Sunday, August 11, 2019

Overlooked FIDE Laws of Chess
This is just my personal thoughts and experience so far. Other than serving in a number of informal events, the only official event I have served as an arbiter so far was the National Rapid Chess Championship 2019. While re-reading the very latest version of the FIDE laws of chess under Arbiter's Manual 2019 (updated 1 July 2019), several Articles and the wording of these laws of chess (and the execution) echoed experiences as both a player and a rookie arbiter.

I think to become completely proficient with the FIDE laws of chess, the above FIDE Arbiter's Manual, coupled by UK Chess Arbiter's Association added notes and interpretations, should be a good starting point for rookie arbiters like myself in terms of equipping ourselves with the most fundamental references to make decisions over actual games.

The following are incidents / infringements I think chess arbiters should be more strict with, as well as incidents or scenarios which I thought were interesting enough to highlight, as well as what I consider as good/bad habits for chess players.

  • 4.2.1 Only  the  player  having  the  move  may  adjust  one  or  more  pieces  on  their squares,  provided  that  he  first  expresses  his  intention  (for  example  by  saying “j‟adoube” or “I adjust”).

    (in Arbiter's Manual)
    Article  4.2.1  may  only  be  used  to  correct  displaced  pieces.  Where  the  opponent  is not  present  at  the  board,  a  player  should  inform  the  arbiter- if  there  is  an  arbiter present –before he starts to adjust the pieces on the chess board.

    newbie's thoughts: I have personally come across players who use "adjust" as a means to de-stress during a game, touching and spinning each and every properly placed pieces on the board. I have even heard of stories that a player say adjust on every move (so that he/she is not obliged to observe touch move, LOL).

    If the opponent claims, I think these should come under Article 12.9 (Options available to the arbiter concerning penalties).

    But as a player, I disagree with the need to inform adjust to the arbiter in an open tournament, when the opponent is not present (too troublesome). I will just say "adjust" loud enough so that neighbouring boards can hear it and serve as witness if necessary. I do find it necessary to say adjust loud enough, especially if the opponent is around, and ideally, even hope the opponent can make a simple gesture acknowledging my request before I perform the actual act of adjustment.
  • 5.1.1 The  game is won by  the player who has checkmated his opponent's king. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the checkmate position was in accordance with Article 3 and Articles 4.2 –4.7.

    5.1.2 The  game  is  won  by  the  player  whose  opponent  declares  he  resigns.  This immediately ends the game.

    newbie's thoughts: There is this common issue in kids tournaments, whereby a beginner thought he/she was checkmated and offers a handshake, only to subsequently realise the position is not a checkmate afterwards.

    Personally, I disagree with the views of the UK Chess Arbiters' Association on the following:

    "Particularly in junior tournaments it can be discovered that one player accepts he was mated to discover later that he could prevent the mate.  If a result is reported by both players that can be accepted.  Where a player announces mate and immediately shakes hands only for it to be discovered seconds later that the move played was not mate he should not be given the win despite any handshake. "

    To me, the win should still be valid to the opponent, even if the opponent declared checkmate inaccurately. This is because the gesture of handshake, in response to a checkmate declaration, can logically only be deemed as a genuine resignation gesture at that point in time. Why else would any player shake hands in response?

    If there is no taking back of moves, I see no reason a player can be allowed to take back his/her resignation! From a player's point of view, if you are weak enough to not realise you are not genuinely in a checkmate, I think you deserve to lose the game =)

    Had it been another gesture, such as the player pausing the clock in response to the checkmate declaration, there could still be some ambiguity in that the player could be seeking arbiters' assistance over the punishment for opponent's wrong checkmate declaration. But not with a handshake response to a false checkmate declaration.

    (Yes, I am totally not a "yes-man" when it comes to chess arbitrating. Even though I find the UK Chess Arbiters' Association a really good reference, there are interpretations which I disagree, this being 1 of the few instances.)
  • 6.2.3 A player must press his clock with the same hand with which he made his move. It is forbidden for a player to keep his finger on the clock or to "hover" over it.
    (In Arbiter's Manual)
    If a player makes a move with one hand and presses the clock with the other, it is not considered as an illegal move, but it is penalized according to the article 12.

    newbie's thoughts: Quite a notable number of players keep making the same wrong claim (usually those are "technical" players wanting their opponent to register an illegal move), and at times, there may be arbiters ruling it incorrectly as an illegal move. Within the FIDE laws of chess, there is a distinction between making/made a move (i.e. moving pieces over the board) as compared to completing/completed the move (i.e. pressing/pressed the clock). For players, you should know this to defend yourself against a wrong claim and hopefully, the arbiter observing your game get it right!
  • 6.2.4  The  players  must  handle  the  chessclock  properly.  It  is  forbidden  to  press  it forcibly, to pick it up, to press the clock before moving or to knock it over. Improper clock handling shall be penalised in accordance with Article 12.

    newbie's thoughts: I have not actually seen any arbiter deal with players abusing (banging) the clocks. While I can understand banging in blitz / rapid games, especially when facing time pressure, I cannot understand for standard games. Shall I be the first (unpopular) arbiter to issue formal warning to players for banging the clocks at each and every move? =)

    More interesting to me is that the same is never said about capturing a piece, or making a move with a thunderous thud. I even heard some coaches introduce it to their students as a habit for (legal) means of intimidation LOL. Not something I would encourage, of course, since it could be distracting or irritating to the opponent.

    Maybe I can apply Article 11.5 to playing each and every move over the board with a bang. Again, I foresee myself becoming a rather unpopular arbiter to the players ^o^

    11.5 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes  unreasonable  claims,  unreasonable offers  of  a  draw  or  the  introduction  of  a source of noise into the playing area
  • 6.5  Before  the  start  of  the  game  the  arbiter  shall  decide  where  the  chessclock  is placed.

