Sunday, December 20, 2009

Malaysian Masters Finals, Results

Mas has proven his number one status in Malaysia, winning the Finals against Nicholas Chan with a convincing 3.5-0.5 result.

Mas won the first two games then drew the third. In the fourth game, Nicholas needed to win to get back in the match but went down again for this third loss.

Personally I am quite surprised at the level that Nicholas was playing in this match. Earlier, I had said I expected Nicholas to win as he is the fresher man in this match but Nicholas played at a very much lower level than his rating suggests.

Congratulations to the winner who takes home RM4000 for this win, while the loser still pockets RM2000, not a bad pay day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Asian Team Championship 2009

There is not much news about this event which will start tomorrow 20th December till 29 December 2009 in Kolkota, India. Our Malaysian Chess Federation is strangely silent on this and with the current Malaysian Masters Final still on-going, it is certain that Malaysia is not participating.

It will not be the first time that Malaysia is not participating. It is a pity since this event was first organized in 1974 in Malaysia. The challenge trophy is named after our former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak.

I remember this tournament well as in 1974 it was held in the Dewan Sri Pinang in Penang. As young boy I was recruited to assist in the tournament. My job was to take down the moves of two boards and pass the moves to a runner. The runner's job was to bring the moves to the operators of the demonstration boards outside the tournament hall. It was the best job I had in my life and I still cannot believe I was actually paid to do it!

Malaysian Masters Finals, Game 2

Nicholas Chan - Mas

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 Bb4 4. Qb3 Nc6 5. Bg2 Nd4 6. Qd1 O-O 7. e3
Quite an unusual move order in this English Opening. Early queen move to b3 without first stopping ...Nd4. The e-pawn is not well placed here. White will need to move the e-pawn again to bring this queen bishop out.

7...Bxc3 8. bxc3

Now 8...Nc6 9. e4 we get back to a more common position in the English.


This is an unusual place for the knight. Black wants to put the knight on c5 and entice white to play d4 weakening the c-square.

9... Qe7 10. Ne2 Nc5 11. d3 Qd6 ?!

Surely Mas did not think that Nicholas dropped a pawn?

12. d4 Ncxe4

Others are equally bad, both 12...Na6 and 12.. Ne6 are answered with 13. f4 and white wins a pawn with a very strong position (13...exd4 14. e5 wins a piece)

13. Qc2 Nxf2 14. Kxf2 Ng4+ 15. Ke1 Re8 16.Qf5

The point is that 16. h3 exd4 threatens ..d3 forking queen and knight. So Nicholas moves his queen away. But black still complicates with 16...exd4 anyway. 17. Qxg4 d3 wins back the piece and opens the e-file.

The best plan is to drive the black queen from the d-file with 16. c5. Now 16...Qa6 17 h3 and black has no tactical replies as 17...exd4 is answered with the simple 18. cxd4.

16...exd4 17. Bd5? Nf6 18. cxd4 c6 19.Bf3 Qxd4 20.Rb1 Qxc4

Black already have compensation for the piece due to the inaccurate white moves on 16th and 17th.

21.Bb2 d5 22. Qf4 Ne4

Black threatens ...Qc2 and with the white pieces totally disorganized, white is helpless.

23. Rc1 Qxa2

Black has five (!) pawns for the piece and white's king caught in the center. Mas will go two up.

24. Bh5?

Nicholas hopes for some counter play and to capitalize on Mas shortage of time. 24...g6 25. Bd4 gxh5 26. Qh6 and now 26...f6 27. Qxh5 Bd7, its time to prepare for the next game

24. Bd4 also loses to some neat tactics, 24..c5! 25 Bxc5 Qa5+ forks the bishop and king. Or 25. Rxc5 Nxc5 27. Bxc5 Rxe2+! 28. Bxe2 Qa1+ 29. Bd1 Qc3+ forks again.

24...Be6 25. Rf1 Qxb2


So Mas leads two points to nil. Since this is a six game match, it is still not over, lots of things can happen in four games.

