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.

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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.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

A nice puzzle to start things off

I managed to play a good attacking chess game recently with the Black pieces and reached the following position below. I managed to cap it off in fine style. How does Black bag the point?


Black to move and win

Answer: 1..Rxc2!