IM Kevin Goh wins Balestier League by a mile
A trip to the Melbourne Chess Club, while on vacation in October, gave me an idea to start a semi-serious training event for my chess ‘kakis’ back home. Established 150 years ago, the club manages to conduct up to 3 events per week with League and blitz events on weekdays and a flagship (13min + 2 sec inc) allegro event on Saturday. If the Aussies can do that, surely we can come up with something for ourselves to play strong opponents. I also realized I needed to get proper match play after a horrible 4.5/7 outing in the Melbourne chess club allegro where I played really insipidly. Too much chess coaching has dulled my senses, really.
The problem for us workaholic adult Singaporeans is we can hardly find time to rest and relax, let alone play serious competitive games. Hence my friends and I came up with the idea of the Balestier Rapid League with the following concepts:
- First to reach 5 points takes the event – the rationale being to encourage players to show up and play more often. We don’t have to finish all the games, and the dudes who choose to play more games have better chances. The first 3 dudes to reach 5 points can choose any book prize from Chess and Bridge online store.
- Any rapid time control for the games will do – from 15+5 onwards. Invariably, everyone tilted towards 25+10 and we soon set that time for all the games.
- We ‘tapao’ food for all to save time on eating. Well, one is spoilt for choice when it comes to Balestier food in Singapore and the players can eat in air con comfort instead of fighting the heat in the food centre.
So as long as the participants show up between 6pm to 9pm, a serious game vs another master is available and with the stomachs filled (and assorted nuts available for chewing too), it was game on for the 3 IMs, 3FMs and 3 CMs participating.
The event has gone on for the past two months, and not surprisingly, IM Goh Wei Ming, who has a hefty ELO advantage of 100 points or more over the rest of us, reached 5 points in no time, and cleaned out the field to lead with 6.5/7. His opponents either get overwhelmed by his opening theory or get snuffed out from 'nothing' situations with his constant pressing and prodding even in the simplest of positions. Only the host survived, as he started with a dodgy opening and nobody really tried to win. CM Tan Weiliang complained after his loss to the Rex (short for T-Rex, as he is now known as, no thanks to his chomping of the local opponents) that it is daunting to play Wei Ming as he has seen so much further and faster and replied instantly to Weiliang’s moves, having already spotted the nuances.
Next to cross the finish line was FM Jarred Neubronner, whose defensive acumen was only broken by the Rex and Weiliang as he racked up 5 wins by staunch and creative resistance of his opponents’ attacking forces
OK, enough with the talk and on to the games.
Firstly, a typical example of how Wei Ming presses and presses until his opponent cracks, against his closest rival in the event.
CM Olimpiu Urcan had chided me for being the ‘Balestier Giri’ for amassing so many draws during this event while I retorted that he was the 'Cairnhill Giri', having chalked up 4 draws in that event where he tied for 2nd. However, his no holds barred play typically see him win brilliantly or lose horribly. In this event, he scored 2/3 versus the IMs and the following is a good example of his uncompromising chess play.
Here's a fine example of Jarred's defensive acumen, countering Qing Aun's growing initiative with swift piece deployment and switching immediately to attack when the latter missed the plot.
FM Lee Qing Aun had just recently tied for 1st in the 2016 National Championships, pipped from the pole position due to the strange tiebreaks. Here, he demonstrated a good flair for the initiative with a daring pawn sacrifice and finished exquisitely.
IM Lim Yee Weng did not do well in this event, with his legal work taking its toll on him. He was often bleary eyed during play but still can apply the squeeze as seen in the following game.
Why is Andrey known as the 'Ruskie Steamroller' to his chesspals? Just look at the following game which he annotated.
In my opinion, the following is the best attacking game of the event, as Weiliang exhibited the ‘meet a flank attack with action in the centre’ adage. And what a powerful central punch he packed!
Two more 'squeeze blood from stone' efforts by the Rex. What do we need to do to get a draw from him? Kneel down and beg?
The best (or maybe only) swindle of the event comes from yours truly. OK, I’m a sneaky player but what can I do?
Finally, let’s see if you can solve this one. This is Junior Tay vs IM Kevin Goh with Black to move.
Seeing that the h6-pawn is free and easy, I could find no reason not to snag it. But Be3xh6 is a colossal blunder. Can you see why that is so? If you can't, it's OK. Kevin missed it as well...but while he was entering the game into his base, all of a sudden he froze and cursed himself as he realized he had a unique combination to win. The solution is at the end of the page.
But some pics first.
A fighting draw between Jarred and Yee Weng, They played till there was practically nothing left on the board.
The National co-champion (2nd on tiebreak) Qing Aun out-slugging Olimpiu in a theoretical Catalan.
The Rex thinking of what to unleash on Jarred's Sicilian after the expected 6...Bb4( he chose Kramik's 7 Qd3!).
Ravindran and Jarred tussling it out in a Moller-Arkhangelsk line.
An absorbing contest between Yee Weng and Andrey, decided in the dying seconds with the former making the final blunder. Yee Weng had lost 3 winning games in this event already, although he could still pack a punch as Weiliang found to his chagrin.
Your author, on the way to the setting the sneakiest swindle he ever shelled out - against Cairnhill Open Champion Tan Weiliang.
The Angmo hustler vs the Ruskie Steamroller - very contrasting styles of play. Ruskie's solid classical style had earned him the Rex X'mas blitz title while Olimpiu's take-no-prisoners attacking play see him frequently finishing at the podium in local Swiss events.
Jarred managed to survive a central breakthrough by Andrey, even allowing an Octopus knight on e6 for quite a fair while. Truly a 'tahan' king! Eventually, he took over the queen-side and won after Andrey faltered in time trouble.
Yee Weng's novelty ...Rd8 caused Qing Aun some problems, tying him to the defense of the c2-pawn. The youngster cut the Gordian knot by sacrificing it for a barnstormer of an attack.
Thanks for reading this article - and a Merry Christmas to all!
Current standings of the Balestier Rapid League.
Solution to Junior Tay- Kevin Goh Wei Ming,
Black can win with 1...Nxe4!! 2 fxe4 Qf8! (hitting the Bh6 and threatening ...Rf1 mate simultaneously) and White can resign with a clean conscience.