Friday, December 31, 2010

Hail to the new queen of chess


A 16-year-old chess prodigy from China has emerged as the new women’s world champ.

NOBODY who had met Hou Yifan in April this year, when she took part in the Kuala Lumpur open chess tournament, would have expected that the petite 16-year-old chess prodigy from China could close 2010 crowned as the new women’s world champion.

“When do you think you can become the world champion?” I had asked her then. She let out a stifled giggle, a reaction which I had mistaken for a nervous laugh. “I don’t know,” she replied.

Crowning glory: Hou Yifan with World Chess Federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

“But that’s your ambition, isn’t it?” I persisted. “Your last attempt at the world chess title had been so very close,” I men-tioned, referring to the previous world chess championship in Nalchik, Russia, in 2008.

At that time, Yifan was only 14 years old and she had progressed through the knock-out tournament till the final stage where she met the other finalist, Alexandra Kosteniuk. However, her opponent proved to be the better player and she was left to reflect on her lost opportunity.

“Oh, I hope to be better prepared and play better this time,” she had replied modestly.

Well, Yifan has really played better this time and gone one better than before. Two additional years of travelling the world and playing chess against top-notch men’s and women’s players had added to her experience.

Just last Friday in Hatay, Turkey, she finally claimed the women’s chess crown as her own. In the final of the championship, she played the match of her life and just about eked through with a hard-fought win against her compatriot, Ruan Lufei.

Yifan had started the knock-out women’s world championship as the third seed just behind India’s Humpy Koneru, the second seeded player. Despite being rated so much lower in the 64-player field, Kosteniuk as the defending champion had been given top seed in deference to her World Champion’s title but it was clear as the championship progressed that Kosteniuk would not be able to repeat her success of 2008.

In the third round, Kosteniuk was eliminated by Ruan. Both players had drawn their first two games and so it was left to the tie-break games to decide. A gritty Ruan won the first game of the tie-break before she then closed down Kosteniuk in the second tie-break game and thus, the Chinese player advanced to the quarter-finals.

It will be interesting to note that throughout this championship, Ruan gained a reputation as the tie-break queen. Right from the word Go, all of Ruan’s mini-matches (each round except for the final would be an encounter of two games at normal regulation time control and if there was no decision, then tie-break games at a faster time control would decide) went into nerve-wracking tie-breaks. None of her rounds were ever decided under normal time control.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise to observers when Ruan pulled level with Yifan after four normal regulation games in the final of this world championship.

The first game of the final began with Yifan playing with the white pieces and pressing to strike the first blow. At one point the position was better for Yifan but try as she could, she could not overcome Ruan and the game ended drawn.

Yifan was not to be denied, however, and she did pick up her first win against Ruan in the second game. The point was split again in the third game, but I can assure you that it was no tame stuff. Ruan could have won it and equalised. She had that pressing advantage which she could have converted into a win but did not.

So going into the fourth game, Yifan was still leading and needed just a draw. On the other hand, the fourth game was going to be a do-or-die mission for Ruan. Anything less than a win for Ruan would mean that the women’s world chess championship would have ended then and there for her.

It was fascinating to watch this game as it unfolded. Maybe it was due to nerves but Yifan, after defending well against Ruan’s onslaught, succumbed after Ruan found the very best moves over the board. At the end of the four normal regulation time control games, the final was back where it started: on equal footing for both players.

The first game of the tie-break was drawn, then Yifan won the second tie-break game. In the third tie-break game, the players drew again. But this was where the resemblance to the normal regulation games ended. In the fourth tie-break game, Yifan seized the initiative from Ruan and did not let go. As much as Ruan tried, she could not turn the game around and finally, with defeat staring at her on the chessboard, Ruan conceded the game.

So there we have it: Yifan is the newest and youngest of the long line of women’s world chess champions. Hail to the new queen of chess.

> (Just an interesting footnote here: China’s Ruan Lufei is 23 years old. She is a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the United States. “I think there are three reasons why she beat me,” Ruan reflected after the championship. “Firstly, she is really a good player, and unlike me, she plays chess every day. Secondly, I played tie-break in every round, so I have played for 20 days with only one day of rest. Finally, she has two coaches here, but I’m fighting alone. My coach is in China.”)

source: The star

Friday, December 17, 2010

Malaysia has huge potential in chess

Quah Seng Sun

Much can be done to attract foreign players to our shores.

I BELIEVE it is time for our Youth and Sports Ministry and Tourism Ministry to take a serious look at promoting sports tourism in this country.

If the experience of this year’s Penang Heritage City international chess tournament is anything to go by, there is a huge potential for the country to attract quality sportsmen and sportswomen to come play in our regional tournaments and enjoy the best we can offer at the same time.

