Friday, February 25, 2011

Frenzy of entries in chess championships


New development augurs well for local chess scene.

IN a development rather unprecedented for Malaysian chess, I have just learnt that all the places in this year’s national closed and national women’s closed chess championships from March 16-20 may have been completely filled by now.

If you are still dithering over whether or not to play in either of the two competitions, your best chance is to give the organisers a call and enquire directly from them.

Defending champ: Fong Mi Yen is joining the fray to defend the title that she won last year.

The Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) is the organiser of both events. They had allowed only 110 places collectively for the two competitions but a frenzy of entries received before last Sunday’s deadline for a 20% discount on the entry fees meant that the places were quickly filled up.

That, by itself, is quite an achievement. Chess players are known to be procrastinators with their time. Who was it that once wrote about the relationship between work and time?

Ah, yes, Cyril Northcote Parkinson. You may have heard of him. Parkinson, a history professor at the University of Malaya in Singapore from 1950 to 1959, was fond of poking fun at government bureaucracies and in 1955 published a humorous article that quickly became labelled as Parkinson’s Law.

All that Parkinson’s Law said was that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Now, just substitute “chess” for “work” and don’t you think that this statement also applies to chess? Beating deadlines is the name of the game, otherwise why are chess games played with chess clocks?

Of course, to ensure that the players get into a time scramble! (A chess clock is a double-faced clock that counts down the time that a chess player has for his remaining moves. It used to be that players dreaded the dropping of the tiny flag at the 12 o’clock mark on the clock; nowadays, players dread the digital countdown to zero.)

Getting into time scrambles is second nature for serious chess players. That’s one of the delights of chess. Any chess player worth his salt should be a servant of the time scramble. Whether he is given five minutes, 30 minutes or 90 minutes to finish his game, he should make full use of this time to play. That’s the law of deadlines.

There is another deadline in chess, though not as potent as the time control, but still important enough for players not to ignore. And that is the deadline of registering for events and coughing up the entry fee.

Unfortunately, this deadline means little to some of them. In the past, even threats of penalty fees do not discourage people from turning up at the last minute and wanting to play. Chess organisers used to be so accommodating – an additional player means extra entry fee – to the extent that they would delay the start of their tournaments.

Fortunately, the situation has improved over the last few years. Late entries are less tolerated nowadays. I believe players now appreciate that tournaments need to start on time and end on time.

What I’ve learnt from this national closed and national women’s closed championships is remarkable. Players are actually registering and paying up before the closing date all because of a 20% discount. Penalty fees are no deterrent to chess players but discounts certainly are the carrots!

While looking through the list of entries, I’m heartened to see the continuing strong support from our women chess champions. Fong Mi Yen is joining the fray to defend the title that she won last year. Tan Li Ting and Alia Anin Azwa Bakri, the 2009 and 2008 champions respectively, have also entered the ring. With the trio in the national women’s closed championship, I should think it is going to be a good contest.

This is not to say that the national closed championship won’t be tight enough. Indeed, it has all the potential to be very competitive despite the absence of any former national champion or any of our titled players. On this point, I’m disappointed that Tan Khai Boon, Evan Timothy Capel and Edward Lee are not playing. The three of them would have added colour to the competition.

Nevertheless, it will still be an interesting race to the finish as the MCF has announced that the top eight players from the national closed championship will be included in a shortlist for selection to this year’s SEA Games in Indonesia. Likewise, too, the top eight women players will be among those shortlisted for selection to the women’s competitions at the SEA Games.

For details on the two competitions, contact Najib Wahab (016-338 2542 or for the national closed championship and Haslindah Ruslan (019-206 9605 or for the national women’s closed championship.

source: The Star

Monday, February 21, 2011

National chess contests coming up


Get ready for the national closed championships next month.

THIS year’s national closed and national women’s closed championships are just a month away. According to the Malaysian Chess Federation, the two competitions will be played concurrently at the Datuk Arthur Tan Chess Centre, Wilayah Complex, Kuala Lumpur, from March 16-20.

