Saturday, 24 November 2018

Chess is hard.

Chess is hard.

The month of November has been full of ups and downs for me. On the one hand, I managed to scale new heights in terms of my rapid ELO rating on, reaching a peak of 1955 and beating 2 NM's along the way. (Nearly beating a CM as well) 

However, a combination of impatience, impulsiveness, and indiscipline resulted in a loss of over 100 ELO points in a span of just a few days. I am barely over 1800 ELO now. 

My dreams of breaking 2000 ELO on rapid by year's end is quickly fading away. -sigh-

So many losses. One of which including blundering a whole queen in a completely winning position. See the game below:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.11.22"] [Round "?"] [White "dr_chessdad"] [Black "OmalPuar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D00"] [WhiteElo "1831"] [BlackElo "1999"] [Annotator "Liew,Mark"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c5 3. e4 dxe4 4. d5 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Qe2 Bf5 7. O-O-O Nbd7 8. h3 $2 (8. f3 $1 exf3 9. Nxf3 {with initiative.}) 8... h5 9. f3 exf3 10. Nxf3 b5 11. g4 $6 {a dubious sacrifice. Right idea but wrong execution.} (11. d6 $1 e6 {and only then.} 12. g4 $1 hxg4 13. hxg4 Rxh1 14. gxf5 {with winning position}) 11... hxg4 12. hxg4 Rxh1 13. gxf5 {Computer says =- to Black but practically speaking the position is quite difficult for a human. His pieces are uncoordinated and undeveloped.} Qa5 $2 (13... b4 14. Na4) 14. d6 b4 15. dxe7 Bxe7 16. Bd6 Ng8 17. Bxe7 bxc3 18. Bf6+ $2 (18. Bd6+ Kd8 19. Ne5 Nxe5 20. Bxe5+ Kc8 21. Bxc3 Qc7 22. Qe4 Rxf1 23. Qxa8+ Qb8 24. Qxb8+ Kxb8 25. Rxf1 {white wins.}) 18... Kf8 19. Bxc3 Qc7 20. Bxg7+ Kxg7 21. Qg2+ Kf8 22. Qxh1 Rb8 23. Ng5 Qf4+ 24. Kb1 Qxg5 25. Rxd7 Qxf5 26. Rd1 Qf6 27. b3 a5 28. a4 (28. Bc4) 28... Ne7 29. Bc4 Qc3 30. Qh6+ Ke8 31. Qh8+ $4 {I have no idea why i played this move. Truly the blunder of the year.} (31. Qf4 {[%csl Gb8,Gf7] White wins because of the dual threats.}) 31... Qxh8 {OmalPuar won by resignation} 0-1

Thankfully, I know the remedy. 
  1. Play fewer games
  2. Study more 
  3. Analyze all previous losses 
  4. Sleep better
I need to remind myself constantly not to hurry and enjoy each game as it is. To appreciate the beauty and play well. Each game presents an opportunity to create a great memory. 

My new favorite chess quote is taken from the excellent book 'A Pawn's Journey" by Elliot Neff. There is no such thing as 'lose'. There is only win, draw or learn.

Whoever is reading this, if you're going thru a losing streak in chess. You're not alone. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

A very impromptu trip to Genting Highlands, Malaysia

Nothing but clouds and mountains

The plan

Last week, when my wife told me our son's preschool was closed the coming Monday and Tuesday (over Deepavali)  I decided it was the perfect opportunity to go for a quick getaway over the weekend.

For the longest time, I had wanted to go make the road trip to Genting and experience a new environment. The hustle and bustle of Singapore often get to me sometimes, with buildings as far as the eye can see. 

A fair warning for those planning to make the journey to Genting by car, be sure to send in your vehicle for a quick check at your regular mechanic to make sure everything's is functioning well before heading off.  We found ours to have a slight water leak but thankfully it was a quick fix. Make sure your tires and brakes are in good working order. Whilst the road conditions are generally excellent with good lane markings and appropriate speed bumps, expect that your car will be stressed to a degree because of the uphill climb with various twists and turns. It's definitely not something a Singaporean driver experiences on a daily basis. Drive safe.


Causeway Jams are just not fun.

Our holiday started off in trying circumstances. Despite reaching the causeway at around 8:30am, we encountered the dreaded weekend jam which set us back a total of 3.5 hours. Thankfully, with a combination of pre-downloaded videos, snacks and in-house car games, we were able to keep the kids from a complete melt-down. The weather conditions weren't favorable as well. A constant downpour greeted us when we got to KL which meant even slower traffic. By the time we finally reached our hotel, we had spent a total of 10 hours in the car with 2-3 breaks in between. Needless to say, I was glad to be able to stretch my legs and enjoy the crisp mountain air that evening.  Special thanks to our family car, who handled the road journey (including the twists/turns in the mountainside) admirably.


A warm bed, a quiet room, and a hot shower. What more can anyone ask for?

Our accommodation in Genting was the aging Hotel Genting Amara resort. Honestly, despite all the negative reviews I've read over the internet, I found the hotel to be sufficient for my needs and keeping in line with the hotel rates that I paid. (It's relatively cheaper than most of the hotels up in the mountain resort)  Quiet clean rooms/beds/toilets with hot water together with functioning air conditioning is all one can ask at the end of the day. Breakfast was palatable with the usual mix of western and local food but nothing fancy. Service was overall so-so. The hotel staff was generally responsive when asked for help if a bit slow at times. One thing I didn't quite like was the lack of free hotel parking. Sure, the rates weren't that expensive (when compared to Singapore CBD's prices) but couldn't they give that privilege to hotel guests? 

Anyway, I digress. We spent very little time in the hotel anyway, only checking in for the afternoon 'half-time' naps and the evening slumber.

Genting Highlands

Genting's landscapes are beautiful. I got what I came for. Fresh mountain air away from the city and a chance to see endless greenery. Peace and quiet, except for the occasional high pitched laughter coming from my 2 toddler boys in the background.
An example of The 'fog'

 The cable car rides offer a breathtaking view of the mountainside and remind me that the world is so much more then what we're used to seeing in Singapore. John absolutely loves cable car rides. Oh, the strawberry farm was pretty cool as well.
A really nice trip up the mountain.
Check out my stash!

The best family photo shot for the whole trip.


