Chess Tales from Asia - The Great Singapore Swindles (Part 1)
Now, the island I come from isn't exactly well known for chess (prowess) but very often, when FIDE-rated expatriates show up (usually for post-grad studies) in our local tourneys for the first time, they tend to be stunned by the type of chess we dish out in our rapid chess events. The refined positional play of the Europeans will help them garner big strategic advantages in the first half of the game. But more often than not, the local player (or the Pinoys based in Singapore) will throw out tactical spanners, bolts and nuts one after another in the dying seconds and hustle draws or wins. In short, our games are more often than not decided by swindles. Most of the tourneys held in Singapore are blitz or rapid events and hence, the regular local chesser has adapted his/her play to suit the tempo of play. No Kramnikian krunching or Magnus manouvring for the likes of us. Just plain hacking and hustling to burn up time.
OK, just to give legitimacy to our style of play, I would like to quote from IM Ali Mortazavi's The Fine Art of Swindling (Cardogan 1996) - "Although you may well think that swindling an opponent requires some kind of below the belt tactic during a game, fιrst of all it is important to understand chess strategy. The reasons for this are simple. Α good swindle still requires the same patience, tenacity, positional understanding, etc., as a 'normal' game of chess".
I suppose, for the potential 'swindlee', it is important to keep calm and vigilant under time pressure and remain focused on the potential dirt the swindler will dish out. Easier said than done, of course.
OK. Enough chatter.
The following is an example of desperate swindling by a Singaporean from a Malaysian team event with precious seconds left on the clock.
Great Singapore Swindle Example 1
This sort of thing also happens at our premier rapid event, the National Rapid Championships, I kid you not. But this time round, it's an unintentional swindle as the culprit was totally clueless...
Great Singapore Swindle Example 2 (annotations by IM Goh Wei Ming)
I would like to end this article with a well timed swindle by the late FM Chia Chee Seng who passed away this year. He was most famous in Singapore chess lore as "the toughest guy I played as a growing chess player who is full of practical and creative resources to turn around lost games!" (IM Terry Toh) and "The most resourceful Singapore player in lost positions" (IM Hsu Li Yang).