In previous years, the two events tend to be held in the middle of the year. Last year, for example, the championships were played in June. This year, though, they have been brought forward to the first quarter of the year, and they coincide with the school calendar’s mid-semester break.

The main reason for this is that the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) is co-organising the two championships with the Datuk Arthur Tan Chess Centre (DATCC). The DATCC had undergone some recent internal reorganisation and can now accommodate more events. Having more events also mean having to draw up a chess calendar and adhere more strictly to it.

While going through the rules and regulations last week, I noticed a radical change in the treatment of past national champions. They are no longer given free entries into either competition, if they ever choose to play. The only exception is given to the defending champions and even then, this only applies if they confirm their entries before the end of this month. Otherwise they, like all other participants, will be subjected to an entry fee.

The match between Maxime Vachier- Lagrave (white) and Wang Hao (black).

This new regulation makes a lot of sense to me because I am sure that the organisers will not miss them. It is a great shame that in all these years, save for perhaps one or two of the former champions, I hardly see any of the others. They had moved up the ranks from anonymity to visibility, and the least they could do was to contribute back to the structure that placed them there.

So what of the entry fees?

For starters, the entry fee for players with FIDE international ratings of above 2,000 is RM60; those with FIDE ratings of between 1,600 and 1,999 are required to pay RM100; those rated below 1599 or who are unrated will be charged RM150. A 20% discount will apply if a participant registers before this Sunday (Feb 20), while a 50% late fee will be imposed on all entries registered after March 13.

Each of the state chess associations affiliated to the MCF is eligible to register one player for each competition at a 50% discount until the end of this month. After March 1, the state representative will need to pay normal rates, and after March 13, a late fee of RM50 applies. However, any state representative with a FIDE rating of above 2200 is given free entry.

For more details, contact Najib Wahab (016-338 2542 for the national closed championship and Haslindah Ruslan (019-206 9605 or for the national women’s closed championship.

Meanwhile, DATCC has also made known that it is organising a one-day Lim Chong memorial tournament at its premises on March 27. “He was an avid chess player and a noted columnist for The Malay Mail for more than a decade beginning 1983,” said Hamid Majid who is organising this event.

Later, Lim joined Bernama as a sub-editor of the national news agency’s economic news service. He died of a heart attack last November while en route from London to Kuala Lumpur.

The idea for this tournament was mooted recently by the Malaysian Chess Federation’s honorary life president, Datuk Tan Chin Nam, who offered to match and donate “ringgit for ringgit” all entry fees collected for the event. More than 100 participants are expected to register for this one-day tournament which, incidentally, would fall on Lim’s 57th birthday.

For details, contact Hamid Majid (019-315 8098 or or Najib Wahab (016-338 2542). The entry form is available

Tata Steel

Two games of interest from the recently concluded Tata Steel chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

White: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2715)

Black: Wang Hao (2731)

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.Qe2 0-0 10.e4 Bg6 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Qe3 Be7 15.Bd2 Nb8 16.a5 a6 17.Rfc1 Nc6 18.Ne1 Qd7 19.Bc2 Qd8 20.Qh3 Bg6 21.Bxg6 hxg6 22.Qg4 Rc8 23.Nf3 Qd7 24.Bg5 Bb4 25.Qh4 Ne7 26.g4 Rxc1+ 27.Rxc1 Rc8 28.Kg2 Nc6 29.Rd1 Bxa5 30.Rd3 Nb4 31.Rb3 Qb5 32.Be7 (White has a tremendous game going for him. With this move, he clears the g5 square for his knight, after which checkmate would seem inevitable. However, Black had seen a little further and he saves the game with an unlikely move.) 32...Nd3!! (see diagram)33.Rxb5 (Now, if White had played 33.Rxd3, Black has the resource 33...g5 and 34…Qxd3 which protects the h7 square. After White accepts the black queen, the game quickly ends with a draw.) 33...Nf4+ 34.Kg3 Ne2+ 35.Kh3 Nf4+ 36.Kg3 Ne2+ 37.Kg2 Nf4+ ½-½

The former world chess champion, Vladimir Kramnik, seems to find it difficult to overcome Magnus Carlsen in recent tournaments. He fell again to the Norwegian grandmaster at the Tata Steel tournament.