Personally, I think that Nicholas strategy of pressuring Mas on time is correct. Unfortunately for him, he is making more mistakes from playing too fast.

Nicholas is known for his blitz skills. In fact he won an online blitz tournament before ahead of many grandmasters a few years ago. But in the two games played so far, he has yet to demonstrate this tactical ability.

So will Nicholas continue this strategy or try to match Mas with some real chess?
Not easy especially when he needs to win two games to level the match.

Malaysian Masters Finals, Game 1

IM Mas Hafizulhilmi- FM Nicholas Chan

1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 Nf6 4.Bb5+ Bd7 5.Bxd7+ Qxd7 6.c4 e6 7.Qe2 Bd6 8.d3 0-0 9.dxe6 fxe6 10.Nf3 Nc6 11.0-0 Rae8 12.Nc3 e5

A standard position arises which I remember Mas has faced before. White gains a pawn at the cost of weaknesses on d3, d4 and e3.

This effectively gives back the pawn. White closes the e-file to avoid his weaknesses getting worse.

Nd4 14.Qd1 Nxf5 15.Bg5 Ng4

I will take black's position any day.

16. Qd2 ?! Nd4

Why not 16...h6. That is not easy to answer 17. Bh4 maybe losing to 18....e4 19. dxe4 Bxh2+ or 19. Nxe4 Nxh4 with ...Bxh2 to follow.

Nd4 17Ne4 Be7 18 Bxe7 Qxe7 19 Rae1

Position is equal, so black has solved his opening problem.

Nxf3+ 20.Rxf3 Rxf3 21.gxf3 Nh6 22.f4 exf4

Blunder or sacrifice? 23. Nf6+ wins the exchange

I had to go out for a few hours already the game is over as predicted.

23. Nf6+ Qxf6 24. Rxe8+ Kf7 25. Re4 g5 26. h4

Black will not have a chance to maintain his king-side structure

Nf5 27. hxg5 Qxg5+ 28. Qg2 Qh4 29.Re2 Kf6 30.Qxb7 Qg3+ 31.Qg2 Nd4 32. Rf2 Kg5?

33...Qe3 maintain queens is better

33. Kf1 33 Nf5 34. Qf3 h5 35. b4 Qxf3 36. Rxf3 Kg4?

Don't understand. Is cxb4 not better?

37. Rf2 Ne3+ 38. Ke2 Kg3 39. bxc5

White can win more decisively with 39. Rf3+ Kg5 40 Rxe3 fxe3 41. bxc5 as he queens on c8 with check.

39... Nf5 40. Rf3+ Kg4 41. Rf1 h4 42. Kf2 Nd4 43. Rg1+ Kf5 44. Rg7 h3 45. Rxa7 Nc6 46. Rh7 Kg4 47. Rh6 Ne5 48. c6 Nxd3+ 49. Ke2 1-0

An unfortunate blunder costs Nicholas this first game.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Malaysian Masters Finals, Pre-match Analysis

After months of matches, the eight contestants are now down to two. Mas will face-off against Nicholas Chan. Winner has bragging rights as the best Malaysian chesser, at least for 2009 (let's hope we can see a second edition in 2010).

This event proves that the juniors still have a lot to catch up with our seniors. Both National Master Evan Capel and National Junior Tariq Amru were shown the door in their first match.

Mas had a tougher time to the finals. Although he beat Tariq Amru easily, he was really stretched against "Tiger" Mok Tze Meng who took the match to the rapid tie-breaks. Mas was literally a move away from being eliminated when Mok hung a rook in a completely winning position. Mas just needed a draw in the next game which he managed without difficulty.

Quarter-finals bt Tariq Amru 3-0
Semi-Finals bt Mok Tze Meng 3.5-1.5 (tie-breaks)

Nicholas had an easier route to the finals. After beating Evan, he did not have difficulty showing Yee Weng the door.

