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Monday, 25 July 2016

Selangor vs Kaltim Friendly

Last weekend, I participated in a friendly team match vs Kaltim, a team who travelled all the way from Indonesia with the likes of FM Rusdin Hamdani and WIM Chelsie Monica.

There were 4 teams, 3 from Malaysia and 1 from Indonesia. I was playing top board for 17CC Team A. The first day of the friendly was a double round robin Blitz ( 5 minutes ). The second day was a rapid (25 minutes each). My training partner, Wee Zhun decided to join as well to determine our progress.

I will be showing you 2 of my blitz games where I played using positional understanding and general ideas instead of calculation. I scored 6/6.

Wee Zhun also sent me 2 of his games in the rapid, vs IM Mas Hafizul and one of the Indonesian FM. Wee Zhun whose FIDE rating is only in the 1700s manage to draw with Mas and missed many wins against the Indonesian FM. A really slendid performance by him.

Click here for Lim Zhuo Ren vs Iqro Moesa (2130)

Click here for Lim Zhuo Ren vs Zaidan Zulkipli (2137)

Click here for FM Sugeng Prayitno (2329) vs Wee Zhun

Click here for Wee Zhun vs IM Mas Hafizul (2319)

It looks like the training is going well so far. I'm pretty sure Wee Zhun will be 2000+ soon.
Hope you enjoyed the games.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Positional Chess

This is a puzzle from GM Preparation: Positional Play.
The puzzles in this book are generally not play and win.

They are like normal games where you have to think and come up with the best way to continue, maybe you think
 1. Where are my opponent's weaknesses? 
2. Which is my worst placed piece?
and you go from there to try and formulate a course of action.

It is important to spot the idea here. I saw it in a few seconds because asking those questions have become 2nd nature to me, so much so that my brain does it automatically. After I spotted it then I just check some lines.
See if you can work it out. See below for my thoughts/thinking process on the position.

White to move

What are my opponent's weaknesses?
When I saw this position, I immediately saw that c6 was weak. You have Qa4/Ne5/Na5/Bf3 to attack it. But if it comes under too much pressure, black can simply play c5 (Important to fix a weakness).
Then I saw that black could play c5 now and after an exchange on d4, I would be left with a weak d-pawn. So 0-0 here would allow Black to achieve his plan.
Which is my worse placed piece? 
You can think of this as which is the best square for my pieces. (Have you seen the move yet?)
I saw that the h2-b8 diagonal was weak. And the Black Queen lack good squares thanks to the c4-Knight. 
Forming a course of action/plan
My Queen, Knight, f3 Bishop all have something to do. My g5 Bishop however isn't doing anything. So how do I bring it to the h2-b8 diagonal. I don't wanna play Qd2 because I want to play Qa4. So Bh4! with the idea of Bg3. 
All that is left to do is calculate the lines. I normally see a few sample lines and if I feel happy about my position, I stop.

The main thing to take away from this post is the thought process. Hope this was instructive.


Puzzle from Grandmaster Preparation: Attack & Defense


Black to move


This link takes you to a video of my friend and I discussing the position. If the audio isn’t clear, below is a gist of the discussion. You will see us move pieces towards the end of the video.

The first move I see is Rxe4 because I don’t like Ng5.
Also coz the theme is bringing all your pieces into the attack.
After 1….Nh4 2.f3, no more attack. You have to take drastic measures, can’t make quiet moves.
This Knight can defend the White King. Basically use your Rook to eliminate one defender. Then you have a Knight and Queen against what looks like a lone king.
I’m actually looking at 1…..Bb4 now. If 2.Qe2, then I have 2…Nh4 3.f3 forced take, take and win your exchange back with err some attack. But after 1….Bb4 2.Nc3. Don’t see anything.
What if 1…Re4 2.de4 Bb4 3.Qe2 Nh4 4.f3 forced, then take on e1, 4….Bxe1 5.Rxe1 Nxf3+ 6.Kf2 Nxe1 7.Kxe1 Qh1 wins e4 pawn. If 7.Qxe1, then simply 7….Qe6 fork the pawns. Black is a pawn up with better winning chances.
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It turns out our ‘solution’ wasn’t right. Go back above. Try and see if you can do better than us.
Click here for Solution


Sunday, 17 July 2016

Yap Kim Steven vs Lim Zhuo Ren

Here is a game I played in 2015 vs IM Yap Kim Steven from the Phillipines.
I have annotated it. I basically describes my thoughts during the game. I try to keep
variations to a minimum as an engine can do it better than me. Instead, I focus more
on the subjective thinking and more 'human' approach.