Never mind if it is only a regional tournament outside of the Klang Valley. If the event is serious enough and big enough, support from the authorities can mean a big difference in attracting players and tourists to come here.

Full concentration: Oliver Dimakiling playing Niaz Murshed on his way to winning the Penang Heritage City International Chess Open.

The biggest surprise awaiting me at this tournament last week was the unusually large number of foreigners in the open section. Of course, I had anticipated that there would be foreign players in the field but I had not expected that there would be so many of them.

I counted 29 of them in the 71-player field, almost all from the countries around us but there was even one from distant Uzbekistan. Pleasant surprise, indeed!

Now, having known all that, what didn’t surprise me was that the Filipinos would dominate the event. Not at all. The Filipino players are known to be fiercely competitive, giving no quarter and expecting none in return, and they really made their presence felt.

Can you imagine that when all the dust had settled, nine of them took away the 15 prizes on offer? Four Filipino players among the top five prize winners, led by international masters Oliver Dimakiling and Oliver Barbosa who both finished with equal 7½ points with Dimakiling adjudged the overall winner by virtue of a tie-break.

Bangladesh’s Niaz Murshed, the sole grandmaster in the field, snatched the third prize, while the fourth and fifth prizes were again claimed by two Filipino international masters, Yves Ranola and Luis Chiong.

Then there were also their other compatriots – Haridas Pascua, Edgar Olay, Julius De Ramos, Ian Udani and Christopher Castellano – among the other prize winners.

It was left to our own Mas Hafizulhelmi to leave the first mark by a Malaysian in the winners’ list. A very honourable sixth place for him, considering the strength of the field. But in truth, I was also very glad to see Tan Khai Boon, Edward Lee and Ng Tze Han finishing among the prize winners; all of them our national champions at one time or another.

There was also a sizeable Singaporean presence in the open section. All juniors, they came with their parents and coaches to play chess first and tour the heritage areas of George Town second.

Among them, I can pick out Andre Jerome Eng and Benjamin Foo as the only two bright sparks among the Singapore players who were capable of mixing it up with the top players but in the end it was only Eng who managed to take home a prize.

Finally, let me say something about Luis Chiong. Now, that was a name that I had to dig out from the deep recesses of my memory. How many years was it since I first met him? Must be 1977 or 1978 when one of the legs of the first Asian grandmaster chess circuit was held here in the same building, the Dewan Sri Pinang.

Physically, he has changed, of course. Everybody has changed. In 30 years, everyone changes. However, he said this building – referring to the Dewan – looked the same to him. Ah, at least he remembered that.

source: The Star Online

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anand draws with Adams, remains in joint lead

LONDON: World Champion Viswanathan Anand was held to a draw by Michael Adams of England in the sixth and penultimate round but the Indian ace continued to hold joint lead at the London Chess Classic.

Anand remained in the lead after Russian Vladimir Kramnik failed to bring home full points from a winning position against Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the 1,45,000 Euros prize money tournament being played on a round-robin basis.

On a day of drawn games for the first time in the tournament, the status quo remained and Anand continued to share the lead with Carlsen and Luke McShane of England on 10 points in the Soccer like scoring system in use that gives three points for a win and one for a draw.

Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura share the fourth spot now on nine points each while Adams is sole sixth on seven points, well ahead of compatriots David Howell, who has three points, and Nigel Short, who has just two points with his two draws so far.

With just one round remaining, Anand faces arch-rival Kramnik, Carlsen is up against Short while McShane will take on Howell. The fact that Anand is playing white in the crucial last game gives the Indian ample chances to stay clear of the rest of the field in case he is able to register a victory.

Playing black against Adams, Anand did not face any difficulties. It was a Sicilian Najdorf by the Indian ace who showed right intentions for a full-bloodied battle but Adams shied away from complicated lines and stuck to his basics out of a positional system.

Anand equalised comfortably out of the opening and it looked as if he was pressing for an advantage in the endgame that ensued.

However, an alert Adams kept black's forces at bay and once he had established an outpost for his knight in the middle of the board the outcome of a the game was a foregone conclusion. The peace was signed on move 54.

Kramnik may not get a sound sleep in reflection of what he missed. The Russian could have been the sole leader and that many believed was just a notion once he got the winning position out a Nimzowitch defense that Carlsen employed with his black pieces.

With an army-like pawn structure in the centre, Kramnik almost forcibly won a piece and had a huge material advantage when he missed out on a brilliant exploit that was seen only by Carlsen.

Up a Bishop against just one pawn, Kramnik had to split the point in 86 moves.

In other games of the day, Luke McShane went for the English opening and sorted out his middle game problems through perpetual checks to earn a draw against Nakamura while Nigel Short's hunt for an elusive victory continued after he could not demonstrate an advantage with his King's gambit against Howell.