    (In Arbiter's manual):
    In  individual  tournaments  the  chess-clock  is  normally  placed  on  the  right  of  the player  who  has  the  black  pieces.  The  chess  boards  shall  be  placed  so  that  the arbiter is able to check as many clocks as possible at the same time. In  the  case  of  a  left-handed  player  with black  pieces,  the  board,  rather  than  the clock, can be turned

    newbie's thoughts: Interestingly, I have seen this (turning of the board) implemented in club-level, unofficial tourneys, but not large-scale ones at the national level. Since this is specifically stated in the manual, shouldn't this be permitted and implemented more regularly for the benefit of left-handed players playing the Black pieces?
  • 7.5.3 If the player presses the clock without making a move, it shall be considered and penalized as if an illegal move.

    (In Arbiter's manual):
    During the game if the arbiter is confident that the clock was accidentally pressed or  it  is  because  of  some  misunderstanding,  he  should  not use  strong  penalties against  the  player.  There  can  be  many  situations  when  it  is  obvious,  so  in  such situation, the arbiter should accurately assess the motive of those actions and find the possible fair solution. For  example:  Player  B  makes  an  illegal  move. Player  A,  instead  of  pausing  the clock, restarts the opponent‟s clock. Is this an infringement of Article 7.5.3? In this case Player A had not deliberately started Player B‟s clock.  Where an opponent's clock may have  been started  in  error  the  arbiter  must  decide  if  this action constitutes an illegal move or a distraction.

    newbie's thoughts: This (pressing the clock instead of pausing) happens more often than you would think. I *think* most arbiters would only consider treating this as an illegal move if / when the opponent complains. More importantly, I think players need to know this in order to protect themselves from any claims -- remember to pause the clock when there is any irregularity / when seeking arbiter's assistance instead of pressing the clock (to restart opponent's time counting down). 
  • 7.5.4 If  a  player  uses  two  hands  to  make  a  single  move  (for  example  in  case  of castling,  capturing  or  promotion)  and  pressed  the  clock, it  shall  be  considered  and penalized as if an illegal move.
    newbie's thoughts: Here, I love the additional notes from both the Arbiter's manual and the from UK Chess Arbiters' Association:
    (In Arbiter's manual):
    Article 7.5.4 is not applicable if the move ends the game according to articles 5.1.1, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 9.6.1 or 9.6.2.
    (newbie: in other words, if the move results in a checkmate, stalemate, a 'dead' position which there is no legal continuation of moves for either side to deliver checkmate, or when arbiter interferes for the same position arising for at least the 5th time, or at least 75 moves made with no capture and no pawn moves, the game ends there and then, before this becomes an issue. This is actually consistent with articles 4.1 and article 5)

    4.1 Each move must be played with one hand only.
    5 ...provided  that  the  move  producing  the  (checkmate/stalemate) position  was  in  accordance  with Article 3 and Articles 4.2 –4.7.
    (newbie: For the game-ending move, it counts as long as the actual move over the board is legal, and touch move / release of pieces etc. are all observed. It is okay that the move producing the end of the game be made with 2 hands.)

    (By UK Chess Arbiter's Association):
    A player who, for example, castles using both hands but realises this before pressing the clock is entitled to ‘uncastle’ and then do so legally without incurring a penalty.

    (newbie: This is similar, if not the same as the situation whereby a player has made, but not completed, an illegal move, i.e. made a move over the board but without pressing the clock. Touch move still applies when the player undo the illegal move.)
  • A player wishing to offer a draw shall do so after having made a move on the chessboard  and  before  pressing  his  clock.  An  offer  at  any  other  time  during  play  is still  valid  but  Article  11.5  must  be  considered.  No  conditions  can  be  attached  to  the offer.  In  both  cases  the  offer  cannot  be  withdrawn  and  remains  valid  until  the opponent accepts it, rejects it orally, rejects it by touching a piece with the intention of moving or capturing it, or the game is concluded in some other way.
    (In Arbiter's manual):
    The correct sequence of a draw offer is clear:  
    1. make a move
    2. offer of a draw
    3. press the clock. 

    If a player deviates from this order, the offer still stands though it has been offered in an incorrect manner. The arbiter in this case has to penalise the player, according to the Article 12.9. 

    No conditions can be attached to a draw offer.
    Some  examples  of  unacceptable  conditions: The  player  requires  the  opponent  to accept the offer within 2 minutes.
    In a team competition: a draw is offered under the condition that another game in the match shall be resigned or shall be drawn as well.
    In both cases the offer of a draw is valid, but not the attached condition...

    newbie's thoughts: it seems that the arbiter is obliged to impose a penalty to the player making the draw offer incorrectly (so long as the opponent does not accept the offer to end the game immediately). Again, I haven't seen it being implemented by arbiters much. Maybe I will start ^o^ This penalty seems fair enough, I'd say.

  • 11.9A  player  shall  have  the  right  to  request  from  the  arbiter  an  explanation  of particular points in the Laws of Chess.

    (In Arbiter's Manual):
    For example:A player might ask whether, with Black‟s bishop on a2, White‟s rook on a1 and King  on  e1,  0-0-0  is  legal.  Or  what  the  rate  of  play  is.  It  is  important  that  the arbiter  does  not  mislead  the  player,  nor  advise  him,  nor  advance  any  further.

    (By UK Chess Arbiter's Association):Arbiters should note that whilst it is acceptable to tell a player how to capture en passant, for example, it is not acceptable to answer “Can I take this pawn?”

    newbie's thoughts: I have not actually seen many players exercise their right on this. I think what the Arbiter's Manual and the UK Chess Arbiter's Association is trying to bring across, is what the arbiter can do and what the arbiter should not do.

    Can do:
    Clarify the FIDE laws of chess (e.g. correct way and sequence to offer a draw, correct way to claim a draw)
    Should not do:
    Tell a player his/her options, or even worse, offer any form of advice which may over-privilege the player who sought clarification).

    Personally, I won't even reply if 0-0-0 is legal (as per example in Arbiter's Manual). Rather, I will reply the player who asked, "how to castle" (legally). That's why I think my current habit of holding a copy of the Laws of Chess useful. I think I can just show the requestor the relevant section on castling (Article 3.8).

    Drawing back on a past experience -- a junior player was trying to ask if she was in checkmate as she cannot see a legal move (no, she is not in checkmate but she failed to see a legal move), I should have just replied the definitions of checkmate. Instead, I deferred that decision / query to the chief arbiter -- yes, there are all moments we are scared of making a wrong judgement, especially when we start off as newbies.