Click on IM Yap Kim Steven vs Lim Zhuo Ren

Improved Training Method

How I added to and improved the method

The 2012 method, I am just passively learning. I am not pushing myself when I play through a game. The most I push myself is when I replay the game without looking at the book. What I have been doing for the past week are solving the puzzles in the Grandmaster Preparation series: Attack and Defense, endgame, Positional play, Calculation and Strategic. What I like about the puzzles is not that they are taken from real 2600-2700 GM games (which is awesome), but that a lot of the positions are not play and win in the sense that you win a piece. They are more like play and get a better position/good winning chances. Some puzzles are just like choose the best continuation. And all this mirrors a real game. What I do with my friend is we set up each new puzzle on a board and we think, actually really think and we sit opposite each other as though were playing a tournament game. This is to simulate tournament conditions. I really recommend these books. My initial plan was to go through 1 puzzle from each book a day, 4 books (we are not using Strategic yet), 4 puzzles. But we go through the limit a few times. So be flexible, you may not have 2-3 hours every day so adjust the number based on how much time you are willing to invest. It could be 1 hour, it could be 1 puzzle. Now, time for some chess. Since I will be going through at least 28 puzzles a week, there will be some good puzzles I come across which are instructive. I will give some annotations as to what I was thinking, explain my thought process in solving them.
This puzzle is from Attack and Defense GM Prep Book chap 1 puzzle 1. My friend and I looked at the puzzle, then we close the book and then we set it up. This is good practice for you guys as well. 


Black to move and win. Theme is Include all pieces in the attack.



Try solving it for yourself first.

 Below is my thought process.

When I first saw the position, I saw that white is threatening e6 (what is white threatening?). I also saw that g2 is very weak. So I immediately started looking at how to put pressure on g2. 1…..Rxg2 came to mind first, I also saw 1….Qg6 2. Qxd8+ Kh7 3. Rf2 Rxf2 4.Kxf2 Qc2+ 5. Ke1 and I didn’t see anything else. Then I calculated 1….Rxg2+ 2.Kxg2 Qg6+ Kf2 3. Qf5+ but without the Rook, Black’s queen isn’t that strong. I calculated 1….Bh3 but simply 2. Rxd8 just loses for black. The problem with all these lines is that the Bishop on d7 is pinned to the d8 Rook.
 Then I thought ok, Black’s rook should get out of the pin to free the black bishop, I looked at 1….Rb8 attacking the queen, but White has 2. Qd4. Then, I saw 1…..Rc8 simply threatening Rcc2 and moving out of the pin. If 2. Rc1 then u exchange on c1 and play Qg6 with Bh3 and Qc2 coming, Black has a strong attack.

What you should take away from this puzzle is to always look for targets. Here it is obvious the g2 pawn is weak since ALL black’s pieces can attack it. There is this book I think everyone should read: What it takes to be a chess master by Andrew Soltis. In chapter one, it talks about knowing what matters most in the position. One of the other chapter talks about targets (find the weakest point) and that targets=initiative. 

How I trained in 2012?


