My first Chess960 tournament
The poster of Singapore Chess 960 online tournament

My first Chess960 tournament

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Somewhat strangely, the chess life in Singapore has never been so active and buzzing with excitement as it is during the COVID-19 crisis. This resurgence is mostly thanks to #ChessAgainstCovid initiative, which I described in my previous post. At the time of writing, more than S$ 50,000 (~$35,000) have been raised for the designated charity institution, and the organizers keep on coming up with the new events and ideas. 

This Tuesday they organized an online Chess960 blitz tournament, which gathered who's who of Singapore chess - 2 GMs, 3 IMs, 1 WGM, 6 FMs, 3 CMs and a few dozens of younger players, many of whom proved to be as dangerous as the titled players! A total of 75 players took part in the tournament.

This was the first ever Chess960 tournament for me, and I was not expecting much. Blitz is not my forte, as I tend to think too much and am generally slower and less tactically astute than my younger opponents. I expected that landing in unknown positions from move 1 would only make things worse. It turned out to be not as bad, though, not in the least because I was not handicapped by my poor knowledge of the opening theory!

This being blitz and random chess, there was of course a fair share of calamities and blunders, which I am going to illustrate with two miniatures.

The first one is a comeback win by the eventual winner Cameron Goh, who blundered a full knight but did not get discouraged and won 10 moves later!

Cameron had a gigantic - nay, Irish! - amount of luck in this tournament, with his opponents blundering early and often, resulting in quick wins, which mattered a lot in this tournament format, when the time was fixed but the number of games wasn't. 

Luck seems to a prerequisite for winning such tournaments. As you will see in the following game, I had my share in the beginning but, alas, after starting 5/5 and then 8/9 it must have run out and I only finished 16th

Now let us turn to the games of the other tournament winners.

I will start with GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming, who streamed the whole tournament on Twitch. Kevin finished 4th due to a few losses towards the end and an unusual formula of the tournament (he played only 14 games, compared to 19 by the tournament winner!). And I must say that it was fun to see a grandmaster struggling to figure out how the castling works  Kevin also played somewhat passively in the opening - as he admitted on the stream, Chess960 puts him at some disadvantage, as in the normal chess he is usually booked to the teeth. However, in most games the difference in class eventually told, as in the following game from the final round, in which he defeated the tournament winner despite getting rather suspicious position out of the opening:

The 3rd place was captured by FM Lee Qing Aun, who played his usual quick, sound and tactically alert chess. I played him twice in the tournament and lost both games. The second was a roller-coaster, which could have gone either way, but in the first game I was positionally busted by move 10:

Finally, let me present the game by the runner-up, GM Andrey Kvon. In my opinion, it was the best game of the tournament, especially since his opponent, IM Tin Jingyao, is close to 2500 Elo in normal chess and a real beast in rapid time controls. It was a true "clash of the titans": 

I hope you enjoyed the chaos and the beauty of Chess960 as much as I did. Stay safe and play chess!