Chess against COVID in Singapore
A poster announcing the online simul with IM Ravindran Shanmugam

Chess against COVID in Singapore

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About a month ago Singaporean GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming started a great charity initiative called Chess against COVID. The goal is to raise funds through chess for the families most affected by COVID-19 pandemic - those who have lost jobs, the elderly, or suffering from chronic illnesses. So far the team behind this initiative has organized about a dozen of online simultaneous exhibitions for Singapore youth players, raising over SGD 45,000 (~$32,000) in the process. Their work has been covered in the main Singapore newspaper, The Straits Times, and on FIDE website

I have been watching these online events for a few weeks and donated to the charity drive myself. Then last week GM Goh Wei Ming invited me to join his live stream on Twitch as a commentator for an upcoming simul. Kevin has gathered an all-star team of Singapore players as commentators - the GM himself, IM Hsu Li Yang, and FM Ong Chong Ghee. The latter was actually playing in the simul himself, so his participation was a kind of "confession booth" experience. 

This 12-board simul was delivered by IM Ravindran Shanmugam, who played for Singapore at two Chess Olympiads. Based on the experience from the previous events in this series, I was expecting a tough fight, with the clock management being one of the key challenges. The simul master starts with the extra time but it is not easy to juggle 12-15 boards in real time. I have seen IMs and even GMs struggle with this and losing multiple games on time.

However, Ravi played very quickly and finished the last game with something like 45 minutes still on his clock! And this speed did not come at the expense of the quality. There were a couple of games in which he was worse or even losing but in the end he remained unbeaten: +8=4.

Let me show you a few games from the simul, starting with a clean victory by the master:

As could be expected, many of Ravi's victories in the simul were of this kind, with his experience prevailing over the youthful energy of the opposition.

However, it was not all smooth sailing. Predictably, the highest-rated opponent in the simul, FM Ong Chong Ghee, proved to be a formidable challenge. He opened up his game with an offbeat sideline 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5?!!, thus getting the IM out of the comfort zone as early as move 2. Ravindran did not try to refute this opening, opting for a quiet middlegame instead. However, this cautious play backfired. Little by little White's position got worse, and on move 28 Black could land a decisive blow. It was first spotted by CM Olimpiu Urcan and then he challenged the commentators to find it. To everyone's relief, we managed to crack it  now it's your turn to solve this puzzle!

It is a difficult combination to find, even if you know that it's there. Chong Ghee played differently but retained a large positional advantage in a position with all heavy pieces still on the board. After the end of the simul we spent about half an hour analyzing this interesting game, with both players joining us on the live stream.

I would like to call out an amazing move that Chong Ghee dropped on all of us during the post-game analysis. See if you can spot the winning sequence:

Finally, there was an interesting endgame in which IM was saved... by a premature draw offer!  

I hope you enjoyed the games, and invite you to join the upcoming events in the "Chess against COVID" series. In a few hours, at 2pm Singapore time, FM Lee Qing Aun will be giving another simul, with GM Goh Wei Ming providing live commentary on his Twitch stream.

And tomorrow, on 3rd of May, there will an international match, with Singapore youth team playing the Kazakhstan youth team on 20 boards! GM Goh Wei Ming and GM Rinat Jumabayev will be providing live commentary . It is for a good cause and it's going to be fun, so tune in on Twitch at 4pm Singapore time for the boys match and at 5:30pm for the girls match!