Food was generally above average. Thanks to our relatively cheaper accommodation, we had a lot more to spend on food and shopping. The most memorable meal was eating at Lobsters & Burger, a world-famous restaurant chain dedicated to serving the best lobsters on hand. Now, I'm not a big lobster fan, but my wife testified that the lobster served was delicious. Another highlight was eating at 'Eighteen', another restaurant located at the (you guessed it!) 18th Floor of Hotel Maxim with breathtaking views of the mountainside. However, there are many many good restaurants up there in the mountain resort with an endless variety so foodies like myself won't be disappointed.

Eating. Singaporean's favorite pastime.
Another tick off the bucket list.

Check out John's new camera pose. (I wonder where he learned it from?)

the kitchen of 'Eighteen'


The Genting Premium Shopping Outlets offer some significant discounts on certain branded goods as my wife would testify. =p

The main shopping center up at the main resort is pricey and I wouldn't recommend shopping there. You won't get much difference in prices compared to Singapore (especially if you compare online) 

We bought some clothes and Christmas presents for our family and friends but nothing much. The main budget was spent mainly on food and amusement rides for the kids.

Check out my ride, Dad
View from the cable car.


Genting is a pretty nice retreat for those looking for a change in scenery. Plenty of good food, great views, cool weather, and even some shopping. Kids can occupy themselves with the various amusement rides. There's also plenty of chances for walks in the various nearby parks. (When the kids are older for sure) 

Sunday, 28 October 2018

A painful (but important) lesson

Sometimes a defeat can be difficult to swallow. But this is all part of the learning journey. 

Chess is tough at times and often very unforgiving.

This past week I experienced one of my worst defeats I can remember in a long time, completely collapsing from a winning position and as a result, missing a great opportunity to win my first SCL (Slow Chess League) Monthly Challenge.

Past monthly winners of the SCL are invited to join the SCL champions league at the start of every new year so I now only have 2 more months to attempt to qualify: November and December.

I am, however, determined to REALLY learn from this defeat, so as to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.

Here is the game annotated in full by me.

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.10.24"] [Round "?"] [White "Myself"] [Black "Opponent"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "1890"] [BlackElo "1616"] [Annotator "Dr_Chessdad"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "2700+45"] {Quite a high stakes game. Winning this would give me the chance to win October SCL which allows me to qualify for next year's SCL championships in Jan 2019. My opponent was rated almost 300 points lower than me and I had the White pieces to boot. Never was a better opportunity than this.} 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 {my trusty London. I have been playing with this system since graduation from medical school which is over 7 years now. The theory has developed a long way since then.} Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. Nd2 Nc6 5. c3 e6 6. Ngf3 Bd6 {so far so good. My opponent has walked right into my preparation. I had spent very little on the clock here and had even more time then my starting amount!} 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Bd3 b6 {Here White has tried many moves...} 9. e4 $1 {this is the one i like best for now} (9. Ne5) (9. Qe2) (9. Bb5 {have all been tried before.}) 9... dxe4 $6 {this natural looking move actually gives Black a tough time as White gets good initative.} ({The counter intuiative move} 9... Be7 $1 {has shown to be best in master practice.} 10. e5 {the game's pawn structure takes on a very french advanced-like theme with pawns on e5/d4/c3} Nh5 $11 {with some moves being tried here.}) 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. Bxe4 Bb7 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qa4 $1 { The queen develops and threatens to win material on c6. Already here White scores excellently in practice.} Qc8 $2 {Protecting the knight but fails to spot a tactical resource for White} (13... Rc8 14. Rd1 Qe7 15. O-O Rfd8 16. Rfe1 h6 17. Rxd8+ Qxd8 18. Rd1 Qe8) 14. Bxh7+ $1 {the start of a winning attack. Amazingly I had prepped for this line just hours before. Imagine my delight when I saw it appear over the chessboard.} Kxh7 15. Qh4+ Kg8 (15... Kg6 $4 16. Qg5+ Kh7 17. Qh5+ Kg8 18. Ng5 {is mate in 8}) 16. Ng5 {The next few moves are pretty much forced.} Rd8 17. Qh7+ Kf8 18. Qh8+ Ke7 19. Qxg7 Rf8 { I remember distinctively thinking to myself here that I had pretty much won the game and the result was just a matter of 'time'. As a result, my mind drifted into an 'easy' mood.} 20. Rd1 $2 {[%cal Ga1d1] A very natural looking move made only aftter a few minutes thought. My plan was Nh7 followed by Bh4 and I couldn't really see how Black could defend. However, after nearly 15 mins thought, my opponent found an amazing resource for Black. Can you spot it?} (20. O-O $1 {was simple and clean. Get the king into safetly and centralized the rooks. Black will have a torrid time defending his king} { stockfish gives the best defensive line as} e5 21. Bxe5 Qf5 22. Bg3 Rg8 23. Rfe1+ Kd7 24. Rad1+ Bd4 $1 (24... Nd4 $1 25. Qxf7+ Qxf7 26. Nxf7 Bd5 27. Ne5+ Kc8 28. b4 Nc2 29. Re2 Bd4 30. Rxc2 Bxe5 31. Rxd5 Bxg3 32. hxg3) 25. Qxf7+ Qxf7 26. Nxf7) 20... Nd4 $3 {Black finds the only move which keeps him in the game. Blocks the d file and threatens ..Nf5/Nc2 ideas} 21. cxd4 $6 (21. Rxd4 $1 { was best.} Bxd4 22. Qxd4 Qc5 23. Qh4 Qf5 24. Ne4+ f6 25. Bd6+ Kf7 26. Bxf8 Bxe4 27. f3 Bc6 28. Ba3 $11) 21... Bb4+ 22. Kf1 $4 {I had failed to recognise that the c file was open!} (22. Ke2 Qc2+ 23. Ke3 Rac8 {and now Black also has an attack}) 22... Qc2 $1 {And White is forced to part with too much material.} ({ I had calculated this originally.} 22... Ba6+ 23. Kg1 Qc2 24. Ra1 $11) 0-1

Take Home Lessons

Time management. 

Honestly, I should have taken more time to think through my moves, esp after 20..Nd4!! It's called SLOW chess league for a reason. Since I had gained so much time on the clock thanks to my opening preparation, I  should have invested it back into working thru the different variations and drawing the right conclusions. Not spotting 22...Qc2 is truly inexcusable at my level. 

'It ain't over till it's over'.

I realize that I have a bad mental habit: I tend to err on the side of laziness and not think hard enough for my opponent. As a result, I am prone to overlooking my opponent's threats and resources which lay the foundations of many many defeats. In short, I don't think hard enough for my opponent. 
I also tend to give up too easily when my position is starting to crack.  Both of these attitudes have got to change if I want to get better. 