    But of course, I don't think it's fair to pause the clock while making this request. The player shall make this request to the arbiter while his/her own clock is running down, to be fair to the opponent.
  • A.2  (Under Rapid Chess) Players  do  not  need  to  record  the  moves,  but  do  not  lose  their  rights  to  claims normally based on a scoresheet. The player can, at any time, ask the arbiter to provide him with a scoresheet, in order to write the moves

    (In Arbiter's Manual): Players are allowed to record the moves, but they may stop recording any time they wish. Players may  claim a draw without scoresheet when they are playing on electronic boards.  The  arbiter  also  has  the  right  to  accept  or  refuse  a  claim  without scoresheet based on his observation.

    newbie's thoughts: This is where I see value-add as an arbiter in a game. Especially when there are very few games remaining, and when we have no luxury of electronic equipment to rely on, other than observing for potential infringements / flag fall, a good arbiter should also help to count moves (for rapid / blitz games) in anticipation of a claim.
  • Scenario:A player resigned, only to subsequently realise that his opponent flag fell. The player who resigned claims that the flag fall happened before his resignation.

    newbie's thoughts: First and foremost, I think it is unfortunate that the flag fall happened (if it happened) without arbiter observing so. (That is why the arbiter should come in once the flag fall is observed, to prevent escalation / complication of matters.)

    Second, we need to try and establish whether we can confirm the sequence of events (i.e. whether the flag fall happened before or after the resignation). The tricky part of things, is that a resignation can be declared at any time in the game, not just during a player's own turn.

    If we cannot establish what came first, by default, I'd say that the player has resigned, so the opponent wins.

    Advice for players: When you are contemplating resignation, other than checking out all possibilities remaining over the chess board, also check the time situation before you throw in the towel. That is why some people recommend to never resign! =)
If you have the patience to finish reading this whole post, you probably have some interest in serving as an arbiter, I guess? Keen to join me? =)

Do you agree or disagree with my newbie's views? Feel free to share your thoughts so that we can all learn together! Thanks ahead.

Yours sincerely
Ong Yujing (Eugene)

a.k.a. newbie_learner
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Rookie Arbiters Consolidated Thoughts

Most chess arbiters I know don't seem to publicise their experience, their ruling on cases and the likes. I'm totally unlike those!

I love to share, discuss and even debate about how I make a call, the references and considerations I have leading to my judgement. While I may not be always right, I seek to learn and improve. Having recently served as a Rookie arbiter for 1 of the large scale local tournaments (not naming it here in case I'm not supposed to, but my own chess friends would probably know what I am referring to), this is my self-evaluation:

I have little to no knowledge gap when it comes to the current FIDE laws of chess (which I feel is the most fundamental thing chess arbiters need to adequately equip themselves with). I do feel that I lack some experience, which may or may not be a good thing. Arguably, an experienced / seasoned arbiter also runs the risk of becoming complacent or jaded. Whereas a Rookie like myself is still fresh and passionate about my role as an arbiter.

Despite my limited experience serving as an arbiter in formal / official tournaments, there are role model arbiters I seek to learn from. Without a doubt, the 2 local arbiters I currently look up to the most are Mr Christopher Lim, President of the Singapore Chess Federation, Arbiter of the ongoing QCD Team League for Adults, and Mr Tan Tian Wah, who is also a guru in handling DGT chess equipment!

How newbie_learner serves as an arbiter
  • Always carry a copy of the current FIDE Laws of Chess. Specifically, I use the version published by UK Chess Arbiter's Association. What is good about this version is that it included interpretations and explanatory notes from the UK Chess Arbiter's Association for different clauses in FIDE Laws of Chess. Things like using different hands to make a move and press the clock is considered an illegal action but not an illegal move (it is only an illegal move to make a move using 2 hands) is clearly explained in this document.

    Some friends or observers who don't know me well enough thought that carrying the Laws of Chess with me shows my lack of confidence. This assumption can't be further from the truth. Not only do I carry it with me for quick reference of my own, but it is also intended to (i) show it to any player(s) who are unfamiliar with the current laws of chess, or to players who misquote or misunderstood the laws of chess; and (ii) fellow arbiters who are not familiar with the specifics of the amended laws of chess (this is why in my opinion, being a Rookie arbiter doesn't necessarily put me at a disadvantage compared to a seasoned one-- I need not unlearn or "un-remember" old laws of chess that are no longer in place)
  • Always carry 2 extra Queens, 1 of each colour in my pocket. This is to facilitate pawn promotion needs, which is especially important when extra Queens are not available to each set. While some fellow arbiters dismissed it as being redundant (they feel that Queens are usually only needed in the late stage of the game during endgame, when most games would have ended and the player can just grab a Queen from the neighbouring board), it really became important in some of the games I served. From whom did I pick up this good habit from? No other than Mr Christopher Lim himself =)
  • Always make yourself useful when observing a game. While it takes experience to decide whether to observe a game in-depth and lose sight of other games in progress, or to observe several games simultaneously to look out for players' claims and to respond to claims in the quickest time possible, I make it an effort to always be doing something, even counting moves to facilitate arbiters' interference for things like 75 moves or repetition of the same position for the 5th time without players need to initiate a claim. I think the problem of some chess players-turned-arbiter is that they care too much about the quality of play and get engrossed in watching the game like a spectator but not serving as an arbiter. The quality of play is entirely none of our business as arbiters. This is something that I need to caution myself from time to time as well.
Pre-move 'equivalent' in OTB chess
One of the most repeated invalid claims I have received from kiddos is that "The opponent started moving before I completed my move". Just to explain things a little, under the FIDE Laws of Chess, there is a difference between having made a move (over the Board) and having completed a move (made the move + pressed the clock). The laws are clear on this:

1.3 A player is said to ‘have the move’ when his opponent’s move has been‘made’.

So a player can initiate his move when the opponent has made his move, and is in the process of pressing the clock.

