Saturday, March 17, 2018

March 2017 Tactical Training: Part 1

No rest for the weary! NSI is over but the training continues... relax, these puzzles should be simple enough (:

Have fun!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Stuff that non chess players say

After a particularly disastrous midterm test, I need to find a way to run away from my problems. Tactics Trainer would have been the usual way, but today I realized that I haven’t been written an article for quite some time.

Instead of the usual game analysis, I’ve decided to share some stuff that have been told to me by my non chess-playing friends. I’m not talking about that kid who boasts of becoming a GM and gets destroyed in 20 moves. I’m referring to the genuine non-players: Those who have never touched a board before, and refer to the knight as the “horsey”.

"What did you just call me again!?"

Ready for some cringe?

1. How many moves can you see ahead?

I don’t know where this idea came from, but somehow it has stuck in the mind of non-players as the defining factor of chess ability. So I’m supposed to be able to see 3, 5, 10 moves ahead? How many can Carlsen see? 20?

The following article pretty much sums up what is wrong with this idea. Yes, chess is a game of calculation, but it’s impossible to calculate every single line “N number of moves ahead”; everyone knows how the number of variations increase exponentially after the first few moves. Only computers have the capability to brute-force all of that.

And even the best brute-force algorithm got bested by AlphaZero

Then what are chess players seeing? We don’t actually see individual moves. What we see are patterns, like strategic, tactical, or opening/endgame motifs. And we use this to calculate candidate moves, aka selected variations that we feel are the best.

To answer our dear non-player friend’s question, no I’m not Stockfish, I can only see one move ahead. That’s why I keep blundering pieces, right?

2. Just capture the other guy’s queen! Once you eat it he will lose.

It seems that non-players have an unusual affection for the only female piece on the board, just because she can go places that other pieces can only dream of. How lovely it would be if I could win a game just by trading queens.

Qxd8 checkmate!

Sadly, queenless middlegames are a real thing, and the importance letting the rest of your pieces cooperate with one another cannot be understated.

3. So you are a Grandmaster?

Oh, how I wish I were one. But sadly, Singapore saw its only GM switch federations back to China not long ago. So I’m sorry to disappoint but no, I’m not a GM. Although I am the GM-equivalent of throwing away won games.

4. After a long and tiring day, you still want to drain your mental energy by playing chess?

Hey, you haven’t found out the therapeutic effects of playing repeated blitz/bullet and getting high after that.

Because blitz is like drugs, you know. It feels good, and you keep coming back for more… until you’ve dug a hole so deep you can’t come out.

We have blitz

5. Don’t you just join the chess club to slack?

After wondering why I choose to drain my energy in chess, you ask whether I’m slackin’? Hmm.

Try joining a full day 7-round rapid tournament and tell me how it feels after that.

6. Chess is boring.

Refer to Point 4. Unless you play the French exchange, in which case that’s your own fault.

Image from Chess Memes on Facebook

7. Only nerds play chess.

What a horrible misconception! Chess is played by a wide variety of people Well actually… I must admit this is true. Maybe that’s why all my friends in the chess club are single XD.

Promoting the latest nerd fashions with Carlsen's new glasses

What other ridiculous things have you heard from non chessplayers?


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tata Steel Chess 2018 Highlights: Part 2

In Part 1, we analyzed the games of two veterans: Anand and Kramnik. What happens when the two of them clash swords with each other? Between the Tiger of Madras’s tactical prowess and cold Russian positional grinding, who would prevail?

Cold, Russian Steel rolling down the board

Here is Round 7’s encounter by the two former world champions, where Anand’s weakening of his pawn structure lead to an instructive strategic win for Kramnik:

In the same round, Mamedyarov won his third game in a row to become the sole leader of the tournament. An impressive feat, but one that was short-lived: Giri proceeded to end Mamedyarov’s streak in the next round with a classic strong knight vs weak bishop situation:

Giri (foreground) vs Mamedyarov (Image from

The final game we will look at is by the tournament winner, Magnus Carlsen. While Giri was outplaying Mamedyarov, Carlsen experienced a very lucky escape against Gawain Jones. First, the Norwegian blundered horribly in a Sicilian Dragon, before nerves got the better of Jones, who allowed his advantage to slip and even lose the game altogether:

Has the Sicilian Dragon claimed another victim? (Image from

With that I wrap up my analysis of Tata Steel 2018 highlights. Congrats to Magnus Carlsen for winning the tournament a record sixth time, and here’s to more exciting tournaments in the future!

Part 1:


Friday, February 16, 2018

February 2018 Tactical Training: Part 1

Happy Lunar New Year to all, and hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend!


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tata Steel Chess 2018 Highlights: Part 1

Yet another major tournament ended last month: The Tata Steel Chess 2018. World Champion Magnus Carlsen won the tournament for a record sixth time. The event also marked the resurgence of Anish Giri, who had a plus 5 score—something one would not have expected from a player who was infamous for his “drawing” tendencies!

With 13 rounds and many decisive games, there was no shortage of interesting battles for me to choose from, so I can’t possibly fit all my choices into a single article. For today, we will look at 3 games from the early stages of the tournament.

The first game was from the very first round, where GM Wei Yi got onto the bad side of a Catalan against Vladimir Kramnik. The game is a magnificent display of what Kramnik excels at: Slow accumulation of positional advantages such as the open file and centre, before converting them into a crushing win. Karpov would have been proud!

Kramnik (left) vs Wei Yi (Image from

If our first game was a positional classic, then the next one was an exciting tactical battle where another former World Champion prevailed: Vishy Anand. His opponent, Caruana, tried an interesting knight sacrifice, but slipped up and paid the price for it.

What a way to end the game! It seems that both Anand and Kramnik are still going strong, even as their generation slowly gets displaced by upcoming stars like Carlsen and Giri!

If you thought endgames were boring, wait till you see our final game, which was a sharp endgame battle with both sides advancing passed pawns of their own. While Mamedyarov and Adhiban are not as well-known as the names mentioned earlier, the following game shows that both players are not to be messed around with:

Adhiban (left) and Mamedyarov at the start of the round (Image from

This was Mamedyarov’s second win in a row, and he later on won his third consecutive game to lead the tournament in Round 7; definitely something he can be proud of!

In Part 2, we will look at more highlights from the second half of the tournament.

To be continued…


Sunday, January 21, 2018

What goes round must come around

Today I will be looking through another 2 of my online correspondence games, both against the same opponent. Here’s the fun part: Both of us employed parallel ideas of kingside attack, sacrifices and square domination against each other. What goes round… must come around!

Without further ado, here’s the first game, where I offered relatively feeble resistance:

Funnily enough, the kingside sacrificial attack that my adversary wrought upon me seemed so effective, I decided to copy it. And who else to test it against than the same opponent? When they say that your opponent is your teacher, this can’t be truer over here.

Very good lessons from these games, and here’s to more exciting correspondence/OTB games in the future!