Chess Tales from Asia - The Great Singapore Swindles (Part 3)

Chess Tales from Asia - The Great Singapore Swindles (Part 3)

| 11 | Tactics

Once again, I would like to thank the readers for their support, interaction and kind comments in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

In this final segment of Great Singapore Swindles, I would like to introduce you to a good friend, International Master Terry Toh who is getting married at the end of the month!(Congratulations!)

Terry wears many hats in his work - he's trained as a lawyer and is currently involved in commercial legal consulting and translation services. He has done voluntary work stints as a Church Pastor, English Language professor, Lifeskills Instructor and has been invited as a speaker for various youth and legal seminars.

The reason why I singled out Terry is that he is well known in the local circuit as "Magic Toh", a testament to his ability to pull out tremendous swindles from utterly lost positions.

Here's a  brief interview wth him...

Question:  Do you remember the moniker 'Magic Toh' bestowed on you? We used to call you that all the time. How did it come about?

Answer: I can't remember. It must have been either FM Ong Chong Ghee or IM Hsu Li Yang. It was because  I was winning game after game from lost or drawn positions.  I usually get bad positions early because  I tend to handle the openings quite badly.

Question:  Yes. I remember how you were just flipping a beginner book on the Torre Attack on the first day in the Moscow Olympiad 1994. That afternoon, against Russian Grandmaster Alexey Dreev, you actually used the line. Goodness, I thought you were absolutely bonkers.  So how do you perform this 'magic'?

Answer:  When I get into a bad position, I would then defend for as long as possible to frustrate the oppponent and also set them into a false sense of lull. I then create a tactical maze for them to get lost in. I always liked to create opportunities for the opponent which look either strategically or logically very right but with a hidden twist at the end. Take the following game against Henry Retamozo in that Huacho tourney.


Question: So who is the strongest player you ever swindled?

Answer: My best win from a lost game must still have been the game against GM Zhang Pengxiang in the Asian Teams event in Shenyang 1999.  I was down to 2 or 3 minutes minutes and then the game was suddenly over. IM Hsu Li Yang and GM Wong Meng Kong  thought the arbiter must have put the score wrongly. After that, my opponent went to a corner and you could see tears in his eyes. Here's how it went...


Question: So how does one set up a swindle at the master level?

Answer:  Outright traps will not catch a strong opponent. You need to make the person believe that he is getting a chance to play a good move.

Question: Do you remember your favourite term during post-mortem analysis and kibitzing was "playing percentage chess"? Can you define it?

Answer: Haha.... that came from my study of Lasker and Tal's games. You don't make the best move, but one that gives the best practical chance and  that requires a combination of psychological manoeuvring plus tactical alertness. I still use that nowadays when I am involved in commercial negotiations, just that a great deal more money are at stake in the deals nowadays.

Thank you,Terry, for your time and all the best to you and your wife to be!


Let's get back to the last installment of the  Great Singapore Swindles.

A) Time trouble try

The first example today is from my wife (then-girlfriend) who was mired in a strategically lost position after botching up the Black side of a Reti opening.

Great Singapore Swindle Example 7

(annotations by WFM YIp Fong Ling)

B) Hope Springs Eternal Defence/Counterattack

This swindle is a bit unusual in that it occurs right after the opening, after which I was already in trouble. After playing the Grand Prix Attack in automatic mode, I was left a pawn down with no compensation and my opponent having a big kingside pawn mass. Hence, I gambled on a piece sacrifice with a supposed kingside bind, in the hope that my opponent will not spot the defensive tries to refute my  swindle.

Great Singapore Swindle Example 8 


C) The Complacency Coup

This is perhaps the sneakiest of all the 9 examples I've shown in this series (Alvin Ong's Rg8+ is a strong contender though), considering the level of opposition that Wei Ming is facing.

Great Singapore Swindle 9


We've come to the end of the series on Great Singapore Swindles. Thank you for your support!

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