Chess is a struggle which reflects life: Nothing good ever comes easy.  You have to work really hard to bag the victory. This is probably why victory in chess tastes so sweet.


I hope that this will be the last time I throw away such a big advantage in a competitive game of chess. We all make mistakes in our lives, just don't make the same mistakes twice!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

A long overdue holiday break.

At the Top of MaoKong Station

I managed to get some time off work this week to enjoy a vacation with my family in Taiwan. This trip would be slightly different as we would traveling alongside my sister's family, the first time we have traveled with another family overseas. The total headcount was as follows: 4 adults, 4 toddlers, 1 helper.

The holiday came at just the right moment as I was feeling a little drained from work and needed something to break the monotony of the weekly usual routine.

Overall, I was happy with the holiday experience. Although I was nursing a slight cold throughout (which really hampered my ability to go for some much-needed exercise), our daily itinerary was packed with wholesome activities to keep kids entertained and occupied. I managed to compensate for my lack of exercise with plenty of walks around to keep the muscles going.

Taiwan is a very kid friendly place with lots of activities for toddlers to do. Cable cars, amusement parks, child-focused museums, big spacious playgrounds. Delicious local food. Reasonable prices. Clean streets. Check out the pictures below!

A highly recommended place to visit if you have toddlers around the ages of 2-5.

Sunset in Taiwan

John enjoying his toddler sized earphones. Well done SQ!

The sight every parent yearns for... A sleeping toddler on a plane. Quick, time to catch some in-flight entertainment before the kid wakes up!

"What? We're going back to Singapore already?!"

This place sells great soybean milk and pancakes. 

Mozerella Cheeze. 

Boys can't live without their mummy

Who says Shopping is just for the Ladies? 

What a beautiful Sunset.

Love the view from the Ferris Wheel. Love the Air Conditioning as well!

"Er...Dad, I think I can't ride for free anymore."

Evening Shannigans. (Yes, we disconnected the phone line to spare the operator.

Green Tea Biscuits! Yummy!
A very long cable car ride up to MaoKong Station

Tracked up all the way up the hill at Taiwan's Zoo to catch  a sighting's of John's favorite animal.

John loves Vending Machines.

It's no joke traveling around with 4 toddlers. Aged 4,3,2,1 respectively! 

During the evenings, whilst the kids were sleeping, I was able to sneak in 1-2 games of online chess games before heading off to bed. I had some interesting games over the past week in Taiwan (some good, some bad/terrible) but none pleased me better than the following game:

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.10.18"] [Round "?"] [White "myself"] [Black "opponent"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [WhiteElo "1905"] [BlackElo "2004"] [Annotator "mark liew"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] {My first victory against 2000 rated opposition in rapid time controls 15|10} 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c5 3. e4 $5 {this is known as the smith morris gambit.} (3. e3 {is the more restrained way to play this position}) 3... dxe4 {Black accepts the gambit.} 4. d5 $1 {the position is an Albin's countergambit with White having an extra tempo with the bishop on f4} Nf6 5. Nc3 {i think it was around here that Black overestimates his position and played the natural looking} e6 $6 {which doesn't work quite so well here because of a concrete line.} (5... g6 6. Qe2 (6. Qd2 Bg7 7. O-O-O O-O 8. Nge2 (8. f3)) 6... Bg7 7. O-O-O O-O 8. f3 exf3 9. Nxf3) 6. Bb5+ Bd7 7. dxe6 $1 {the point} fxe6 (7... Bxb5 $2 {would be a mistake.} 8. exf7+ Ke7 9. Qxd8+ Kxd8 10. Nxb5 $16) 8. Bxd7+ Nbxd7 {White is down a pawn but Black's fractured pawn structure should ensure him equality at least.} (8... Qxd7 9. Nge2 Qf7 10. Ng3 Nc6) 9. Qe2 $14 {White starts to pressure the isolated pawns.} Qa5 $2 (9... Qb6 10. O-O-O $14) 10. O-O-O Be7 11. f3 $5 exf3 $2 {this is too dangerous} ({stockfish gives.} 11... Nd5 12. Nxd5 exd5 13. Kb1 Nb6 14. fxe4 O-O 15. Nh3 $11) 12. Nxf3 {Now White's pieces get active. The drawback of Black's position is clearly e6} Qb6 13. Rhe1 { Activates White's final piece.} Nf8 14. Ng5 {everything's hinges on e6.} h6 15. Nxe6 $1 Nxe6 (15... Qxe6 16. Qf1 $1 Qf7 17. Qb5+ N8d7 18. Bd6) 16. Rd6 $1 { interferance!} (16. Bd6 $1 {is also just as good.} Bxd6 17. Qxe6+ $18) 16... Bxd6 17. Qxe6+ $18 Kd8 (17... Kf8 18. Bxd6+ Qxd6 19. Qxd6+ $18) 18. Rd1 { pins the bishops and threatens to win Black's queen via Rxd6} Nd7 19. Rxd6 { threatens mate on d7} Qc7 {forced} 20. Nd5 {White just keep on playing threat after threat after threat.} Re8 {I had expected this.} 21. Qxe8+ $1 Kxe8 22. Nxc7+ {and here Black resigned due to loss of significant material. A simple line would be 2..Ke7 23.Rxd7+ Kxd7 24.Nxa8} 1-0

This game had huge significance for me as I had never beaten a 2000 rated player before on rapid time controls. Another milestone for me in chess. Yay.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A good day ends with a good game of chess.😊

A good cup of coffee, pastry, and a journal.
I have just experienced one of those rare days when everything goes so smoothly.

It all started with a quiet moment of reflection at breakfast, followed by productive hours at the laptop, a good engaging staff meeting and an evening spent with the family on a public bus ride (it's fascinating to see how children are easily delighted by things we adults take for granted.)

And to top it off, I played one of my best-attacking chess game this year.

