IM Goh Wei Ming pips FM Nelson Villanueva to the Cairnhill Open title!
Despite the exodus of a heath of local players to Penang and Johore for their respective FIDE-rated events as well as a concurrent Nee Soon event running, the Cairnhill festival drew an impressive 200+ players altogether in its various iterations (Open, Blitz, Major, U12, U10, U8 sections).
Traditionally, Cairnhill has the best prize fund among the local Swiss Open events and this year, it is still the market leader in this respect (though NM Olimpiu Urcan's Master Blitz Series (closed invitationals) edges ahead in terms of $ and ELO) The Open section alone has 14 2000+ ELO rated players contesting for the $2100 prize fund, which is undoubtedly the strongest field in local chess for quite a while. The last time we had these much 'strongies' was probably the SGCC TCA Mega Open in 2013, which was also won by Kevin. More interestingly, the 3 IMs (Kevin, Jingyao, Enrique) and 1 NM (Koh Kum Hong) playing in the forthcoming National Championships Premier used this event to warm up for the latter event (as well as CM Benjamin Foo who snuck in an appearance for the Blitz event).
The usual suspects swung into action with IMs Kevin, Jingyao, Enrique and FM Nelson successfully navigating their first 3 rounds.
NM Olimpiu Urcan vs FM Nelson Villanueva
However, a weird NM Koh Kum Hong and NM Roberto Suelo pairing (Kum Hong was designated a 'non-rated' player because he simply had no FIDE rapid rating ) saw an interesting clash where Kum Hong gradually increased his pressure vs Suelo's Dutch Benoni till it was almost breaking point. At this juncture, Kum Hong decided to liquidate into a Queen and pawns vs Rook, Bishop and pawns endgame and found the latter's defence too resilient to breach. So a truce was agreed.
NM Koh Kum Hong, Singapore Champion 2001
The 3 IMs continued their winning ways In round 4 though Kevin kept his top board spot only after a tough encounter with Nelson.
The top boards clash between Enrique and Kevin in Round 5 ended in a tough rook and pawns ending draw after Enrique managed to ward off Kevin's initiative in the opening and middlegame.
IM Enrique Paciencia holding firm against IM Goh Wei Ming
Tin on the other hand, was upended by Suelo's speed and eventually flagged even as Tin held the advantage for most of the game and was even an outside passed pawn up in the ending.
A speedy NM Roberto Suelo was too just fast for IM Tin in the sudden death finish
After the Magnus Carlsen Simul, Kevin had given NM Olimpiu Urcan the advice to study Petrosian's games to upgrade his positional knowledge. Does the following game remind you of a certain World Champion's style of play?
Wei Ming reducing Roberto's pieces to the back 2 ranks.
Jingyao stopped Enrique's quest for the title on board 2, leaving Kevin half point adrift of Tin, Nelson and Pok Wern Jian.
Jingyao keeping his hopes alive by overcoming Enrique.
While we were speculating a tantalizing Jingyao vs Kevin final round clash to decide the title, the pairings turned out to be Pok vs Kevin and Jingyao had to deal with Nelson instead. So was it a foregone conclusion for Kevin to clinch the title? Not quite as Pok put up a heck of a fight to make Kevin sweat for his half point!
A hard fought draw clinched Wei Ming the Cairnhill title (he hasn't won it before, surprisingly!)
Nelson, on the other hand, stunned Jinyao by putting extreme pressure on his queenside to eventually net a pawn and the Filipino FM managed to liquidate down to a rook + 4 pawns vs rook + 2 pawns ending to win, joining Kevin at 6 points.
So congratulations to Kevin and Nelson for their success and Enrique, Roberto and Pok for their joint 3rd placings. Kudos to Kenny Chern and his fellow organizers for another successful Cairnhill campaign!