In the open section being held simultaneously, International Master Sahaj Grover misplayed a winning position and lost against Grandmaster Neil McDonald of England.

Sahaj, needed 1.5 points from the last two games for his second GM norm and this is already the second time in under three weeks that the talented youngster missed on the opportunity to make the norm after a fine start.

Earlier in the Cultural village tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, Sahaj needed a draw in the final round to make the grade.

Former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta gave a fine demonstration of his endgame skills to beat Gary Quillan of England to share the fourth spot on six points while Sahaj remained on 5.5 following the loss.

The event is being jointly led by English duo of Simon Williams and Gwain Jones both of who have seven points in their kitty.

Results Classic round 6: Michael Adams (Eng, 7) drew with V Anand (Ind, 10); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 9) drew with Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 10); Luke McShane (Eng, 10) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 9); Nigel Short (Eng, 2) drew with David Howell (Eng, 3).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chong Eu's unreserved support for chess


Remembering Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, an honorary patron of the MCF and the Penang Chess Association.

I STARTED playing chess quite late in my school life – when I was in Form Three. Before that, chess meant almost nothing to me. Hard to imagine it now, but it’s true.

It took me about five years from the time I saw my first chess pieces before I started learning to play. I still remember the occasion when I laid eyes on the pieces. It was at the end of the year. I was in Standard Four and there was this guy, one of my classmates, who was showing around his set of mysterious wooden pieces.

For a young boy whose only exposure to the chequered board at that time was the game of draughts (or checkers, if you like), I took the revelation that there could be other forms of board games, rather coolly.

Anyhow, that was my first exposure to chess. That classmate of mine turned out to be the younger son of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, Penang’s second chief minister who passed away more than a week ago.

I don’t know at all whether Tun Dr Lim played chess but I do know that my classmate friend must have got the inspiration for the game from one of his father’s closest buddies.

In case anyone doesn’t know, that would be Prof Dr Lim Kok Ann from Singapore, an expert on bacteriology who later became the general secretary of the World Chess Federation (Fide).

The two Lims – Tun Dr Lim and Prof Dr Lim – had forged a close friendship since their university days in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1940s. It was a friendship that later contributed a significant part to the growth of chess in this country and beyond.

In 1974, Fide was celebrating its golden jubilee and had wanted their affiliates to organise chess events in their part of the world. Prof Dr Lim was then already the Fide Zone 10 president and he wanted to organise the first Asian team chess championship.

Enter the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF). The federation was formed that year; its founding president, Datuk Tan Chin Nam, had quickly persuaded Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, to donate a handsome silver challenge trophy in his name.

But still, where could the tournament be held? At this point, Datuk Tan and Prof Dr Lim turned to the one friend that they had in common: Tun Dr Lim who, five years earlier, had become the Chief Minister of Penang. Datuk Tan had known Tun Dr Lim since the 1960s.

When the idea was mooted to Tun Dr Lim, he readily agreed to let the MCF use the Dewan Sri Pinang for the Asian team chess championship.

Through the state government, Tun Dr Lim also lent much support to the numerous activities in Penang during the Fide golden jubilee celebrations, in particular, the Fide bureau meetings that were held at the Merlin Hotel (now the City Bayview Hotel).

For his unreserved support for chess, Tun Dr Lim was made an honorary patron of the MCF and the Penang Chess Association. The other honorary patrons of the MCF were the nation’s first three prime ministers: Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Low-key affair at chess tournament

By Quah Seng Sun

All is quiet on the Asian front.

THE first time is always very eventful – the first time you take part in a local tournament, the first time you return home with a prize, the first time you represent the country in a sports event. For organisations, it may be the first time your game is featured in a multi-sport event like the SEA Games, or the Asian Games.

I remember when chess was first included in the SEA Games in Vietnam in 2003, the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) made a lot of fuss over the fact.

Rightly so, because it also marked the first time the MCF ever went anywhere under the banner of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).

Chess was also in the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines and the Malaysian chess players were also right there mixing with the athletes of the other sports. But thereafter, for the 2007 Games in Thailand and the 2009 Games in Laos, chess was dropped.

Nevertheless, there is also the Asian Games which is a much bigger and more significant multi-sport event than the SEA Games. When chess was introduced to the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, there was much hope that the MCF would participate, but it did not.

But being absent once does not mean being absent a second time. This year at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, the Malaysian chess players are finally there.

It was a rather small contingent of three chess players that were picked for duty in Guangzhou: Mok Tze Meng, Alia Anin Bakri and Nur Nabila Azman. They would play in only the men’s and women’s individual rapid chess tournaments and come home immediately. There would be no Malaysian team in the men’s and women’s classical chess tournaments.

When I asked the MCF secretary about this, he said that everything boiled down to mainly two issues: funding and player availability.

