit in some chess homework at night. I've been contemplating giving up the Sudoku and the Crosswords but it's hard to kick the habit and these puzzles offer my brain something else think on besides say, finding a new variation in the Sicilian: Canal-Sokolsky (Rossolimo) Attack.

It's a constant daily struggle I admit but just because it's hard doesn't mean I give it up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ivanchuk Lives On Planet Ivanchuk

As Anand so aptly remarked about his fellow friend Ivanchuk,"He lives on Planet Ivanchuk."

"Chucky" has been known for strange behaviours - like sitting on Kasparov's dinner chair in Linares because he wants to “absorb Kasparov’s spirit” or howling at the moon at midnight because of a loss or ordering a bowl of mushroom soup so he can beat Kasparov ("champignon" sounds like "champion" in Russian and funnily enough Ivanchuk did beat Kasparov afterwards).

Now FIDE could potentially slap top Ukranian player Vasily Ivanchuk with a 2 year ban for refusing to take a piss at the Dresden Olympiad.

Unfortunately, the fallout of this fracas only serves to hurt chess regardless of the outcome.

If Ivanchuk is given a ban, it would most certainly have serious repercussions on the chess world.

If Ivanchuk is given a slap on the wrist, FIDE would be seen as weak and the pipe dream of getting chess as an Olympic sport would go down the gurgler (not that many chess players would mind).

Anand said it best when he was drug tested in Bonn.

“It is completely pointless, of course.”

“I mean, in cycling, if you could add a little piece of metal (to your bike) that could boost your performance by 20 times, they would not test you for drugs. They would make sure that the bike did not have that piece of metal."

“In chess, when you have computers and use them for preparation, taking time off to figure out what medicines to take is itself ridiculous. I understand that in order to be an Olympic sport, you have this (testing).”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reflections And Quiet Times

(above inset: Kramnik reflects and surveys the damage on the big screen - shown on right - moments away from resigning his first game in Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in Bonn, Germany this year)

I have a 2 month break from chess this time between now and the start of the club competition in February.

During this time, I will also be going away for 3 weeks to spend with my parents overseas (looking very much forward to it).

I've also realised how badly out of shape I was during this lull period. I promptly lost a lot of games on FICS. I'm quite surprised how 3 weeks of inactivity has caused 'rustiness' to set in.

Onto other news, Weng has signed up his son, Dylan for the Australian Open and being one of the first 100 people to sign up, received a free Chess Informant. Dylan was delighted.

The Ryde-Eastwood dinner was a blast and many thanks to Tom Powers for arranging and organising it.

We also had David French moving back to Sydney and a couple of young players joined as well so that means Ryde-Eastwood is starting to fill the numbers again.

In the meantime, I've not been doing anything chess-related lately. My wife is going away for a couple of days to tend to a friend so that leaves me with 4 days to do some things. She has already warned me not to play chess 24 hours a day during that time. Ooops.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December Ratings

I turned up at the Ryde-Eastwood chess club on Wednesday night and had a brief chat with Shane Burgess who duly informed me that the December ACF ratings were out and he was surprised I haven't blogged about it yet. Well, .... errr.... that's because I normally don't put a lot of emphasis on ratings nor do I monitor it closely.

So Shane, this post is for you. ;-)

The last 2 tournaments I took part in have been included.

They were the Ford Memorial Centenary Tournament and the Ryde Eastwood Club Championship Finals.

My rating bumped a bit by 40 points moving from 1500 to 1540.

But that's nothing compared with Shane. Shane's progress was stunning. He shot up 60 points to 1520 (very nice, Shane and stop complaining that you'll have to face tougher opponents next time *wink*).

My brother-in-law Steven's rating rose from 1789 to 1797. Arthur Hunyh rose from 1835 to 1917 (wow!) and Joshua Christiansen remained stable at 1662.

My friend Weng's son, Dylan, is the 2nd most improved player of all of NSW during this 3 month period, getting on the ratings list with an entrant score of 538. Congratulations to Weng and Dylan!

Young Anton Smirnov shot up another 56 points to 1440, showing that he is making good progress.

I've also noticed Anton's analytical skill has improved by leaps and bounds. He is starting to analyse a lot better and his thinking has accelerated.

Yes, I usually lose to him these days in speed chess because my brain malfunctions at higher processing speeds. It like trying to get a Pentium II processor to work at the speed of an Intel i7.

It is just not going to happen. :D

Next Wednesday is the annual Christmas dinner for the Ryde-Eastwood chess club. I've already put my name down with Les and intend to bring my camera along to take some pictures of the event.

Oh, I am most definitely looking forward to it. Yumz...... :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Learning From Garry Kasparov

It's true. Garry Kasparov can never play poker. His face contorts into a horrible pained look at the moment of trouble.

So what can we learn from Kasparov?

In an interview in, when questioned on the similarities between managers and chessplayers, Kasparov answered,"Among successful managers and winning chessplayers we can talk about skill sets: qualities like calculation, competitive drive, work ethic, and imagination. It goes beyond skills and talent, however, and into the realm of combining, synthesizing, these things. Both groups are also required to see the big picture, to readily acknowledge strengths and weaknesses, and to learn quickly from mistakes."

In other words, Garry comes back stronger than ever by constantly working on his chess and on his mistakes. He is a famed workaholic who loses rarely because he has tremendous drive and determination and more importantly, is ever willing to improve on his chess. It is this potent combination of characteristics that makes him succeed at the highest level.