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.10.16"] [Round "?"] [White "myself"] [Black "opponent"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "1897"] [BlackElo "1860"] [Annotator "Mark Liew"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] {One of my best attacking games of the year combining opening preparation and attacking motiffs.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. h4 $5 {a line that was bought into the limelight by GM Karjarkin} O-O $2 {invites a world of trouble.} (5... c6 6. Be2 h5 7. Nf3 Nbd7 8. Ne5 Nxe5 9. Bxe5) 6. h5 $1 Nxh5 ( 6... gxh5 7. Rxh5 Nxh5 8. Qxh5 {transposes back into the game.}) 7. Rxh5 $1 gxh5 8. Qxh5 $14 {the opened h file and the attack on Black's king compensates more then adequately for the loss material. This is just one of those concrete positions where White has all the tactical play.} Be6 $2 {understandable that Black wants to preserve as much material as possible but this can hardly be considered a developing move. White builds up the attack} (8... Nd7 $1 { offered the best chances to hold.} 9. Bd3 Nf6 10. Qh4 (10. Qh2 {might be even better.} c5 11. dxc5 h6 12. Nf3 Ng4 13. Qg3 e5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. Bxe5 Qg5 16. Qxg5 hxg5 17. Bd6 Be6 $16) 10... c5 11. dxc5 Ne4 12. O-O-O e5 13. Qh2 $3 exf4 14. Bxe4 h6 15. Qxf4 Be6 16. Nxd5 Bxd5 17. Rxd5 Qa5 18. Nf3 $1 Qxa2 19. Ne5 Rad8 20. Qf5 Qa1+ 21. Kd2 Rxd5+ 22. Bxd5 Bxe5 23. Qxe5 Rd8 24. e4 Qa5+ 25. Ke2) (8... e6 9. Bd3 f5 10. Nf3 Nd7 11. O-O-O Nf6 12. Qh3 Bd7 13. Rh1 h5 14. Qg3 $1 $16 {and the attack continues.}) 9. Bd3 {mate on h7 is threatened.} f5 {forced} 10. Nf3 {with threats of Ng5 in the air.} Qe8 $2 (10... Nd7 11. g4 $1 (11. O-O-O {is good but not as concerte.}) 11... Nf6 12. Qh4 Qe8 (12... fxg4 $2 13. Ng5) 13. gxf5 Qh5 14. fxe6 Qxf3 15. Be2 Qg2 16. O-O-O $16) 11. Qh2 $6 ({ missing out on the simple} 11. Qxe8 Rxe8 12. Ng5 Bf7 (12... Bd7 13. Nxd5) 13. Nxf7 Kxf7 14. Nxd5 $18 {and White wins back material with interest}) 11... c6 $2 (11... c5 12. O-O-O Nc6 13. Rh1 $16) 12. O-O-O {[%csl Gd1,Gg1,Gh1][%cal Gd1g1,Gd1h1] now the rook joins into the attack} Qg6 $2 13. g4 $1 Nd7 (13... Qxg4 $4 14. Ng5 $18) 14. Rg1 {bringing all the pieces to the party} Qf6 15. g5 {straightforward but far from the best.} (15. gxf5 $1 Bxf5 16. Ne5 $1 { threatening to take on d7 winning material.} Qe6 (16... Bxd3 17. Nxd7 $18 { and Black again loses material.}) (16... Nxe5 $4 17. Bxe5 {is just bad.}) 17. Qg3 Bg6 18. Nxg6 hxg6 19. Bxg6 Rxf4 20. Bh7+ Kf8 21. Qxg7+ Ke8 22. exf4 $18) 15... Qg6 16. Nh4 Qh5 17. Be2 Qe8 18. g6 h6 19. Nf3 $2 {missing a cleaner win} (19. Bxh6 $1 Bxh6 20. Nxf5 $1 {and all lines lead to a further loss of material for Black. A sample line goes.} Rxf5 (20... Bxf5 21. Qxh6 Bxg6 22. Rxg6+ Qxg6 23. Qxg6+ Kh8 24. Bd3 $18) 21. Qxh6 Nf8 22. g7 Nh7 23. Rh1 Nf6 24. e4 dxe4 25. Nxe4 Kf7 26. Ng5+ Rxg5 27. Qxg5 Qg8 28. Bh5+ Nxh5 29. Qxh5+ Kxg7 30. Rg1+ Kf8 31. Rxg8+ $18 {and White should convert.}) 19... Nf6 20. Bxh6 Ng4 {I had anticipated this and} 21. Rxg4 $1 fxg4 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 $1 {my opponent finds the best move to resist.} (22... Qxg6 23. Qh8+ Kf7 24. Ne5+ $16) 23. Qh7+ Kf6 24. g7 Rg8 25. Ne5 Rxg7 26. Qh6+ Rg6 27. Qf4+ Kg7 28. Bd3 $1 {every move a threat} Rf6 (28... Qf8 $1 29. Nxg6 Qxf4 30. Nxf4 {was perhaps the best line}) 29. Qg5+ Kh8 $2 {allows for decisive penetration} (29... Kf8 30. Ng6+ Rxg6 31. Bxg6 $18 {And Black has no choice but to give up the queen to prevent mate.}) 30. Qh4+ Kg7 31. Qh7+ Kf8 32. Bg6 {And my opponent lost on time but White should have no problems here converting the win. What a game!} (32. Ng6+ { has the same result.} Rxg6 33. Bxg6 {Black loses the queen.}) 1-0

Today was just ..... great. I am extremely grateful for days such as these but mindful to guard my expectation for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Life (and Chess, I might add) is always full of ups and downs and it's important to appreciate the journey and the process.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The 2000 ELO Challenge

Just when I was feeling smug about myself breaking into the 1900 ELO bracket again on rapid time control, my wife decides to offer me a challenge:

Break ELO 2000 by 31st December on rapid time control 15|10 

I am like... 😲

I have barely 2.5 months to move up another 100 ELO points. In theory, I need to win around 15-20 games in a row, and against opposition whose ratings are in the 1800-2000 ELO bracket range.

This is going to be hard.

I don't believe I've won that many 1900-2000 rated players before on Maybe a dozen at best. Winning on a regular basis is going to take considerable effort and training on my part.

Am I going to try? You bet I am. Challenge accepted! 