Quarter-finals bt Evan Capel 3-0
Semi-Finals bt Lim Yee Weng 2.5-0.5

Prior to this, Mas has played many tournaments without much success. His last two were the Vietnam Open where he was 10th and the Commonwealth Open in Singapore where he finished 11th. I think the number of tournaments have been taking a toll on him.

Nicholas have not been playing much apart from winning the Selangor Open Champion this year and playing a few games in the DATCC Chess League and the Merdeka Team championships.

If I were to compare the styles for these two players, Mas is a more technical and rounded player. Nicholas is a tactician and blitz king and Mas has never been comfortable with someone who plays fast.

Who do I think will win? I pick Nicholas to win this match. Maybe my readers might find this surprising. There are few reasons for me to pick Nicholas.

Mas has been chasing a GM norm for a while now without success. When you are in his situation, you need to take a break, study your games thoroughly and evaluate why he is in the position he is in. I am willing to bet, Mas had many good or winning games in all these tournaments, which he spoiled at some crucial moments, possibly because of time trouble. He needs time to fix this and he is not in the best frame of mind to go into an important six game match with a dangerous tactical player. Besides he must be exhausted by now.

The finals starts tomorrow Saturday 19th December 2009 at 10:30 AM at the usual venue which is DAT Chess Centre. I might be following the games sporadically.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Singapore Chess Festival 2009 Final Ranking

The Singapore Chess Festival 2009 is over. The main event, Commonwealth Championship has gone to a local Singapore, Enrique Paciencia with seven and half points, one full point ahead of the top seed, India's IM Ashwin Jayaram. Australian Max Illingworth is third and with an original seeding of sixteen he performed at 2418, he must certainly be happy with his results. Not sure if he had a IM norm from this.

It's a lot of bad news for Malaysians though. Lim Yee Weng drew with Paciencia, probably a quick one as Paciencia already had the tourament in his pocket, after a tough fight. Unfortunately he still loses a bunch of ELO as does Mas who surprisingly drew his 2214 rated opponent. Maybe Mas wanted to get it over with and forget this tournament. He finished in eleventh place from an original seeding of fourth.

Edward lost to Timothy Chan and finishes with four and half points and finished twelve position just behind Mas. Not bad considering he was seeded 22nd but he did not gain any ELO points (according to Edward he did gain 29 points, a very good result! You have to wondor how many more points he would get if he had won).

Lim Yee Weng 5 points 7th place
Mas 4.5 11th place
Edward Lee 4.5 12 place

Singapore Chess Festival 2009 Round 9

The ninth and final round has started at 9:00 AM in Singapore. Singapore's Enrique Paciencia has already won the championship as he has an unassailable lead of seven points. His nearest rival only has five and half points.

The surprise for the round is that Lim Yee Weng with four and half points is playing on first board against Paciencia as Paciencia has already met all his rivals. This is due to the less than impressive number of participants, twenty-five in total.

Mas has dropped down to seventh board with four points, half a point less than Yee Weng or Edward. His play has been steadily deteriorating and he managed to lose to players rated much much lower than himself.

Edward Lee also have four and half points and should be able to finish as the highest placed Malaysian if he wins against Singaporean, Timothy Chan.

Lim Yee Weng 4.5
Edward Lee 4.5
Mas 4

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Singapore Chess Festival 2009 Round 6

Good news is all three Malaysians in the Commonwealth Open won their games. Mas beat Singapore, Jarred Neubronner and Yee Weng won against Australia's Dusan Stojic. Edward Lee beat untitled Anant Dole.

Mas now is half point away from the leaders, Enrique Paciencia and India's Ashwin Jayaram both with four points. Mas plays the Indian and have to win to be in contention for the championship.

Mas 3.5
Yee Weng 2.5
Edward Lee 2.5

Friday, December 11, 2009

Singapore Chess Festival 2009 Round 5

Malaysians at the Commonwealth Chess Championship now going on in Singapore have not been doing well. Mas has two and half points, with three draws and one win. The trouble is , except for a draw against the third seed Singaporean IM Enrique Paciencia, he has played some weak opposition. There are four players tied for the lead with three points. My guess is Mas will have to beat two of them to contend for the top place.