On his playing style, Kasparov says,"I am an adherent of the analysis trend to which Botvinnik belongs. It was from him that I actually learnt to analyse while playing chess, to search for fresh ideas, to constantly work at perfecting them.

This is a scientific approach, based on profound analysis of the heritage of the past, on the search for new opening variations and methods of play in the middlegame, it is based on working out strategical plans that are new in essence."

When asked on how he handles stress, he replied:

"Emotion is a critical element of decision-making, not a sin always to be avoided. As with anything it is harmful in excess. You learn to focus it and control it the best you can. I'm a very emotional person in and out of chess so this was always a challenge for me. When I sat down at the board against my great rival, Anatoly Karpov, it was a special occasion. I knew it, he knew it, and we both knew the chess world was paying special attention. We had such a long and bitter history that it was impossible not to bring it to the board with us every time we played."

"On some occasions this anxiety created negative emotions like doubt. More often it generated greater creative tension, greater supplies of nervous tension, which is a chess player's lifeblood."

"Usually when you are under stress there is a good reason for it. Learning not to get anxious about things beyond your control is a separate issue. So don't fight stress, use it! Channel that nervous energy into solving the problems. Sitting around worrying isn't going to achieve anything and the loss of time will often make the problem worse. Even in the worst case, mistakes of action teach you much more than inaction."

(Sources: Credit Suisse e-magazine, : How Life Imitates Chess, Modern Chess Instructor)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Last Game For The Year

Ryde-Eastwood Club Championship Update: The chess tournaments for this year have finally concluded for me with the finals of Ryde-Eastwood Club Championships, ending with a dismal score of +1-4=0 (oops!), finishing at the bottom of the table.

vs Arthur Huynh (1853) - loss
vs Joshua Christiansen (1662) - loss
vs Lorenzo Escalante (1716) - win
vs Bill Gletsos (1829) - loss
vs my brother-in-law Steven (1789) - loss

Arthur and Steven have their final game on Wednesday and they're currently joint first.

1-2. Arthur Hunyh, Steven Liu
3. Bill Gletsos
4. Joshua Christiansen
5-6. Lorenzo Escalante, Me! :)

Overall, this was an interesting experience. In my game last night against my brother-in-law, it was a tough fight and the game was interesting (you probably guess right now, that I love open/semi-open tactical skirmishes) but in the end he saw the ensuing winning endgame (as I did) and forced me to trade down to win. Okay, so I played a sharp opening as Black - yes one of those openings where either you come home victorious with your shield or get carried home on it.

And with that, concludes my first year in chess.

Minor Update: I've made a slight error. Steven was 0.5 point less than Arthur and they drew last night, so effectively, the final table position for the finals is as follows:

1. Arthur Hunyh
2. Steven Liu
3. Bill Gletsos
4. Joshua Christiansen
5-6. Lorenzo Escalante, Me

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Art Of Losing

What goes through a player's mind when he/she loses a game? How best do you try to cope with the loss?

Different players deal handle defeat differently.

My worst instance of losing was in a rapid game. Upon resignation, I shook my opponent's hand but stormed out of the playing hall not because I was angry at my opponent but because I was extremely disgusted with my play. In fact, I headed for the washroom to calm myself down for a couple of minutes.

Which brings me to my subject on handling losses.

I've had 2 very bad losses this year which kept me awake at night after the game. One of the problems with playing games in the evening is that your brain is still on a huge "high" after the game. That makes getting to bed an extremely arduous task (forcing your brain to relax) and couple that with a loss punctuated by poor gameplay and your brain is in overdrive mode.

How does one properly cope with losses?

Take Vladimir Kramnik. His loss comes no bigger than the biggest prize in chess. He lost a huge chance to regain his title against Vishy Anand in Bonn, Germany. So how does he deal with such a much publicised defeat?

During the post-match conference, Chess.FM filmed the following proceedings. You can see it at here:

Alternatively, you can download the .FLV file directly from here (you'll need a compatible video player like VideoLan's VLC media player to play it):

The most important things to take away from Kramnik's comments IMHO were the following:

1. "Life is like this. It is not always that you win."

One has to acknowledge the fact that playing chess means that you have to be ready to come to terms with both the winning and losing aspects that comes with the royal game. No one can win all the time, not even World Champions.

2. "I clearly made certain mistakes in my preparation and which I already understood and probably after analysing the match, I would understand (them) even more what I should I do better. And I'm very much eager to improve. I think I would have quite serious changes in my ways of preparing for tournaments, for chess games; even maybe, even in my way of playing. It was a harsh lesson but I'm sure it would be a very useful one."

Acknowledging your own mistakes and faults and actively seeking to rectify them is the hallmark of a good player. Any player seeking to improve the quality of their play needs to admit to his/her own mistakes and identifying their mistakes and make a conscious effort to fix these mistakes. This holds true not just in chess but also for other sports.

Every chess game takes with it a lesson, even more so when you lose. Less one forgets, one should always perform post-mortem analysis on one's own games.

3. "....because I am still very interested in playing chess..... For the moment, I still enjoy it. "

In other words, one has to have continuous interest in chess to learn and recover from the painful loss/experience. If you do not enjoy chess, then chess is not going to be fun for you for long.

4. "I'm also happy to play against such an opponent. Vishy is a really great player."

