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Celebrating 100 Years, Celebrating Prof Lim Kok Ann: SG Grandmasters Simulataneous Online Chess Exhibition (23 May 2020)

by FM Ashvin Sivakumar

Chess Against Covid’s Remembering Professor Lim Kok Ann: 4 Grandmaster Simultaneous Exhibition ended yesterday evening as a resounding success.

4 Singaporean Grandmasters: GM Zhang Zhong, GM Wong Meng Kong, GM Wu Shaobin and GM Goh Wei Ming, tackled a total of 85 players in commemoration of Professor Lim Kok Ann’s 100th birthday.

Part I
The simultaneous exhibition lasted over 3 hours long, with many exhilarating battles across all 4 of the Grandmaster’s simultaneous exhibitions. GM Zhang Zhong ended with a score of 17.5-2.5, winning 15 games and drawing 5. GM Wu Shaobin finished with a score of 16-4, winning 15, losing 3 and drawing 2. GM Wong Meng Kong finished with a score of 5.5-14.5, winning 5, drawing 1 and losing 14. GM Goh Wei Ming finished with a score of 23.5-2.5, winning 21 and drawing 5.

GM Zhang Zhong had a dominating display, only dropping 4 draws in his simul: to Advait Bagri, Teo Hong Ming, Marcus Chen, Joel Ong and Faryal Gohar. Hong Ming essayed the French Defence, a favourite of GM Zhang Zhong, a former World Junior runner-up. Queens were quickly traded by the 20th move, with the players entering an equal endgame. Advait’s game transposed into a Ruy Lopez Tchigorin variation, with the players soon trading into a position where Advait had slight pressure along the c-file, while Zhang Zhong had a space advantage in the centre. The players soon agreed a draw after a threefold repetition, as neither player could make headway into their opponent’s solid position. A well-deserved draw by Advait. GM Zhang soon built a strong position with a kingside pawn storm, but Hong Ming managed to cook up strong counterplay on the Queenside and exploit GM Zhang’s shaky king position. Eventually, the players traded pieces into a dead draw pawn endgame. Marcus Chen’s tactical nous helped him to navigate the difficulties posed to him by GM Zhang Zhong, astutely walking a tight rope to simplify into a position where he had a positional advantage, saddling GM Zhang with doubled pawns. GM Zhang made an audacious attempt, moving his king up to h3 (!) to support a kingside pawn storm. However, it came to naught as Marcus managed to trade pieces and eventually forced a threefold repetition. Joel Ong essayed the Nimzo-Indian against GM Zhang Zhong, managing to clamp down on GM Zhang’s kingside pawn advance to his credit. A manoeuvring phase then began, before GM Zhang made an audacious exchange sacrifice to blow open Joel’s kingside and seize the initiative. GM Zhang soon built an advantage with a piece and 2 pawns for a rook, and soon managed to open Joel’s position, winning a bishop for 2 pawns. However, he later made a slight tactical miscalculation that allowed Joel to win a knight. GM Zhang’s commanding position allowed him to salvage a draw by forcing Joel to repeat moves. Faryal Gohar managed to combat GM Zhang’s threats resolutely, trading pieces into a Queen+Knight+Bishop endgame. He then managed to take advantage of GM Zhang’s slight missteps to penetrate his position, and developed a forcing advantage. He even had a few winning opportunities that he missed: for example, he could have won a bishop on the 36th move by using a sneaky pin. Alas, Faryal missed these tactics in the end, and acquiesced to a draw in a position when he still held an advantage. Final score 17.5-2.5 to GM Zhang.GM Wong Meng Kong, Singapore’s first ever home-grown grandmaster, eventually finished with 5 wins, 1 draw and 14 losses. Unfortunately, the majority of his losses were due to a loss on time, showing how hard it is to manage one’s time as a Simul master.

Jayden Cheng, Ethan Teo, Low Kah Tzay, Karthika, Sanjay Vasu, Dylan Long, Yu Kaiyi, Benedict Koh, Lau Yan Han, Poh Yu Tian, Cai Mingzhe, Harryndran Gunendran, Elliot Koh, Dwayne Alekhine and Huang Song-Jei all beat GM Wong, while Megan Kwok split the points with her esteemed opponent. Only Karthika, Poh Yu Tian and Cai Mingzhe had winning positions when they won their games on time. The rest of GM Wong’s opponents were either completely losing, or had an equal endgame, when GM Wong ran out of time. Cai Mingzhe used the Dutch Defence to outfox his GM opponent, later forcing a piece sacrifice in order to cook up some counterplay. However, GM Wong did not have enough time to further complicate the position, giving Mingzhe the opportunity to consolidate his extra piece and eventually score a well-deserved victory. Karthika played a tactically complex Queen’s Gambit Declined against GM Wong, navigating the middlegame complications well, save for a slight slip on the 13th move that presented GM Wong with the opportunity to win a pawn. To her credit, Karthika found the best defensive moves in the position, and her tenacity finally paid off when she found a cunning fork on the 31st move that forced GM Wong to give up his rook. Her accurate defence meant that no counterplay was available, and GM Wong soon conceded the game. Poh Yu Tian played a tough tussle in the Gruenfeld, skillfully defending against GM Wong’s minority attack before penetrating his position in the endgame. A misstep by GM Wong in time trouble saw him get his rook skewered, whereupon the grandmaster graciously resigned. Megan Kwok was the only player to draw with GM Wong. She strangely eschewed the opportunity to play on in a slightly better position, where she was up a pawn and GM Wong’s king was feeling draughty. She was probably already satisfied with achieving a draw against her well-respected opponent. Final score 5.5-14.5 to GM Wong Meng Kong.