I will have to mentally prepare myself for a much higher level of opposition than the one faced this afternoon:

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.10.14"] [Round "?"] [White "opponent"] [Black "myself"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C02"] [WhiteElo "1792"] [BlackElo "1900"] [Annotator "Mark"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] {Getting into the 1900 ELO range again for the 3rd time in the past 30 days is sweet. The challenge is staying there!} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Be3 $5 {an interesting sideline known to have some poison} Nge7 (5... Nh6 $5 6. Bxh6 gxh6 7. Nf3 Qb6 8. Qb3 Qxb3 9. axb3 cxd4 10. cxd4 f6 11. exf6 Bd6 12. Nbd2 O-O 13. Bb5 Rxf6 $15) 6. Nf3 (6. dxc5 $2 Nf5) 6... Nf5 7. Qd2 Bd7 (7... Nxe3 8. fxe3 Be7 9. Bd3 Bd7 10. O-O Qb6 11. Kh1 Rc8 $11) 8. Bd3 (8. dxc5 Nxe3 9. Qxe3 b6 10. cxb6 Qxb6 11. Qxb6 axb6 12. Nbd2 h6 13. Nb3 g5 14. Nbd4 Nxd4) 8... Nxe3 9. fxe3 Be7 10. O-O Rc8 11. Na3 a6 {stopping any pieces landing on b5} 12. Rae1 (12. Nc2) 12... O-O 13. Bb1 {White wants to create a bishop queen battery along the b1 h8 diagonal} f6 $5 {I thought it was time to undermine the center. } 14. e4 $2 (14. exf6 Rxf6 $15) 14... cxd4 15. cxd4 (15. exd5 $2 dxc3 $17) (15. Nxd4 fxe5 $17) 15... Bb4 16. Qd3 {[%cal Ge4d5,Gd3h7] the threat is exd5} dxe4 ( 16... Bxe1 $4 17. exd5 $14) 17. Rxe4 f5 $1 {stops all immediate threats and gives Black long term positional advantage} 18. Rh4 Ne7 $1 {[%csl Gd3,Gf1] [%cal Ge7d5,Gb4a3,Gd7b5,Gb5f1] a good regrouping} 19. g4 $2 {loses further material} (19. Ng5 Ng6) 19... Ng6 20. Rh5 (20. Rh3 Nf4) 20... Nf4 21. Qb3 Bxa3 22. bxa3 Nxh5 23. gxh5 {Black is up in significant material and now only has to be careful to convert the point} Qe8 24. h6 $2 Qg6+ {White loses more material with no compensation} 25. Kh1 Qxh6 26. d5 exd5 27. Qxd5+ Qe6 (27... Be6 {objectively is stronger according to Stockfish but when up in material, just force a winning endgame is simpler.}) 28. Qxb7 (28. Qxe6+ Bxe6 29. Nd4 Bd5+ 30. Kg1 g6 {doesn't inspire much hope for White}) 28... Bc6 {[%csl Gf3] [%cal Gc6h1] a very annoying pin for White} 29. Qb2 (29. Qxa6 $4 Bxf3+ { wins the White queen}) 29... Rb8 30. Qc3 Be4 {trying to force simplications} ({ instead the natural} 30... Rfc8 {wins the house}) 31. Bc2 (31. Bxe4 fxe4 32. Nd2 Qd5) 31... Rfc8 32. Bb3 Rxc3 33. Bxe6+ Kf8 34. Kg2 Ke7 35. Bb3 {and here my opponent decides to call it a day.} 0-1

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Mental aspects of chess: Playing against a stronger opponent

The initial feeling one gets after an unfavorable pairing

So here's a situation most of you might be familiar with:

The pairings are out, you look for your name. There it is! You glance at your opponent and oh-my-gosh, he's rated 400 Elo points higher than you! You do more research and discover he is an up and coming prodigy (>10 years younger than you) with the potential to become the next Grandmaster. 

What are you thinking at this exact moment? 

Truth is, most people would be intimated by such a pairing. I know I would be. However, I've learned a couple of mind tricks along the way to help me cope with the added pressure. 

1. You've got nothing to lose. 

Heck, with a gap of over 400 ELO points, no one is expecting you to win. All the pressure is on your opponent. Just go out there, play your best and enjoy the 'lesson' if you lose. 

2. Your opponent is human and will make mistakes. 

You're not playing against computer engines such as Stockfish, Houdini or Komodo who will rip most chess players to shreds by move 20. Your opponent is a human made of flesh and blood, not some chess deity who plays perfect moves endlessly. There will be inaccuracies and it's up to you to find out how to best exploit them. 

Remember that the ELO system is just a reflection of how consistent a player is. As humans, we all have our good days and our bad days. It helps to imagine before the start of every chess game, both players start from an  ELO rating strength of ZERO and must 'work' our way up to our playing strength.  Your opponent cannot take anything for granted.

3. Prepare hard. Leave no room for regrets 

If there's ample time, look through your opponent's game and come to the chessboard with a game plan in mind. The good thing about having a higher rated opponent is that normally they tend to have more games in the database then you. Therefore, in theory, you can come more prepared since you have more information on them then they have on you. I truly believe that chess databases have somewhat leveled the playing field a little. Even masters can get caught off-guard in the opening or middlegame and never recover. Take for example the following game I played against an NM (FIDE rated 2067) on recently. He walked right into my opening preparation and as a result, I was able to convert the point without much trouble. 

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.10.07"] [Round "?"] [White "Canadian NM Master"] [Black "Myself"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "1820"] [BlackElo "1850"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] {My opponent is an NM from Canada.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 { The Steinz Variation. Very topical in top level play and considered to be one of the main lines against the French} Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O $2 {I was quite suprised when my opponent played this as I was under the impression that most masters would know this move to be a mistake.} ({Better was} 9. Be2 b6 10. O-O f6 {thematic.}) ({another main line goes.} 9. Bd3 f6 $1) 9... c4 $1 {prevents White from developing his light square bishop and prepares the queenside pawn storm.} 10. f5 b5 $1 {the point! Black doesn't fear the lost of the B pawn as it opens up lines of attack along the b file against White's king} 11. Nxb5 (11. f6 gxf6 12. Bh6 fxe5 $1 13. Bxf8 Qxf8) 11... Rb8 12. fxe6 fxe6 13. Nd6 Bxd6 14. exd6 Nb6 (14... Nf6 15. Bf4 Ne4 16. Qe3 Nxd6) 15. Ne5 (15. Bg5 Qxd6) 15... Qxd6 16. b3 $4 {Probably overlook the fact that Black can now check on a3 with devastating consequences.} (16. Nxc6 Qxc6 17. b3 Na4 $1 18. bxa4 (18. Qa5 cxb3 19. axb3 Rxb3) 18... c3 19. Qd3 Rf7 $3) 16... Qa3+ 17. Kb1 Na4 18. Qc1 $4 (18. c3 cxb3 19. Nxc6 Nxc3+ 20. Qxc3 Qxa2+ 21. Kc1 b2+ 22. Kd2 b1=Q+) 18... Nc3+ 19. Ka1 Qxa2# {checkmate} 0-1

Bottom line: When playing a much stronger opponent, there's nothing to lose. Prepare as hard as you can and enjoy your 'lesson'. Your opponent cannot beat you if you play good moves. 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

An Endgame Tactic

Rook endgames are usually complex and rich in resources for both sides.