This is one thing that is missing from some chess players. The ability to lose graciously and to pay tribute to your opponent. When one loses, one should not seek excuses nor alternative explanations to explain away the defeat. Rather, one should own up and admit that your opponent was better than you.

5. The last quote from Kramnik needs no explanation and one that I feel is the most important point.

"You don't feel very well after losing a game ........ but it's only a game, not a reason to be depressed. I take it as a test.... I try to do my best... this is the motto in my life. You're responsible for the quality of your work but you're not responsible for the result of it.... So I'm responsible for doing my best. But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. What can I do? .... I don't see a reason to shout at everyone because of this."


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ford Memorial Photos

The Ford Memorial has finally concluded. Here are some photos I took tonight from the Ford Memorial Lightning (Unfortunately, with me being an absolute klutz in photography, I suffer from bad handshake so some of the photos are a tad blurred). Apologies to all.

The playing venue

The tireless Norman Greenwood without whom
this tournament would not have been possible

Ford Memorial Tournament Winner Barak Atzmon-Simon

3rd Place Winner Karel Hursky

More photos from the Lightning Tournament:

I would like to thank all my opponents and Norman Greenwood for a wonderful tournament.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ford Memorial 2008 Final Standings

Here is the Norths Chess Club Centenary Year Ford Memorial Open Tournament 2008

Final Standings

7.5 pts
1. Atzmon-Simon, Barak (2114)
2. Papp, Alexander (1527)
6.5 pts
3. Hursky, Karel P (2017)
4. Luchtmeijer, Ton (2081)
5. Garner, Stephen J (1779)
6. Greenwood, Norman (1491)
6 pts
7. Cook, Roger S (2212)
8. Chek, Adrian (2006)
9. Baterowicz, Mark (1544)
10. Rewais, Sarwat (1827)
11. Bleicher, Horst (1472)
5.5 pts
12. Wechsler, Ian B (1381)
13. Griffin, Hamish (u/r)
14. Liu, Steven Hern (1778)
15. Kordahi, Nicholas (1772)
16. Cheung, Benjamin (1472)
17. Sliwinski, Zdzislaw (1617)
18. Pickering, Anthony (1769)
5 pts
19. Wang, Oscar (1537)
20. Adams, Jonathan (1579)
21. Easterbrook-Smith, Simon (1861)
22. Shan, Caroline (847)
4.5 pts
23. Shan, Jin (1274)
24. Nalbandian, Sarkis (1734)
25. Simmonds, Rex (1520)
26. Pike, Robert D (1508)
27. TanC (1534) - me! :)
28. Smirnov, Anton (1371)
29. Wan, Dennis (1537)
30. Stern, David (1489)
31. Javor, Stephen (1636)
32. Vowles, Justin (1743)
33. Laurie, Robert (u/r)
34. Sparks, Chris J (1532)
4 pts
35. Glissan, Paul (1729)
36. Miller, Gordon (1588)
37. Low, Frank (1575)
38. Jennings, Andrew (Garry) (1263)
39. Anderson, Michael (u/r)
40. Roach, Owen (1458)
41. Carden, Matthew (1267)
42. Pepping, John M (1522)
43. Schuetz, Fred (1340)
44. Davis, Alexander M (u/r)
45. Cook, David (1355)
3 .5pts
46. Tracey, Michael J (1425)
47. Dibley, Shane E (1477)
48. Johnson, Andrew (1500)
49. Moxom, Bob (1234)
50. Roberts, Curt (1545)
3 pts
51. Sike, Paul (1372)
52. Palmer, Paul (763)
53. Waters, Mick (1366)
54. Bennett, George (1045)
2.5 pts
55. Tomas, Tom (1629)
56. Glerum, John (1275)
2 pts
57. Di-Ienno, Tim (u/r)
1 pt
58. Nalbandian, Edward (u/r)
59. Mejzini, Jack (1616) - withdrawn after 4 games - 1 game forfeit
0 pts
60. Matthews, Greg (1248)
61. Lepojevic, Zarko (1776) - withdrawn - 2 game forfeit
62. Muller, Henning (1845) - withdrawn after 1 game

Friday, November 7, 2008

To Dutch IM Johan van Mil

Thoughts and sympathies with him, his wife and family.

You can find a rough translation here.

Special thanks to ChessVibes for bringing it to my attention.

About Blitz/Speed Chess

"You like to think."

"Huh?" was my reply. That comment totally took me by surprise. This was an observation made by Vladmir Smirnov (rated 2309) when we were playing lightning chess socially about 2 months back. His comment still stuck in my mind after all this while. He noticed how I tended to think/calculate slowly in complex middlegame positions. For some reason, my brain is hardwired into playing slow chess instead of fast chess (Shane Burgess will easily attest to this as I've lost to him in countless blitz games OTB).

But what is speed/blitz chess?

Speed/blitz chess is essentially chess played at very fast time controls with 5 minutes being the usual norm at my local chess club.

But what do chess players/professionals think of blitz chess?

"I don't really count winning a couple of blitz games as a major achievement. I also don't consider losing them to be too great a tragedy either. Blitz is basically trash." - GM Nigel Short (in reference to Hikaru Nakamura winning the recent Cap d'Agde)

While Nigel thinks very lowly of blitz chess, what do other chess players/professionals think of blitz chess and their benefits?

Former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik had an active dislike for blitz chess. In fact, he mentioned, "Yes, I have played a blitz game once. It was on a train, in 1929." When it was suggested to him by Piket that he play blitz chess for fun in his latter years, he gave this stern retort,"Young man, remember this: I never played chess for pleasure." Ouch.

