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!