Sunday, December 11, 2011

SEA Games 2011 - Looking back (final)


Prior to leaving  we had no idea how the blindfold event would be conducted other than that computers will not be used. (The most famous blindfold tournament is the annual Amber. Each players sits in front of a computer with a blank chess board on screen. They enter their moves into the computer which is then sent to the opponent's screen.)

The organizers had decided on a low tech solution. Players sit opposite each other with an empty chess board. They are given a stack of colored paper on which they write their moves. Two arbiters stand on each side of the players. Their job was to verify the written moves on a chess board hidden from the players view. Once the move was verified, they showed the paper to the operators of the display board just outside the playing area.

Illegal moves would result in a yellow card from the arbiters and three yellow cards would result in a forfeit. The time control was 20 minutes with 20 seconds increment which might seem sufficient. In reality, being a blindfold game and requirement to write the moves in long form and hand over to the opponent probably took all of 15 seconds.

I think the most common strategy adopted by most of the players was to try to be up on time and pressure the opponent who is in time trouble. Looking for the best move in any position was secondary.

Surprisingly most of the countries concentrated their best for this event as was evidenced by the fact that all players were minimum IM titled. Five countries fielded two players each to make this a round-robin of nine rounds.

The Filipino GM Paul Gomez led for most of the tournament until he was defeated by GM Le Quang Liem who took the lead to the end.

It was expected that there would be many illegal moves. The strain of playing blindfold took its toll. As the tournament progressed, there were more and more yellow cards handed out, One of the arbiters told me that no one was spared with one exception - GM Le Quang Liem who apparently made perfect moves!


A strange decision was that each country could only enter one player as opposed to blindfold, rapid and blitz where there were two players from each country. I was entered in this event with five other players. As a result there were only six players and we played a five round-robin. The favourites were GM Wesley So, GM Cao Sang and GM Megaranto Susanto. I knew I had to draw or beat at least one of them to have chances of a medal.

Things did not work out when I lost to the Myanmar player Kyaw Ling Naing. I overestimated my position and sacrificed a piece for a non-existent attack. Kyaw Ling Naing proceeded to hold GM Cao Sang to a draw and in the final round picked up another draw against Megaranto to tie with Cao Sang. In the armaggedon play-off, he won with the white pieces thus snatching the bronze medal. Read more about the standard event here

Rapid and blitz

The rapid was uneventful for Malaysian players and we were never in the running for any medals.  The men's event had twelve players so a nine round Swiss was played whereas women's event had the perfect ten players for a round-robin.

Sumant Subramaniam beat his first grandmaster here.

In the blitz where anything can happen, IM Mas had some chances of finishing with a medal. He was playing GM Paragua and Paragua kept shaking his head. He was making too many mistakes. Suddenly he allowed Mas to fork a piece and I thought it was in the bag for Mas. But in the time scramble, Mas returned the favour allowing a queen and king fork by the knight. I think he was too shocked by that as he continued making a few more moves before surrendering. A win could have given Mas the bronze.

In the women's blitz, Gregory came up with an excellent decision. Each of our players (Nabila and Najiha) were assigned a "helper" or coach, me for Nabila while he did the same for Najiha. The players had to report to her "helper" after each round. After every round the girls had to report their results. To me this seemed like a good idea. Of course this is blitz so there is no time for any "coaching". This was just Greg's strategy to force the girls to keep their focus and not treat this as just another blitz tournament.

Nur Nabila did well in this tournament. Against the eventual medallists she had a 50% score with one win , one draw and one loss. In the final round, she had to beat the Vietnamese WIM Hoang Thi Nhu to tie for 2-3 position and qualify for the play-off. She tried her best but eventually had to accept a draw.

Next games
For the men's, it is always a big hurdle to challenge for medals. Our neighbours, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia have many grandmasters. We might be able to steal a medal with some luck. Our best hopes are in the womens.

MCF should start taking some action to prepare our girls for the next SEA games in Myanmar. Though still quite raw, they have chances of getting medals if they start training now. The gap is not that big between them and the Vietnamese, Filipinos and Indonesians. If nothing is done now, I can be certain that the gap will widen by 2013.


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