Lim Yee Weng and Edward Lee are not doing well, both of them have one and half points. In the third round, Yee Weng lost to Australian Max Illingworth, rated at over a hundred points below him. Max is a regular fixture in the DATMO series.

In the fourth round they were paired with each other and the game was draw which leaves both with one win and one draw.

In the Challengers section,the highest place Malaysian is Ismail Ahmad with a two and half out of four games and sitting in ninth position. Olivia Madhavan playing her first international, with one win and a draw has a respectable one and half points.

The fifth round starts tomorrow at 9:00 AM.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Singapore Chess Festival 2009

The 2009 Singapore Chess Festival officially starts today. The festival comprises the Commonwealth Open, Commonwealth Age Groups and the Challengers tournament. Each tournament is nine rounds with two games starting at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM daily from today till Sunday, 13th December. The last round begins on 14th December at 9:00 AM.

The main event is the Commonwealth Open and surprisingly for a major tournamnet, there are only twenty-five players taking part. Most of the participants are from Singapore and India. Malaysia have three representatives, Mas Hafizul, Lim Yee Weng and Edward Lee. There are only five male international masters taking part, no grandmasters. The lack of strong participation may be attributed to the entry fees charged.

Mas is seeded fourth and judging from the opposition, this year may be the best chance for a Malaysian to actually win this event.

The Challengers event had a larger number of players, ninety-two. I spotted one familiar Malaysian, Ismail Ahmad. The other is Olivia Madhavan, daughter of our chess coach, Collin Madhavan.

In the Under 20/16, I can see Yeap Eng Chiam, Justin Ong, Tan Jun Feng and a few other unknown Malaysians.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So gone

Philippines prodigy GM Wesley So finally met his match in GM Malakhov. The Russian appeared to have been following Wesley's matches against Ivanchuk and Kamsky and learnt something. That is, he did not try to wipe the board with So on it. Rather the first two games were drawn which means they went into the rapids tie-breakers where So lost all three games.

This boy did very well here and kudos to him and all. In an interview, he said that he did not get much support from his federation. Now, Philippines chess politics are very partisan. If you are not in or seen to be in the right camp, you will find your chess career stunted. A number of Filipino chess players actually became grandmaster after they have emigrated or started working abroad.

How about our own local talents? Yeoh Li Tian and Tan Li Ting are now in training in China, courtesy of private sponsors. I wondor what happens after their six weeks training completes. I guess they are around 9-10 years old. Wesley made his GM title at age thirteen. Let's hope the kids are given enough financial assistance to continue to show what they may be able to achieve.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Smoking can be hazardous for your chess

It's confirmed, smoking will affect your chess. Two Chinese players found out the hard way in the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.

According to reports, both Li Chao and Wang Yue were having a smoke minutes before the start of the round. Both forfeited when they were not at their boards at the start of the games. This zero start forfeiture first came into use at the 2008 Dresden Olympiad and have claimed a number of high profile victims and no doubt will claim more in the future. It is not enough to be present in the hall, you have to be sitting at your board when the round starts (usually through a gong being sounded or announcement by the Chief Arbiter).

One of your most important games in your career so far is about to start and you are not at the board but smoking outside? Really, the only people that can be blamed are themselves. The only other person who should shoulder the blame is the team captain/manager. As the Chinese had a fairly large contigent, a team captain accompanied them even though this is an individual event. To my mind, this person should have the responsibility to ensure all the players are at their board at the start of each round.

Both players lost the next game and are eliminated. As a result there will be no more Chinese representation in the next stage. This only leaves Wesley So as the sole remaining Asian player.

In an interview, Wang Yue had this to say when asked whether the forfeiture was a fair decision on the arbiter's part.

"Yes, this was correct and fair decision. The only decision that could be taken."

No tantrums, no excuses. My respect for this guy went up quite a few notches. See you again at the next championship cycle.