Take the following position which just occurred in one of my internet games. (I was playing White.)
White to move after 1..a4

Black has just played 1..a4. The position looks bleak for White with Black’s passed d pawn looking menacing.

Yet, as in life, there’s is always hope! White to move.

Check out the answer below:

Answer: 2. f5! gf 3. Rh4+ following by Rxb3 ..Kb3 then g6.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A nice attacking french game

I really love the French Defence. Been playing it since 2008. Merci! =)
It's been a while since I had a nice attacking game.

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.10.03"] [Round "?"] [White "Opponent"] [Black "myself"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C01"] [WhiteElo "1813"] [BlackElo "1873"] [Annotator "mark"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "900+10"] {It's been a while since I last had a good attacking game.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 {The French Exchange variation.} 4. Nf3 (4. c4 {is the other main line}) 4... Bd6 5. Bd3 (5. c4) 5... Ne7 6. O-O Nbc6 7. c3 Bg4 $5 {provocative and indicating my desire to play for a win} ({all the main engines according to the chessbase cloud are screaming} 7... Bf5 {up to depth 40 plus and beyond. }) 8. Bg5 $6 {a slight inaccuracy} f6 $1 $15 {interestingly, in one of my earlier chess tournaments back in Medical school days, an expert level player crushed me with Black in reversed colors. Now, I use that variation as Black. The point is that Black gains a vital tempo or even tempi harresing the Black squared bishop with pawns.} 9. Bh4 Qd7 {preparing queenside castling.} 10. Nbd2 O-O-O 11. b4 {White plans to pawnstorm kingside, whilst Black is doing likewise queenside.} Nf5 $1 {the best move, attacking the dark square bishop and preparing ...Nce7 when White plays b5} 12. Bg3 Nxg3 {now Black gets the double bishops and slightly disturbs Black's kingside pawns.} 13. hxg3 { the pawn on g3 now becomes a 'hook'} Kb8 $1 {prophylaxis before beginning the attack. Black doesn't want to be caught with any potential Bf5 move which would pin his queen to his majesty.} 14. Qc2 g5 (14... h5 $1 {was probably the most accurate.}) 15. a4 h5 16. a5 ({If} 16. b5 {simply} Ne7 $17) 16... h4 $1 $17 {touchdown. Black gets to open files first.} 17. gxh4 Bxf3 $5 (17... Rdg8 $1 {was the best} {If} 18. hxg5 f5 $1 19. Ne5 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Qh7 $1 21. f3 Qh2+ 22. Kf2 Bh3 23. Ke1 Bxg2) 18. Nxf3 g4 $1 {forcing open the h file.} 19. Bf5 Qg7 20. Nh2 Rxh4 $1 (20... Bxh2+ 21. Kxh2 Rxh4+ 22. Kg3 Rdh8 {is playable as well}) 21. g3 (21. Nxg4 Ne7 22. f3 Bg3 23. Rfe1 Qh8 24. Nf2 Nxf5 25. Qxf5 Rh1+ 26. Nxh1 Qh2+ 27. Kf1 Qxh1+ 28. Ke2 Re8+) 21... Rxh2 $1 22. Kxh2 Qh6+ 23. Kg1 Rh8 { a classic h file attack} 24. f4 gxf3 $2 ({I'm quite upset that I didn't find.} 24... Qh1+ 25. Kf2 Qf3+ 26. Ke1 Re8+ 27. Kd2 Re2+ {winning instantly.}) (24... Nxd4 25. cxd4 Qh1+ 26. Kf2 Qf3+ 27. Ke1 Bxb4+ {was another winning possiblity.} ) 25. Kf2 Qg5 $1 {[%csl Gg3,Gh2][%cal Gh8h2,Gg5g3,Gd6g3,Gh2c2]} 26. Ke1 Bxg3+ ( {Better was} 26... Nxd4 27. cxd4 Qe3+ 28. Kd1 Qxd4+ {winning the rook}) 27. Kd1 Rh2 28. Qd3 Bf4 $1 29. Qxf3 Qxf5 30. Rc1 $4 {allowing a mate in 3 but already White is lost.} (30. Rg1 a6 31. b5 axb5 32. a6 bxa6 33. Rg8+ (33. Rxa6 Qb1#) 33... Kb7 {and white faces mate in 12 according to stockfish}) 30... Rd2+ 31. Ke1 Qe6+ {White resigned} 0-1

A must-have cable

I"m going to digress a little and share a very impressive cable that I've been using lately.

Ta-Da. For charging up all those devices running chess engines (which drains considerable battery)
A 3-1 cable! Lightning, USB- A and USB C. It doesn't get any better than that, connectivity wise.

As for pricing, there's a huge range. The ones with good insulating material usually go start in the S$20 range and upwards. I can testify that it has made my life a lot easier. Worth every penny.

Monday, 1 October 2018

A useful Chessbase Tip

Okay this post will be a quick one but one that is hopefully very useful to my readers, especially to those who use ChessBase.
Say you have received a pgn file in text form like this

[Event "QCD round 10"]
[Site "Shredder for iPhone / iPod touch"]
[Date "2018.09.28"]
[Round "?"]
[White "annonymous"]
[Black "annonymous"]
[WhiteElo "-"]
[BlackElo "-"]
[ECO "B01"]
[Opening "Centre Counter/Marshall Gambit"]
[Result "0-1"]
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. d4 Bg4 4. Be2 Bxe2 5. Nxe2 Qxd5 6. O-O Nc6 7. Nbc3 Qh5
8. Bf4 O-O-O 9. Ng3 Qh4 10. Be3 Ng4 11. h3 Nxe3 12. fxe3 Qxg3 13. Rf3 Qg6 14. Qe2
e5 15. d5 Nb4 16. e4 Bc5 17. Kh1 Rhf8 18. a3 Na6 19. Raf1 Bd4 20. Nb5 Nc5 21. c3
Nxe4 22. cxd4 Ng3 23. Rxg3 Qxg3 24. Nxa7 Kb8 25. Nc6 bxc6 26. dxc6 Qb3 27. Rf3
Qa4 28. Qxe5 Rxd4 29. Qc5 Rfd8 30. b3 Qa7 31. Qb5 Qb6 32. Qf5 Qxc6 33. b4 Rd1
34. Kh2 Qd6 35. Rg3 Rd3 36. Qb5 Kc8 37. Qf5 Rd7 *