Personally, I think this (initiating your own move while opponent is taking time to press the clock) is only useful when playing Blitz, where every second counts. But similar to making pre-move for online chess, this is not without risk:
  1. If you (accidentally) start touching the pieces before the opponent has made his move, technically the opponent has the right to complain (because you are not having the move, and you cannot adjust when you do not have the move). Personally, as an arbiter, I would rule this as an illegal action if there is a complaint.
  2. Touch-move applies the moment the move is made by the opponent, since once opponent has made the move, you have the move.
  3. Also, a stated in Article 4.8,

    "A player forfeits his right to claim against his opponent’s violation of Articles 4.1 —4.7 (referring to touch move and release piece obligations) once the player touches a piece with the intention of moving or capturing it."

    So if you were holding on to a piece before the opponent has made his move, and the opponent quickly changes move and makes his move while you still hold onto the piece, the opponent may claim that you forfeited the right to claim his change of move based on Article 4.8, LOL
The way I see it, "pre-move" is not necessarily beneficial at all. It may be useful for blitz games or under extremely severe time trouble as a desperate measure, but against a well-informed opponent, it can cause a player more harm than good as well.

Case study: Offering a draw when opponent is holding on to a piece
This actually happened in the final round of a tournament, where prizes and placements are at stake. While this piece of information is irrelevant to how I resolved the case, it is interesting to know that the 2 players know each other (i.e. they are at least acquaintances if not friends), and I happen to know both players (both kids) in person. A fateful encounter with me as the arbiter, perhaps!

Player A (White pieces) has just been penalised for the first illegal move by me as the arbiter. (This was a rapid tournament with 10 seconds increment per move, and the 2nd illegal move would result in forfeiture.)  I just walked away from the board after issuing the penalty, when almost immediately, both Player A and Player B (Black pieces) seem agitated and raised their hands seeking to make a claim against each other.

I don't know if I recall the exact position correctly. The exact position is inconsequential to the incident, but I just want to point out something interesting to me (now as a player). Here, White to move, the assessment of this position should be, that only Black has any winning chance -- White still has some chances to misplay and lose the game. Hence, the easiest move is to play Qxg6+ to exchange Queens immediately and hold an easy draw. But instead, Player A made some other move and all hell broke loose!

What happened is as follows: After White and Black made another move each, it is now White (Player A) to move again. At (almost) the same time when Player A grabbed his White Queen (it was his turn to move), Player B mouthed "draw?". Being down on clock time, on 1 illegal, White was relieved to accept Player's B draw offer. (By the way, whoever claims that there is no element of psychology in competitive chess is either ignorant or lying.)

However, Player B now claims, "Since you touched your White Queen (with the intention to move), you have declined my draw offer and can no longer accept my draw offer.". Both players become visibly upset and both raised their hands for arbiter's assistance. Of course, I rushed back to attend to the game I just left off from. While this was somewhat a not-so-straightforward case, and something was at stake, I did not shun away and defer to the Chief Arbiter. Instead, I tried my best to calm both players down, to establish what exactly happened, and make a ruling.

"  A player wishing to offer a draw shall do so after having made a move on the chessboard and before pressing his clock. An offer at any other time during play is still valid but Article 11.5 (referring to the use of the draw offer to distract or annoy the opponent illegally) must be considered. No conditions can be attached to the offer. In both cases the offer cannot be withdrawn and remains valid until the opponent accepts it, rejects it orally, rejects it by touching a piece with the intention of moving or capturing it, or the game is concluded in some other way"

My follow-up action and evaluation as the arbiter for this situation as follows:
  • After calming down both players, both players agree that the draw offer was made at almost, if not the exact same moment, that Player A grabbed his White Queen.
  • Player B clearly did not offer a draw after having made a move on the chessboard and before pressing his clock. However, the draw offer (made at any other time) is still valid.
  • Based on the unique circumstances, Player A had no opportunity to react to the draw offer without touching the White Queen.
  • My Ruling: Player A did NOT touch the White Queen as a response intended to decline Player B's draw offer through making a Queen move on the board. Hence, the draw offer from Player B is still valid.
Both players accepted my ruling. Player A accepted the draw offer that is still valid. After I updated the case to the Chief Arbiter, he accepted my ruling. In addition, he proposed the following food for thought:
  • It may be technically possible to rule differently, that the draw offer from Player B is deemed invalid (Arbiter's discretion and judgement call). However, minimally I would have considered giving Player B an official warning under Article 11.5 (or even escalate it to some immediate penalty under Article 12.9), because this act of "making a draw offer that opponent has no legal means to consider accepting" may be seen as an act of gamesmanship exploiting on technicalities.
I wonder if fellow arbiters and players may have any views on my ruling? Please feel free to share your views, no matter if you agree or disagree. I am happy to learn from you.

Last but not least, these are my thoughts and suggestions for players in situations of dispute:
  • If you do not agree with the arbiter's ruling, please APPEAL! To be honest, I do not always agree with the rulings made by (fellow) arbiters all the time =)  Myself included, I may have made bad calls from time to time too, if not now, perhaps in future. If you as a player feel genuinely aggrieved by any arbiters' decision, please make an appeal so that there is at least a chance for corrections to be made.
  • (Especially for kids) Please speak up! As an arbiter, I am trying to establish the case so that I can make a judgement call that is fair to both players. If a player makes a claim while the other player does not respond, I can only make a ruling in favour of the claimant. On my end, I hope I do not appear to be too fierce / unapproachable to anyone. I can't change my face, but I will try to work on my tone and mannerisms to be as child-friendly as possible ^o^
  • More often than not, justice prevails! We arbiters actually make a mental note of "notorious personalities". I even caught and confronted a couple of players who clearly chose to not observe touch move and were outright trying to deceive. Let's not earn ourselves a bad reputation just to clock 1 or 2 undeserved wins.
Looking forward to any comments  / feedback!

Yours sincerely
Ong Yujing (Eugene)
a.k.a. newbie_learner
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Friday, August 2, 2019

QCD Chess League 2019: Flash Update

For the first time since the QCD team league's inception in 2017, the results of the final round will be crucial in determining the overall winning team. In fact, I have a strong hunch we will be applying the tiebreakers to determine the final winner.