Dennis Monokroussos himself acknowledged that his chess rating suffered (His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s) due to "too much blitz, too little tournament chess".

Of particular note is that former European Blitz Champion Vladislav Tkachiev revealed an interesting insight into blitz chess in a Chessbase interview. From the interview, it seems like he is thoroughly addicted to this form of high-speed chess. Unfortunately, it also appears that he lacks the discipline and was unable to carry over his talent from blitz chess to classical chess.

Funnily enough, the majority of super Grandmasters have no problems doing it the other way around, as in carrying over classical chess to blitz chess as evident in the case of Ivanchuk, Anand, Kramnik, Carlsen, Radjabov etc.

Why the discrepancy?

There was a study done by psychologist Bruce Burns from Michigan University which was published in the July 2004 issue of the journal Psychological Science. In it, he studied the correlation between pattern recognition and chess skill. He discovered that by constant practice, chess players can improve their chess skills and this skill is no less affected even in blitz chess. You can read the story here.

Should blitz chess then be actively discouraged? Not so, it seems.

"The best blitz players, are the best slow players.... No, in fact it (playing blitz) helps if mixed with slow play - it only hurts when it is done instead of slow play. In other words, only slow play is good; slow + fast chess is OK (and may even be better if that enables you to play more hours); and only fast chess is not so good for your improvement. And yes, you can get into bad habits." - NM Dan Heisman

But IMHO, the best answer comes from none other than renowned chess coach Bruce Pandolfini.

"Indeed, I think it (blitz/speed chess) can have value. It gives you a chance to experience a lot of ideas over a short time. It may sharpen your tactics and technique. It could boost your confidence. It enables openings and pet lines to be practiced. And it can provide enormous pleasure. You can get more out of speed chess if you also stay mindful of its downside. It doesn’t lend itself to reflection or thorough analysis. In fact it promotes superficiality. It could shake your confidence, or give you a false sense of security. It could have a carry-over affect to your tournament play, causing you to be impulsive and prone to blunder. You especially should steer clear of speed chess just prior to serious competitions." - NM Bruce Pandolfini

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Survey On Chess And Updates

Hello all,

I apologise for the lack of updates because my parents-in-law were here for a visit.

Dr Robert Howard of the University of New South Wales (Australia) recently published preliminary findings of an online chess survey. The survey tested 581 titled players with an average peak FIDE rating of 2153.

Among the interesting things to note in the survey:

"The problem is that motivation, amount of practice, initial success, opportunity, and possible natural talent are all interwoven. "

The survey respondents ranked the following in order of importance when coupled with natural talent: High motivation, Ability to concentrate, Extreme competitiveness, Creativity, Mental speed, Spatial ability, High IQ.

And a large majority agreed that playing rated games and studying chess are equally important in the road to chess mastery.

You can see the preliminary results of the survey here: Preliminary Results of FIDE Chess Survey

Onto recent news, I lost to Joshua Christensen last night playing a horrible game at the Ryde Eastwood Club Championships. Full credit to Joshua for taking home the point. I also would like to apologise to Joshua for playing the game at lightning speed and for leaving the playing venue quickly. I wish him the best of luck for the rest of the competition and hope he continues to do well. Currently, I'm on a score of +0-2=0 at the moment but I'm not overtly distressed by the results so far.

I've concluded my Ford Memorial tournament, getting a draw against Justin Vowles (1743) in my final round. It was a Sicilian (I've never been one to shy away from playing the mainline Sicilians btw). Anyway I've accomplished what I set out to do - which was to obtain a score of 4.5/9 for the tournament. This should put me somewhere in the middle of the standings - which is expected of my rating level.

Good ol' Norman Greenwood finished with an excellent result of 6.5/9. An outstanding achievement. Well done, Norman!

Next week, the Ford Memorial will culminate in a Lightning round. I am likely to give that a miss as I've no serious interest in playing lightning games although I'm quite tempted to bring my camera along and take some photos of the event.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congratulations To Vishy Anand

After losing Game 10 to Vladimir Kramnik, Anand today, playing with White uncorked 1. e4 and Kramnik replied with the Sicilian Najdorf.

Anand did well to manage the complications with ease. After swapping queens on move 22, Kramnik had a slightly inferior position and reluctantly offered a draw 2 moves later which Anand accepted.

Anand thus wins the match with a 6.5-4.5 score.

He now occupies a unique place among other chess champions. He is the only chess champion in history to win a title under knockout, match and tournament conditions. A remarkable achievement.

Congratulations and well done, Viswanathan Anand!

Sidenote: I've been a tad busy on my side as my in-laws are here so I've been taking an extended leave of absence from chess. Unfortunately, I lost in the Ford Memorial Round 7 to Horst Bleicher (1472) and to Arthur Huynh (1835) in the Ryde-Eastwood Club Championship finals.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WCC At The Halfway Point: Getting Painful To Watch

I hate to be Vladimir Kramnik right now. Something has seriously gone very wrong with his match preparation.

Kramnik was outcalculated in Game 3.

In Game 5, he missed the tactical trap with Ne3 (see above picture). The sudden realisation that he was lost and had fallen into Anand's trap was a huge blow.

And now in Game 6, instead of playing for a draw to recover, Kramnik decided not to go for the defensive to consolidate. And the worst possible thing happened. He got ground down by Anand in a positional skirmish that would normally have suited him to a tee.