You can highlight the above as shown on notepad as shown

Sketch (1)

Launch a new window of chessbase 14 and under ‘HOME” click on paste game

chessbase tricks

and the entire game will be copied over to your Chessbase programme for you to annotate and edit at leisure!
chessbase trick2

Hope you find this tip helpful!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Slow Chess League Game

Preparing for a Slow Chess League game 

As always, my supporting family member wishing me luck before the game. =p

The Slow Chess League (or SCL for short) is a great initiative led by SirIvanHoe (alias name). Basically, this league aims to connect adults all over the world who want to play a game of slow chess over the internet as opposed to the usual blitz/rapid chess that most people play. It is a known fact that if you want to improve at chess, you have to play games at slower time controls to fully cultivate one's appreciation for things such as pawn structure, good vs bad pieces, development, and king safety. It also trains you to always be alert for resources. Personally, I have benefitted from the SCL since enrolling in it almost 2 years ago. (winning 2 months, once in 2016 and another time in 2017).  I would urge all adults who want to seriously improve their game to play at least one chess game at slow time controls once a week to get a good feel of 'tournament chess'.  Please note though, that in order to qualify for SCL, you have to play your first month in a qualifying round (SirIvanHoe believes in screening his enrollment to make sure players are serious about the league) before you are fully accepted in the league.

So after the highs of yesterdays QCD ACL win, could I conjure up a second in a row? Here's how tonight's game went:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.09.29"] [Round "?"] [White "GuerreroG9"] [Black "dr_chessdad"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A23"] [WhiteElo "1704"] [BlackElo "1842"] [Annotator "X1,Mark"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "2700+45"] {The slow chess league is one that I really recommend for busy parents such as myself as it gives me the flexibility to play from home. Granted, it's not the most ideal set-up, but it's as close as one can get. So far this league has really grown from strength to strength. The player pool has gotten really strong. I haven't managed to win any month yet and time is indeed running out for me to participate in next year's SCL championships.} 1. c4 $1 {an exclaimation mark as I didn't see my opponent play any English games when I did my usual intel gathering.} e5 {after this game I'm definitely going to spend the whole of the coming week practicing to play this against Black} 2. Nc3 Bb4 {A pretty popular move these days at top level, mainly thru the efforts of GM Vishy Anand} 3. g3 c6 {not sure whether this was an inaccuracy.} (3... Nf6 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nf3 e4) 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. Qb3 Bc5 (5... Na6) 6. e3 O-O 7. Nge2 Re8 8. O-O (8. d4 $2 exd4 9. exd4 Bxd4) 8... e4 (8... d6 9. d4 Bb6) 9. d4 exd3 10. Nf4 d5 $2 $16 {somehow I had the illusion here that Black has some compensation for the pawn.} ({correct was} 10... d6 11. Na4 $1 {and Black has to part with his double bishops.} Nbd7 12. Nxd3 Bb6 13. Nxb6 Nxb6 14. Nf4 $1 { prevents ..d5}) 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. Ncxd5 Nc6 13. Bd2 Ne4 14. Qxd3 $2 (14. Bxe4 $1 Rxe4 15. Qxd3 Bf5 16. Qb5 Bd6 17. Bc3 $18) 14... Bf5 $1 $11 {indeed now I have compensation} 15. g4 Nxd2 ({I did consider this} 15... Ne5 16. Qe2 Bxg4 { but stopped after i saw} 17. f3 {however I should have calculated further} Nxd2 18. Qxd2 (18. fxg4 $2 Nxf1) 18... Bd7 {and Black is a clean pawn up}) 16. Qxf5 Nxf1 17. Rxf1 Qd6 $2 (17... Bd6 18. Rd1 Bxf4 19. Qxf4 Qh4) (17... Ne7 {doesn't work} 18. Nf6+) 18. Rc1 $2 (18. Be4 $1 $14 Qh6 19. Nc7 $18) 18... Rad8 $4 ( 18... Re5 19. Qc2 Bb6 $11) 19. Rxc5 $1 {horror of horrors, I realized I had overlooked this move completely. I tried to composed myself but the damaged had already been done.} Re5 20. Qc2 Nb4 21. Qc4 (21. Nxb4 $2 Rxc5) 21... Na6 ( 21... b6 22. Rc7) (21... Nxd5 22. Nxd5 $16) 22. Rc8 g5 23. Rxd8+ Qxd8 24. Qd4 Qd6 25. Nh5 Nc5 $4 26. Ndf6+ $1 {GuerreroG9 won by resignation} 1-0

My sad look after resigning. Chess is tough.

3 lessons to take away from this loss

1) I need to work on my lines as Black against the English Opening. My opening play in this game esp 10...d5? was far from optimal.
2) Practice more tactics and calculation puzzles. Play fewer games online.
3) Never ever let my guard down especially when I think I'm winning. Never underestimate your opponent's resources

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Horsing Around with the Kids

Presenting: James the Nun. =p

The Final Round of the QCD Adult Chess League Season 2.

Image may contain: text

Today was the final round of the QCD adult chess league this year.

The league is now in its second season since it's inauguration last year in 2017. A total of 17 teams participated this year (up from last year's 14) with many strong local chess players coming out of 'retirement' to throw their hat into the ring. The top teams were quite close, although one, in particular, stood out amongst the rest. It was 'Pawnstars', last season's runners-up. They had managed to grind a result round after round and won the league with 1 game left to go. Worthy and deserved champions.

Personally, I really enjoy the league. My team remained intact from last year, and as a result, we have bonded well and grew to appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses. I dare say overall, my team has made significant progress from last season. Consider our score from last season +0/=1/-7 and this season +4/=1/-5. What a vast improvement! We joked at the start that our KPI this season was simply to win 1 round, who knew we would reach 4 victories?!  My team captain Mr. Ong Yujing (a.k.a Newbie/Scorekeeper) has been ever faithful in keeping us organized and making sure we showed up for all of our rounds. I don't think we forfeited any boards except for 1 time this whole season. His chess blog can be found here.

Back to my game: Objectively my play was probably the worst when compared to previous rounds. Most likely it was due to lack of familiar territory (The opening started as a Pirc but ended up as a Sicillian Dragon, an opening which my opponent plays as Black!) I feel relieved to have actually survived an attack and even converted the win in the end. Sometimes chess is a mysterious game indeed!

Here's the game in full with my annotations.