"The Dreamers" and "Chess Mates" are currently tied with 13 match points (TB1, 2 match points for each team win, 1 match point for each team draw, no match point for each team loss). In terms of game points, The Dreamers is also holding a narrow lead over Chess Mates (TB2, 26.5 against 25.5). Both these teams have also fought to a team draw against each other in their earlier encounter, so we can be assured of a dramatic, nail biting finish in the final round on 16th August 2019.

Also worth mentioning is that the opposing teams of both title-contending teams in the final round are also playing with something at stake -- thanks to the generous prize money sponsored by QCD, top 8 teams will get a cash prize, and the teams will be striving their best for better placing for bigger rewards.

I have chess friends in both The Dreamers and Chess Mates, so I will not be favouring a particular team to win over the other =) May the better team emerge as the overall winner!

Just a recap of the tiebreakers as stated in the rules and regulations of this team tournament:

Last but not least, some interesting statistics:

Black actually scored slightly more points than White despite White having the first mover advantage, LOL. I don't know if it could be due to (i) burden of expectations on White to play for a win; (ii) Team match strategy -- perhaps some teams prefer their stronger players to play Black to hold opponents White boards); (iii) White entering the game more relaxed while Black being more serious in their preparations, resulting in the latter performing better; or simply (iv) random "luck" factors.

Also interesting is the very low percentage of drawn games, 24 / (87+24+90) X 100% = 11.9%, while decisive games made up 88.1% of all games, excluding forfeits. It is also good to see the number of forfeits staying low.

A huge diversity of Player Pool

Out of the 125 players listed, 75 have a FIDE rating. And it ranges from the highest of 2392 to the lowest of 1138. There are also 50 players without a FIDE rating. Pointing this out because during the initial "matchmaking " phase (i.e. me recruiting players for both new and existing teams), there were players who declined to join, citing "I don't know if I am ready".

Well, I would say that the love for the game, the unique experience of playing in an adults only tournament is probably a more important consideration for most of us on board. I have also asked informally and understand that most players / teams, especially the ones I helped to matchmake, were keen to continue playing next year. There are also players who have been asking actively for training matches to improve themselves so as to become a more valuable player for the team. I have also seen some players in the QCD league who become more interested and active in playing official (rated) tournaments.

So long as you enjoy the game, I don't think you can go wrong playing the QCD league. Hope to see more interested adults coming on board and  enjoying themselves in future runs of the QCD league!

Yours sincerely
Ong Yujing (Eugene)
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Saturday, July 20, 2019

100th Post on International Chess Day!

It's been a while since I did my chess blog, and what better occasion to time it other than International Chess Day (20 July 2019)? Coincidentally, this is also the 100th published post of this chess blog.

I was really fortunate to be given the opportunity to play a role in the 15-player clocked Simul-exhibition by Singapore's #1 rated chess player, Kevin Goh. You can see some pictures taken for the event on his facebook post here.

I am pretty sure the more renowned and professional local chess personalities will do a better report and coverage of this event at a later time. For now, I am in a slight rush in order to publicise this before the day ends ^o^

Key Features of the Event
  • Time Control was 60 minutes initial time + 30 seconds increment each move starting from move #1
  • While the convention is for the champion to play as White for all boards, Kevin decided to increase his the level of challenge and was playing with 8 Blacks and 7 Whites. Players drew lots to decide who gets White / Black boards.
  • I was the only adult player there =) 
  • We were playing on wooden DGT chess sets (which allowed for live transmission of moves / broadcasting), and the pieces and board were gorgeous!

 My Personal Takeaway from the Event
  • I was privileged enough to be involved in both the equipment set up AND as 1 of the 15 players. Mr Tan Tian Wah is not just a great local chess arbiter, but also an excellent technician in handling the DGT equipment. I was following all the instructions on the DGT manual (like how I try my best to strictly follow FIDE laws of chess word for word as a new arbiter), but he knew so much more with regard to actual applications and considerations! For gamers, the best analogy would be that I am following the recommendations and information in the official game guide, while Mr Tan genuinely knows all the "secrets" in the game inside out. I certainly look forward to learn more from him in future local chess events, both in terms of serving as chess arbiters and also setting up DGT equipment for large scale / prestigious events.   
  • While we were whitewashed 15-0 by Kevin, I am glad that my game was the last to finish. More importantly, I really enjoyed the post-game review. Again, I was lucky enough for my game to be picked as 1 of the 3 games he decided to go through after the 15 simul games were completed.
  • The funny thing is, while this was a clocked simul, I was the one who fell into time trouble, completing a move with 1 or 2 seconds left on a couple of occasions. I burst out laughing when, in the late stage of the event (only a few boards remain), Kevin walked to me and say, "I'll come back to deal with you later ^o^" He was having close to 17 minutes additional time (19 minutes v.s. 2 minutes) LOL
Game Replay (both Raw and using Chessbase's 1-click Tactical Analysis in the interest of time. For proper review and learning, I will probably revisit it when I have time):

My Prize from the Simul Event -- Signed by Kevin Goh Wei Ming!

Just to contextualise the last liner a little: Recently, I have come to LOVE Jeon So Min, a South Korean Actress who is also a cast member of the long-running variety show, Running Man. My love for her is strong enough for me to want to pick up the Korean language. Because learning a new language is time consuming and challenging for adults, I have decided to cut down on my weekly time spent on chess. But I will never "quit" chess.

p.s. But So Min is NOT just a Korean girl. I love everything about her. Her quirkiness, her big eyes, her quick wits to react to unexpected, impromptu situations. She's an energizer that can brighten up one's day. My day. So to my chess friends, despite my reducing chess activity, please know that I'm all well and happy. I just have another live besides chess =)

Yours sincerely
Ong Yujing (Eugene)
a.k.a. newbie_learner
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Friday, June 21, 2019

Basic Etiquette Overlooked in Chess

The most recent experiences I had (first at Singapore Chess Meetup, followed by Thomson CC Chess Club temporarily located at Bishan CC) makes me answer this question easily: Please do NOT interrupt a player during a clocked (timed) game.

Obviously, nobody had ill intentions. But while playing a game, I am really pissed off when friends (i.e. people I know) approached me with a question or say "hi". It would've been absolutely fine at any other time -- except when the clock is ticking and I'm on serious mode.