As far as the OCM was concerned, chess was in their B category of games, which means that if the MCF wanted to play in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the federation or the players would have to raise their own funds.

As for player availability, many of them were indisposed due to work. Some had already taken time off for other tournaments so it was near impossible for them to play again this year. So a decision was taken not to play in the team events.

All that was left was for Mok, Alia and Nur Nabila to play in the individual rapid chess events. Perhaps because of this, the MCF decided against informing the Malaysian chess public about our participation in this Asian Games. Personally, I feel that instead of keeping it very low key, the MCF should still have announced it just for the record.

Mok played in the men’s rapid chess individual tournament and finished 38th, while both Alia and Nur Nabila participated in the women’s rapid chess individual tournament and finished in the 22nd and 28th spots, respectively. Both events consisted of nine rounds of rapid chess games and these were completed in four days.

As a measure of the strength of the men’s rapid chess tournament, 12 of the participating countries sent their top grandmasters. Indeed, Mok found out the hard way that negotiating his way through this minefield of grandmasters was no easy task. His quest for a first grandmaster title norm will have to wait.

The rapid chess gold medal went to Uzebekistan’s Ruslan Kasimdzhanov who scored 7½ points. Kasimdzhanov was the FIDE world chess champion in 2004 and he had been working with Viswanathan Anand in preparation for the latter’s world chess championship matches in 2008 and 2010.

Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem also scored 7½ points but he had to settle for the silver. The bronze medal went to China’s Bu Xiangzhi.

The women’s rapid chess tournament also featured several top-class players that included three with full-fledged grandmaster titles.

The Chinese grandmasters made a clean sweep of the top medals with Hou Yifan, as the outright winner of the event, taking the gold and Zhao Xue the silver. India’s Dronavalli Harika took the bronze.

Meanwhile, there are 17 teams taking part in the men’s team tournament and 12 teams in the women’s team tournament. In both events, China are the top seeds for the gold medal. The ninth and final round of both events is scheduled for today.

source: The Star Online

Monday, November 22, 2010

Magnus Carlsen pulls out from world chess match


Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen shocks chess world by withdrawing from Candidates matches.

IF you are waiting for the next world chess championship match to be played between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen (pic), you can forget about it.

It’s not going to happen any time soon, not after the gifted 19-year-old Norwegian (he’ll be celebrating his 20th birthday on Nov 30) pulled out from the Candidates matches that are due to be played next March.

It was a decision that shocked the chess world. The Norwegian grandmaster is currently the highest rated player in the world. Certainly, a match between him and defending champion Anand would have captured the world’s imagination.

But in order to reach Anand for the title, Carlsen would have to go through the series of elimination Candidates mini-matches. First off would be the Candidates quarter-final match and if he was successful, then the Candidates semi-final match and then the Candidates final match itself. The winner earns a ticket at a tilt with Anand in 2012.

Last week, Carlsen informed the World Chess Federation (Fide) that he was withdrawing from the Candidates. He claimed that the current world championship cycle was unfair to him. Also, the rules were not sufficiently modern enough. As such, he would not be able to motivate himself to compete.

What Carlsen wanted was an end to the Candidates matches. He preferred an eight to 10 player world championship tournament to decide who would be the world champion, like what was played in 2005 and 2007. He didn’t like the idea of a series of knock-out matches.

Well, maybe to a teenager, the matches are not exciting or appealing enough. But to the rest of the world – and when I say the “rest of the world”, I mean the top-ranked professional chess players – the return to the Candidates matches were what they demanded and received from Fide.

Few of the professional chess players wanted the world championship title to be decided on tournament play. There are tournaments a-plenty to satisfy the professional players throughout the year but a true test of a worthy champion, they said, is the ability to go through a series of games in a match with his challenger. For example, if two players were to play for the very highest stakes, would they want to stake everything on only one game or on a series of games?

Therein lies the other argument in Carlsen’s withdrawal: the world championship is not a fight on equal terms. While players have to slug it out in the Candidates quarter-finals, semi-finals and final matches, the champion only needs to sit pretty and wait for a challenger to emerge.

Why should one player have one out of two tickets to the final, which is to the detriment of all remaining players in the world, he asked. Curiously enough, he then made a puzzling comparison. Imagine, he said, if the winner of the 2010 Football World Cup directly qualifies for the 2014 World Cup final, while all the rest of the teams fight for the other spot.

To me, this comparison with the World Cup is simply not spot-on. World championship chess and the football World Cup are two different creatures. World championship chess is a contest between individuals whereas the World Cup is a team game.

In any tournament for individuals, the players do not change once the event had started. In team events, the players in a team do change from game to game. Even if two football teams play each other in quick succession, in all practical likelihood, the make-up of the teams on the two occasions would be different. Thus it makes little sense to make this sort of comparison.