Anand now has a 3 point lead at the halfway mark. If this was a 24 game match, this result would still have allowed Kramnik sufficient time to recover but in a 12 game match, it's very hard.

He's getting outfought, outthought and outprepared at the board.

Tomorrow is a rest day and Kramnik needs to recover from this serious setback quickly. Never in my wildest dreams would I expect to see this result. In case anyone gets any wrong ideas, I am actually rooting for Anand and hopes he wins this.

Kramnik would need to turn himself around psychologically and go all out now in the next 6 games if he wants to harbour any hopes of regaining the crown.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Rest For The Weary

The last week, I've been concentrating specifically on endgames and endgame technique. I've no time to rest now.

The final round of the Ryde-Eastwood club championship is upon me. I have to postpone the game between Steven and I this Wednesday and we would need to reschedule for this postponed game. This is due to the Ford Memorial Round 7 which coincides on this Wednesday as well.

About the Ryde Eastwood club championship, 6 players including myself will play a single game each for a period of 5 weeks to see. The participants are (ACF ratings stated):

Arthur Huynh (1835)
Bill Gletsos (1829)
My brother-in-law, Steven (1789)
Lorenzo Escalante (1716)
Joshua Christiansen (1662)
Me! (1500)

As for the Ford Memorial, this week's game got moved to Wednesday. My opponent is Horst Bleicher (FIDE rated 1832, ACF rated 1472). He has so far beat Henning Muller (1845), Tom Tomas (1629), Greg Matthews (1248) - definitely a player not to be underestimated.

A total of 62 players took part but it appears that 4 players have since dropped out. I'm placed #29 (smacked right in the middle!) on the list so anything above 4.5/9 is considered a good result.

Last week, Vladimir Smirnov taught me a little idea which is ingrained in my memory now. I would like to thank him for his generous input and advice. He has been great in helping lesser rated players and the local Sydney chess scene would be a lot poorer without his help.

I leave you now with a nice little puzzle from Volokitin's Perfect Your Chess.

White to play and win.

Answer as usual can be found by highlighting between the brackets

[1. Rd5!!

If 1... Qxd5 2. Qe8+ Kh7 3. Nf6+ gxf6 4. Qxf7#

If 1... exd5 2. Qxf5 naturally

If 1... Qf4 2. Rxa5 and Black is a whole piece down.

This move actually forced an instant resignation by Black.]

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nosce te ipsum

The phrase "Nosce te ipsum", which in Latin, is translated generally as the common phrase "Know Thyself".

One of the hardest things to do as a chess player is the ability to recognise, acknowledge your own faults and weaknesses and to work hard to remove them.

All chess players suffer from one deficient aspect of the royal game one way or another, be it, a 1200 player or an elite 2700 grandmaster.

Looking back at the 20 odd games I've played over the board, I've identified 3 main weaknesses.

1. Weak in opening
2. Weak in positional play
3. Weak in time management

1. Weak in opening

I am very unsettled in openings. I tend to lose my way quickly when players diverge from the main line. Concepts and ideas are far more important than rote move orders. I need to address this seriously but I can only gather that mastering an opening is going to take time. Two-thirds of my losses have come from poor opening play.

2. Weak in positional play/seeing positional ideas

Knowing where to put the pieces -so to speak- so as to maximise their effectiveness. I can see tactical shots but in order to know where to put my pieces, I need to be more conversant in tactics and in the art of defence and strategy. I am planning to scour my local library for such books and doing more tactical puzzles. I have also been leafing through GM games.

3. Weak in time management

Like many before me, I have a tendency to make moves too quickly. Dan Heisman, writer of ChessCafe's Novice Nook articles once said,"Never make a bad move quickly". This summarises my Achilles Heel.

I am now trying to make a mental reminder to myself during a game to pace myself against my clock. I've been doing this at home with my own digital clock albeit with some success. This has a rather calming effect on me and I find that I think far better and tend to choose better moves if I spend more than a minute of thought. This also highlights to me that my thought process is not as efficient as it is. Quite a number of times, a better move seems to prop up after I finished searching through my primary branch (ala Kotov's method) in my head.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ford Memorial Round 8

Last night was a scheduled postponed games night but I was informed by Norman Greenwood that Frank Low is having scheduling problems so we agreed to move forward our round 8 game to last night.

Frank sacrificed a minor piece to open up my uncastled king and placed my position under severe pressure - the opening was a Pirc Defence: Classical.

I subsequently made 2 errors which allowed him to retake the position but I subsequently regrouped after he made a unnoticeable mistake (he was under severe time pressure by then) which allowed me to take home the point. I was pretty sure I was lost at one particular point in the game and after letting Fritz do its handiwork, sure enough, Fritz pointed out a mate in 7 at that location.

I was lucky.

Because of the schedule, I 've yet to play round 7 but have played round 8. So far, I'm now at +4-3=0.

Karel P Hursky (2013)
Sarkis Nalbandian (1734)
Gordon Miller (1588)

Robert Laurie (U/R)
Owen Roach (1458)
Anthony Pickering (1769)
Frank Low (1575)

I definitely need to improve. My opening theory sucks. I can no longer get by just remembering the first 4 moves in any opening. I'll never survive in this way. My remaining 2 games will be as White.