I apologise for blowing up, but I think it would be good for an observer (i.e. whoever is not playing a game) to see whether a timed game is going on before approaching. At least, please do NOT do it to me again -- I can apologise afterwards, but be warned that vulgarities may come out from a usually mild soul. I can be much more tolerant towards other types of distractions (e.g. kids being noisy nearby), but I really cannot stand direct interruptions disrupting the normal flow of the game. Now I can truly understand the frustrations of "professionals" at work.

"Jokes" aside, here are some of my badly played games. 3 undeserved wins, although some of them may have learning value replaying. This time round, I will just share my personal thoughts on the game without checking with the engines. Will hope to gather some human input to work on improving my game play.

Thanks ahead.

Games Replay:

Chess-play aside, some other random things I'd like to say:

  • Am waiting for this marvellous leather travel set to reach me. Will be bringing this out for all my future chess games (Asia Square on Wednesdays, Thomson CC chess Club at Bishan CC on Fridays and Siglap South CC on Sundays).

  • Silicone chess board is not the "best" at all. Yes it has its advantage -- can fold it with no issue laying flat with no "wrinkles". But it has very severe issues including but not limited to:
    • Gets dirty very easily -- attracts dust;
    • Very difficult to swap sides after each game. Much easier on other type of "solid" chess boards; and
    • Cannot slide pieces!
That's all for now.

Yours sincerely
Ong Yujing (Eugene)
a.k.a. newbie_learner
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Thursday, June 13, 2019

newbie's misadventures at SG City Open 2019

So I just finished the 9-round SG City standard Open tournament with a dismal result, scoring only 3 points (1 win, 4 losses and 4 draws) and losing 14 rating points. Was initially ranked #26 but ended #35 (would've been worse if some of the players did not drop out of the tournament halfway). Still, it wasn't a complete flop -- I wouldn't allow it to be a complete waste of time. So what are the positive things that I can gather from it (and share)?

Results and games aside first, there were lots of friendships!

First and foremost, a special shout-out to all my opponents in my tournament, in the order of rounds. There are no secrets, all the pairings and results can be found on chess results. I may not have portrayed myself or communicated properly after our games:

1. Arellano Robert

I understand you are not based in Singapore -- I hope you enjoy your stay, and if time permits, consider dropping by Singapore Chess Meetup or PubXChess, simple the 2 local chess initiatives most likely to be worth your time!

2. Benet Morant Damia (Another player in the QCD Adults Team Chess League)

Thanks for the lesson, my friend =)

3. Tobin Paul Nicholas (Another player in the QCD Adults Team Chess League)

I am grateful for the interesting game we composed together. I'm happy for your great overall results, and I look forward to composing more games with you in future!

4. Sow Miaogeng Malcolm

I really like your mannerisms before, during and after the game, young man! Keep your spirits up and all the best in your future chess games and ventures!

5. Wong Zhenyong Jayden

We have known each other for a while, since our previous games and we share a common Chess Club (Thomson CC Chess Club currently located at Bishan CC due to renovation works). As I have proclaimed after the game, my respect for you has double. I will continue to keep a lookout for your name in future chess tournaments and chess news sites, all the best!

6. Tan Deng Jin Benedict

It has always been a pleasure to play with you. You have definitely improved since our previous encounter. (Was it 1 or 2 years ago?) I don't know how many more "good chess years" I have, but I hope to continue to see you doing well in tournaments!

7. Heng Cho Yaw

Thank you for being so generous in your post-game review with someone you encountered for the first time! I definitely learned something new and important. Best wishes to you!

8. Hema Keertana Vemuri

Okay, your dad and I are actually team mates in the QCD Adults Team Chess League =) Just let me (or your dad) know anytime you'd like a training game! All the best!

9. Kong Zi Yau Bernadette

I don't know if GGWP is something young kids come to understand these days (or is it too old-fashioned already), but congrats for the win. All the best in your future games and tournaments!

Other shout-outs (not in specific order):

Jeremi -- finally we met for the first time. I'm glad you found my suggestions on where to play chess in Singapore useful, and I believe we will continue to meet in local tournaments. By the way, if you are seeing this, I'm not sure if you'd like to consider joining the ongoing QCD Adults Team Chess League? I'm not sure if I have mentioned this to you before, but feel free to take a look!

William -- thanks for the friendship / companionship. I hope you enjoyed the tournament experience in your maiden tournament!

Seng Chin -- thanks for dropping by in person!

Okay, this is a chess tournament report after all. So let's look at some games and positions! Also, in order to protect my opponents, I will remove mentions of their actual identities. I will only identify myself =)

And the games are not arranged in order of the rounds. They are arranged in "themes".

So here we go. Just want to qualify that this is a beginner reviewing his own game, so please take the comments with a pinch of salt. But if you have any suggestions to tips to offer the newbie, please feel free! Thanks ahead.

The Most Sinful (Un)Played Game

Game Position after 35.Be2

White offered a draw with the move 35.Be2. Why would Black (me) accept it when only Black is able to play for a win? Because 1. I'm a chicken, 2. I respect opponent's rating too much and 3. I was not in a good state of mind-- in my head, I keep telling myself that "I'm bad at endgames", so a draw is an acceptable result. At the point of the draw offer, I recall myself having 3 or 4 minutes, I kept thinking of the continuation until I had 46 or 47 seconds left, before I decided to accept a draw. In fact, I worked out something along ...e5-e4, then eventually get my Black Knight to d4 and press. But, because I lost confidence in my endgame, I accepted the draw. Amongst my 9 games, this must be the most sinful game -- it's never as big a sin when you play on and lose. It's a sin when you leave "what it could have been" hanging.

The Most Talked About Game 

Game Position after 46...Rxe7

White (me) has been an exchange up since move 25, but Black was resilient and refused to open up the position. White sacrificed a pawn in order to open up the position, but fell into time trouble doing so. Here, the clearest path to victory, which was pointed out by friends, other players and trainers, is to go for 47.Rd8+ followed by Rb8 to pick up the loose pawn on b6 and the Queenside pawn majority, which all could become connected pass pawns, should prove conclusive. But instead, White played the ultra-timid move of 47.Rd3?! Why? Because the only thing White wanted to achieve, is to not fall for any Knight fork under time trouble. LOL

The Most Educative Games I felt I learned the most from these 2.