Another of Carlsen’s argument was that five years was too long to complete a world chess championship cycle. To me, this is certainly true. However, one must understand the turmoil that the world chess had undergone in the last two decades.

Since the days of Wilhelm Steinitz (the year was 1886), there had been a long chain of undisputed world chess champions. This chain snapped in 1993 when Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short chose to play their world championship match outside Fide. For 14 years, there were two parallel championship cycles.

Although unification of the two titles eventually happened in 2006 after a lot of intense negotiation, the stakeholders still had much to demand from Fide. You can say that Fide had to tread a fine line to satisfy everyone involved and that needed time. But eventually, everything settled down and there is now again one accepted format and one undisputed world chess champion in Anand. It was a tough lesson learnt. Would anyone want to repeat the same mistake?

But of course, it is all up to Carlsen. If he chooses to withdraw from the Candidates matches, that is up to him. Nobody can force him to accept a system which he dislikes. So without him playing, there is no potential Anand versus Carlsen world chess championship match to look forward to.

Nevertheless, the situation is still okay by Fide. All this had been anticipated and one or two days later, the world body announced that Alexander Grischuk has replaced Carlsen in the Candidates.

The Candidates matches will be world class with or without the Norwegian grandmaster. Only difference is that it will have less glamour.

In fact, come next year, I’ll be looking forward to Veselin Topalov vs Gata Kamsky, Vladimir Kramnik vs Teimour Radjabov, Levon Aronian vs Alexander Grischuk, and Boris Gelfand vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

source: The Star Online

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kaji Selidik Merancang Kewangan

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chess powerhouse


China makes its mark on international chess scene.

FORTY years ago, if I were to mention that chess was a popular game in China, I'm sure that you wouldn't be thinking of any other type of chess than xiangqi, better known to many of us as Chinese Chess.

And you wouldn't be wrong. Yes, down the centuries, xiangqi was the most popular board game in China and really, nothing has changed till today. It will always remain their most popular board game.

But there was a small section of people in China who decided on the big step to cross over and play what is known to you and me as international chess. It wasn't that they were abandoning the game that was their heritage but more that they were the innovators who decided to explore beyond their cultural boundaries.

In the years since then, there is no denying that China has become a very significant player on the international chess stage.

At the last Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk for example, the Chinese national chess team finished fifth among 145 countries in the open event. That was no mean feat. Ahead of China were only the Ukraine, the Russian first team, Israel and Hungary, all very high-powered teams.

Plus, breathing down the Chinese necks were the Russian second team, Armenia, Spain, the United States and France. These teams finished with the same points as China but they lost out on the tie-breaks.

And in the Women's Chess Olympiad, the Chinese women were second behind the first Russian women's team. All in all, there is no denying that as a chess-playing nation, the Chinese are very strong indeed.

But what about their individual chess players? For this, there are two reference points: one is the static World Chess Federation's rating list that is published every two months, and the other is the rarified chess live rating list that ranks the chess players in the world who have an international rating of at least 2700.

The live rating list is dynamically changing all the time and presently, there are only 39 chess players on it. If a player gets onto this list, he is among the crème de la crème. China can claim to have two players there: Wang Yue is ranked 13th in the world and Wang Hao is joint 15th.

Lately, China has also been making its mark as an international chess organiser. In July, it organised the Asian youth invitational chess championships over various age groups.

And it was only last month that China organised the elite third Nanjing Pearl Spring chess tournament.

How high calibre was this double round-robin event? Well, in the first instance, only six players were invited. In the second instance, the organisers wanted only the best players and who would be among the best players in the world if not for Magnus Carlsen, Veselin Topalov and world chess champion Viswanathan Anand? Yes, indeed.

In the third instance, it was the first time that a chess tournament anywhere would feature three players whose ratings were 2800 or higher.

For 10 days then, all eyes were on Nanjing. There were only three games played every round but they were three games of the highest profile.

Not that the games were free of errors but on the contrary, the errors contributed to the tension and made this event one of the finest ever organised.

Carlsen was in superb form and he practically ran away with the first prize of 80,000. That was equivalent to earning about RM34,400 per game. Not bad for a player who was just a month shy of his 20th birthday.

Anand also turned in a strong performance but it was not enough to challenge Carlsen for the first prize. In fact, at one stage of the tournament, Anand was in danger of finishing third after losing to Etienne Bacrot but a combination of luck and hard work landed him the second prize of 55,000 (about RM236,000).

Bacrot was delighted with his third placing and I suppose, Vugar Gashimov, too, who finished fourth. An off-form Topalov found himself in fifth place, while a most disappointed Wang Yue finished last. He had the home support but this was just not his tournament.

This game is a typical example of the high tension in this event. If Carlsen had won this game, he would have pulled far, far ahead of his rivals and if Anand had lost this game, who knows what psychological damage it would have inflicted on him. But a draw, well, it allowed him to fight on for another day.