White: Vladimir Kramnik (2784)

Black: Magnus Carlsen

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 d5 6.Bg2 Nbd7 7.Nf3 c6 8.0-0 b6 9.Rc1 0-0 10.cxd5 cxd5 11.Na3 Bb7 12.Nb5 a6 13.Nd6 Qb8 14.Qb4 a5 15.Qa3 Ba6 16.Ne5 b5 17.Qxa5 Qxd6 18.Rc6 Qb8 19.Rxa6 Rxa6 20.Qxa6 Nxe5 21.dxe5 Qxe5 22.Qxb5 Rb8 23.Qd3 Rxb2 24.Qe3 (In the last few moves, Kramnik’s play had been suspect. He now realises that he is going to lose a pawn. This is his best continuation, to exchange queens and go into an endgame where he can try to push forward his a-pawn.) 24...Qxe3 25.fxe3 Rxe2 26.a4 Rc2 27.a5 Rc7 28.a6 Ra7 29.Bf1 Kf8 30.Rb1 Ke7 31.Rb7+ Rxb7 32.axb7 Nd7 33.Kf2 Kd6 34.Bb5 Nb8 35.Be8 Ke7 36.Bb5 f6 37.Kf3 Kd6 38.Be8 Kc7 39.Bf7 Kxb7 40.Bxe6 Kc6 41.Bg8 h6 42.Kg4 Nd7 43.Kf5 Ne5 44.h3 Kc5 45.g4 (According to Carlsen’s own assessment of this position, 45.Ke6 would have been enough for a draw. After 45.g4, Carlsen patiently grinds out the win.) 45...Kd6 46.Bh7 Ke7 47.Bg8 g6+ 48.Kf4 Nf7 49.Bh7 g5+ 50.Kg3 Nd6 51.Bg8 Ne4+ 52.Kg2 Kd6 53.Kf3 Kc5 54.Bh7 Nc3 55.Bd3 Kb4 56.Ba6 Kb3 57.Bb7 Kc2 58.Ba6 Kd1 59.Bb7 Kd2 60.Bc6 Ke1 61.Bb7 Kf1 62.Ba8 Kg1 63.Kg3 Ne4+ 64.Kf3 Nd2+ 65.Kg3 Nf1+ 66.Kf3 Nd2+ 67.Kg3 Nc4 68.Bxd5 Nxe3 69.Bb7 Nf1+ 70.Kf3 Kh2 71.Kf2 Nd2 72.Bg2 Nc4 73.Bf1 Ne5 74.Ke3 Kg1 75.Be2 Kg2 76.Ke4 Kxh3 77.Kf5 Kh4 78.Bd1 Nc4 79.Ke4 Nd6+ 80.Kd5 f5 (White captures the knight with 81.Kxd6 but he will lose the game after 81…fxg4 82.Ke5 g3 83.Bf3 Kh3 84.Kf6 g4 85.Bc6 g2) 0-1

source: The star

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nakamura finally finds fame in chess world


Hikaru Nakamura makes a name for himself by winning the Tata Steel chess tournament.

TAKE note of the name Hikaru Nakamura. For years, he has been skirting around the peripherals of true chess fame but finally, he has arrived to claim his place in history.

He achieved this more than two weeks ago at the Tata Steel chess tournament which was played in the Dutch seaside resort town of Wijk aan Zee. This is a tournament with a history that goes back to 1938.

It is a prestigious event; it is already difficult enough for any chess grandmaster to get an invitation to this tournament, what more to win it. But Nakamura did just that. Against all odds, he played the tournament of his life there.

Claim to fame: Japanese chess prodigy Hikaru Nakamura played with confidence among the world’s best.

