Chess Against Covid organised our 1st International Master Simul Series, featuring 1993 National Champion IM Hsu Li Yang and 2016 Chess Olympian IM Ravindran Shanmugam. IM Hsu Li Yang took on 15 players while IM Shanmugam took on 12 players. Both simuls were nail-biting, thrilling affairs, which saw our junior players take away valuable lessons from the veteran IMs. 💪
IM Hsu Li Yang, who also works at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and is an expert in Infectious Diseases, took time out of his busy schedule to play a 15-player simul against pre-registered juniors. He eventually finished with a score of 7-8, losing 8 games to Khor Eng Yeow, Frank Kebbedies, Poh Yu Tian, Nay Lynn, Chng Seo Yi, Joshua Lim, Jonathan Au Yeung and Megan Kwok. Most of the losses were on time, testament to the extremely difficult task of time management presented to the master in these simuls.
Poh Yu Tian racked up the first win of the simul, after a mouse slip on the 20th move gifted Yu Tian a free piece, following which the IM graciously resigned. Lady Luck shone down on Khor Eng Yeow and Nay Lynn, who both won their games on time despite being in losing positions. Li Yang’s majestic endgame technique was also unfortunately cut short by the clock against Chng Seo Yi: he had slowly but surely squeezed Seo Yi’s position and brought his pieces down to bear, and was quick to deliver a killing bow. Frank Kebbedies, after fighting hard and providing stiff resistance, also received a gift from the IM on the 35th and 36th move as IM Hsu, facing severe time trouble, allowed his rooks to be forked, and then hung a rook in quick succession! Joshua Lim started his game with the unconventional 1.Nc3?!
, but the game quickly shifted to a French defense structure, which Li Yang stated was a preferred weapon of his for online games. Joshua’s unorthodox plan of castling Queenside worked out, as Li Yang couldn’t find a decisive blow, and finally made an uncharacteristic mistake towards the end, exchanging off his pieces into a pawn endgame that was lost by force for Li Yang. Joshua, to his credit, found the best continuation and built a decisive advantage before Li Yang lost on time. Megan Kwok duked it out in an exciting middlegame in the London structure against Li Yang, although Li Yang managed to neutralise her threatening central pawn advance. They traded off into an endgame where Li Yang had a slight advantage: however, time pressure prevailed yet again and Li Yang flagged. Jonathan Au Yeung played one of the best games of all the #ChessAgainstCovid
simuls so far, essaying the Benoni against Li Yang. His enterprising play, taking advantage of his superior theoretical knowledge over the rusty IM, saw Jonathan equalising easily. However, Li Yang soon began to turn the tide, stemming Black’s pawn advance in the centre and trading off pieces. Joanthan refused to give up, and continued to pose problems for White. His effort paid off when in time trouble, Li Yang made a huge blunder, and got his Queen trapped! Final score 7-8 to Li Yang.
The players definitely learnt a lot from Li Yang’s excellent sense for piece placement: his knack for ensuring that his pieces are always placed in areas where they can do maximal damage. They were also in for a treat as he showcased his formidable endgame prowess in many games to convert seemingly equal endgames into winning positions.
IM Ravindran Shanmugam finished his simul with 8 wins and 4 draws, against Ong Chong Ghee, Suryavarman Chandrasekar, Matthew Kan and Brendan Kong. Shanmugam’s game against Ong Chong Ghee started in an unorthodox manner: 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5?!
Shanmugam, having the white pieces, soon traded off into a calmer position, having 2 rooks, a queen and 5 pawns each. The players then fought hard throughout the endgame, trying to probe each other’s positions. However, Chong Ghee held strong and they eventually traded off into a drawn rook endgame. Against Matthew Kan, both sides made mutual blunders of minor pieces, leading to the fair result of a draw. Shanmugam’s matchup against Suryavarman was characterised by mass piece exchanges without much fanfare, leading quickly to a drawn rook and pawn ending. Brendan Kong’s game saw the youngster achieving a slight advantage 23 moves in, forcing the IM to double his pawns and create a weak, isolated h-pawn. Shanmugam, showing his years of accumulated experience, underwent a smart manoeuvre to sacrifice his pawn, but leave Brendan saddled with doubled pawns and set up an impregnable fortress. After fruitless manoeuvring for 5 moves, the players called it a draw. Final score 10-2 to Shanmugam.
Our young chess players had an amazing opportunity to play against 2 strong Singaporean
IMs, and the community grabbed the opportunity with both hands. We are privileged to have been able to organise such an event, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, to support the chess community and raise funds for those who have been badly affected by the pandemic. Please do donate to the families who have been affected by Covid-19 at tinyurl.com/donatechessagainstcovid