Next week is the start of the final round of the Ryde Eastwood Club Championship and it clashes with my Ford Memorial game so it looks like I may have to postpone my Ford game, which is a bit unfortunate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Tactical Puzzle

Have a look at this position.

Black has come under enormous pressure and played Nf7 in desperation.

Find White's best move.

White to play and win.

Answers can be found by highlighting the brackets.

Answer [
1. Rxh8+ Nxh8
2. Qxd6!! Qxd6
3. e7 and

Black must have give up the Black Queen else
4. e8=Q+ loses either the Knight after
5. Qxh8 or the Black Queen as
4.... Kc7 loses to the Knight fork with b5+]

And So It Begins

After many months of waiting, the Anand - Kramnik World Chess Championship 2008 has finally arrived.

For a period between October 14 to October 30, these 2 heavyweights will duke it out.

Thankfully, we don't expect to see any Toiletgate scandals anytime soon given the good repute of both participants.

Anand's Seconds:

Peter Heine Nielsen (Denmark), Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan), Radoslav Wojtaszek (Poland) and Surya Shekhar Ganguly (India).

Kramnik's Seconds:

Peter Leko (Hungary), Sergey Rublevskyi (Russia) and Laurent Fressinet (France).

Their choices of seconds are a bit surprising.

Kramnik has Leko (a previous challenger) and a known 1. e4 player while Anand has Kasimdzhanov, a known proponent of the Petroff and of the Anti-Moscow Gambit in the Semi-Slav.

So who would win it?

My heart goes to Anand (for his attacking flair) but my brain tells me Kramnik (due to his match experience).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Simple Tactical Puzzle

I recently had a very wild game in the French Winawer (I was White).

I reached this position as shown (see picture on left).

White is clearly winning.

Black's Rook is there for the taking and taking the Rook with check is always a plus.

The idea behind this small exercise is to be able to see moves whilst moving the pieces in your head.

Now calculate the lines after 1. Bxf8+

Question 1: Can you see the mating position after 1.... Kxf8?

Answer can be found by highlighting between the brackets.

[ 1.... Kxf8 2. Qe7+ Kg8 3. Rd8 and mate follows]

We now know that Black should take back with the Queen.

So 1. Bxf8+ Qxf8 is pretty much forced.

For your convenience, I've attached the 2nd picture for this line. But you can still work it out in your head should you choose not to use the 2nd picture.

Question 2: Find a way to win/finish off Black.

Answer :
[2. Rxc6!

If 2... bxc6 3. Rd7+ Kg8 4. Rd8 wins the Black Queen. Note that 3... Kh6 is not possible because of Qg5#

If 2....Nf6
3. Rxf6! Qxf6
4. Rd7+ nabs the Black Queen

If Black makes any other move,
3. Rcd6 and Black is still going to lose the Black Queen because Rd7+ is coming

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ford Memorial Update Round 6

Ever felt like a complete dufus?

I just did. Losing tonight to Sarkis Nabaldian (1734) sure did the trick on Round 6 of the Ford Memorial, and does little for my self-confidence.

Apologies to Vladimir and Steven who offered to have a look at my game but I declined as I didn't feel like having any post game analysis. Game was effectively over after 2 bad moves and knowing exactly where you went wrong was even more terrible.

Current score: +3-3=0 with 3 games left to turn the tide. When I first started out, my aim was to get 5 points and right now, that means having to win 2 out of my last 3 games.

Funny, I was in a bad mood so I logged onto and proceeded to win 8 rapid games consecutively (hmm... a first for me... but it still didn't erase the self-recriminations from tonight's game).

There are times when you just want to throw your hands up in the arm and ask yourself why you would want to subject yourself to such mental torture. This is one of them.

I guess all chess players have to go through disappointments in order to improve but the journey is long, hard, laden with rocks and success only comes to those who want it bad enough.

I'll probably skip tomorrow's lightning competition at Ryde-Eastwood. I find that playing lightning and blitz chess is actually pulling my game down in the sense that I do not spend enough time working out the variations or analysing the position properly. The net effect is that it's making me make hasty moves. I didn't use to do that and I need to 'unlearn' blitz thinking and refrain from making a move too quickly. I reckon if I slow down, I would probably play a lot better.

Monday, October 6, 2008

You Don't Have Much Skill

"You Don't Have Much Skill" - came the comment from my opponent on after I beat him rather soundly.

Normally I don't really bother with post-match comments but this comment struck me, not because it was a snide remark but more because it struck me how true it was.

While not all of us can be a Kasparov and make good moves on a consistent basis, an average chess patzer like myself should know how to put the pieces properly. Most of the time, I find that my failure lies in middlegame play and finding the right square for my pieces so as to mobilise my pieces for maximum effectiveness.

The most frustrating thing was that I just do not know how to do it in an optimal fashion and on a regular basis. There have been enough books on middlegame play but it seems that the art of positional play is still beyond my grasp.

I shudder whenever I do a post-mortem in my games because it seems that I make moves perfunctorily. In chess, this is tantamount to suicide. All those rules like "Mobilise your worst piece", "Make active moves", "Create weaknesses" seem to go out the window when I am at the chess board.

Take a look at the following position from one of my own games:

Note that there is no "correct" answer here. What should I do in this position?

The correct idea is to play Nd8 with the idea of Nc6->Nd8->Ne6, putting the Knight on a more active square.

In the actual game, my Knight stood at c6 for a *very long* time and in the end got traded into a losing endgame position. Pathetic.