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "QCD adult chess league 2018"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.09.28"] [Round "10"] [White "Liew , Mark"] [Black "Opponent"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B07"] [Annotator "water"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "2018.09.28"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.09.20"] 1. d4 {I truly underestimated my opponent today. He put up a very good fight.} d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 Bg7 5. Qd2 {the Pirc Defense.} Ng4 $6 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 Nf6 (7... g5 $2 8. Bg3 e5 9. d5 f5 10. exf5 Bxf5 11. h4 $14) 8. f4 O-O 9. Nf3 (9. O-O-O $1 c6 10. Kb1 b5 11. Bd3 b4 12. Nce2 Nbd7 13. Nf3 a5 14. e5 (14. g4 $1 Nxg4 15. Rhg1) 14... Nd5 15. f5) 9... c5 10. O-O-O $2 {now we entered a sicillian dragon open favorable to Black!} (10. d5 $1) (10. dxc5 dxc5 11. Qxd8 Rxd8 12. e5 $16) 10... cxd4 11. Nxd4 Nc6 12. Nxc6 (12. Bf2) 12... bxc6 13. e5 Ne8 14. exd6 $2 {[%cal Gg7c3] opening up lines for the dragon bishop} (14. Be2 Qc7 15. Bf3 Rb8 16. Rhe1 $14) 14... Nxd6 {[%csl Ge6][%cal Gc8e6,Ge6a2,Gg7b2, Ga8b8,Gb8b2,Gd8b6,Gd8a5] around here I took about a 5-10 min think, realizing that I am in big big trouble. Just look at all the wonderful attacking motiffs that are starting to appear!} 15. Bc4 $2 (15. Bxe7 {i saw this continuation but decided it would just suffering for White.} Qxe7 16. Qxd6 Qe3+ $1 17. Qd2 Qb6 $15 {Black still has the attack}) (15. Be2 Be6 $1 16. Bf2 Qa5 17. Bd4 Bxa2 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Qd4+ Kg8 20. Qa4) 15... Qb6 (15... Bg4 $1 {and Black wins.} 16. Bxe7 Qxe7 17. Qxd6 Qe3+ 18. Qd2 Qc5 19. Bb3 Bxc3 20. Qxc3 Qxc3 21. bxc3 Bxd1 22. Rxd1 $17) 16. Bb3 (16. Bxe7 Nxc4) 16... Be6 17. Rhe1 $2 (17. Bxe7 Nc4 18. Bxc4 Bxc4 19. Bxf8 Rxf8 {white has nothing to fear here.}) 17... Nc4 18. Qe2 (18. Qf2) 18... Na5 $2 19. Bxe6 fxe6 20. Qxe6+ Kh7 21. Qe3 {trying to stop Black's attack} (21. Rd7 $1 Rab8 22. Na4 Qb4 23. Re4 Qb5 24. Qxe7 {White wins.} ) 21... Qb8 22. b3 {stopping Nc4 for now.} Qxf4 23. Bg3 Qb4 24. Be5 (24. Qxe7 $1 Qxc3 25. Be5) 24... Qa3+ 25. Kd2 $1 (25. Kb1 {was playable.} Nc4 $1 { initially I dismissed Kb1 because i saw this possibility but Stockfish shows the refutation} 26. bxc4 Rab8+ 27. Nb5 $1 (27. Bxb8 Rxb8+ 28. Nb5 Qb2#) 27... Qxe3 28. Rxe3 cxb5 29. Bxg7 Kxg7 30. Rxe7+ Rf7 31. Rxf7+ Kxf7 32. Rd7+ Ke6 33. Rxa7 bxc4+ 34. Kc1 $16) 25... Rad8+ 26. Ke2 Bxe5 27. Qxe5 Qb4 28. Ne4 Qb5+ 29. Qxb5 cxb5 30. Rf1 Rde8 $2 31. Rd7 {with a hidden threat.} Nc6 $2 32. Nf6+ $1 { wins material. The rest is technical grind.} Kg7 33. Nxe8+ Rxe8 34. c3 a5 35. Rf4 Ne5 36. Rb7 Rc8 37. Kd2 Rd8+ 38. Kc2 g5 39. Re4 Ng6 40. g3 Kf6 41. Rxb5 Nh8 42. Rxa5 Nf7 43. g4 Nd6 44. Rd4 Rc8 45. c4 Nf7 46. Rf5+ Kg6 47. Rd7 Re8 48. a4 h5 49. h3 hxg4 50. hxg4 Nh6 51. Re5 Nxg4 52. Rexe7 Rxe7 53. Rxe7 Nf6 54. Re6 $1 Kf7 55. Rxf6+ $1 {the point} Kxf6 56. Kd3 {White stops Black's g pawn. There's no way Black is stopping 3 connected passed pawns.} *

May I never have to go through that again! If you're an adult in Singapore and love to play chess, feel free to send me an email: and I'll hook you up for next season.

Friday, 28 September 2018

S.M.A.R.T Goals

Just about a week ago, I finished attending an exercise prescription course as part of my eagerness to develop into a more well-rounded family physician.

The course was informative and I took away many useful tips regarding the finer details of giving exercise advice and which types of patients to look out for which require further medical attention before starting on an exercise programme.

One of the topics we learn during the 2-day course was setting S.M.A.R.T goals in terms of a weekly fitness routine.  So, SMART, in this case, is an acronym for the following:

1. Specific
2. Measurable
3. Agreeable  upon
4. Realistic
5. Time-Based

So I thought, 'Hmm, can't this be applied to Chess Training as well?'

At present moment I've yet to commit to a specific study plan for my Chess training. My only concrete goal is to achieve an average rapid rating of over 1900 on (At present I"m only rated at 1860). I know that if I wish to break my ‘dream’ FIDE Elo Rating of 2000 on standard chess, I have to commit to a training regime of some sort.

Being busy with work and family, I have to be honest with myself. I can at most commit to about  30-60 mins per day doing something chess related. I have to make those minutes count!

So what are my SMART goals for Chess for the remainder of 2018?

Having pondered over it for a few days I’ve decided to come up with a simple table as below
My Chess Weekly Study Routine
Area of PracticeAction
Chess games1-2 Rapid games per day
Tactics10-30 per day
OpeningsAs encountered.
Middle game Study1-2 per week
Endgame Practice1-2 per days

If I'm able to stick to the above routine consistently, I think I’ll be faring extremely well. I’ll give myself one month to see whether the above is truly achievable. Stay tuned.