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.