I can spot tactical shots fairly quickly but it seems that positional play is my main weakness and until I eradicate this weakness from my play, it will continue to dog me.

I've lined up a couple of chess materials and am planning on reading Nunn's Understand Chess Move By Move all over again just to understand and grasp the basics of chess playing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Missed Chance To Meet Tibor Karolyi

IM Tibor Karolyi was at the chess club at Manly-Warringah on Sep 29 2008.

I only found out about it too late (yesterday) . Bummer.

Kind of a shame really because I have his book Kasparov's Fighting Chess 1993-1998 and just wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his book (I'm still looking through his immense annotations even though I bought the book nearly half a year ago). Tibor formerly was Peter Leko's trainer and
is here in Sydney under the gracious invite of Brett Tindall and the Sydney Academy of Chess.

Onto other things, in the Ford Memorial at North Sydney, I am now at +3-2=0 with another 4 games to go. My target was to get +5 in this competition and right now, I'm still on course. My brother-in-law Steven is currently on +3-1=1.

In the Bobby Fischer Cup at Ryde-Eastwood, tonight is the last(?) round for me with a +11-6=3 score (a most absymal performance by my standards). My losses going to Ted Wong, Bill Gletsos, Lorenzo Escalantes, Joweynn Lua, my brother-in-law Steven and finally Theodore last week (where I hung a Rook).

Onto better news, my parents-in-laws are coming for a visit in a couple of weeks' time and it'll be great to see them again as it was my father-in-law who introduced me to chess.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Anand's Technique

This game was taken from an old game of Viswanathan Anand in Biel 1997 against one of the strongest GMs of the day, Joel Lautier.

We begin our quest with move 30.

Lautier just played 30. Qe1.

We know the a-pawn is definitely going to fall and it's pointless to defend this but Anand shows a good way of taking control of the game and winning this.

In this position, what would you do?

I won't give you the answer here but I'll link the actual answer to

Once you've see the moves Anand plays, everything becomes crystal clear and is self-explanatory. Anand displays very fine technique here in the art of positional play.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Forgot My Openings

LOL! Yesterday, while playing in the Ford Memorial, I misplayed my opening and got into a lost position in 20 moves! I was supposed to play another variation but somehow (after suffering from rustiness due to my week of inactivity), got my wires crossed, played not only the wrong variation but also the wrong move order!

I still can't believe it. Hahahaha. Oh gosh..... sorry. I'm just amazed by my own stupidity sometimes.

Fair play by my opponent Gordon Miller who didn't miss a heartbeat in converting his advantage.

Anyway, my brother-in-law Steven played an absolutely stunning game to beat his opponent.

Next week, I'm up against Owen Roach a player of similar rating as I. And tonight, the Bobby Fischer Cup continues on....

On the light side of things, I seem to be able to play much more at ease against Steven these days and can hold my own, losing to him a lot with lesser frequency.

Meanwhile, I'm still having loads of fun from my self-imposed vacation.

In the meantime, have a laugh with Weird Al on this YouTube video "White and Nerdy". An astonishing 35 million views so far and still rising!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Before Chess

This post is non - chess related. :)

Before I learnt chess, I have another hobby.

And that was photography.

I loved photography or rather, taking photos - I still do in fact.

So yesterday, I continued my non-week of chess to head down to the Royal Botanic Gardens in town with my wife.

We alighted from Circular Quay train station and took the scenic route past the Sydney Opera House. Spring is more or less here in Sydney. The flowers are in bloom and this period is usually the best time for tulips, roses and the like.

After that, my wife headed down to a seafood buffet. It was remarkbly good food for a buffet. They had fresh prawns / balmains / crabs / oysters for their seafood section. The other sections include a layout of Japanese food including fresh salmon / tuna / swordfish sashimi, assorted sushi, smoked salmon. The other mains consisted for roast beef in red wine sauce, dory in lime sauce, chicken cacciatori in capsicum sauce, roasted broccoli with pine nuts. They also have servings of sourdough bread with the usual assortment of breakkie type food, udon, basmatic rice, salads etc.

I probably ate way far too much at the buffer so much so that I could only have like a glass of orange juice for dinner.

I'm actually tempted to be lured back to photography - my first love.

Does anyone remember a time before chess took over your life? *wink*

Oh yeah on back to chess, I have a game against Gordon Miller on Tuesday night for the Ford Memorial. Funny, I don't even seem concerned about preparing for the game at all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Ego Has Indeed Landed

Immediately after finishing first in the recently concluded Bilbao tournament, Veselin Topalov gave an interview and proceeded to rubbish the upcoming WCC match:

"I will watch the forthcoming match between Anand and Kramnik but I should confess that I am not that interested in the match between number five and number six in the rankings."

"Kramnik is not the strongest chess player even in Russia. Morozevits, who outplayed him on Tal Memorial, stands higher. And Anand in Bilbao has only been a “pale shadow” of the previously great player....."

Isn't it amazing what winning one tournament can do to a player's ego?

Last week in the end, I did drop by to play in the traditional Lightning competition for Grade Match Presentation at Ryde-Eastwood RSL.