For this year’s edition, the organisers had invited the world’s top four chess players to be part of their 14-player field: world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, world No.1 Magnus Carlsen, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik and world No.3 Levon Aronian.

Also invited were Alexander Grischuk, Nakamura (former US chess champion), Ruslan Ponomariov, Ian Nepomniachtchi (current Russian chess champion), Wang Hao (current Chinese chess champion), Alexei Shirov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (current world junior chess champion), all top players in their own right.

Then there were also 16-year-old Anish Giri who had qualified into the main tournament from last year’s B-event, Jan Smeets (current Dutch chess champion) and Erwin l’Ami.

But who exactly is Hikaru Nakamura? His father is Japanese but his mother is American, which qualifies him as an American, too. He was born in Japan in 1987 but at the age of two, his family moved to the United States. He started learning chess at five years old and progressed to become a grandmaster at 15.

He is recognised as a chess prodigy, winning his first US chess championship in 2005. In 2009, he became the US chess champion for the second time. At the end of that year, he played in the London Chess Classic and had indifferent results.

The year 2010 began with Nakamura playing on the first board for the United States at the world team chess championship in Turkey. He then finished tied in fourth position in the 2010 Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee and fourth in the 2010 Mikhail Tal memorial tournament in Moscow which incidentally was the third strongest tournament in chess history.

It was Nakamura’s performance in this tournament that made the chess world sit up to take notice of his potential. In December 2010, he again played in the London Chess Classic.

By the time 2011 began, he was already ranked No.10 in the world.

And so we arrive at the present moment. The race for the top honours in the Tata Steel chess tournament was very close and Nakamura played with absolute confidence among the world’s best. Except for a slight hiccup – he lost in the eighth round to Carlsen – he has shown an ability to compete with them at their standard.

Not only that, Nakamura was not awed by the fact that he was racing against no less than the world champion, Anand. Nakamura was running neck-to-neck with Anand after the eighth round and in the 11th round, assumed the sole lead in the tournament. To his credit, he never lost his nerve and romped home as worthy winner.

Here is one of Nakamura’s games from the tournament.

White: Hikaru Nakamura (2751)

Black: Jan Smeets (2662)

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.g3 Bb7 12.Bg2 Qb6 13.exf6 c5 14.d5 0-0-0 15.0-0 b4 16.Na4 Qb5 17.a3 exd5 18.axb4 cxb4 19.Bf4 Bh6 20.Qd2 Bxf4 21.Qxf4 Bc6 22.Qd4 Kb8 23.Rfe1 Rhe8 (White already has the upper hand in this game. Now, 24.Qf4+ would be the strongest move. Instead, Black is allowed back into the game and the win is not so simple anymore.)

24.Re7 Qa5 25.Rxf7 Bxa4 26.Bxd5 Qc5 27.Qf4+ Ne5 28.Be4 Rd7 29.Rg7 Bb5 30.Rxd7 Bxd7 31.Bg6 Rf8 32.Re1 Qd6 33.Qxe5 Rxf6 34.Qxd6+ Rxd6 (And suddenly the game enters the endgame phase. But although the position is better for White, there’s still a lot of work to convert it into a win.) 35.Bf7 Rd2 36.Bxc4 Rxb2 37.h4 Bg4 38.Kg2 a5 39.Re5 Rc2 40.Rb5+ Kc7 41.Bd5 Rd2 42.Bf7 Bd7 43.Rxa5 Bc6+ 44.Kf1 Bf3 45.Ra1 Kd6 46.Bb3. 46.Re1 Rd3 47.Rb1 Kc5 48.Ke1 Kb5 49.Bd1 Bxd1 50.Rxd1 Rc3 51.h5 b3 52.Kd2 Rc8 53.Rc1 Rf8 54.f4 Kb4 55.Rh1 Ka3 56.Ke3 b2 57.g4 Rc8 58.Rb1 Ka2 59.Rxb2+ Kxb2 60.h6 Kc3 61.g5 1-0

source: The Star