We would like to sincerely thank all those who have supported this event in any way, through your kind words of encouragement, your participation, and your donation

GM Zhang Zhong’s final result:
GM Wu Shaobin’s final result:
GM Wong Meng Kong’s final result:
GM Goh Wei Ming’s final result:

Part II
This part of the report covers GM Wu Shaobin and GM Goh Wei Ming’s games. GM Wu Shaobin is the epitome of a chess gentleman, who takes every game with the utmost seriousness, and is gracious in victory and defeat.

GM Wu’s simul started slightly later due to some technical difficulties at the beginning. After a grueling 3 hour battle, he dropped 3 losses and 2 draws in a commanding display. GM Wu lost to Deng Tianle, Gideon Yen and Bryan Kow, while he drew with Chong Huan Yan and Chen Chia-Chien. GM Wu lost all 3 games on time, a testament to the tough time management requirements of a 20-board simul. Gideon Yen was in a lost pawn endgame, but Deng Tianle and Bryan Kow were both winning. Bryan played a strong game, tricking the grandmaster and winning a full rook, after GM Wu forgot that his rook was hanging with check. The game was lost from then on. Deng Tianle outplayed GM Wu from the black side of a Queen’s Indian setup, making a thematic hedgehog-style break in the centre with d5. Tianle found himself with a powerful light-squared bishop slicing through GM Wu’s weak kingside light squares. Tianle then managed to pick up 2 of GM Wu’s pawns and simplify into a won rook endgame, and was close to winning when GM Wu ran out of time. Strong play from Tianle! Huan Yan was outplayed in a King’s Indian by GM Wu, who showed his skill and experience to build up dominating connected passed-pawns in the centre. However, GM Wu later made an unforced error, leaving his bishop en prise due to time trouble. A draw was later agreed as neither player was able to make progress. A topsy-turvy game and props to Huan Yan for fighting hard! Chen Chia-Chien essayed a solid French Defence, which led to an uneventful draw where GM Wu continued to press throughout the game, but was unable to break through Chen’s solid position. Overall, a final score of 16-4 to GM Wu.

GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming was the final grandmaster to play the simul. Singapore’s 2nd grandmaster, and an extremely strong player, he convincingly mopped up the field, scoring an almost unbelievable 21 victories and 5 draws. Eshwant Singh, Charlene Mak, Do Minh Quan, Tran Dang Minh Quang and Clement Chieng. Do Minh Quan played a topsy-turvy game against the strong grandmaster: a complex middlegame descended into an endgame where Wei Ming had a clear advantage, with a knight and 2 passed pawns for a rook. An uncharacteristic misstep by Wei Ming saw him miscalculate a key variation, upon which Do Minh Quan traded into an endgame with a rook and a pawn vs a bishop and a pawn for Wei Ming. However, Wei Ming was able to hold a fortress and eventually forced a draw. Charlene Mak had a lucky escape after Wei Ming’s early Greek Gift sacrifice of his bishop on h7, where Wei Ming unfortunately missed a winning tactic near the end of the game. Tran Danh Ming Quang traded into a worse endgame, where he was down a pawn. However, his active play soon allowed him to drum up strong counterplay, eventually forcing Wei Ming to accede to a draw. Clement Chieng’s game was a rather peaceful English opening, with pieces vacuumed off the board extremely quickly, leading to an uneventful draw in a bishop endgame. Eshwant Singh put pressure on Wei Ming from the start, and went up a pawn after skillfully defending against Wei Ming’s Trompowsky opening. However, he later went for a threefold repetition against Wei Ming in a position where he still held a sizeable advantage. A draw against a strong grandmaster was probably satisfactory for the young Malaysian player. A powerful performance by Wei Ming, with an overall score of 23.5-2.5.

We at Chess Against Covid are extremely grateful for all the support for this initiative, in commemoration of Professor Lim Kok Ann, the man who built up Singapore chess. We are glad to have raised over $2000 for families badly hit by Covid-19 due to this event, and are also very thankful for the participation of his daughter, Ms Stella Kon, in support of this event.

Do stay safe and take care of yourselves. Chess on!

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