Game Position after 8...Nxc3

White (me) played 9.bxc3 almost casually. In my opinion during the game, the c3 and d4 builds a mini pawn chain to limit the scope of the dark square Bishop on g7, the Queen on b3 is doing a decent job attacking the b7 pawn and defending the backward pawn of c3. But I under-estimated the weakness of the doubled c-pawn. While this position should be perfectly playable, I did not find comfort with it and got into a very bad position soon to follow. It's either I learn up how to play this position, or to go for something else I prefer. In the actual game, Black managed to exploit White's weakness on c4 and the advantage for Black grew to the point of no return.

Game Position after 9...Qb6 10.Kf2!

While 10.Kf2 was not completely new (I have seen this idea before), it was really cool for a newbie to see it in an actual tournament game. The actual game continued 10...Rc8 (I play as Black) 11.Kg3! I actually smiled seeing this in the game. Not that I suspect White is playing wrongly -- but man is it not impressive to see it over-the-board!

How should a beginner be taught to understand White making 2 consecutive King moves in the early opening phase of the game, when there are still other undeveloped pieces? More interesting is that based on a quick check of the database, this is not a new idea at all. In fact, the 2 consecutive King moves is indeed one of the top recommended options for White!

After the game, my opponent kindly explained to me, that I should try to understand this as White castling manually, while improving his own King position (It's even better than White got to push up his pawns serving as King cover, and that in the latter stages of the game, the centralised King position can even be an advantage in endgames.) Also, in his opinion, the only plan for Black that made any sense in this position, is to castle Queenside. Insisting to open up the c-file here "will never work" because White will always be able to exert adequate control to nullify the entire c-file. Black has no concrete point of penetration, which equates to wasted tempo. Meanwhile, White will most likely be faster over the Kingside advancement. Or at the very least, Black should never ever castle Kingside (which was what I did in the game). I don't know how long it will take for me to come to appreciate this. All the more I am grateful to learn this tip.

The Most Devastating Game It is not necessarily the loss which bled the most rating points. Rather, in this game, Black (I) had exerted strong control and dominance for most of the game, only to lose it after a few careless moves under time pressure.

Position after 35.Re1

Black (me), with a pawn ahead, was seeking to make headway on the Queenside. My primary goal was to simplify (via exchange of pieces where possible) to reduce potential to attack me, especially my somewhat vulnerable King). Here, seeing that Black finally had a point of penetration, I played 35...Qh3 immediately. After White played 36.Qg3 to force an exchange of Queens, surprisingly perhaps, I got somehow shaken -- objectively, the exchange of Queens achieves what exactly I wanted. Yet mysteriously, I got "loss". After 36...Qxg3 37.Kxg3, I played a newbie-like 37...Rc3+ allowing 38.Kf4, and here, I still did not realise that White's only source of counterplay, is ...e5-e6. I had so many opportunities to guard it -- e.g. ...Rc6 is one, ...Re8 is another. Yet I missed both and went for 38...Rfc8, thinking that the Queenside advantage is adequate. After 39.e6! I really got flustered, realising I screwed up real bad, and even though it was still a playable position, I simply collapsed. The feeling of dropping a winning position is not easy to cope =(

I don't have "Titles" for all my games, but I'm sure any patient reader can easily identify my "Most Peaceful Game" from the full list of games.

External Link to All Games Here: 

Some Side Issues On Etiquette, Laws of Chess Discussion etc.

The following are my personal views and queries. It is okay to subscribe a different view.

1. I think we learn how to behave properly over time and experience. Hence, we need to be more tolerant with players who play their maiden tournament or first few tournaments when they do the wrong things. Despite what "everyone" says, I don't think everyone knows where to read up on "proper chess etiquette for tournaments".

For instance, telling your opponent you are going to the toilet is not only unnecessary, but potentially distracting your opponent. There should be minimum to no talking with your opponent, unless you are offering or declining a draw (In fact, you can also decline a draw by just making a move on the board without saying anything). There should not be any discussions between players during the game, and if you need assistance or clarification, you are supposed to approach the assistance of an arbiter -- that's their role.

2. Draw offer initiated by the losing or disadvantaged side is part of the game. Deal with it. But repeated draw offers which can distract or annoy the opponent, is not permissible! If you are not happy with the repeated draw offers from the opponent, please seek assistance from the arbiter.

3. The choice to resign is a very personal one. Even in a completely lost position, sometimes I take time to come to terms with the loss before initiating the resignation. That is my right, and I think my opponent(s) are obliged to respect it.

Minimally, do not demand/expect your opponent to resign. It's his/her right to play on, no matter how bad the position is. Also, I understand that some coaches teach their students to never resign a game -- after all, you do not win a game from resignation. I think the real learning point from this teaching, is that often beginners give up the games too early. Hence, better to force the player to play the game out. Even if the game is still lost, one can see whether he/she can learn something from playing on.

On the point regarding "coming to terms with the loss", even though it is not hard and fast, or universally accepted, I do feel stronger and stronger, that the winner should NOT initiate the handshake. By waiting for the loser to initiate handshake, it ensures that the side who lost would have come to terms with the loss beforehand. I do feel that winner initiating handshake may be misread as "rubbing it in" under all the stress and negative feelings with losing a game. Or at least, one should observe facial / body cues from the opponent before initiating a handshake. Only do it when the opponent seemed ready would be my personal suggestion.

4. Please honour touch move and please by all means, remind your opponent when they did not honour touch move. The only practical situation I can imagine a player not calling on opponent's touch move is that the original move is potentially a better one than the amended move, LOL. And then, under such circumstances, should the arbiter observing this touch move interfere? ^o^

5. There was this actual situation whereby Player X committed an illegal move. Player Y was claiming the illegal move, but in his eagerness, he pressed his clock instead of stopping / pausing it. Should Article 7.5.3 apply on Player Y? Under FIDE Laws of Chess Taking Effect from 1 January 2018,

   "7.5.3 If the player presses the clock without making a move, it shall be considered and penalized
   as if an illegal move."