White: Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
Black: Viswanathan Anand (India)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 Nf5 8.Nf3 0-0 9.d4 d5 10.c3 Bd6 11.Bd3 Nce7 12.Nbd2 c6 13.Nf1 Ng6 14.Qc2 Nfh4 15.Nxh4 Qxh4 16.g3 Qd8 17.Ne3 Re8 18.Bd2 Nf8 19.Nf5 Bc7 20.Rxe8 Qxe8 21.Re1 Be6 22.Qc1 f6 23.Qd1 Qd7 24.Qf3 Re8 25.h4 (Undeniably, White has the better game here.)

25...Bf7 26.Rf1 Bg6 27.h5 Bxf5 28.Bxf5 Qf7 29.Kg2 g6 30.Bd3 f5 31.Rh1 Ne6 32.hxg6 hxg6 33.g4 (The first sign of tension) 33…Bf4 34.Be3 (34.Bxf4 is answered by 34...fxg4) 34...fxg4? (The second sign of tension. 34...Bxe3 would have been correct. Now, White increases his pressure on Black.)

35.Qxg4 Kg7 36.Rh5 (The threat of 37.Rf5 would be winning.) 36...Bxe3 37.fxe3 Nf8 38.Rh3 Kg8 39.Rf3 Qe6 40.Qf4 Kg7 41.b3 Qe7 42.c4 Rd8 43.Rh3 Rd6 44.Qh6+ Kg8 45.cxd5 cxd5 46.e4 Qg7 47.Qe3 Qe7 48.e5 Rc6 49.Qh6 Qg7 50.Qh4 a6 51.Rf3 Qd7 52.b4 b5 53.a3 Qc7 54.Kg3 Kg7 55.Bb1 Nh7 56.Ba2 Qd7 57.Bb3 Rc1 58.Kh2 Rb1 59.Bc2 Rb2 60.Rc3 Qf7 61.Kg3 (The third sign of growing tension. After 61.e6, Black's overworked queen cannot defend both his second rank and the g6 pawn.) 61...Nf8 62.Rf3 Qe6 63.Qd8?? (The fourth sign of tension. White throws the win away, having missed 63.Rf6 Qe8 64.Rf2 Ra2 65.Qf6+ Kg8 66.Bb3 Rxa3 67.Rf3. The game heads to a draw.) 63...Nd7 64.Rf2 Ra2 65.Kh2 Qg4 66.Qe7+ Kh6 67.Qd8 Qh5+ 68.Kg2 Qg4+ ½-½

source: The Star

Friday, October 29, 2010

Momentary slowdown


The fourth quarter of the year is a good time for chess enthusiasts to pursue a little diversion.

LAST week, I asked a few chess players what they would be doing if they were not playing chess on weekends.

Right now there is a lull in local chess activities. Chess activities haven’t stopped but have slowed down considerably.

It happens almost like clockwork because the main bulk of chess players get too preoccupied with school revision work and examinations until the end of November.

The responses I received were varied but almost predictable. Watch football on television. Visit the shopping malls. Join the gym. Go for cinema shows. Indulge in photography pursuits. Catch up on reading. “Chess books?” I murmured. “No, just newspapers,” one replied.

Go web-surfing. Yeah, right, I thought, turn to the Internet for some instant chess gratification.

“Maybe I’ll catch up with you on one of the Internet chess servers,” I told a friend, adding: “There are some great top-level tournaments going on.”

“Erm, no,” he replied, “maybe I’ll see you on Facebook instead.”

My own non-chess hobbies may overlap with many other people’s, and it is during this stretch that I indulge more in them than at any other time of the year.

There is one person I know who turns himself completely off from chess in a big way at the end of the year. Come mid-October, he would jet off to Melbourne to immerse himself in the Spring Racing Carnival there. He owns a number of thoroughbred horses, you see.

Just last Saturday, he watched his horse, So You Think, thunder down the track at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley race course to lift the Cox Plate for the second time in two years. Come tomorrow, So You Think is again the favourite to win the Mackinnon Stakes at the Victoria Derby.

In Australia, Datuk Tan Chin Nam is regarded as one of the most successful, if not the most successful, horse owners in recent history. A four-time winner of the Melbourne Cup which takes place on the first Tuesday of November.

And come to think of it, that’s just next Tuesday, four days away.

There are two ways to enjoy the Melbourne Cup races in Australia: be there yourself at the Flemington race course in Melbourne, or entrench yourself in one of the drinking holes around Australia and cheer on the horses on television with scores of other beer guzzlers.

Or alternatively, be an audience of one and watch the races on television at home here in Malaysia. The Australia Network says that they’ll be carrying the races live and it so happens that this channel is available on Astro. It offers the same thrill as the two options mentioned above, but that’s what I’ll be doing.