The training is more about constant repetitive practice. In any sport, the athletes train, run, do practice drills to keep themselves sharp and always ready. Similarly in chess, we must keep ourselves sharp by going through chess games and improving every aspect of chess (endgame, positional chess, endgame, etc). I did that using chess books.
1.       I played through chess games from Kramnik’s best games of chess, Anand’s best games, my system. You can use any book you feel will help you the best (could be Tal’s or Fischer, anyone). The idea is that you see 3-4 or more full GM chess games a day so that you would get accustomed to moves made by GMs so when you face one, you will be less nervous/afraid. You get the point right? The words I use to describe it is you see 3-4 GM games a day, in 6 months u see 200+, you don’t feel like the GM is doing anything special except maybe for a few moves here or there. After I go through each game, I will put the book aside and play through that game again without the book. You tend to remember the game better if you understand it.
2.       I study a lot of endgames. Endgames are very dry and boring, especially the theoretical ones. The books I used were of a more practical nature and thus, were more ‘fun’ to study. I used Test your endgame ability by August Livshits and Jon Speelman. I also used “the Greatest chess endings ever played”. This book didn’t just show the endgame, it shows you how the endgame was reached which is helpful since it goes through the whole game (see 1 above). It also helps in the sense that you can connect opening to middlegame to endgame and this helps you to learn the skill of knowing and recognizing possible endgames which are good for you while you are still in the middlegame. Many famous GMs have said that to learn chess, you must first study the endgame.
Jan-June (University: 2-4 hours training a day)
I didn’t have a lot of time during this period. Basically I wake up around 630. I do 2 first, I always study endgames first (Notice that I didn’t study openings). Then I proceed to play through a game. I always do at least 1 of both but I try to do 2-2. Then I go to class at 9am. Then I spend 1-2 hours at night before I go to sleep doing that same routine.
I do more on weekends but not much more. Basically, this was my bread and butter during the training. Endgame and GM Games. Consistency is the important thing here. Every day, no exceptions except during exam days and day before.
July-Aug (whole day free)
This was when I studied openings in addition to the bread and butter training. I used the GM Repertoire books and many others. I basically read 5 Opening books during this period.
The opening books didn’t help me as much as going through games and endgames did which helps you recognize themes and patterns better. I am not saying openings aren’t important. I basically just restudied/revised them while preparing for my opponent before the games during Olympiad.


You can use any book you like. It depends on your strength. You should always use books that are just beyond your current strength, like at the edge of your limits. It’s like weight lifting. You find it hard to lift 20kg but after repetitive practice, you will find it to be easy. Then you lift a 21 kg weight until it becomes easy, and so on.

Why I started this Blog? (My story)


This is my first post. Ever! I think a good way to start is to tell you how and why I decided to start writing a blog. I have 2 main reasons. Number 1 is to help you improve as a chess player. I will tell you how I got an IM norm and how you can too (Obviously if you are an IM or GM, I would learn from you). Number 2 is to help people (more applicable to kids) learn good values and lifelong character building lessons (e.g., you only fail when you fall and don’t get back up) by sharing my experiences from chess. This is something most Malaysian children find hard to experience in the classroom.
I am going to combine reason 1 and reason 2 with a story now.
I found out I was selected to go to Olympiad in early 2012 (around Jan). I was in University in the UK during that time. This was the ‘Opportunity’. I started training (I will tell you how I trained) every day, one session in the morning before 9 am class and another session at night before bed. I did this every day, even while I was preparing for my exams in June 2012. The only exception was the day before and on the day of an exam. Don’t worry, I got a first class. After my exams, I went back to Malaysia in July and I trained every day until Olympiad in August. This was the “Preparation”. During the tournament, the stars aligned (“Luck”) and somehow I made my norm with a 2500 performance. (Luck/Success=Preparation meets Opportunity). It was a combination of hard work and a lot of sacrifices that made this possible. There is no short cut


After the Olympiad, I stopped training. I could say I focused on studies, had a girlfriend, etc but the truth is I was unmotivated and lazy (no excuses). Fast forward 4 years, I have graduated, been working for about a year, my chess has become stagnant. I lost 50 rating points in my last 2 tournaments. Recently, I read a book called PEAK by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool. It is basically a book about how expertise can be trained using deliberate practice. One of the examples is the famous Polgar sisters which all chess players know about. I thought about how I could apply the teachings from that book to improve my 2012 Olympiad training method. I started this training with a friend last week (13th July 2016). After work, I would go to his house and train for 2-3 hours (sometimes more) then go home. We made a commitment to train every day after work, no excuses like I don’t have the time. I have made it my goal to go for my 2nd IM norm (one step at a time) and this is the start of that journey. In Malaysia, I have been told that it is hard to become IM after you start University or work. It is my hope that I can take you on this journey with me and hopefully show and inspire those chess lovers out there that it is possible even with their busy and hectic lives. 

Please click on Interview with FM Lim Zhuo Ren