Player Y did actually press the clock without making a move. But by "common sense", it does seem harsh, if not awkward to penalise Player Y as having made an illegal move under this situation. I wonder what fellow chess enthusiasts / players / arbiters would have to say on this =)

6. The conduct of the whole tournament was generally peaceful. However, there was this 1 incident observed that bugged me quite a bit. This teenager was banging the clock at every move and it was not only annoying to his opponent, but to me as a nearby board as well. Doing it under time pressure, or a few times due to accident can be understood. But this teenager (whom I shall not name and shame), did it on each and every move! In fact, I think he was trying to intimidate his younger opponent, and I was actually thinking through the FIDE laws of chess on how, or whether an arbiter can actually punish the teenager for this. Given the situation, can an arbiter issue a warning to the player for unsporting play?

That's all for now!

Yours sincerely

Ong Yujing (Eugene)
a.k.a. newbie_learner
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Friday, May 24, 2019

Halftime Report: Round 4 in the QCD League (24 May 2019)

Finally, I found enough time and energy to get back on my coverage of the QCD League 2019. I don't think I will do any retrospective coverage of the previous rounds. (Sorry!)

This was a rather meaningful round for my team (8.c4!). First, our team scores was -2 = 1 + 0 (2 loss 1 draw 0 win) , so we certainly hoped to achieve better results. Second, I am seeking to break my personal doughnut after a poor -2 = 0 + 0 (2 losses with 0 draws and 0 wins). But the most important of all, is that 1 of my team mates, Nirag, is playing his last game for us as he would be migrating -- you'll be missed my dear friend, but I would be following any news and update on your sons in their chess ventures ahead!

Pre-match "Preparation"
We were paired against Team Knight Riders, a newly formed team which I helped to matchmake. To be honest, despite knowing a few of the other teams members, I don't really know the rest. So my pre-match advice to my team mates was "Don't bother to try preparing anything, just play your normal game." Because of the random board pairings employed in this league (the pairings were only released 1 hour before the commencement), it reduces the likelihood or efficiency of "reparations". So in short, there was probably zero preparation.

My Personal Game
My game was the first to finish. I will share the actual course of it, followed by how it (may have) affected the team dynamics.

Disclaimer: Do note that I am still a struggling learner to seek improvement. Hence, take my comments with a pinch of salt. But if you have any tips and suggestions, especially different views or opinion, please feel free to share with me so that I have a chance to learn and improve!

As always, the same game was analysed differently. In the first version, I just write down my own thoughts during the game, and in the second version, I run the one-click tactical analysis function from Chessbase 15.

Click here for the game replay:

Team Dynamics 
Because my game was to the first to finish, I was hoping it could have a positive psychological impact to the my team mates. Unfortunately, both of my neighbouring boards lost. And while watching the final game being played out, a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. The one I remember the most was: should I, in my capacity as captain, inform my team mate that he has to play to win? I know that would've exerted pressure, which can either have a plus or backfire. In the end, I decided to "mind my own business" and let him play his own game. And what an endgame treat it was! Frankly, if I was playing in my team mates' shoes, I would've been trying to find a way to secure a draw -- which comes to the point I want to bring out and confess:

Unlike most other chess players, I don't "play to win". I start off all games with "play to not lose" mentality, which I think is really hindering my own growth and development. If anything, it really hurts my results even when playing with weaker opponents. So if there are any fellow "newbies" starting out, I really hope you can not be like me and start off with the correct "play to win" attitude.

To Let the Game Run Smoothly v.s. Executing the FIDE Laws of Chess Strictly
In this deciding game (my team 8.c4! was trailing team Knight Riders 1-2), there came a situation whereby the player from team Knight Rider actually committed an unintended illegal move. For readers who are unfamiliar with the FIDE Laws of Chess, you actually need to promote a piece properly. You cannot just push your pawn to the 8th rank and press the clock. Under the laws of chess, this would've constituted an illegal move, and the punishment would be to award 2 minutes to the opponent (i.e. my team mate). "Everyone" saw it, but my team mate was not interested to making a claim. In fact, shortly after, the player from team Knight Rider committed a second illegal move. This time, grabbing the King and mistaking it as the Queen. Again, under the FIDE laws of chess, this should have been penalised as a game forfeit. Again, my very sporting team mate let it go, and shortly after, he won the game anyway.

Of course, good sportsmanship should be commended. However, for learning purpose, I hope all players new to or unfamiliar with the current laws of chess can take that little bit of effort to avoid such a situation as a measure to protect yourself (in the "real world" out there, not all your opponents would be so sporting and let this slide). In fact, this is not the first time illegal move via pawn promotion has occurred. I have observed this infringement quite a few times in the QCD league already.

Yet if I take away my arbiter hat for a while, I can kind of understand why enforcing an illegal move can really disrupt the flow of the game and cause unhappiness to 1 or both players. But then, arbiters have no choice according to the FIDE Laws of Chess. If they observe an illegal move, they are supposed to step in. Hence, I also hope that chess players can be patient and understanding if any arbiter's call go against their favour -- they are just doing their job, doing what is prescribed in the FIDE laws of chess.

I was pleasantly surprised when a spectator approached me and talked about the many chess posts I wrote. You mean anyone other than myself actually reads them!? =). I'm sorry that I have reduced my frequency a little -- these days, I only write when I have enough time, energy and inspiration. I hope they can continue to be somewhat entertaining and not a complete waste of time.

As the first half of the tournament is reached, let's take a look at the current standings!

I will continue to try my best to improve my personal games and hopefully help the team strive for the best results possible. We can only go up from here ^o^

And I do have a confession to make. While hearing some of the chess players ask about the best chess club/site in Singapore at present, I couldn't help boasting about Brad's Singapore Chess Meetup. I mean, I can back up my claim -- is there any other chess club or site in Singapore that has a minimum of 30 attendees and more than 60 players during its peak on a weekly basis? If you know of one, please let me know! Otherwise, you are more than welcomed to check out the Singapore Chess Meetup!

Thanks for reading!

Yours sincerely
Ong Yujing (Eugene)
a.k.a. newbie_learner
Siglap South CC Chess Quartet

Overlooked FIDE Laws of Chess

This is just my personal thoughts and experience so far. Other than serving in a number of informal events, the only official event I have...