I shall leave you this week with a mention that the annual World Youth Chess Championships are currently taking place in Greece. The official website is

Among the 814 boys and 573 girls from around the world taking part, 14 of them are our own boys and girls battling in the under-8, under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16 age group events in the championships. The event ends tomorrow.

source: The Star Online

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our Chess Olympiad players did us proud


Kudos to our players for turning in their best.

IN the last week or so since the end of the Chess Olympiad, I have witnessed heated debates in the local chess scene about the selection process and the performance of our men’s team in Khanty Mansiysk.

The post-mortem was lively but personally, I believe that while everyone has a right to say whatever he wants about chess in this country, the debates do not matter anymore. It’s moot; the Chess Olympiad’s over.

It’s important to me, however, that we look on the positive side. At the Olympiad, what struck me was that our players tried their best. Each and every one of them, in their own way, gave their best to the Malaysian team. Collectively, it was a team effort from start to finish.

Girl power: The Malaysian women’s team comprising (from left) Nurul Huda Wahiduddin, Nur Nabila Azman Hashim, Alia Anin Bakri, Fong Mi Yen and Roslina Marmono.

So allow me to acknowledge the contributions of our players, both the men’s and women’s teams.

For Mas Hafizulhelmi, playing on the first board on the men’s team was never going to be easy. The final round was very unfortunate for him (refer to last week’s column to know what happened) but to his credit, he scored 5½ points from 10 games. That’s a 55% score.

Neither was it supposed to be easy for Alia Anin Bakri who played on the first board of the women’s team. However, she turned in the most memorable result for the Malaysian contingent. Seven points from 11 games for a 63.6% score. It’s uncertain whether her results would merit her the title of woman international master (WIM) but at the very least, it should be good enough for a WIM norm.

I’m crossing my fingers that FIDE, the World Chess Federation, will award her the title.

In the men’s team, Mok Tze Meng’s uncompromising style on the second board netted him six points from 11 games (a 54.4% result). Peter Long was a very steady player on the fourth board and he turned in 5½ points from 11 games (a 50% score). Both Mok and Long were the only players in the men’s team to play every round of the Olympiad.

Current national champion Tan Khai Boon was probably overwhelmed by his first international duty but he still contributed three points from nine games (a 33.3% result). I believe the tension got to him towards the end of the event and he was replaced by Gregory Lau. Despite playing only three games (winning two of them with a 66.7% result), Lau will be best remembered for delivering that vital final point for the Malaysian men’s team.

On the second board in the women’s team was Nur Nabila Azman Hisham. Like Alia, Nabila played in all 11 rounds and she scored five points for a 45.4% result. Although Nurul Huda Wahiduddin brought in only one point from six games on the third board, she achieved an important draw against a Dutch woman international master in the ninth round.

Roslina Marmono had a 50% result as our fourth board player, collecting 3½ points from seven games while our debutant reserve board player, Fong Mi Yen, who is also the current national women’s champion, had the tournament of her life with 5½ points from nine games (a 61.1% result).

I’m still waiting for word from the Malaysian Chess Federation whether this would warrant Fong a woman candidate master title from FIDE.

Finally, the games this week feature some of the best moves from our women players:

White: Alia Anin Bakri (Malaysia)

Black: IM Baquero Martha Fierro (Ecuador)

1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. e4 d6 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. Be3 Ng4 9. Bg5 f6 10. Bd2 c6 11. Ne1 Nh6 12. d5 f5 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Bxh6 Bxh6 15. Qxd6 Rf6 16. Qd1 Qe7 17. Qc2 Nc5 18. Rd1 a5 19. Bf3 Ne6 20. Ne2 Ng5 21. Ng3 f4 22. Ne2 Nxf3+ 23. Nxf3 g5 24. Qd3 Bg4 25. h3 Bh5 26. Qd7 Re8 27. Qxe7 Rxe7 28. Rd8+ Bf8 29. Ra8 g4 30. hxg4 Bxg4 31. Rd1 Rg7 32. Kf1 Rh6 33. Neg1 Bxf3 34. Nxf3 Rh1+ 35. Ke2 Rxd1 36. Kxd1 Rxg2 37. Ke2 Kg7 38. Rxa5 Kf6 39. Rxe5 Bd6 40. Rf5+ Ke7 41. Rh5 Rg7 42. Nd4 Kd7 43. Kf3 Re7 44. Ne2 Ke8 45. Nxf4 Rf7 46. Rf5 Ra7 47. a3 Ra4 48. c5 Bxf4 49. Kxf4 Rc4 50. f3 Rc2 51. b4 Rc3 52. Rh5 1-0

White: Damaris Abarca Gonzalez (Chile)

Black: Alia Anin Bakri (Malaysia)