And surprisingly, I came in joint runners-up in the U-1600 category, getting a score of +4-4=1 and got $9 for my effort. A nice tidy sum of cash - which I proceeded to use it on my way home with Steven who needed to buy milk at the petrol kiosk. The highlight of the lightning competition has to be my game against top board Jason Hu (2200++) who showed me the art of crushing your opponent (me!). :)

Last Saturday was spent at home fixing up a handrail and installing a security sensor light at my backyard with my neighbour's help. I was working on Sunday so I couldn't get much training in and although last night was a scheduled day for postponed matches for the Ford Memorial, I didn't have any games on. So I spent the time..... sleeping.

I admit I have not been doing any form of serious chess training lately. Sure, I looked up a couple of lines in the Sicilian (out of boredom) but that was just about it.

I would really like to get back to chess training in preparation for next week's Ford Memorial game but I'm just not in the mood for it. If I can kick myself in the ass if it means getting myself invigorated, I'd do it (aka. laziness).

Hmm.... I just realised that I will again be working this Sunday.

Tonight, the Ryde-Eastwood Bobby Fischer Cup soldiers on.... and I'm quite tempted to play a new opening I just came to know about 2 weeks ago.

In the meantime, it appears the US markets decided to take a plunge because of the sub-prime loans fiasco, taking with it many Oz investors' superannuation savings (similar to 401ks for the US) and thankfully, for now, I am not affected. However, I dread to be the one who is nearing retirement only to find out that my lifelong savings has gone down the drain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ford Memorial Quick Update

Well, try as I might, I ended up losing to Karel Hursky last night for Round 3 of the Ford Memorial. I gave it my best shot but it wasn't good enough.

Strangely after 10 moves, I felt that my game was slipping away from me. I tried to find active moves to mobilise my pieces but Karel defended well, bided his time and waited for me to make errors. The errors weren't visible but slowly, little mistakes start to creep in and Karel took advantage of it. He didn't have to over-exert himself by any stretch of the imagination. We got to the endgame and Karel's superior endgame technique got him the full point. Kudos to him.

Karel is a very nice gentleman. I conversed with him a bit before and after the game. Karel is a taxi driver by trade. He has been playing chess for 40 years. I wish I could keep up his motivation for chess! I congratulated him and thanked him and he was also kind enough to say that I did try my best but I think he was just being polite.

My brother-in-law Steven had a torrid time against young (14-15 year old?) Caroline Shan. He got into a Ruy Lopez: Marshall Attack, had to sacrifice a rook for a bishop to alleviate the pressure and managed to grind out a draw. This young lady is one tough cookie!

Tonight is the Grade Matches Award Presentation. I'm not sure if I'll be attending it as there is nothing to do except for the lightning competition. Next week, the Ford Memorial competition takes a brief hiatus to scheduled in postponed games so that means I've got a nice little break.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chess Is All About Having Fun

I remember how when I was a kid, I loved to play at my grandparents home.

I have the fortunate experience of having stayed in a "kampung" (a Malay term for village) before modernisation came to Singapore.

My grandparents lived in a small community called Jalan Siput that had coconut trees and sandy beaches. Sadly that place no longer exists. The beaches are gone because of extensive land reclamation by the government that extended the shores a good 2 km away. The village was also torn down to make way for sprawling rows of indistinguishable terrace houses of what is now called Hacienda Grove.

I miss my grandparents' home. I still remember it vividly. The house was of a simple construction. There was a front wooden porch painted in dark green. The roof was made of zinc and the toilet well, let's just say it won't past today's sanitation standards *grin*. There was also a well behind the house from where water was fetched. I remember the layout of the house like the back of my hand. It had a small living room with bedrooms on the left and right. The back of the living room extended to the kitchen which had a cemented floor. The floor was thus cold to the feet and my mum and aunties had to go around wearing wooden clogs when they were cooking. I remember how the sounds of the clogs "klok klok klok" that will resound throughout the house and you can tell how busy the kitchen was based on frequency of the "klok".

Every week, my dad will bring home a packet of mee goreng (see inset) which my brother and I would share.
Those were very happy and fun times and they will forever be entrenched in my mind.

But what's it got to do with chess?

For one, I play chess to have fun.

If a hobby (yes, it's a hobby after all) is not fun, then what is the point of engaging in it?

However, I also learnt that as with all things in life, people expectations towards chess are different and they vary from one to another.

Having played in 2 competitions so far, I have also experienced the bad sides of chess.

It's came to my notice that some players take chess as a form of an ego trip.

I've seen opponents trying to blatantly cheat (taking back pieces), I've heard of players trading rude remarks and of players resorting to various tricks in the book to annoy their opponents and of course, poor gamemanship or etiquette.

As the level of competition heats up, so too it seems, of people's ego and common courtesy goes out the window.

Sometimes, I'd really wonder if some of these players have their heads screwed on in the right places.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ford Memorial Update

Norman Greenwood has just emailed me the tournament results and news regarding the Ford Memorial. Thanks very much for the updates, Norman!

And I found out that my next opponent will be.... Karel P Hursky (FIDE rated 2013, ACF rated 2017). Whoops.

Just so you know, my ACF rating, by the way, has fallen from 1534 to 1500 according to the latest September ratings. That means that my opponent is rated 517 points above me. Yowzer.

Whatever happens, I'm not going to let the gulf in ratings stop me from having fun!

Hmmm... I wonder if it's possible to deal out this trading card during an actual chess game (see inset)? Just kidding.

My brother-in-law, Steven is meeting his match. A very young girl (10-12 years old?), Caroline Shan, who despite being rated only 847, has already won against her 2 opponents, Jonathan Adams (1579) and Justin Vowles (1743). No pressure. *wink* :)