Chess Tales from Asia - The Great Singapore Swindles (Part 2)

| 13 | Tactics


Hi!  Firstly, thanks for the positive comments on Part 1 of this series. I do hope to continue to have your support.

Before I continue showing some more swindles concorted in this part of Asia, I would like to make a distinction between the 'swindle' and the 'scam',

The chess swindle, in my opinion, occurs over the board without any interference by the player with regards to psychological tricks or downright cheating. The scam, on the other hand, involves additional unethical practices.

Let me elaborate on some of these examples I've seen in the Singapore tournament scene.

Psychological tricks

One favourite ploy of a well known local trickster is to disrupt or interrupt the opponent's calculation on purpose with sudden draw offers while setting up one to three mover combinations. There are also body language ploys such as staring or glaring at the opponent intently, shaking one's head constantly or looking overtly dejected / overwrought (accentuated by wringing one's hands incessantly) while planning cheapos. I once saw this chap staring intently at one sector of the board where possible exchanges can be made. Meanwhile, he was planning a 4-move deep combination which involves getting both his rook and queen on the back rank and mating the king on h7 via Rh8...and it worked like a charm as he got to execute the mate.

Downright cheating

In the high pressure National Schools Individual events where there are hundreds of contestants vying for a dozen trophies and glory, half a point or more would make a great deal of difference in the standings. The arbiters have the unenviable task of weeding out and punishing the unethical participants. In one instance, this kid made a draw with another over the board. The  tournament rules back then stated that in the event of a draw, White reports the score. The cunning chap went to report a win to the arbiter and as the pieces were set back, there was no recourse for the victim. The trickster went to hide behind his mother, insisting he had won the game. The rules have since changed - in that both players must go to the arbiter's desk to report the result.

Another pertinent scam involves deliberately misplacing pieces with improved placements to increase one's chances of winning, sometimes to the extent of changing the colour of one's bad bishop! The one that takes the cake in a local tourney went like this:

In a local tourney this year, the following position was reached with White in time trouble and to move:
















Scrambling for time, White captured the b7 pawn with  1. Bxb7+ and Black suddenly spilled the pieces on his queenside. After picking up the pieces, he reset it like this:
















and yelled "Check! Move!". Note that Black had made two moves at a go, simultaneously moving his king out of check and adding in Bc7+ for good measure. White, who incidentally is a certified master, was so stunned that he instinctively obeyed and  moved his king instantly with 2.Kh3. After White had pressed the clock, Black swiped the bishop with 2...Qxb7 triumphantly.


Fortunately, despite the unfair loss, the master managed to make his way back into the prize list with a high placing while the cheater ended empty-handed.

The good news is that in the local chess scene, cheaters like these are relatively few and once they pulled off a stunt like this, the competitors will spread the word and these tricks will not work so easily again.

Now, back to the Great Singapore Chess Swindles... the non-cheating kind.

As I looked at the examples I've collected, I realised they fall into 3 categories -

A) Time Trouble Try - when the swindler plays a move or a sequence of moves to confuse the opponent or complicate the position with little time remaining on the clock

B) Hope Springs Eternal defence/counterattack - when all seems to be lost, the last chance is to hope and pray that your opponent doesn't find the winning continuation...

C) The Complacency Coup - when the position is so overwhemingly winning for a side and almost anyone's dog or any move can win the position....almost.

In my first article, Alvin Ong-Nurul Huda would be categorized under A, FM Dominic Lo - IM Goh Wei Ming is the B type while FM Bill Jordan-FM Chia Chee Seng belongs to the C category. So, the following examples are arranged thus.


I have digressed quite a bit from the topic at hand so let's get back to the swindles.


A) Time trouble try

Having been completely outplayed positionally and running out of smokebombs to bluff, Black changed the tempo of a game with a seemingly innocuous move in White's time trouble and that did the trick.

Great Singapore Swindle Example 4


B) Hope Springs Eternal Defence/Counterattack

This sort of swindle depends on the victim missing the key move that wins or draws but the following example is incredible in the sense that White not only did not play the winning move but resigned instead. We can only hope...

Dr Nithiananthan had requested that White's name be witheld from the article to save him the embarassment so we'll just call him X.

Great Singapore Swindle Example 5 (annotations by Dr J Nithiananthan)


C) The Complacency Coup

IM Goh Wei Ming is back again, this time on the receiving end of a swindle. This is a good reminder not to give up too early as even masters can get complacent...The ridiculous part for Black is he had 15 minutes to White's 1 when he got conned.

Great Singapore (Self) Swindle Example 6 (annotations by IM Goh Wei Ming)



That's it for Part 2 of Great Singapore Swindles. Stay in touch for Part 3 and thanks for reading!

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