1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. g3 Bc5 5. Bg2 dxe4 6. dxe4 e5 7. Ngf3 Nc6 8. O-O O-O 9. Qe2 Qe7 10. c3 a6 11. b4 Bd6 12. a4 Be6 13. Nc4 Rfd8 14. Bg5 h6 15. Bxf6 Qxf6 16. Ne3 Ne7 17. Rab1 c6 18. c4 b6 19. Qc2 Bc7 20. Rfd1 Ng6 21. b5 cxb5 22. axb5 axb5 23. Nd5 Bxd5 24. cxd5 Bd6 25. Rxb5 Bc5 26. Qe2 Ra7 27. h4 Rda8 28. Rdb1 Qd6 29. h5 Ne7 30. R5b2 Qf6 31. Qd3 Ra3 32. Rb3 Ra2 33. R1b2 Ra1+ 34. Bf1 R8a3 35. Rxa3 Rxa3 36. Rb3 Ra2 37. Be2 Nc8 38. Rc3 Nd6 39. Rc2 Ra4 40. Qb3 Ra1+ 41. Kg2 Nxe4 42. Qb2 Ra8 43. Qxe5 Qxe5 44. Nxe5 Rd8 45. f4 Nf6 46. Bc4 Bd6 47. Rb2 Bxe5 48. fxe5 Nxd5 49. Kf3 Nc7 50. Rxb6 Re8 51. Rc6 Re7 52. Kf4 Kf8 53. Rd6 Ne8 54. Rd8 Rb7 55. Bd5 Rc7 56. Bb3 Rb7 57. Bd5 Rc7 58. Kf5 Ke7 59. Rb8 Rc1 60. Bb3 Rc3 61. g4 Nc7 62. Rb7 Rf3+ 63. Ke4 Rc3 64. Kd4 Rc1 65. Bc4 Rd1+ 66. Bd3 Kd8 67. Ke4 Ne6 68. Rb5? Re1+ 69. Kf5 Nd4+ 70. Kf4 Nxb5 71. Bxb5 Ke7 72. Bc4 Rc1 73. Bd5 Rf1+ 74. Ke4 Re1+ 75. Kf4 f6 76. e6 Re5 77. Bc4 Kd6 78. Ba2 Rb5 79. Kf3 f5 80. Kf4 fxg4 81. Kxg4 Rg5+ 82. Kh4 Ke7 83. Bc4 Kf6 84. Ba2 Rb5 85. Kg4 Rb2 86. Bd5 Rb4+ 87. Kg3 Rb5 88. Bf3 Kxe6 89. Bg4+ Kf6 90. Be2 Rb4 0-1

White: Roslina Marmono (Malaysia)

Black: Sohair Basta (Eqypt)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. e3 cxd4 6. exd4 Nc6 7. Nf3 O-O 8. Bd3 h6 9. O-O d5 10. c5 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Qc7 12. Re1 a6 13. h3 Bd7 14. Ne5 Ne7 15. Bf4 Qa5 16. Nxd7 Nxd7 17. Rab1 Ra7 18. Bd6 Re8 19. f4 Qd8 20. f5 exf5 21. Bxf5 Nxf5 22. Qxf5 Nf6 23. Rxe8+ Qxe8 24. Qe5 Qxe5 25. dxe5 Ne4 26. Rb3 Nxd6 27. exd6 Kf8 28. c4 dxc4 29. Re3 Ra8 30. Rc3 Ke8 31. Rxc4 Kd7 32. Kf2 Re8 33. Rc2 Re5 34. Kf3 g5 35. g4 Kc6 36. Kf2 Re4 37. Rd2 Kd7 38. Re2 Rc4 39. Re7+ Kd8 40. Rxb7 Rxc5 ½-½

White: Fayrouz Elgohary (Eqypt)

Black: Fong Mi Yen (Malaysia)

1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. e4 d6 4. Nbd2 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bd3 e5 7. O-O O-O 8. h3 Nh5 9. Nb3 h6 10. Be3 Qf6 11. Nc1 Kh7 12. Ne2 Bxh3 13. Ng3 Bg4 14. Nxh5 gxh5 15. Be2 Rg8 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Nh2 Rad8 18. Qc2 Qg6 19. Nxg4 hxg4 20. Rad1 Bf6 21. Rxd8 Bxd8 22. g3 h5 23. Kg2 Rh8 24. Rh1 Kg7 25. Bd2 Ne7 26. Bd3 Qf6 27. Qd1 Ng6 28. Be3 a6 29. Bc2 Be7 30. Qe2 b5 31. a3 c5 32. Bd1 Nf4+ 33. gxf4 exf4 34. Bxf4 Qxf4 35. Qd3 Rd8 36. Qg3 Qxe4+ 0-1.

source: The Star Online